HC Deb 19 July 1888 vol 328 cc1884-98
MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)

said, he had to move an Address to the Crown—[Cries of "Objection!"]—which he believed he was entitled to do, although the hour was late, praying that consent might be withheld from the More Mortification Scheme framed under the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Act, 1882. The object of the scheme was to re-arrange and re-administer certain endowments granted under the will of Mr. John More, in 1753, for the benefit of the poor in the parish of Morebattle, Roxburghshire. The endowment was left in a form very common in rural districts for the benefit of poor persons, partly educational, and partly for their maintenance or assistance; and under the Act of 1882 it was provided that a certain Commission, named in the Act, were to have the power of revising and re-arranging such endowments, making them more generally useful for those dwelling in the neighbourhood, always having special regard to those persons intended by the testator to be benefited. In this particular case, a sum of £1,500 was left by this gentleman, Mr. More, in 1753, in trust to the heritors of the parish in these words— For the support and maintenance and education of really poor and indigent orphans, belonging to the parish of Morebattle, and none else for ever. This sum of £1,500 had increased as time went on, through accumulations of unexpended income, to something like £2,000, and the income had been devoted yearly by the heritors of the parish in accordance with the wishes of the testator. The average income was £64, and though this might appear but a small sum, it was of great advantage to the poor of a rural parish. Of this £64, some £35 were annually employed by the visitors for the maintenance of the poor and orphans, and £4 for educational purposes. It had been the practice of the heritors to give a small sum of about £2 as an allowance to poor children when about to make a start in the world, and when a couple of pounds were of great use in providing an outfit or tools to enable them to get their own living. In that way the money had been spent to the satisfaction of all parties, until recently the Endowment Commissioners intervened for the re-arrangement and redistribution of the fund. The main opposition to the plan of the Commissioners—he did not propose to attribute to them any evil motive, or desire to do anything but what was right in the matter; but, nevertheless, what they had done was to take away the money hitherto used, and intended to be used, for the benefit of the poor and orphans of the parish in maintenance and education, devoting a large part of it to the benefit of higher education, increasing the staff of monitors for the purpose of higher education, for the foundation of certain small scholarships to be competed for by the children of poor parents, and the establishment of small bursaries. The effect, no doubt, would be the improvement of higher education in the parish, an object admirable in itself; but this was done at the cost of the poor inhabitants for whom the bequest was intended not merely for education, but also for support and maintenance. Of the sum of £64, the Commissioners proposed to devote £10 to free scholarships to be competed for by the children of poor parents of the parish, and the amount of £35, hitherto devoted to maintenance, was to be reduced to £20. But that was not all. No child would get the benefit of the maintenance fund unless he was a scholar, unless he had been regular in attendance at school, and was a successful pupil, and had shown ability in competition with his schoolfellows. Well, that was not the object of the testator, and the object to which the fund had been long applied. The testator had shown no indication of a wish to benefit the clever boys; he wished to assist the poor widowed mother or orphans in the struggle for existence and education; but in their early years orphans would be absolutely debarred from receiving a penny benefit from a fund that before had given them considerable assistance. The action he was taking against the scheme of the Commissioners was that which had been urged upon him as most desirable in the interest of the parish, not merely by the heritors, the old trustees of the fund, but by the school board elected by the ratepayers. They had asked him to lay the facts before the House, and point out that this scheme was taking away money—no doubt for a good object—from certain poor beneficiaries whom the testator wished to benefit, taking away for a good object, but an object that should be supported by those who had that object at heart. It was contrary to the 15th section of the Act of 1882, which provided that, where a Founder had expressly provided for the benefit of poor children within a given area by education or otherwise, the endowment should continue to be so applied. In the matter of outfits, the heritors and the school board found that these small sums were of the greatest advantage to the recipients. In the memorandum prepared by the heritors and the school board, a copy of which had been submitted to every Scotch Member, they pointed out, first of all, that under the scheme of the Commissioners, orphans belonging to the parish of Morebattle, but not attending school therein, would be excluded from the benefits of the fund to which, under the terms of the bequest, they were entitled, and also that children under school age, who did not attend school, and, therefore, could not pass any examination, were entirely debarred. The heritors and the school board said they— Were thoroughly alive to the desirability of, if possible, preventing the pauperizing of deserving families, but the exclusion of those two sections of the class favoured by the founder will encourage, and, indeed, if their circumstances are such as to entitle them to the benefits of the fund, necessitate their being pauperized, and will, besides, throw the burden of their maintenance on the parish of Morebattle, the particular area favoured by the testator. Then they directed particular attention to the loss to a section of very young children of the benefits of the fund— Since the fund came into the hands of the heritors many families of orphans have been brought up by its means, and the heritors and school board feel very strongly that the withdrawal of the benefits of the endowment from children at that helpless stage of their existence is a very great hardship. Many unfortunate infants and widowed mothers will be deprived of much needed assistance, which it was clearly the intention of the founder that they should obtain from thisfund, and that at a time when such assistance is particularly necessary to them. The points he had urged upon the House, the school board, as the representative of the educational interests in the parish, had done all in their power to put before the Commissioners and the Scotch Education Department. Certain changes and modifications had been made in the scheme, but the Endowment Commissioners were so thoroughly bitten with the desire for higher education, that they persisted in taking away from the poor an endowment that had existed for 150 years, making use of it in a way that would no doubt benefit the clever boys among the class intended to be benefited, but which would be absolutely useless to nine out of ten whom Mr. More wished to benefit. This particular case was one of a class that was greatly interesting in Scotland just now, and this was one of four schemes now lying before the House to which Notices of objection had been given. On each of these cases substantially the same questions were raised, and he would leave it to the House to consider whether it was desirable to excite the feeling, among those who had very little means indeed, that it was possible for a great Commission, acting under the authority of Parliament, to come down upon them, and take away what they had hitherto considered their own property, to assist those quite able to pay for their own education.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from the scheme for the management of the Endowments in the parish of Morebattle, in the county of Roxburgh, known as the More Mortification, approved by the Scottish Education Department, now lying upon the Table of the House."—(Mr. A. R. D. Elliot.)

MR. CONWAY (Leitrim, N.)

rose to move the adjournment of the debate.


I shall not put that Question, for I consider it would be an abuse of the Rules of the House. I will state the reason why I think so. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution is acting in accordance with the procedure laid down in an Act of Parliament. The limit of the time within which he could so act is getting very near, and it would be a very unfair thing, by means of moving the Adjournment, to deprive the hon. Member of the only means of raising the question.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

seconded the Motion. This scheme was similar in character to several others which were before the House, and which he hoped would meet with opposition. The policy which originated the Act of 1882 met with considerable opposition from the minority in the House at that time, a policy which he believed would not receive the assent of Parliament at this time. It was only on occasions like this that the House had an opportunity of judging the effect of the carrying out of the policy of the Educational Endowments Act of 1882. His hon. Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot), in the concluding part of his remarks, had put the whole case in a nutshell. It was on a small scale an illustration of what had been carried on in England, and what in England and Scotland would be continued so long as the House gave its sanction to the diversion of funds left by a testator for the benefit of the poor, for the real poor, as this bequest described them, for purposes in which the "real poor," the very poor, could not fully reap the benefit. He did not object to any scheme by which the character of the education to be bestowed could be improved; but the House ought to insist that this class of the very poor, for whom the endowments were bequeathed, should continue to enjoy the full benefit of them under any scheme that obtained the sanction of the House.

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

said, as one of the Commissioners entrusted with the carrying out of the Act of 1882, he wished to make a short statement, though the hour was late. As to the attacks upon the legislation of 1882, he did not feel it was his duty now to say anything, except that Parliament had deliberately passed an Act giving Commissioners certain powers for the rearrangement of educational endowments in Scotland, not to take away the privileges of the poor, but to re-arrange the endowments in such a way as that they should do as much good as possible and carry out as fully as possible the intentions of the Founders. If to any extent there had been an error in regard to invading the privileges of the poor, it must be the fault of the Commissioners—it was not the intention of Parliament that that should be done. But in this, as in other cases in which complaint had been made against the Commissioners, the complaint was not well-founded. In this case, it should be remembered, the benevolent founder did not leave his money to relieve the rates, but to do good to the children of poor parents by contributing towards their maintenance and education. It was an educational endowment with a charitable side. What the Commissioners had to consider was, how best to carry out that intention, having regard both to the conditions under which the bequest was made and the circumstances of the parish. His hon. Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) stated that the trustees—the heritors—who had charge of the fund had spent on an average £4 a-year on education; but it was to be observed that there was a balance of £17 10s. a-year not spent at all, so that it would seem that, under the system upon which they worked, they did not find fit and proper recipients for the whole endowment. What was proposed by the scheme of the Commissioners was to devote £10 to free scholarships, £20 towards the clothing and maintenance of poor children.


Poor scholars, not poor children.


said, let it be poor scholars; and the remainder of the amount, £34, was to be used by the Governing Body towards having better education in the parish—that was to say, in improving the equipment of schools, increasing the staff beyond the actual requirements of the Scotch Code, not in relieving the education rate, but in making the schools better than the Education Code insisted upon. Only in the event of the school board not caring to use the money for improving the equipment of the schools,—only in that event were there to be bursaries, and these for poor scholars. As to the distinction between poor children and poor scholars, the Commissioners regarded this as an educational endowment, and, therefore, the benefit went to those only who were of school age. They considered that the testator left the fund at a time when there was no Poor Law; he had in view the benefit of poor orphans, and the Commissioners were carrying out his intentions more fully by devoting the endowments to the poor of school age, leaving the younger orphans to the support which they received under the provisions of the Poor Law. His hon. Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) did not bring forward among his objections that which had been urged in Morebattle, that the Governing Body proposed by the scheme was unsatisfactory. The Governing Body would consist of the school board, numbering five, with two persons elected by the heritors. It could not, therefore, be maintained that the present Governing Body would be practically excluded from the management. Why the management was not to be continued in the hands of the heritors alone, was simply because at the time Mr. More made his bequest, the heritors had charge of education, but now that duty devolved upon the school board. It was scarcely necessary to say more, but he complained of a statement circulated in a letter from a heritor, which described the scheme in a very misleading way. As the letter had been published in a newspaper, he might quote from it. The writer said— The Commissioners have allotted only £20 for the clothing and maintenance of the more destitute free scholars, and devoted the remainder of the fund to the general education of the higher classes of the school of Morebattle. That suggested an idea that was scarcely reconcilable with the facts. It insinuated that poor children were not to have the benefit, whereas the benefit was exclusively confined to those who were in want of assistance towards their education. He hoped the House would not accept the Motion.

MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

said, he thought it desirable the House should realize on what it was going to vote. The Act of 1882 was passed for Scotland, and enabled certain Commissioners to deal with endowments of an educational character. Of these Commissioners, the hon. Member who had just spoken was one, and certainly no one would suspect him of revolutionary tendencies. These Commissioners recognized as sound the principle that a charitable fund should not be tied up beyond the period when it served a useful purpose, and when the circumstances changing required change in the arrangement, to prevent the fund being a scource of mischief instead of benefit. The present endowment was a case in point. It was given in days when education depended much more on the contributions of benevolent people than it did that day, and not unusually the endowment was not of a purely educational character, but might be summed up in the words education and maintenance. Here was an endowment, the bulk of which went for maintenance and very little for education. Now, it would, he thought, be the general feeling in the House that education was a better purpose for a charitable fund than maintenance, for that would not be infringing on that very valuable principle of Poor Law administration, so long worked with benefit. The question was, whether the diversion of this fund, devoting the main part to education, was within the terms of the Act. He had not always been able to agree with the schemes of the Commissioners, and sometimes on their rearrangement of funds, they had seemed to apply them in a way to benefit rather the middle class than the very poor, sometimes establishing secondary schools with fees, precluding the attendance of the poor, yet not large enough to make the institution self-supporting. But he saw nothing of the kind in this scheme. It was surely better to use the money for the purpose of providing a really excellent education than to fritter it away in a manner that could only tend to pauperize the people and could do no good. Having read the scheme and listened to the arguments urged against it, he was not satisfied that his hon. Friend was right on this occasion, and, therefore, he should vote against the Motion.

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

said, he wished to call attention to the object for which the Commission was established. Such a Commission could not possibly act without, to a certain extent, treading on the toes of a great many excellent people whom his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) represented that night. The object of the Commission was to bring in a new system to deal with a new set of circumstances, therefore it was quite in vain for his hon. Friend to refer to a state of things that existed at the time the testator lived and left the money, or the state of things he had in contemplation at that time. Nothing could be more plain than this—that unless the Commissioners were to intervene and deal with this and other cases, bringing them into harmony with the state of things now existing, Parliament would never have passed the Act of 1882. It was obvious if the Act of 1882 was to be administered as Parliament intended, there must be considerable changes in the management of every one of the funds which came within the purview of that Act, because it was for that purpose the Act was passed. As regarded the charitable part of the bequest left by Mr. More, it was perfectly evident to those who administered the fund at the present time that it was not desirable in the parish itself that the whole of the funds should be devoted to charitable purposes for the relief of poor persons. If they had been of that opinion the whole of the fund would have been distributed. But they preferred to allow the accumulation of certain funds, and those the scheme proposed to deal with. In the first place, complaint was made that the children who would receive the benefit would be those only above the educational age, five years. Now, it must be perfectly obvious that whatever might have been the state of things when the fund was bequeathed, there was not the necessity now to make provision for children under five years. That was already done by the law. It was, therefore, as plain as anything could be, that to give any part of this fund in the future for the support of children under the age at which they could receive education, was simply just to take so much off the rates of the parish. That certainly was not the intention of the testator. His object was to secure that children should receive sustenance when it was necessary, and education when they reached a proper age. Inasmuch as no necessity for providing sustenance any longer existed, it did seem reasonable, where it could be done, to divert the fund from the sustenance use to an educational use. The second point put forward in support of the Motion was that the heritors of the parish, who formerly were liable for the relief of persons in the parish, had not a sufficient share in the management. At the time when the fund was instituted, the heritors alone were responsible in the matter. Now the general body of the ratepayers were responsible, and the heritors themselves, unless they were men of a benevolent turn of mind, had no interest whatever in the administra- tion of the fund, except the selfish interest of keeping down the rates. He quite admitted that, in a case of that kind, it would be an entirely wrong thing to oust the heritors altogether from the management. He thought, however, that they themselves, when they came to consider the matter, would admit that in those two representatives of the board they had full and ample representation according to the present state of circumstances. He believed that the hon. Member who had moved the Motion would admit that no scheme that had ever been brought before the Commissioners had received a larger amount of care and attention on their part than this one. The Commissioners had shown nothing in the nature of a determination to carry their own scheme without modification. Objections were taken to the original draft of the scheme drawn up by the Commissioners. Several of these objections were met in the scheme submitted to the Department. The moment, however, the amended scheme was brought forward, the people in the parish, who, up to that moment, had been quiescent, came forward, with fresh objections, and the scheme had once more to be altered. When the altered scheme was again submitted, a new complaint arose, and, at the instance of the school board, the proposal respecting that board was restored. After the drawing up of the scheme in its present form, no formal objection was taken to it from any quarter whatever. It was, no doubt, a fact that his hon. Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) made a representation to the Vice President of the Council by letter. That letter was communicated to the Commissioners, and received their most careful consideration; but as his hon. Friend could not obtain any further modification of the scheme, he presumably acquiesced in it. The scheme lay a long time before the Scotch Education Department, and was then approved by the Department. Having been approved by the Department, objection was now taken to it, and these extraordinary charges were made. It was not the case that the orphans under five years of age would be deprived of anything. It was the duty of the law now to give them all they could derive from the bequest. [An hon. MEMBER: Paupers.] An hon. Gentleman said they were paupers; but he (Mr. J. H. A. Mac- donald) presumed that the Commissioners were bound to be guided by the law of the land, and not merely by names. If pauperization was to be an answer to every argument raised on any such question as this, the Commissioners, of course, would have to proceed upon sentimental considerations, and not upon the law of the land, which they were bound alone to consider. What would be the effect of paying for the orphans under five years of age out of this fund? It would simply be that the sentimental people who objected to these children being made paupers, would themselves save the money they would have to pay out of their own pockets if the children went on to the rates. He submitted that that was not a sound or a reasonable proposition. As he had said, the whole scheme had been considered over and over again, and the objections to it had been met. He thought the House would recognize at once that the Commissioners who had to deal with endowments of the kind had an extremely difficult task to perform. It would be perfectly impossible for them to carry out their duties under the Act without meeting with some objections. He thought the real objection to the present scheme lay in this—that those who had to contribute out of their own means towards the support of those who had to be supported out of the rates, objected to having so to contribute. The arrangement of the fund under the scheme was undoubtedly one which was consistent with that which had been done with reference to all the larger trusts dealt with by the Commission. The Commission had had before it a very large number of trusts, the funds of many of which were much larger in amount than in the present case, and the principles on which they had acted had been practically the same in all cases. The Commission was about to close its labours, and, with one single exception—and that on a point of law—both the Scotch Education Department and the House of Commons, when the schemes had been brought before it, had supported the Commissioners in all their proposals. If the House accepted the Motion, the effect would be to decide that the fund should be dealt with in a totally different way from that which the House had approved in reference to other schemes.

MR. A. L. BROWN (Hawick, &c.)

said, the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had made a point respecting the sentimental people who objected to the use of the word "pauper." He would point out, however, that although the community might do what was considered its duty to the poor, it could not do its duty to pauper children in workhouses. If the poorhouse governor were consulted he would state that the very last place to which to send a child was the poorhouse, and if a small sum of money could be collected for a poor child, it could be devoted to no better purpose than that of paying a woman 2s. 6d. a-week to give the child a home. That was exactly what the More Mortification did, and that was exactly what the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had just been opposing. Time after time the Commissioners had proposed the most monstrous schemes, and time after time the House of Commons had passed them. It was not to be wondered at, under those circumstances, that people had given up making formal objections to the proposals of the Commissioners. As the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had said, the Commissioners would soon close their labours; but it must not be supposed that their schemes would be left as they were. Everyone of those schemes would be opened up again. The originator of the present charity left £2,000 for the education and maintenance of poor orphans. Under the old scheme, these orphans were getting £30 a-year, and sometimes as much as £50. Under the new scheme, they would get £20 a-year or less. For his own part, he did not object to re-organization schemes. He had no very great regard for the wish of "the pious founder" of any scheme, and would cut and carve into his plans if they were found to be mischievous. But he wanted to see money that was left for the poor go to the poor. In the present scheme, the Commissioners were taking money from the poor and giving it, for the purpose of secondary education, to the rich. If the money were devoted to the poor of Morebattle, he would raise no objection, but he did object to money which was left for the poor being devoted to the rich.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

said, it was, no doubt, the case that the schemes drawn up by the Com- missioners had been approved by the House of Commons; but that would always be so, because the Scotch Education Department was represented by the Government, and whenever any scheme which had passed that Department came before the House of Commons, the whole weight of the Government was brought to bear in support of it. Although there might be a majority of the Scotch Liberal Members against the scheme, the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate always had behind him a large number of English Members ready to go into the Lobby with him in order to vote down Scotch opinion. Under those circumstances, it was no credit to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or the Government of the day, that these schemes received the approval of the House of Commons. No Scotchman would object to the funds of these charities being applied to the education of the poorer people. But the money was to be devoted to the purpose of providing secondary education in the parish school. They all knew that the richer class would largely, if not entirely, benefit from a scheme of that kind. The Lord Advocate said that the opponents of the scheme wished to relieve the rates. The educational system in Scotland, however, included secondary education. Prior to the passing of the Education Act, every parish school was so conducted that young men could go from it to the University. It was now the duty of every school board to provide secondary as well as elementary education, as was done under the old system. What did the present scheme provide? It proposed that £4 per head of the money was to be devoted to the purpose of providing secondary education, which it was already the duty of the parish to provide. An attempt was being made in Scotland to prop up the system of secondary education, and for the last five years the Commissioners had been taking all the endowments which had been left for the benefit of the poor, and applying them to the purpose of secondary education. And what had been the result? Two years ago it was stated from the Treasury Bench that secondary education was in an ascendancy in Scotland, but last year the Scotch Education Department had to confess that secondary education was going back in Scotland, and a Parliamentary Committee had reported to the same effect. The fact was, that by knocking down the system of poor schools in Scotland, the authorities had knocked down secondary education, and the same thing would happen in England if the private schools were destroyed.

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

said, the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane) had based his argument on the statement that the action of the Endowed Schools Commissioners would be to benefit secondary education. It was, however, very doubtful indeed whether that would be the case in rural parishes In the towns plenty of people would avail themselves of any facilities that might be afforded for acquiring secondary education; but it was a different matter in outlying districts where the people were poor. In matters of that kind, if the intention of the founder was as clear as daylight, as in the present case, and was not contrary to law, there was no reason whatever why it should not be carried out. He appealed to his English Friends on that side of the House and to Members generally to join in overthrowing this scheme.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said, he wished to answer the appeal of the hon. Member who had just sat down. The principal object of the Act of 1882 was to provide for representation on the Governing Bodies of all these schemes, and to put an end to close Governing Bodies. The Act distinctly protected the rights of the poor, and declared that the foundations should be conducted in the interest of those for whom they were originally designed. Up to the present time £17 a-year had never been expended under the scheme at all. The Commissioners proposed to give £10 for free education, £20 for maintenance, and the balance for improving the education of the school or providing bursaries for poor children. Surely, the Commissioners could not have erred very much in making proposals of that kind. He believed the Commissioners had done their work admirably, on the whole, ever since they were appointed. He did not say they were infallible; but he did say they had had distinct regard to the interests of the class with which they dealt, and he thought the House would make a great mistake if it did not support a scheme prepared by a body of men who had done their work with great public spirit and at great personal sacrifice.

MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)

said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella), intervening at the last moment, had tried to divert the House from the real matter put forward by himself and most of the speakers who had supported him. He (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) had not said a single word against the proposed Governing Body; he was in favour of the representative element thereon, and the school board having representation there. His main argument was not affected by that. The issue was whether it was right or wrong in carrying out the policy of the Act of 1882 to divert the fund from the benefit of the orphan children who were not scholars, for the purpose of establishing higher education and petty bursaries. He maintained it was not a right thing to take away this property of the poor, and say if they want assistance let them go upon the rates. These people had an objection to go upon the rates, to live at the expense of others when the fund that belonged to them was appropriated to other purposes. The policy of the Act of 1882 was not what the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate said it was. That Act required that respect should be paid to the intention of the testator; that intention was expressed in definite language for the benefit of a certain poor class, and it was because in the proposed distribution of the fund this was not done that he moved his Motion. It was only one among Motions of a similar character, and it was important to decide the question by division.

SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said, the hon. Member (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) ought to receive the support of all the English Members on that side, because the system against which he contended was growing up in England as well as Scotland, a system of taking away endowments left for the benefit of the poor children and devoting them to the benefit, not of the poor, but of the well-to-do and middle-class schools.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 102: Majority 24.—(Div. List, No. 229.)