HC Deb 29 March 1886 vol 304 cc219-33
MR. JOHN WILSON (Edinburgh, Central)

I beg to move the following Resolution:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent to the Scheme of the Educational Endowment (Scotland) Commission now lying upon the Table of the House for the management of the Fettes Endowments, Edinburgh. In a very few words I will explain to the House the reason why I make this Motion. I say, in the first place, I am compelled to do it owing to having received numerous complaints from Edinburgh against the passing of the proposed scheme. These complaints have taken shape more particularly in two Petitions which were recently presented to this House, one from the Lord Provost and Town Council of Edinburgh, and the other from the Convention of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs of Scotland—the Town Council of Edinburgh interesting themselves locally, as being the Body representing the town in which the Institution is situated, and the Convention of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs interesting themselves in the matter generally, and showing how extensive is the interest taken in the matter throughout Scotland. I may explain to the House that Sir William Fettes, who was the founder of the Institution, was a native of Edinburgh, and at one time occupied the position of Lord Provost and Master of the Merchant Company. He died in 1836, leaving £166,000 sterling for the purpose of building a hospital—I quote from Sir William Fettes' will— That the residue of my estate shall form an Endowment for the maintenance, education, and outfit of young people whose parents have either died without leaving sufficient funds for that purpose, or who, from innocent misfortune, are unable, during their own lives, to make suitable provision for the education of their children. It was thus a purely benevolent Trust and Institution for the benefit of children whose parents were not able to bring them up and educate them, and give them an outfit in life. For the administration of the Trust, Sir William Fettes appointed certain private Trustees, but with power to devolve the whole Trust upon a Public Body at any time they thought fit to do so. They did not, however, take advantage of the alternative named in the will and devolve the Trust upon the Public Bodies specified, but continued by succession to administer it as a private Trust. Nothing was done by the Trustees until 1864, by which time the £166,000 left by Sir William Fettes had accumulated to the sum of £484,000. The Trustees then began to build an hospital or college, or schoolhouse, with adjacent ground. This building cost £227,000, and with the balance they opened the establishment. The establishment was opened with a limited number of foundationers, who were to be educated gratis, but who afterwards were charged a sum of £30 each; and along with this limited number of foundationers there were a large number of children from the upper and middle classes of life admitted, who, of course, paid a much larger sum. Until recently the entire number of children educated on the foundation of that magnificent charity was only 229, and that notwithstanding the fact that they paid about £30 each towards the Charity. Not one of them got the outfit and that full maintenance that was designed by the will of Sir William Fettes. Well, it was maintained, I believe, by the private Trustees that it was the intention of Sir William Fettes to endow a purely charitable Institution; but the inhabitants of Edinburgh contend that the founder having been Master of the Merchant Company, under whose control an Institution of the kind already exists, intended to found an hospital very much on the lines of the Merchant Company's School, called George Watson's Institution. But in that, as you will see from what I am saying, the Trustees signally failed. The Institution recently came under the scope of the Endowed Hospital Commissioners, and this scheme was laid on the Table some time ago, and if no interposition of the kind that I indicate takes place that scheme will become law. The scheme, I am free to admit, is an improvement on things as they are. It opens up the Trust and admits certain public officials thereto. Notably, the new Trust will include the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, the Master of the Merchant Company, the Dean of Faculty, a member appointed by the Writers to the Signet, and other representatives of Public Bodies; but it continues the private Trustees. Those for whom I act object to the continuance of these private Trustees. They maintain that Sir William Fettes designed it to be a public Trust; and they say that, owing to the unfortunate fact that it was not so at the beginning, the conduct of the Trust until now has been of a most unsatisfactory kind. They object, also, that, though the scheme is an improvement on the old system, it has not taken sufficient measures for the recognition of the class of children for whom it was originally intended. It still limits too much the number of boys who are in the Institution, and leaves too much access to children of the middle and upper classes. Now, I do not intend, at this late hour of night, to enter into too much detail. It is impossible for us to-night to discuss details. I, therefore, only ask the House to agree to present an Address to Her Majesty, asking that Her Majesty may withhold consent. For the City of Edinburgh we only ask further time to discuss the matter locally, to see if some more advantageous scheme—some scheme more adapted to the position of the funds, and more like the original intention of the testator—cannot be agreed to. I do not ask the House to go into any detail whatever. All I ask is that the scheme may be reconsidered in Edinburgh, and breathing time given to allow the parties to discuss it further, and, if possible, devise a scheme more satisfactory.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent to the Scheme of the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Commission now lying upon the Table of the House for the management of the Fettes Endowments, Edinburgh."—(Mr. John Wilson, Edinburgh.)

MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

seconded the Motion.

MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

At this late hour of the night I will not detain the House longer than is necessary; but this Motion reflects upon the scheme which is now on the Table; and, as one of the Educational Endowment Commissioners who prepared the scheme, I feel called upon to make a few remarks in answer to the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. The position of the Commissioners when this endowment was brought before them was simply this—that they had not to consider so much what was to be done with Sir William Fettes' Endowment, as what was to be done with the College which had been erected and was maintained by the Trustees of that Endowment. Here was, as the hon. Gentleman has explained, a College erected at a cost of nearly £250,000, equipped in the best manner, and erring only in this, as a building—that it was, perhaps, too beautiful and too grand for almost any purpose. But, beautiful and costly as it is, it is admitted to be admirably adapted for the purposes of a first-class secondary school. The College has been in existence for some years, and has attained a state of considerable prosperity; in fact, it is now one of the best conducted and most successful of our great public schools. Although so much money has been spent upon the buildings, the College has now an income, from the accumulation of Sir William Fettes' bequest, of from £6,000 to £7,000 a-year. The question which the Commissioners had to consider principally was, could they do better than continue this school, which was contributing most efficiently to the higher education of Scotland—continue it under improved regulations? We were not unanimous. The Commissioners are seven, and two of our number did not agree with the majority; but five were of opinion that their duty was not to interfere with the school, which has been conducted so well, and which is contributing so efficiently to the higher education of the country, but to see that it is placed under such regulations as shall give the public security for its continued good management in the future, and especially that the funds of the Endowment proper shall be expended exclusively upon those who are in need of assistance for their education. The position which the Trustees had taken was that Sir William Fettes had given them liberty to make regulations regarding his Endowment, and to select that class of young persons requiring assistance for their education who were in the greatest need of such assistance. The Trustees came to the conclusion that for the poorest class of children there was already ample provision made in Edinburgh; but that there was a class of poor—professional men and others—who had fallen in their circumstances, and who, but for their misfortunes, would have been able to give their children a good education—for whose children no provision was made; and they, therefore, decided to apply the funds of the Endowment to the education of boys belonging to that class, and that in doing so they should, at the same time, have a large school with paying pupils, so as to give the foundationers the advantage of being educated among a large number of other boys receiving the same course of training. The regulations which the Commissioners decided upon and have embodied in this scheme may be classed under two heads. The first relates to the Governing Body. The Trustees named by Sir William Fettes were not bound to hand over their charge to another body of Trustees. They were left with an indication of Sir William Fettes' wishes, in the event that they should wish to hand over the fund to another Body. But the Educational Commissioners have appointed by this scheme a Body consisting of 11 at present, but which will ultimately consist of nine Governors; and in appointing that Governing Body they have sought to secure a fair representation of the different interests of the country and the neighbourhood, and to make the best provision they can for having this Educational Institution thoroughly well superintended. One of the nine is to be appointed by the magistrates and Town Council of Edinburgh; and it must be borne in mind that, although this Institution was to be in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, there is nothing in Sir William Fettes' will to indicate that he wished its benefits to be confined to Edinburgh. Another of the nine is to be appointed by the University of Edinburgh, another by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, another by the Dean and Faculty of Advocates, another by the Writers to the Signet, one minister of religion elected by the Governors, one Governor by the Senators of the College of Justice, one elected by the Chamber of Commerce, and another by the Royal College of Physicians. That will give a thoroughly representative Body of Governors for this Institution. The scheme also gives strict regulations as to the future administration of the College; and a point I would especially call attention to is this—that by this scheme there will be a distinct separation of the funds of the Endowment from the revenue from school fees. The revenue from school fees is to be sufficient for the maintenance and education of the boarders, and for paying interest on the cost of the boarding houses. The boarders will receive no pecuniary benefit from the Fettes' Endowment except the use of the school buildings. That is all they will receive. In return they will give the foundationers the benefit of being educated with them in a large secondary school. The funds of the Endowment will be expended exclusively upon the education and maintenance of boys who are of the class designated in the will of Sir William Fettes as— Young people whose parents have either died without leaving sufficient funds to provide for their education, or, from innocent misfortune are unable, during their own lives, to give a suitable education to their children. In the first place, there are to be foundationers, who are to be exclusively of that class—50 foundationers, or as many as the Governors may find themselves able to appoint—and to each of these foundationers is to be given, not only free education and maintenance, but also an allowance, if he is found to be in circumstances to require it, of £20 a-year. Then there are to be 12 or more Foundation Scholarships, carrying similar benefits, which are restricted to boys whose parents and guardians are not in such circumstances as to enable them to give them a thorough education. There are to be Scholarships of from £20 to £60, also restricted to boys whose parents require assistance for the education of their families. There are to be two Exhibitions, one restricted to foundationers, and another not so restricted. But it is unnecessary to go further into details. The Commissioners had to consider two alternatives. One was to sacrifice this great work that was going on in Fettes' College, and revert to a different kind of Institution altogether; and in doing so they would have had the difficulty of disposing of a building that would have been very unsaleable for any ordinary purpose, and they would have had the responsibility of putting an end to a good work, which I believe is required in Scotland. The other alternative was to continue the good work, and to endeavour to secure that in the future there should be no danger of Fettes' Endowment going to those who were not in circumstances to require it. We think that that has been done by the scheme which has been adopted by five of the seven Commissioners, and which has received the approval of the Scottish Education Department. The point to which I ask specially to call attention is this—that by this scheme there is to be a distinct separation in the accounts of the College between the funds of the Endowment and the revenue from school fees.

MR. GOSCHEN (Edinburgh, E.)

Sir, I should consider it a crime to take up more time than is absolutely necessary, at this hour of the night, in speaking on this question. The discussions which have taken place in this House during the last two or three years have shown that wrong has sometimes been done by the diversion of Endowments. This question has come on at so late an hour that it is almost impossible to debate it to the extent it requires. The case seems to me to be, from all the information that can be gathered on the subject, that this College has certainly been doing considerable work. It has provided secondary education of a kind which Scotland has not got; and, so far as education is concerned, there is no doubt it would be a shock to all interested in the progress of education in Scotland to see the work of this College suspended. But this is not enough. We have to inquire how far, notwithstanding this good work, it is in harmony with the will of Sir William Fettes which was made in 1836. It would not be sufficient to look merely at the work done, and I cannot allow myself to be influenced in this matter entirely by the work done, unless it can be shown, at the same time, that the scheme itself is fairly within the founder's intentions. I think it is perfectly clear that this Charity was not intended for the working classes. The working classes are indirectly interested in it; but the Charity seems to have been founded for all those who, having been in a somewhat better position, had, by misfortune, become unable to provide suitable education for their children; and it does seem extraordinary that, such being the terms of the will, the College, of which the buildings cost £250,000, should, until a recent date, only have had 50 foundationers altogether. Inquiry has been made, and the Commissioners have made a scheme, which is on the Table of the House; but, with every desire not to impede the educational work which is going on, I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that the new scheme sufficiently carries out the idea of Sir William Fettes, and therefore I am in favour of suspending the scheme, by witholding from it the assent of the Sovereign for a time, in order that it may be further developed and the College be made to confer benefit on a larger number of the class to whom, in my opinion, the Charity was intended to apply.


Sir, this is a question of great importance, and I think it would be very wrong if any rash decision were arrived at with regard to it, especially after the very brief speech with which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. J. Wilson) introduced the subject. The question before the House is whether the Royal Assent should be refused to a scheme which has been most maturely considered and only promulgated after full public inquiry. The Motion involves this—whether an arrest is to be put on an Educational Establishment in Scotland to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Eastern Division of Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) did no more than justice when he said that it is one of the most successful and elevating educational influences in Scotland. The main question is, whether the application of this Endowment proposed to be made is authorized by the will of Sir William Fettes? Now, Sir, this is more especially a legal question. The will can be read by any layman, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, it certainly does not point to the application of the funds to the educational requirements of the labouring classes. On the contrary, there are plain indications that the funds are to be applied to the educational requirements of persons who, having formerly occupied better positions, have, by innocent misfortune, or the death of parents, been less satisfactorily provided for. But even assuming that there was no such indication, no one can for a moment contend that the Trustees had not full discretion to select that class of necessitous persons who most require such an educational endowment. Now, it so happens that there is in Edinburgh, for the operative and labouring classes, an unusually abundant provision of Endowments of this kind; and the Trustees in this case, who fortunately are a body who, by their acquaintance with educational matters, their position, their character, and their abilities, are beyond all suspicion, came to a conclusion that the class of poor people who ought to have this money was the class who, having occupied professional or mercantile positions, had fallen into poverty. That their theory is sound in law is proved by a single proposition, and it is this—there is a section in the Act which enables anyone who holds that there has been a breach of the law of the will, to go before the Court of Session with a case stated; and it is a remarkable fact that that clause was not taken advantage of by those who are represented by the hon. Member for the Central Division of Edinburgh (Mr. J. Wilson). If it be a question of law, then, as the right hon. Gentleman has put it, surely a Court of Law would have been the proper place for it, and why it should have been referred to the House of Commons, and on the last day possible for raising the question, and when we are pressed into a corner and speakers in defence of the scheme have to ask the indulgence of the House, is a question which I will leave the House to determine. A great burden of proof lies on those who object to the scheme, because it has been maturely considered and publicly discussed; witnesses have been examined upon it, and it has been adhered to by the Commissioners. And when we remember the names of the Commissioners and their position, who have approved the scheme, I think it comes with such a sanction of authority as should make the House very cautious in pronouncing against it. There is another point which the House ought, in my opinion, fairly to consider. This is not a question to be decided ab ante. We have not now to settle what ought to be the form of the application of these funds. That has been decided for years; and what this House will do, if it affirms this Motion, is to ask that there should be a gigantic waste of money which has been already applied, and which is doing such good work in the country. You have that splendid edifice, which is one of the main points of accusation against the scheme, and what is proposed is that, possibly, it could be sold; and yet, if you were to try to sell it, no purchaser could be found who would offer a sum that would not represent the loss of a large portion of the capital. Now, Sir, considering that the hands of those to whom the management has been entrusted by the whole of Scotland are perfectly clear of any suspicion of bias, is it not rash that the House should, on the mere request of the hon. Member for the Central Division of Edinburgh, who is acting not on his own judgment, but on influences from behind, do anything which would upset an Establishment of the kind? Is it not well known to those who are doing their best for Scottish education that there is nothing in Scotland which has given such a stimulus to education as this Endowment? Is it not the case that it has opened vistas of further development of intellectual powers to those who are not affluent in Scotland, which formerly were never dreamed of? And would it not be a monstrous thing if this House were, in the circumstances in which this Motion is pressed, to uproot so valuable an Institution, and put up in its place some scheme of which nothing is known more than that it will be the very opposite of that which exists?

MR. RAMSAY (&c.) Falkirk,

Sir, I think that, as I have probably been very much the cause of this discussion, the House will bear with me for a few minutes. I have not one word to say against the excellency of the education given to boys in Fettes' College, or against the administration up to the time when it came under the control of the Educational Endowments Commissioners; but I do say, and I believe, I that not one of my Colleagues would have done what the Trustees have done had they been the Trustees, instead of being the persons to overhaul the work done by the Trustees. But the chief point which I desire to bring under the notice of the House is this—that by the Educational Endowments Act it is prescribed, as a guide for the Commissioners, that they should, as far as possible, carry out the provisions of the will of the founder of the Endowment. Now, if the will and the intentions of Sir William Fettes is to be preferred, my feeling is that the majority of the Commissioners were wrong in so far approving of the previous action of the Trustees as not only to sanction their proceedings, but perpetuate those proceedings and carry on the work of the Endowment on the same lines as those upon which the Trustees had been conducting it. I having nothing to say against the public school system of England; but I do not believe it possible that Sir William Fettes would have left £166,000 to found an Educational Endowment for the exclusive purpose of providing for the education, maintenance, and outfit of young persons in comparatively destitute circumstances, upon the system adopted in the public schools of England. That he should have left the money for such a purpose, which had never previously been thought or dreamt of in Scotland, I cannot conceive. Sir William Fettes restricted the Endowment to £10 per annum in the case of the children of his own relatives under 15 years of age; and I cannot conceive it was his intention to found an Institution in which the mere cost of education should be £50 per annum. My hon. Friend (Mr. J. A. Campbell) has stated, as one of the majority of the Commission, that they felt it was desirable to perpetuate and maintain this Institution; but the scheme which I suggested, in opposition to that of my Colleagues, did provide for the perpetuation and maintenance of the same building, and the work that was to be done in it. My hon. Friend says that there is still £7,000 a-year available for the purpose of carrying out Sir William Fettes' will; but I ask whether anyone can possibly imagine that £140 a-year was to be expended for the education and maintenance of each child upon the foundation in an Institution of that kind? I believe that any impartial person who will look over the will of Sir William Fettes, and read the Memorandum which I addressed to my Colleagues for the purpose of bringing my views under their consideration, will decide that I was right, and that my Friends were wrong.

MR. TREVELYAN (&c.) Hawick,

Sir, I should be the last man to trespass on the time of the House at this hour. But there has been nothing said from the Government Bench; and this is a very serious matter upon which a very few words must be said from what practically on this occasion is the Government point of view, because I am bound to say that I am speaking up to a certain point the opinions of the Government. But that opinion, now that it is formed—and I am bound to say I think it ought to be accepted by the House—is, to a certain extent, conclusive as against the recommendation that has been made in the other direction. The House is asked to overset a very important scheme, which, indeed, was very carefully drawn up by the Educational Endowments Commission. These gentlemen are doing hard, unpaid work of extreme value, and if one of their most important schemes is to be lightly overset, it will throw into confusion and cast discredit upon a work which is of the greatest importance to Scotland. On what grounds are we asked to overset this scheme? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) is generally out spoken and very clear; but I must own that, having listened to his speech, I did not hear any argument sufficient to induce the House to come to a decision against this scheme. What are the objections to it in its present condition? Everybody admits that the Institution is doing great and good work for Scotland. What are the objections to allowing it to continue that work. The first objection is that the Board of Trustees is not what it ought to be; and, upon that point, I am bound to say that I do to a great extent agree with the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay). But that is not a sufficient reason to take the very grave step of what is called postponing the scheme, but what is in reality making it quite impossible for another eight months at least. The proposals which have been put before the public are such as, I think, the Commission could not have accepted. There is the proposal to turn the College into a vast hospital. Sir, the hospital system is condemned, and it is because the system is condemned that this Commission was instituted; and to turn Fettes College into a hospital would be an unheard of act. On the other hand, it is proposed to take a large portion of the funds and to devote them to sending children to the day secondary schools of Edinburgh; but already Edinburgh is provided, and over-provided, with these opportunities for the education of children. There are, at least, 2,600 boys educated at the secondary schools; and there are, in addition to that number, 1,000 more children educated at the hospitals, or maintained in the schools; and when we come to elementary schools, there are 6,000 children educated in them. Well, Sir, we have this gigantic building; and it is, I agree, a scandal that so large an amount should have been spent on it. I am proud to belong to what we consider the second public school in England—Harrow. There are 2,550 boys there, and these boys have been provided with all the necessities of education for £126,000—that is to say, one-fourth of the sum for which half that number of boys are educated at Edinburgh. But I am willing to admit that, although the school may not be exactly what Sir William Fettes meant it to be, that it is a going concern—that it is a flourishing and healthy concern. No one has shown any means by which a great benefit to the community can be secured by diverting any large amount of the funds from that Establishment. The mere fact of having a more representative Board is no sufficient reason for taking a step that would overset the scheme. What has been done, and will be done, is that, in addition to the great and increased advantages which are given to the foundationers under the new system, large economies will most undoubtedly be made, which will enable the number of those charitably educated to be largely increased; and the more I think over it the less I can see that any advantage is to be gained by oversetting this scheme, and attempting to set up another.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

Sir, I wish to say a few words after the right. hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, in order to call back the attention of the House to the question really before it. The two speeches we have heard from the Front Benches have entirely drawn the attention of the House from the real issue. The speeches of the hon. Member for Bute (Mr. J. P. Robertson) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) have been devoted to the discussion of a question which is certainly not before the House on the Motion of my hon. Friend (Mr. J. Wilson). What is before the House is, not the discussion of certain proposals which are not before us, and which may have been suggested anonymously in the newspapers; nor is it what the hon. Member for Bute said—that we were bringing forward a kind of factious opposition to a scheme that has been freely and publicly discussed and publicly inquired into. It is very far from that. We are here to-night for the purpose of discharging a statutory duty imposed upon the House of Commons by the Act under which the Commissioners hold their powers. The statutory duty which lies before us is the consideration as to whether we are to give Parliamentary sanction, by our vote to-night, to what the right hon. Gentleman himself allowed, and which nobody who looks into this scheme can fail to allow, to be a very considerable diversion of funds from the purpose to which the founder of this Charity intended them to be applied—a diversion from a poorer to a richer class. I do not wish to say one word against the efficiency of the College. We say, if you want to establish a school of that sort, you ought to establish and support it out of your own money, and not out of funds left for a totally different purpose, and for a totally different class. The question which is before this new House of Commons is, Are we to give our sanction to the continuance of this diversion?

MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

Sir, I wish to say a single word on this question, for two reasons—in the first place, because I have the honour to represent a constituency which has a good deal to do with education in Edinburgh; and, in the second place, because I am surprised that the hon. Member who has just spoken should express astonishment at anything being sanctioned which is not in accordance with the intentions of the founder. I take it to be one of the objects of the appointment of this Royal Commission, that, in all circumstances where it was thought advisable by the light of modern ideas, they should divert funds from the intentions expressed by founders, and appropriate them in a manner more suitable to the requirements of the present time. The question we have to consider is—"Has the Royal Commission done the best which the circumstances of the time require?" The great mass of educated opinion in Edinburgh, represented by those who stand in the highest position in our educational establishments, and, as I am astonished to find, represented also by the heads of establishments competing with and opposed to the College, are decidedly in favour of the scheme of the Commissioners being carried out.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 61; Noes 82: Majority 21.—(Div. List, No. 51.)