HC Deb 25 April 1887 vol 313 cc1937-46


MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)

, in rising 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 Education Endowments (Scotland) Commission, now lying upon the Table of the House, for the management of the endowments in the burgh and county of Inverness, known as the Royal Academy, the Mackintosh Farr Fund, the Bell Fund, the Duncan Bequest in so far as applicable to educational purposes, the Ettles Bequest, the Denoon, Colin Davidson and Logan Bequests, the Laird of Mackintosh Bequest, and the Hector Fraser Bequest; but in so far only as concerns the Mackintosh Farr Fund, said: The scheme of the Education Commissioners, to which I object, is of a very arbitrary kind. At this late hour it would be wrong of me to detain the House at very great length; but I have no alternative but to bring forward my Motion. This fund was left at the beginning of this century by Captain William Mackintosh for the purpose of edu- cating primarily the sons of four families named Mackintosh, viz.: those of Farr, Holme, Kyllochie, and Dalmigavie. I hold in my hand a Memorial from the representatives of these four families objecting to the scheme. The endowment was secondly destined to the collaterals of these four families, but always named Mackintosh families; and I have here a document signed by no than loss 200 heads of these collateral families, and also a Memorial from 400 ratepayers of the town of Inverness, also objecting to the scheme. Captain Mackintosh left £10,000, to be devoted to the purpose of education in this manner. The fund fell into Chancery, and the consequence was that more than a generation passed by before the scheme came into effect. The matter was subsequently, by the Magistrates of Inverness, the Trustees of the Fund, taken before the Court of Session in Edinburgh to obtain a decision as to the boys really entitled to the benefits of the Fund, and a scheme was drawn up, under which a great deal of good was done in the education of Mackintosh boys. Some doubts, however, arose as to the administration, and in the year 1862—only 25 years ago—an Act of Parliament was passed for the better administration of the Trust. Under that Act the constitution of the Fund was much enlarged, and two gentlemen—the Sheriff and Convener of Inverness-shire were added to the Trust. I need not say that the scheme has been of immense benefit to the boys who have been educated under it, and who generally spring from the humbler class of society. Well, the scheme was working very well. But a few years ago, when the Education Endowments Act was passed, several persons at Inverness took it into their heads that it would be a very proper thing to start a new scheme altogether; and they resolved, in their wisdom, that the whole Fund ought to be devoted to secondary education. When the Education Commissioners came to Inverness the great bulk of the Mackintoshes interested, who are spread all over the Highlands, and without organization, con-considered that they would be safe in the hands of the Trustees. They had entire confidence in the Trustees. I may say, for my own part, that, having been consulted as Member for the Inverness Burghs at that time, I was willing in case worse might happen, that a certain sum should be devoted to secondary education; but I expressed that opinion entirely on my own responsibility, not being aware of the strong feeling on the part of those Mackintoshes interested on the subject. The Commissioners refused the scheme of the Trustees, and fixed upon a scheme which took off no less than one-third of the amount of the Fund for the purpose of secondary education. Those for whom I appear say that if there were no boys, or an inadequate number qualified to benefit by the scheme, then, undoubtedly, if there was any surplus, it would be right that it should be devoted to the purpose of secondary education; but such is not the case. On the contrary, it is within my own personal knowledge that, last year, there were more claimants for the Fund than there was sufficient money to dispose of. I need not dwell upon the advantages conferred on the boys by the Fund; but I may state that, at the last examination of the Inverness Royal Academy, the dux of the school, a Mackintosh bursar, educated under the existing system, carried off no less than three medals. It so happens that the funds are a good deal larger than the testator originally bequeathed; but the Commissioners have given no reason whatever why they should appropriate this one-third for the purpose of secondary education. They merely declare, in their Scheme, that it shall be so. The moment the decision of the Commissioners was made known to the families interested, they protested against it; and I now appeal to this House, in their name, to say that as no reason whatever has been given for this scheme, it ought not to be confirmed. I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name.

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 Education Endowments (Scotland) Commission, now lying upon the Table of the House, for the management of the endowments in the burgh and county of Inverness, known as the Royal Academy, the Mackintosh Farr Fund, the Bell Fund, the Duncan Bequest in so far as applicable to educational purposes, the Ettles Bequest, the Denoon, Colin Davidson, and Logan Bequests, the Laird of Mackintosh Bequest, and the Hector Fraser Bequest; but in so far only as concerns the Mackintosh Farr Fund." —(Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh.)

MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)

I rise, Sir, to say a few words with reference to the Motion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire. I hope the House will not adopt that Motion, and I will very shortly indeed state my reasons. I believe that this scheme is one which, without doing any violence to the intentions of the founder, is likely to promote not only the interests of education at Inverness, but also the interests of those who benefit by the Fund. It is for this reason, and for no other, that I hope the House will not adopt the Motion of my hon. Friend. As stated by my hon. Friend, the nature of the scheme is this—the Commissioners propose that one-third of the income derived from the Fund shall be applied towards the maintenance of the Inverness Academy. I desire, very briefly, to state to the House what has been the history of the Scheme. In September, 1884, the Commissioners held an inquiry in Inverness and heard evidence. They then prepared and published their Scheme. Notice was given of the Scheme by advertisement, and objections were invited, a period of two months being allowed for the lodging of such objections. No objections were put in. The Scheme was submitted to the Scotch Education Department in June, 1885. Certain objections to it had then been lodged. Those objections were considered by the Education Department, and, after considering them, the Department finally approved of the Scheme in March, 1886. Now, on what ground is the House asked to overrule the decision thus come to? It is suggested that some injustice will be done, or may be done, under the Scheme to the objects of the Fund. I do not believe that to be the case. If I did think so, I should not support the Scheme; because I think that those for whom a particular fund is designed should enjoy the benefit of it; and, as long as those who are entitled to it, do enjoy it, it should not be devoted to other purposes, however excellent they may be in themselves. But I think it is impossible to look at the evidence given before the Commissioners at Inverness without seeing that many were admitted to a share in the benefits of the Fund who really could not establish any right to such a share. There seemed to be an idea that all those who bore the name of Mackintosh were entitled to avail themselves of the Fund. That is not so. The Fund was intended for the descendants of four particular families of the clan; but evidence was given to the effect that there had been very great laxity in admitting claimants to share in its benefits. That laxity received the sanction of the Legislature in the Act of 1862, by which it was provided that any claimant should be entitled to share in it, if he could prove that he was related to any person who had hitherto shared. Now, this state of things was brought to the attention of the Commissioners; and, as I understand it, the Commissioners arrived at the conclusion that there really was not—I will not say a supply of claimants, but claimants—that could establish relationship in the terms of the will sufficient to exhaust the whole of the annual income of the Fund, a Fund of £28,000 with an income of something like £800. The Commissioners arrived at the conclusion that two-thirds of the Fund were ample to provide for all who were justly entitled to share in the benefit of the founder's will, and accordingly they devoted one-third to the Inverness Academy. This arrangement may be justified on another ground—that the beneficiaries who are the objects of the founder's bounty are very much interested in the prosperity of that school. It is provided by the will, that the boys who share in the Fund are to be educated at the Inverness Academy, and the Trustees, among whom, I believe, the hon. Member for Inverness-shire was one, presented to the Commissioners a proposal that one-fourth of the Fund should be devoted to the support of the Inverness Academy. The Trustees supported that proposal by this statement, to which I invite the attention of the House— The Trustees consider the efficiency of the Inverness Academy a matter in which they, as Trustees of the Fund, are deeply interested; indeed, they consider that the efficiency of this school is quite essential to the due execution of the purposes of Captain Mackintosh's will. That proposal was made by the Trustees of the Fund, and the scheme adopted by the Commissioners only varies that proposal to the extent of appropriating one-third instead of one-fourth; there is no difference in principle whatever. The Scheme is generally approved in Inverness; and, under the circumstances, I hope the House will not adopt the Motion of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire, which would have the effect of upsetting a Scheme allowed to be beneficial to education in that town.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

The Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire raises a much more important question, and a more general question affecting education, than the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken imagines. Under the old parochial system, education was of such a nature that lads were prepared for the University; but, in consequence of the introduction of the school board system of education, the old standard of education, whereby young lads were prepared for the University, has been gradually altered, and the result now is, that the higher education formerly given in the parochial schools of Scotland is no longer given under the school board system; and, therefore, with a view to giving secondary education in Scotland, it has been found necessary to appropriate—or rather misappropriate—educational endowments. As for the school board system of education in Scotland, we find that notwithstanding it has been in operation since 1873, and notwithstanding that it is now in possession of nearly £1,000,000 of money—£443,000 from the rates, and £550,000 from the National Exchequer, for the purposes of education—in spite of that enormous expenditure of money, we find that education in Scotland, as stated by the Inspectors of Schools for the Northern Division, stands lower than it did in 1873. Indeed, it is asserted by these Inspectors that secondary education is almost driven out of the board schools altogether. Now, it is in order to secure to the public this secondary education which has been driven out of the parochial schools by the school board system, that recourse has been had to appropriations of these educational endowments. It is part of the general principle acted upon by the Educational Endowments Commissioners. As regards the Inverness School, it is a school with both a primary and secondary department. As to primary education, I ask on what principle ought primary schools in Inverness to be supported solely by educational endowment funds? If primary education is to be given to foundationers, surely those parties ought to receive their education at board or State-aided schools, where they will get the advantage of public grants and of local rates. I ask any Member in the House, on what principle an educational fund for poor persons should be appropriated to provide necessary elementary education without any aid from local rates or Government grant? Then, as to secondary education, reference has been made to the fact that these lads were to be educated at Inverness Academy. That was part of the direction of the deed of endowment; but it is one thing to pay for the expense of the foundationers at Inverness Academy, which is supported by voluntary effort, and quite another thing to take over the responsibility of maintaining the Academy at the expense of charity funds. We do not object to foundationers being sent to Inverness Academy, and the expense of their education falling on the Fund; but on what principle can it be contended that the educational fund should be applied to the maintenance of a school for primary and secondary education—that the middle and upper classes, who are able to pay high fees, should have a school maintained for their benefit at the expense of an educational endowment? In that way you promote secondary education at the expense of a fund intended for poor persons. Those who get the benefit are not those for whom the Fund was intended; you supply a first-class education, at less than cost price, to those well able to pay high, fees for those educational advantages. Our whole proposition, then, is this—we maintain that the Fund ought to be applied simply for the payment of fees at primary schools that already exist; for on what principle could it be said that foundationers, poor persons, should have a foundationer's superior education to that provided for the rest of the population? Surely, if you have primary and secondary schools in Inverness suitable for the rest of the community, these schools ought to be suitable for the class of persons intended to be benefited by the educational endowments. But that is not the object of the Educational Endowment Commissioners. They find that the school board system is banishing secondary education from public schools, and this can be tested by the Reports of Inspectors and those who have had experience in these matters; and so they have had recourse to educational endowments to restore that which the school board system has abolished.

MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow has become confused among the multitude of Scotch Education Schemes now before the House; certainly, the present Scheme raises no such question of principle as he seems to imagine. It does not propose to take a benefit from one class and give it to another; it does not do what is so often called the robbing the poor; it proposes simply to disentangle, to make plain and workable the provisions of a very intricate will, with a due regard to the public interest. It is right that the House should have, in a sentence or two, the facts of the case before it; and I take those facts, not from the Scheme itself, for they do not appear there; not from the Report of the Commission, for they do not appear there; but from the Preamble of a Private Act of 1862, passed for the purpose of disentangling this Scheme of Endowment. A certain William Mackintosh, Commander of the ship Hindustan, in the Honourable East India Company's Service, in 1797, made a will, by which he desired, among other things, to leave a certain fund to be devoted to the education of certain boys belonging to some families of the remarkable names mentioned in this Scheme. There has been some difficulty in tracing the descendants of these different families; and, I believe, it has been alleged, though this is only on hearsay, that the real descendants were all extinguished at the battle of Culloden. The testator, after declaring that he thought it right to provide for the education of these boys, in the hope that some of them, if they succeeded in life, would follow his example and help to keep up what he called "a respectable though declining clan," provided, among other acts of liberality, that five of these boys should be educated in the Inverness Academy. Difficulty was experienced in tracing out the descendants of the original families; and the result was, that for the purpose of carrying into effect this very intricate will, it became necessary to provide a Private Act of Parliament. The fund was of considerable amount, and how it came to its present amount is remarkable, having regard to the fact that it once formed the subject of a Chancery suit, and afterwards of an action of Multiple Poinding in the Court of Session; but the fact remains that it was decided by a Private Act in 1862 that these boys were to be educated in a particular way at the Inverness Academy. Now, this Scheme does not alter the Preamble, the Act, or the will in the least; it only takes a third of the overgrown fund which was intended to be applied to educational purposes, and makes use of this third for the improvement of the Inverness Academy, and for the education of the very boys provided for by the testator's will. In fact, the Scheme does not change or deal with any principle at all. It does not deal with the question the hon. Member (Mr. Caldwell) has sought to raise; it raises no controversial matter; it makes plain what ought to have been made plain long ago, with due regard to the interests in view, and for this reason I support it.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

If the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division (Mr. Caldwell) desires to make an attack on the School Act, he has, indeed, chosen a bad opportunity for doing so. That Act may or may not be a bad Act, but it has nothing to do with this Scheme, which deals with a much smaller matter, though still a matter of some importance. When hon. Members really consider the question in the light of the facts as they stand, they will see that it would be a very strong measure indeed to stop the action taken by the Commissioners in making this arrangement of this large Fund. At present it is applied for the purpose of providing bursaries to the amount of £34 a-year and £10 for school fees and books; and it is proposed to provide, under this Scheme, for bursaries for the most promising boys, and I suppose it is not contended that these bursaries should be open to every boy who may have a claim on the Fund; they should be made matter of selection, and be the reward of diligent study in the early stage of education. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Fraser Mackintosh) says this Scheme has been framed in an arbitrary manner; but what is it that he alleges has been done in an arbitrary manner? He and his friends were perfectly willing, and themselves drew up a plan by which the very same changes should be made, with this exception, that under their Scheme a quarter of the income of the Fund would have been handed over for the purpose to which the Scheme of the Commissioners purposes to devote one-third. That is the only arbitrary action that can be alleged, and the House is asked, upon a few words delivered hero at 2 o'clock in the morning, to set aside this well-considered and generally-approved Scheme. The hon. Member (Mr. Caldwell) has spoken against the promotion of secondary education at the Inverness Academy; but if he knew the Scheme a little better, he would know that it is absolutely essential that there should be in Inverness a fully-equipped school, at which the boys can get the full benefit of the bursaries they enjoy. That has not been the case in the past, but, by the aid of the Fund, there will be that fully equipped school for the benefit of all on the bursar list. The Scheme is supported by all the public opinion of Inverness, approved by public Bodies, the entire Press, the Town Council and the School Board, and I trust the House will not, under the circumstances, interpose to stop the Scheme.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 151: Majority 127.—(Div. List, No. 95.)

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