HC Deb 09 August 1878 vol 242 cc1701-11

(The Lord Advocate.)


Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now taken into Consideration."—(The Lord Advocate.)


complained that Scotch Members had not had an opportunity of discussing the Bill. It had been read a second time without discussion, on the understanding that there would be ample opportunity given on going into Committee. But the Committee was taken a few minutes before 3 o'clock on Saturday morning, after the division on the Eastern Question, when many hon. Members, of whom he was one, had left the House, not knowing the Bill was to come on. He did not think it signified much whether the Bill was lost or carried, for many points which had been put forward by school boards as requiring amendment had been ignored; while matters which were not questions of education at all, but questions of police, had been included. Such as the Bill was, however, he was willing to accept of it with a single Amendment. When the Bill was sent down from the Lords, there was in it a clause providing that the expenses of repairing higher-class school buildings might be paid out of the rates. But in Committee in this House the clause was altered to include every kind of school expenses which the school boards might think fit, provided they were sanctioned by the Scotch Education Department. There were only about 16 higher schools in Scotland which would be affected by this clause. He thought it a preposterous thing that the expenses of such schools should be placed on the rates. In the City he represented there was one of these high schools. It had an income exceeding £4,000 a-year. He never heard that any of the citizens demanded that this school should be aided from the rates in the manner here proposed. He was not aware that the townspeople of any other town had made such a demand for their school. He was told that the schoolmasters wanted it; but this was not a consideration that could weigh with the public, or with Parlia- ment. Why should a great school, with an income like that he had mentioned, and charging fees of about £13 or £14 a-year from each of its pupils—and thus entirely excluding the poor—be placed as a burden on the rates? Why should they give support for the teaching of the higher branches in these 16 higher class schools, when they did not give it for the teaching of the same branches in the 2,900 Board and other elementary schools receiving Privy Council grants? The Board schools were said to be under a disadvantage now as compared with the old parish schools. In the old parish schools, it was said, a boy could be prepared for the University. On the other hand, it was contended that more was now done for higher education in the Board schools than was ever done in the old parish schools; but, be that as it might, it was through the Board schools, and not through these 16 secondary schools that they could hope to do anything effectual in the way of promoting higher education amongst the poorer classes of Scotland. This must have been the opinion of Her Majesty's Government last week, when, in connection with the Endowed Hospitals and Schools Bill, they appointed a Commission to inquire, amongst other things, into the instruction in the higher branches given in the State - aided schools, and in what way the Privy Council grants could be so arranged as to contribute to that end. He believed his hon. Friends the Members for Kirkcaldy and Glasgow had supported the clause, to which he (Mr. M'Laren) objected, in the belief that it would enable Board schools to acquire those benefits, and not that it was intended for the purpose of benefiting higher schools. Well, then, there remained only two other Scotch Members who supported the clause, and those hon. Gentlemen were the Members for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews, and the Wigtown Burghs. Neither of those hon. Members, however, represented a burgh constituency having a higher class school. Nor was it to be forgotten that the clause was opposed by the Representative of the Falkirk Burghs—a Gentleman who knew all about the old parish schools of Scotland, who was a Member of the Endowed Schools Commission, and also of the Education Board in Scotland, which had been just extinguished, and who possessed the confidence of the Government so far that he had been appointed a member of the new Board to be formed under the Act to which he referred. He (Mr. M'Laren) thought the Government had inadvertently allowed the provision to which he had alluded to be placed in the Bill. He did not blame them very much for it; but he begged to give Notice of his intention to move that the clause should be restored to the shape in which it came down to this House from the Upper Chamber.


could not admit that there was a conspiracy on the part of a clique of Scotch Members to carry a particular part of the Bill which had been referred to. He was one of the culprits under whose eyes the Bill was recently brought on at an early hour of the morning. He supported the clause entirely unsolicited, and was no hand to any Party move whatever. No one was more opposed, as a general rule, than he was to the transaction of Scotch Business at late hours of the morning; but Scotch affairs had had comparatively a larger share of attention this Session than before, and on the occasion alluded to the circumstances were somewhat peculiar. A large number of Scotch Members were assembled at the great division on Eastern matters, and a wish having been expressed that advantage should be taken of the opportunity of proceeding with the Bill, he, for one, had given his voice in favour of going on with it. He should have hesitated in the course he took, if he had known that his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh had inadvertently left the House. He was extremely sorry that was the case; but what was done was done in entire good faith, and the decision was not arrived at until the question had been deliberately discussed. He therefore thought that hon. Member had acted judiciously in not opposing this branch of the Bill on the present occasion; and he saw no reason why the only other clause, concerning which there was any serious dispute, should not be settled in the course of the present Sitting.


said, he was under the impression that the fact of going on with the Bill on the previous Saturday morning showed great unanimity on the part of the Scotch Members. The Amendments were of such a nature as for the most part not to be hostile to the Bill, and altogether he thought the measure had received sufficient consideration at the hands of Scotch Members. Although there might be some difference of opinion as to the principle embodied in the 18th clause, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had referred, he (Mr. W. Holms), for one, held the principle to be a sound one. It was extremely desirable that the school boards should provide a part of the funds necessary for the higher education of poorer pupils in Board schools who showed a peculiar aptitude for such studies. The clause for this purpose clearly defined that its operation should be tentative in its character.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, considered.

Clause (Union of school board,)— (Mr. James Stewart,)—added.

Clause (Removal of doubt as to right of certain schoolmasters to the franchise,) —(Mr. Mark Stewart,)—brought up, and read the first and second time; amended, and added.

Clause (Examination of higher class schools under management of school boards,—(Mr. William Holms,)—brought up, and read the first and second time; amended, and added.

Clause (Procedure where parochial board refuse to pay school fees,)—(Mr. William Holms,)—brought up, and read the first and second time; amended, and added.

Amendments made.


moved, in Clause A, page 5, line 15, after the word "management " to leave out— And shall be empowered to pay from the school fund such other expenses for the promotion of efficient education in the said school as are not provided for by the revenues stated in section sixty-two of the principal Act: Provided That no expenditure under this section shall he incurred without the consent of the Scotch Education Department. His desire was that the clause should be left as it originally went from the House of Commons.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 15, to leave out from the word "management," to the word "Act," in line 23, inclusive.—(Mr. M'Laren.)


said, that the terms of the Bill were perfectly well known in Scotland, not only to Scotch Members and to Scotch boards, but to every person who took any interest in education in Scotland before the Bill was introduced into that House. The various provisions of the Bill were not the result of practical suggestions which had been communicated by Scotch school boards to the Government, and which had been considered and approved by the Government. He did not in the least dispute the importance of the question raised by the Amendment; but he certainly could not admit that the subject with which it dealt had not been fully and fairly considered by the Scotch burgh constituencies, which were mainly interested in it, and by the hon. Members of the House who represented those constituencies. The hon. Members for the Wigtown Burghs and the Ayr Burghs, who sat on the Ministerial side of the House, had supported the clause at the instance of their constituents, and also in pursuance of their own individual opinions; and some 15 hon. Members who sat in Opposition as the Representatives of much of the industry and intelligence of Scotland also supported the proposition contained in the clause. The only expressions of dissent—and they were of a hesitating character— came from the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) and the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ramsay). As far as the Members for burghs were concerned, they gave a general approval, which was not to be wondered at in face of the fact that the clause was drawn mainly in the interest of education in the burghs. In Scotland it was not only within the power, but was also the duty of school boards administering the education rates to provide for secondary, as well as elementary education—wherever it was in their power so to do—for the same class of children as those who were receiving elementary education. It was important, in cases where secondary as well as elementary education was given, that the different branches should be taught in separate departments of the school, in order that the grants in aid from Government might be secured. If the clause under consideration was rejected, great difficulties would be put in the way of educational bodies desirous of afford- ing instruction in the higher branches of learning, exercising the powers at present intrusted to them by the Act of 1872, of providing for the secondary education of children in Scottish schools. Sufficient provision was not made in the Act of 1872 to enable them to keep their secondary schools efficient, and it was stated from the opposite Bench by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair)—than whom no man better knew the circumstances of Scotland in that respect—that these schools were not flourishing simply from the want of a little pecuniary aid. It was perfectly easy for the school board to teach such a class of studies; but if they taught them in an elementary school, they would do so at a higher expense, and they would lose the Government subsidy. The only proposal of the Bill was that where school boards were in the administration of a secondary school which was not efficient, they should, with the consent of the Education Department, devote so much of the rates as was necessary to render the school efficient. He contended that in this there were two most efficient checks. In the first place, the school board was essentially representative. There was nothing to bind one board to continue the administration of another, and if they thought the existing board had done wrong, the ratepayers had nothing to do but to elect representatives who would carry their views into execution, and administer the rates according to the ideas of the majority of the community. But there was also this check, that even the declared intention of the school board could not be carried into effect until they had got the consent of the Education Department. It was entirely out of the question to say that that Department, being directly amenable to both Houses of Parliament, would consent, without the wish of the ratepayers of a district, to a system of secondary education for the children of the rich at the expense of the poor. It seemed to him that what was desired was most reasonable. In an ordinary parish or district, to establish a secondary school as well as a primary school was out of the question. If school boards were sincerely desirous of administering the functions committed to them, they had ample power to teach secondary education; but instead of through the parish school, they might do so through the high class school which already existed.


regarded the arguments of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate as most convincing. He would draw the attention of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) to Subsection 4 of Section 62, which provided that school boards might relieve schools which taught elementary and higher education of the elementary branch, and establish schools for the purpose of carrying on the elementary work.


said, he had stated that three or four schools had availed themselves of the advantages of that clause.


said, the object of the present clause was to give power to the school boards to apply a portion of the rates to schools which required assistance, and as this was to be done under the sanction of the Education Office, he should certainly support the new clause.


was sorry to say that the right hon. and learned Lord was exceedingly clear on everything except the point on which he desired to be enlightened, and which he wanted to understand. He could understand what was the position of elementary and secondary schools; hut he could not see what would happen to an intermediate class of schools in which he was especially interested. He was quite aware that under the Act secondary education might be given in elementary schools; but he thought it was undesirable to attempt to give secondary education in an ordinary rural school. He wanted to have some information on a class of intermediate schools, and as an instance he might mention that of Kirkcaldy. A flourishing burgh school existed there, and the Kirkcaldy people had taken a course which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had said was a very prudent one—they had divided the burgh school into two parts, a higher school and an elementary school. The latter came under the Act, and obtained the grant in the usual way; the former was kept entirely separate, and received no grant from Government or the rates, except a certain allowance. What he wanted to know was, could the ratepayers, if they chose, supplement the educational funds of the higher branch of the burgh school of Kirkcaldy? He held a very strong opinion that if not allowed to do so they ought to be, and for this reason—if it was inexpedient to afford secondary education in rural schools of the country, on the other hand, it was desirable that secondary education should be afforded in burgh centres, such as Kirkcaldy was. The school there was a very excellent one. No less a man than Thomas Carlyle commenced his career in it as a teacher. In his opinion, it was but fair that inasmuch as the more wealthy classes paid the large proportion of rates for elementary schools some assistance should be given to higher class schools where not only the children of the better classes, but of the poor might be received. And it was highly desirable that the ratepayers, if they chose, might be enabled to assist these schools. Therefore he wished to know whether there was power for them under the present law to do so. He thought this would have been the case; but he now found that the new clause referred only to 14 superior schools.


said, perhaps he might be allowed to make this explanation. By Section 62 of the Act of 1872, certain schools were recognized by statute as being high-class schools, and, therefore, falling under the regulations of the section. These schools were enumerated; but it was also contemplated by the Act that school boards should, in dealing with a similar class of schools, put them in precisely the same position as those which were enumerated. The first part of the clause dealt with the schools enumerated in the Schedule, and it then provided for specified schools being deemed high-class public schools; the school hoard being, with the consent of the Education Department, able to take them under its management, and they were to be deemed high-class public schools, and whenever a school board found it necessary to separate the higher education from the lower they had only to pass a resolution to that effect. This, he had no doubt, had been done in the case of Kirkcaldy, and to all intents and purposes their school became a higher class school within the meaning of the 62nd section.


was very much obliged to the right hon. and learned Lord; but—[Cries of "Order " and "Spoke!"]—He had not finished his speech when the Lord Advocate made his explanation.


I understood the hon. Member had concluded his speech; but, with the indulgence of the House, he may make an explanation, if he thinks proper. Of course, he cannot deliver a second speech.


said, it was in the way of explanation that he desired to address the House. What he wanted to know was, could the school board of Kirkcaldy make theirs a high school, which it was not at present?


regarded the words of the proposal as indistinct; but, so far as he understood it, he thought it was a move in the right direction.


pointed out that if they simply subsidized schools where high fees were charged, they did no good to the cause or to the spread of general education. He had understood that the clause was to be introduced for the purpose of enabling secondary education to be promoted in elementary schools; but it now turned out to be exactly the reverse. There was a very serious defect in the present arrangements for public education in Scotland, because of the change for the worse which had taken place in the character of the old parochial schools. More than one agricultural society had complained that, whereas the children of farmers were formerly able to receive the education they desired in parochial schools, now they were unable to obtain any but the most elementary instruction. The consequence was that although heavily taxed to keep up the elementary schools, these farmers were compelled to send their children elsewhere to be educated. That being so, he was disappointed at the aims of the right hon. and learned Lord's new clause, which would leave untouched a very serious blot on the present educational system of Scotland.


said, he thought the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had too much in view high schools, such as those of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where the fees were high. His (Mr. C. S. Parker's) impression was that in smaller burghs, this clause, which afforded some means of providing from the rates some of the expenses of a higher education, would be found to be of considerable advantage. Where the population was sufficient, it was well to have the higher class education separated from the elementary, at the same time keeping down the cost, so that children of any class might avail themselves of either system of teaching. He regretted that the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had not been in the House when this subject was discussed previously, as he had an erroneous impression of what was done. The Amendment had the approval of the great majority of Scotch Members, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) was conclusive as to the need for some such provision. The whole effect of the clause was to turn over a new leaf in Scotch education. He hoped the hon. Member for Edinburgh would withdraw his Amendment, as the clause would be sure to do good to the cause of higher education. The Education Act, as it stood, had transferred the management of higher schools to the school boards; but the difficulty was to get funds to carry on the schools. A small sum would put the whole thing right, and he hoped it might be secured by the clause. After all, the Bill was entirely permissive, and if the ratepayers did not choose to allow the school boards to spend their money in this way, they need not do so.


said, he would consent to his own Amendment being negatived without a division. At the same time, he must be allowed to say that after hearing the discussion which had just taken place, he adhered to the views which he had originally expressed.

Question, "That the words 'and shall be empowered to pay ' stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

On the Motion of Mr. WILLIAM HOLMS, Amendments made, in Clause 19, in page 5, line 24, to leave out "a school board or other authority," and insert "an authority other than a school board;" and in page 5, line 38, after "purpose," leave out to end of clause.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

On the Motion of the LORD ADVOCATE, Amendment made, in Clause 21, in page 6, line 5, leave out "under this Act stall," and insert "or other proceedings under the principal Act or this Act may."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.


said, he had an Amendment in Clause 32, line 29, which was to give that which had never been given before—free access to the valuation rolls to persons desiring information. Therefore, he would after the word "roll" move to insert these words— Reasonable access to such roll either in his official chambers, or where no such chambers are provided, in such public place as the sheriff shall appoint.

Amendment agreed to; words inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.


said, as there were no further Amendments to the Bill, he would ask leave of the House, seeing the period of the Session, and the fact that it had to be printed and sent to "another place," to have the Bill read a third time at that Sitting.


said, he had no objection to that being done.

Bill read the third time, and passed.