HC Deb 09 July 1889 vol 337 cc1856-98

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 19.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen)

We now come to one of the important parts of the Bill. Up to the present we have been dealing with nothing but an empty shell. I now ask the Government to abandon their very imperfect and unsatisfactory scheme, and for once in the course of this Session agree with the people of Scotland. Now, Sir, under this clause the Government propose to appropriate Scotland's share of the Probate Duty. It is supposed that the sum will this year amount to £234,000, and out of this they propose to give only £113,000 towards the relief of school fees, £30,000 towards the relief of local taxation in the Highlands, £70,000 for roads, and £21,000 to the Parochial Boards. A short time ago Lord Lothian received a deputation from the School Boards of Scotland, and he told the members of it that the Government had not acceded to the principle of free education, but had only agreed to grant relief from the payment of fees in the first three standards. I will not quarrel over words; if the Government think that the operation they have performed will smell more sweetly to their supporters under this name, far be it from me to deny them the gratification. Now the views of the Government have been before the people of Scotland for some time, and there has been an absolutely unanimous expression of opinion from School Boards and schoolmasters in condemnation of the proposals. The School Boards for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leith, and Aberdeen went so far as to send a deputation to the Government pointing out very weighty objections to the scheme, and asking the Government to at least extend the relief to the compulsory standards four and five. The schoolmasters also agree that it is a mistake that this relief of fees should not be extended to the fourth and fifth standards, and they contend that serious injury will be done to education in Scotland if the extension is not agreed to. The Edinburgh School Board are of opinion that partial relief from school fees will lead to serious difficulties of administration; it will lead to irregularity of attendance; and it will prove a temptation to parents to withdraw their children from school if they are disappointed in their application for relief from school fees. A body representing the elementary teachers of Scotland also sent a deputation to the Lord Advocate. They pointed out that there was a growing tendency for children now to leave school at an early age; that it constituted a serious obstacle to real educational progress; and that if fees were abolished in the lower standards and retained in the higher that tendency will be intensified. Surely that would be the natural result of not making parents pay fees when school attendance is absolutely compulsory, and insisting on payment when there is really no compulsion for attendance. This is strong testimony as to the injurious and practical consequences of the half-and-half measure of giving, relief in the three lower standards. The success of the schoolmasters in cramming children in order to get through the lower standards has been so great that they are able to leave school a year earlier than the age laid down in the Act. That is most unfortunate thing, because they are crammed merely for the purposes of examination, and they leave school at so early an age that the lessons they have learned are apt to become obliterated. I believe the general opinion in Scotland among the teachers is in favour of making the sixth the compulsory standard, in order to keep children at school a sufficient time to impress upon their minds the lessons they have learned. Another difficulty is this—that the new proposal will disorganize the whole finance of Scottish School Boards. The theory upon which the Government proceeded was that the total school fees in the three lower standards amount to £155,000, or exactly one-half of the entire school fees in Scotland. No doubt, generally speaking, that is correct; but it is not absolutely true in some cases—for instance, Glasgow—which would lose about £5,000 under this scheme. It would also involve much hardship and loss in other cases. If the Government once relieve the three lower standards from payment of fees, it will be impossible in future to compel the parents to pay fees for their children in the higher standards; and the end of it will he that the Government will be obliged to apply the whole of the Probate Duty to the relief of school fees, thus freeing all standards below the sixth. All classes of the community in Scotland are awaiting the decision of the Government with anxiety, particularly the poorer classes, with whom the question of school fees is a more serious matter than with people in a similar position in England. I may mention that England's share of the Probate Duty exceeds all school fees in England by £100,000, while Scotland's share falls short of the school fees by £70,000. Hon. Members will now see how serious a question this is for Scotland. There is one part of the scheme in support of which I do not think it would be easy to advance any argument, for everybody has condemned it. It is the proposal to throw upon School Boards the burden of discriminating what children, on account of their necessitous circumstances, shall be relieved from the payment of fees. The School Boards, one and all, declare that this is a duty which it is out of their power to perform, because they have no means of discovering what the situation and circumstances of the parents may be. That is the sort of work to be discharged by the Parochial Board with the means at their disposal, and which the School Board can never discharge to the satisfaction of the Scottish people. What the Committee have to consider is not so much the abstract merits or demerits of the proposal in the Bill, but a comparison of the two ways of spending the money at our disposal. I say that the very same arguments, the very same considerations, that drive the Government to give up the three standards apply á fortiori to completing the task begun, by giving up the five standards. The hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell), in a speech made on the Second Reading of the Bill, referred to some figures I had given; and though he did not attempt to contradict them, he tried to palliate the force of those figures, and gave an illustration of the mode of distribution by the Government, and the application of the money to school fees. But the case the hon. Baronet referred to was that of a man paying £12 a year rent. Now out of 22,800 rate-paying householders in Aberdeen only 4,336 would come within the category of paying £12 a year and upwards, so that the illustration left out 18,500 of the inhabitants of the town. The argument for applying this money to the relief of school fees is simple and reasonable. In the first place, that application of the money would have an educational value; and, in the next place, it would have a social value. The educational value is this—that it removes the obstruction to the attendance of children. Generally speaking attendance I compulsory; but compulsion has not been carried out to any considerable extent. School Boards in Scotland are not stringent in carrying out the compulsory clause; and one main reason for this slackness is that in so many cases parents cannot afford the fees, and the School Boards are reluctant to compel them to go upon the pauper list, in order that their children may attend school, and so we feel that this concession, apart from the limitation to the three standards, will be attended with the greatest possible value to education in Scotland. But there is also the social value. I do not wish to press this argument too far; but when the Committee remembers that the payment of fees is not voluntary—the law imposes the payment upon parents, whether they have the means or not, for the education of their children, and releases them from that obligation only by affixing the stigma of pauperism—the relief from the payment of school fees is undoubtedly a great boon; but it would be a much greater boon but for the alternative proposed by the Government to give relief to local rates also. Owing to circumstances, it is not now necessary for me to enter into the subject. We in Scotland laugh at the burden of rates which is felt to such an extent in England. To the great bulk of the community the relief to the rates proposed in Scotland will be unappreciable, and to the larger ratepayers insignificant. I take, by way of illustration, the figures of distribution among the householders of Aberdeen, and considering these an average for the whole of Scotland, £100,000 devoted to the relief of the rates would yield the following results:—7,721 persons would be relieved to the extent of 1½d. a year; 9,945 would get 3¾d.; 3,470 would get 7d.; 1,176 would get 1s. 4d. a year; 360 would get 2s. 10d.; and only 38 in Aberdeen would get more than that. It is obvious, therefore, that £100,000, or even twice the amount given for relief in this way, would be unappreciable. You might as well throw the money into the sea. I do not wish to deprive the Government of the claim to popularity that no doubt will be recognized in that they have gone so far as the three standards, and I would not drive them from that position—better that than nothing at all to the relief of education; but I insist on the folly of stopping short there, and not making this a real benefit to education and meeting a wide-spread grievance. I deal now with the grant of £30,000 to the Highlands, and here we have to consider—shall we relieve the landlords, or shall we abolish school fees? My first objection to the Highland grant is one of principle. The Highlands ought to get their fair share in the distribution of the money in Scotland. If they get more than a fair share, the grant ceases to be justice and becomes alms. I do not say that there may not be circumstances that may justify a Government in giving alms; but, if such alms are given, they should be given from the Imperial Exchequer, and not out of the money assigned to the people of Scotland. I may refer to the Drainage and other Bills now before the House, by which it is proposed to devote a million of British money to various industrial enterprises in Ireland, and there is a recognition of the principle. I maintain that when you have exceptional distress or difficulties to meet, the funds should be provided from the Imperial Exchequer. In my view, the chief distress in the Highlands has arisen from the misconduct of the landlords, from the exorbitant rents they have exacted, and their refusal to give the people land to cultivate. The Imperial Government in 1886, recognizing their obligations in this respect, appointed a Commission, and that Commission has reduced the rents, and I hope beneficial results will follow. This is a recognition that the distress in the Highlands arose from the action of the landlords and Parliamentary negligence; but why are the people of Scotland to pay £30,000 for this? Suppose that the landlords in these Highland districts get immediately or ultimately £24,000 of this £30,000, it would only mean the addition of £14 to every £1,000 of the landlord's income. Now, I put it to the Government, are they prepared to say, from platforms in Scotland, that the reason why they could not abolish fees in Standards IV. and V. was because they wanted to give assistance to landlords in the proportion of £14 to every £1,000 of rent? That is putting the case for the Government in the most favourable light. It is doubtful whether the landlords would benefit to the extent of £14. Last year the Government gave, I believe, about £23,000 to the relief of the poor rates, and £3,000 to the School Boards; but after all their experience in squandering public money the Government could find no means of expending £4,000, and it went back to the Exchequer. Of the £23,000 appropriated to the relief of the rates, £11,500 went to the relief of the landlords, the other moiety to the tenants. But the total reduction of rents by the Crofter Commission was less than £8,000 a year; so that at once you give the landlords a larger sum than is taken away by the Crofter Commission. But this is not all. It cannot be disputed that of the other £11,500 the larger portion will find its way into the pockets of the landlords. It is difficult to form an exact opinion on this head; but, taking four parishes as typical cases, it would seem that about £3,000 goes to the relief of crofters and cottars, the remainder of the £11,500 being divided among larger farmers and. sporting tenants. I may remind the Committee that since the Education Act of 1872 was passed, the cost of education has ceased to fall entirely on the heritors, and is divided between occupiers and landlords. As regards the poor rate in the Highlands, of course it is quite true that it differs in different parishes; but it is not true that the high poor rate is the growth of very recent times. If we examine the records as to the Highlands in the past, we shall find it is sufficiently old to be called a hereditary burden, and lands have passed through various hands, and the amount of the poor rate has been taken into consideration in fixing the price. But what is this terrible poor rate? We are familiar in London with local rates exceeding 5s. in the £1. The rate in Argyleshire is 1s. 6½d., including education and poor rate, and the other rates too small to be worth talking about. In Inverness it is 1s. 10¼d.; elsewhere 2s., 2s. 2d., 2s. 5d., and in Shetland 3s. 6d. Hon. Members from England are familiar with much higher figures. The average throughout Scotland is 1s. 1½d. the average in the Highlands is 2s. I do not consider these rates as so exorbitant as to require the special intervention of Parliament. In arguing the case the supporter s of the Government proposal never fail to quote the fam- iliar instances of Lochs, South Uist, and other parishes in which these rates are exceptionally high; but these are the very parishes that have given so much trouble to the Government, and the rates are exceptionally high there because the landlords have been more than usually extortionate, and there they should suffer for their ill-doing. Again, I say, if in a few exceptional cases relief should be given, that should be given from Imperial Funds; it should not be a charge upon the Probate Duty. While the distribution of the money among the Highland lairds will do them little good, the refusal of relief from school fees in the fourth and fifth standards will be severely felt by the occupiers; and if the Government deliberately say the Highland lairds are to be preferred to the people of Scotland, the Government and their Party will inevitably suffer for it in the future

Amendment proposed, in page 10, line 9, leave out all the words after the word "applied," to the end of Subsection (1.)—(Mr. Hunter.)

Question proposed, "That the words by or under the direction of the Secretary,' stand part of the Clause."

MR. FRASER MACKINTOSH (Invernessshire)

My hon. Friend has, as he usually does, stated his case with procision and clearness, but I think we have heard most of it before. I entirely disagree with his conclusions, and I car say that the £30,000 specially granted to the Highlands and Islands last year was productive of very great benefit indeed, when it was most needed, and I hope the Government will not consent to give up that part of their scheme. I am quite as much in favour of free education as my hon. Friend, and years ago I took a prominent part in the movement; but, at the same time, I recognize that the Government have made a very great step in the direction I wish them to go, by freeing the three standards, and so far as I am concerned, I am in the meantime satisfied. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen was strong in his denunciation of the manner in which the £30,000 was distributed, and he seemed to imagine that it, in a great part, went into the pockets of the landlords, chiefly great landlords. But he forgets that the great landlords, of whom his greatest complaint is made, form but an inconsiderable part of the whole number. In Inverness parish there are almost as many landlords as occupiers, and the sum that fell to Inverness last year out of the £30,000 amounted to £1,600; and I can assure the Committee that it was the means of affording most substantial relief—not to the great landlords, for we have none in the parish of Inverness, but to a great number of small landlords and occupiers. It must not be forgotten that the rates fall half on the owners, half on the occupiers; and speaking for Inverness-shire, and more particularly for the Islands, I say great benefit has been derived from the assistance, and I protest altogether against the position taken up by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, in his reference to the condition of the Highlands. We have to deal with counties in an exceptional position; we must take facts as we find them. There is much distress to deal with, and which cannot be met in the way the hon. Member suggests. The hon. Member takes exception to the source from which the grant comes, and says it ought to be made from the Imperial Funds. That is all very well, and he may be right; but, meanwhile, I do not see any chance of a Government grant, and this being offered from the Probate Duty, I accept it. All I wish to say is, do not let the Committee run away with the mistaken idea that this grant goes to the relief of the great landlords; the relief to small landlords, widows, and occupants is most substantial, and I hope the proposal will be left as it stands.

* MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

I am firmly convinced of the advantages of free education as far as Scotland is concerned. My experience on the School Board in a poor district brought vividly to my mind the destitution of the poor parents who were brought before us to be reprimanded for the non-payment of school fees, and I have never forgotten the scenes I then witnessed. I am very strongly in favour of a scheme of free education, provided that, as far as possible, no additional burden is cast on the rates, and that the position hitherto occupied by the denominational schools is not interfered with. I consider that the scheme now before the House fulfils both these provisoes, and therefore I cordially support it. I myself look forward to the happy day when the fees will be paid out of the Imperial Exchequer; but we must walk before we can run, and until that happy day arrives I content myself with what we can get. I am greatly in favour of the amount at present allocated towards freeing the standards being increased by the addition of the sum at present assigned to the Highlands and Islands. There is no doubt whatever that the Highlands and Islands require and deserve a grant of public money; but I do say that if exceptional distress occurs in any part of the United Kingdom it ought to be relieved by a grant from the Imperial Exchequer. If there were exceptional distress in Cornwall, for instance, relief would surely be obtained, not from the English rates, but from the Imperial Exchequer. The same thing happens in the case of exceptional distress in Ireland. I would refer the Committee to a few words that appeared on the 8th of June in the Economist, a newspaper which I should not say is saturated with Scottish notions. The writer of an article on the Scottish Local Government Bill points out that when special grants are made to the poorer districts of Ireland, such, for instance, as the sum now to be given for Irish draining and railways, the money is taken, not out of local, but out of Imperial Funds; but that in Scotland the money to be devoted to such purposes is to be derived from a fund set apart for the relief of Scottish rates, so that the richer districts of Scotland will not only be made to support the poorer districts of their own country, but have also to contribute along with England towards the relief of the poorer districts of Ireland. "Is this right?" asks the Economist. I answer most emphatically No, and I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment, which is practically the same as that of which I have myself given notice.

* SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I am a little sorry the Amendment has been brought forward in its existing shape, because I think it a little prejudices the view which the hon. Member opposite takes, and which I share with him. The Government have so far committed themselves to freeing education that they must find the money sooner or later. The principle I should like to apply is that the Imperial grants in aid should be maintained, and all that remains should be devoted to the freeing of education, and no part of the surplus should be devoted to the further benefit of the ratepayers. The particular question we have before us on the first subsection relates to the £40,000 which is proposed to be given for the special relief of the Highlands. There are no doubt districts of Scotland where the rates are too high to be maintained, but I wish to take my stand wholly and entirely, not on the question of whether the necessity is so great as to demand the making of this grant, but whether it is not unjust that this special burden should be thrown upon Scotland. I ask myself why in this matter should the County of Fife, with which I am connected, be placed in a position of less advantage than the County of Middlesex or the County of Kent? We are still a United Kingdom, and we have no Home Rule for Scotland. I should be very glad to obtain a certain amount of financial Home Rule for Scotland, and when we do obtain it no doubt it will be fair enough that we should be told we must provide for our poorer districts. But that day has not yet arrived, and it is not for a moment suggested that in other parts of the kingdom the poorer districts should be supported by their immediate neighbours. With regard to the Irish Drainage Bills, I may say I do not like them, and have opposed them tooth and nail on the ground that they are not fit subjects for eleemosynary aid. But when we take the case of the light railways, I am satisfied that some assistance may properly be afforded. It has, however, never been proposed that the money needed to provide that assistance should be derived from Ireland alone, and it is to come from the Imperial Treasury. I think the Government would find it totally impossible to suggest for one moment any reason why this special grant should be imposed on Scotland rather than upon the Imperial Exchequer, or why the Lowland counties of Scotland should receive less Imperial aid than the counties of England. I can conceive no reason for that course. On the contrary, the figures, I think, prove that curious injustice has been committed in this respect. I have never been able to understand quite the ground on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer settled the 11 per cent of the Probate Duty he has to give to Scotland. He said it depended on complicated figures that he could not submit to the House, and he has not satisfied the House as to that proposal. No doubt he gives us what we are entitled to in regard to population, but we have a right to expect more, as he said the amount would be settled on the combined basis of population and taxation. Well, I do not think it can be denied that Scotland is more highly taxed than England, having regard to the duty on whiskey, and to the fact that Scotland is a whiskey-drinking country.


The hon. Member is not confining himself to the question before the Committee.


I will not pursue that argument further, but I hold that there is no reason why this grant should be saddled on Scotland rather than the whole of the United Kingdom. No doubt this claim is one the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds it difficult to resist, and that accounts for his absence from the House at this moment. I strongly support the Amendment.

* MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I must say I rather deprecate the bringing of the Highlands and Islands into conflict on the question of free education. The Government and the Committee should face the fact that if the money at the disposal of the Government is not sufficient to free education, the school rate should be raised for that purpose. But though I deprecate the arguments used for and against the grant of £30,000 to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, I would submit this for the consideration of the Government. I have been recently down in Fifeshire, and I know the opinions that are prevailing there. More than that. I myself represent a large number of agricultural labourers and fishermen in Aberdeenshire. Many of these people are very poor, and are contending with the same disadvantages as the Highlands and Islands, and it is no disrespect to my constituency or to the Highlands of Scotland to say when Inverness is spoken of, that that county is no more distressed than the Lowlands, so far as regards ability to pay school fees. We are willing to discuss the question of the Highlands and Islands and this grant on its merits. The poor people of the Lowlands are to be asked to pay their share of the £30,000, and at the same time pay school fees after the Third Standard for their own children. We submit that the fishermen of the Highlands have got a great deal done for them—and we do not grudge them what they have obtained—but we do complain of our poor fishermen in the Lowlands being deprived of that share of school fees which they think they are entitled to. I grant that this being perhaps the most important Amendment on the Paper, we ought to consider it gravely in all its bearings. I hold the opinion that we ought to give remission of the school fees rather in the higher than in the lower standards, though I quite admit that it will be a boon to give them in the lower standards. It will, however, introduce into our schools a new principle altogether, and so far as I have been able to obtain the opinion of people engaged in the School Board Schools, and interested in education, they are unanimous in thinking that to complete this boon and make it satisfactory, you can by no manner of means stop at the Third Standard, but should go to the Fourth and Fifth Standards. But we are not really to stop at the Third Standard form, we are to the fourth and fifth, by placing the present duties of the Parochial Boards on the School Boards, making the latter an inquisitorial body, who in place of having their minds directed solely to the education of the people without regard to their condition of life, have to take upon themselves the work of the Parochial Boards, and to go poking round to see who are to receive the surplus money on account of their poverty. Having had many years' experience, I am one of those who from the outset thought it a bad thing to send people, particularly those on the verge of poverty—widows and working men out of employment—to the Parochial Board simply to obtain remission of school fees. When you send people to the Parochial Board for this purpose you degrade them and show them a new road to the obtaining of assistance, to which they are very apt to return. Once they get over the pangs of having their school fees paid, it is easier for them to go for eleemosynary relief later on. Therefore, I have always been against parochial relief of fees; and I say the objections to the system will be as great if you require the poor people to go to the School Board for remission of fees. They will be unable to obtain the relief without submitting to an inquiry into their circumstances and making out a case; and I submit that it is not relieving us of a difficulty in this matter to send the people to the School Board for relief. But even this difficulty might be got over were it necessary. We all know that it is not necessary. The experience we have of collecting the school fees in some of the large districts in Scotland, is, such as to make it not worth while to collect the money, and teachers of great earnestness and ability have told us again and again that the work getting in the school fees and looking after the financial arrangements of the schools is a great hindrance to education. Therefore, if there is one thing to which there should be no degradation or disability attached in the eyes of the law, it is the school. Why should we not have our children attending elementary schools on the platform of equality? Having gone nine-tenths of the way, why do we not go the whole length of declaring that as education is a necessity, and as it is the duty of the State to look after it and enforce it if necessary by pains and penalties, the State should find the means for it and put the burden on those who are best able to bear it—namely, the taxpayers. Considering what we have to gain, I do not think it is worth while to discourage the sending of children to the higher standards by limiting the relief to the Third Standard. And, in conclusion, I would ask, is it worth while to discuss this side issue of the Highlands and Islands, putting the one against the other when we know we have the means of giving relief to the five standards without inflicting the slightest hardship on any part of the country. The Lord Advocate knows when he is giving this first instalment of what we call "free education" in Scotland, but which is really providing for the abolition of school fees, that we can never stop at the Third Standard. It is in his power to put a stop in Scotland to the agitation, which will undoubtedly continue until our object is attained. Would it not be better then, I ask, for the Government themselves and for the country at large to make this concession fully and freely?

* MR. FIRTH (Dundee)

I must say that it was with a feeling of the utmost satisfaction that I saw that an Administration, and above all a Conservative Administration, had in Sub-section 4 of Clause 19 introduced a proposition that a large sum of what may be regarded as public money should be directed towards providing free education. It is a thing upon which we may not only congratulate ourselves but also congratulate them. There can be no doubt that this is the thin end of the wedge, and the sooner the wedge is driven home the better. It is now some years ago since, as a member of the London School Board, I had an opportunity of forming an opinion on this question. I regard it as creditable to Scotland, that has always led the van in educational matters, that it should have been owing to the pressure that she has brought to bear on the Government that we have obtained any recognition at all of this principle of free education. Well, now, we compel parents to send their children to school, and deprive them of their Common Law right to their services. On the other hand, if it be to the interest of the nation that all children should be educated, the nation should take care that that interest is secured at the least possible cost to the parents. In this Bill you are prepared to give relief up to the Third Standard. But the Third Standard is not far enough. I confess I see no reason for stopping there except expediency, governed by the amount of money you have available after these other allocations. You have a duty towards the education of the poor. It is a duty which extends not merely to the earliest age and to elementary, but perchance to secondary, education also. I certainly hope the time will come when we may have education free, not merely in its elementary stage, but as it is in the great cities of America, and has been for a hundred years, right enough through the high school to the normal school. In that way only can you give all children the best opportunity of developing such talents as they have. I hope the Amendment of my hon. Friend may be passed, not because I have for one moment any doubt as to the advantage which would accrue from the allocation to the Highlands and Islands, but because it seems to me that the establishment or extension of a system of free education may rightly be defended as a sound economical policy, wise in itself, likely to be productive of general good, and likely, by extending the area of what may be termed the Scotch object lesson on free education, to bring about through all the kingdoms that result which, in my opinion in this matter, is especially to be desired.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and, 40 Members being present,

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

It is important to keep in view that this is a part of what is termed the Probate Duty allocated to Scotland, and it is also important to remember the fiscal policy upon which that Probate Duty was granted. In the Budget speech of last year, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) pointed out that as regards Succession Duty 3 per cent was paid by personalty, whilst the amount paid by realty was, be said, a great deal less. He said that the reason for the difference was that local taxation was borne entirely by real property, whereas personal property paid no share whatever of such taxation. With the view of making personalty contribute towards local taxation, he took l½ per cent of the personalty and handed it over as being, in the opinion of the Government, the just contribution of personalty towards local taxation. He raised the Succession Duty 1½ per cent, and handed l½ per cent of the Probate Duty over to local taxation. I am not going to argue the question whether the policy of the Government was right or wrong, but that policy was that local taxation was to get the whole of the Probate Duty. Accordingly, in the case of England, the Probate Duty grant goes entirely to the local ratepayers, and the same thing happens in the case of Ireland; but in regard to Scotland the Government, for some mysterious reason, say—"We have some money in hand, and we will leave it to the Representatives of Scotland to say where that money shall go." Now, it is a fallacy on the part of the Govern- ment to say that this money is at the disposal of the Scotch Members for any purpose they may think fit to devote it to. It was part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's fiscal arrangement that this money should be devoted to local taxation; and it is for the Government to explain why it should be withheld from local taxation and applied to a different purpose. They have departed from the terms of their own fiscal arrangement, and they will find that it will be contended that personalty does not pay the local rates. Take the case of house property in a burgh. Who is it that pays the local taxation? A purchaser purchases the property with the burdens upon it, and it cannot be said that he really pays the rates. The rates are found out of the rent, which comes directly from the industry of the people. As to the special sum dealt with by the Amendment—£30,000 for relief of local taxation in the Highlands—I am not going to argue whether the Highlands require that relief or not. Assuming, however, that they require special relief, out of what pocket should it come? I venture to say that as long as there is Imperial control, exceptional distress must be met by the Imperial Government. There is no special difference betwixt the case of the Highlands and the case of many parts of Ireland. This Session Drainage Bills have been introduced to meet the case of exceptional distress in Ireland, and large subsidies are to be paid out of the Imperial Exchequer to provide necessary drainage works in poor districts in Ireland. On what principle is it that this is done in Ireland, and that we are not to have the exceptional distress in the Highlands met out of the same Imperial purse? We are asked to contribute towards the relief of exceptional distress in Ireland, and, at the same time, we are invited to devote our share of the Probate Duty to the relief of distress in Scotland. The proposition is most monstrous. We do not dispute that Ireland is entitled to assistance out of Imperial funds if she requires it; but we say that if there are parts of Scotland equally poor, they ought not to be treated. in a different manner. The policy of a Unionist Government would be to treat every part of the United Kingdom alike, but here Scotland is being treated as if she were part of an independent kingdom. The policy of the Government seems to be to split the country up into independent kingdoms, and to treat Scotland as if she were one of such kingdoms by making her pay for her own poor. I object to the manner in which this money is proposed to be distributed by the Secretary for Scotland. I moved for a Return showing how the distribution was to be made. I find from that Return that in the County of Argyll there is a parish which is to get £609, although it is only assessed at 11¾d. in the £1. Dunoon is to get £500 of the money. I am not aware of any exceptional distress in Dunoon, and the assessment is only 5d. in the £1. There never was a more disgraceful expenditure of public money than is proposed in that case. The average assessment in Scotland is 1s. in the £1, and Dunoon has no poverty whatever in it; but, of course, Dunoon is in Argyllshire, which is represented by an hon. Member on the other side of the House, and that is why the people are so favoured. Then we come to the case of Inverness. That town is to receive £1,600, and the total assessment is only 1s. 4d., or little more than the average. Did anyone ever hear of any exceptional distress in Inverness? St. Andrew's, in which the assessment is only 9d., is to get £141. These illustrations show clearly that the money is to be expended in an improper manner. I contend that relief of local taxation will afford no relief whatever to the poverty-stricken Highlander. Who pays the rates in Highland parishes? They are most of them paid by the landed proprietors, and only a small proportion by what is called the crofting population. The people who suffer from the distress will not get one farthing of the £30,000 which is to go in the relief of local taxation, because they are too poor to pay any rates whatever. If the money is intended to benefit the Highlanders it should be spent not upon grants in aid of local taxation, but for the purpose of developing the resources of the districts by opening up communications with the fisheries and constructing harbours. This £30,000 represents a capital of about £1,000,000. I say that if you expend £1,000,000 in opening railway ommunication where necessary and herwise developing the districts, the esult will be enormously beneficial in putting an end to a great deal of the privations which the people now suffer and enabling the people to live by honest industry. You will also benefit the landlords, because the people will cease to be a burden on the poor rates, which will necessarily decline as prosperity increases. If you pursued a policy of this kind you would be doing no more in the Highlands than you are doing in Ireland. I object to the assistance proposed to be given to the Highlands being granted out of Scotland's share of the Probate Duty; I object to the £30,000 being handed over to the relief of local taxation, and I object to its allocation in the manner proposed by the Secretary for Scotland. In regard to any special grant with respect to education, I maintain that that also must be paid out of the Imperial purse in accordance with the usual arrangements which have been recognized for many years, and I have no hesitation whatever in opposing the introduction of this clause and in supporting the Amendment.

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

I do not propose to reply at any length to the somewhat lengthy speech of my hon. Friend opposite, but I shall endeavour to explain the reason why I intend to vote as I do on this question. I can only regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here to hear the almost unamious expression of opinion on the part of the Scotch Members that this sum of £30,000 ought not to come out of the Probate Duties. I hope the Government may see their way to give way on this point. I do not at all grudge, as my hon. Friend seems to do, the £30,000 to the Highland parishes. I have looked most carefully into their positions, and have good reason to know how much they have suffered for some years past. I do not think the House ought to turn a deaf ear to the claims of these parishes or refuse to give a sum of money equivalent to the £30,000. I should like to say one word in regard to the question of free education. In Scotland, from one end to another, the opinion on the subject is so strong that no Government could resist it. My own inclination, I am bound to say, is very strongly in favour of freeing the education given in the Sixth Standard, and working down- wards; but I believe that if we get the first three standards, the others cannot be left out of consideration, and it does not require much foresight to perceive that the whole thing must be made free in the near future. I am sorry that the otherwise able speech of the hon. Mover of the Amendment should have been marked with so much bitterness towards landlords in the Highlands. I have no property in the Highlands myself; but I believe that that many of the hon. Member's censures are most undeserved, and that many of the Highland landlords have suffered great privations from what appears to me to be the unjust intervention on the part of the State. Speaking from great experience, I think it would never do to impose heavier or larger rates than at present exist. The great thing we have to do is to endeavour to make the rates fall as lightly as possible upon those who have to bear them. I do not follow the last speaker in regard to the cases he cited in which parishes, with comparatively light rates, were to receive grants from this money. I should have thought that the exceptions proved the rule. Although there may be cases in which assistance is not wanted, there are, at the same time, so many other cases in which assistance is really required that it was hardly worth his while to stand up in this House to quote two or three cases which certainly would hardly bear inspection.

* MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)

As the Representative of one of the constituencies to be affected by this grant of £30,000 I do not object to the Highlands receiving it, but I do object to the claim of the Highlands to such a grant being pitted against the right of the whole of Scotland to free education. I regret very much the case has of necessity taken that form. I do not blame those who are anxious to get free education in Scotland; the necessity has been forced upon them. There is one point, however, to which I wish to call attention, and that is—that in the granting of free education to Scotland, the Highlands will benefit just as much as other parts of Scotland. No special grant to the Highlands could be so beneficial to the people as a grant for free education. Money devoted to free education secures the best return. There have been practi- cal examples of the desire of the people of the Highlands for free education. I could mention several School Boards in my own constituency the members of which have shown their appreciation of the value and necessity of free education by abolishing school fees. I could give the names of several parishes in the County of Sutherland the School Boards of which have reduced the school fees to the nominal amount of one penny. I do not wish to detain the Committee by pointing out why this Nemesis has overtaken the landlords. It is utterly impossible for the landlords to escape the result of their policy in the past. It has been well pointed out that the reason why there is necessity for a grant of some kind is that the landlords of the Highlands have hitherto created and fostered pauperism. If you turn the land into deserts, the people must of necessity fall into pauperism. I rose principally for the purpose of emphasizing the appeal that has been made to the Government by Members of the House who have got a claim upon them, such as the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division. I think the Highland people have a claim to a grant; but from what I know of the sentiments of the people, I am persuaded they would rather continue to bear the burdens they now have to bear than be the means of depriving the whole of Scotland of the boon of free education in which they themselves would participate.

SIR A. CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)

This has been a very valuable discussion; but I think one point has been forgotten, and that is, that the Probate Duties were originally given in relief of rates, because personalty did not contribute the same amount to the relief of local taxation as realty. I yield to none in my desire to see education brought as cheaply as possible to everybody's door, more especially when we insist upon the operation of the compulsory clauses. But we have to look to the source from which the money has to come, and during the two elections I have fought the question was brought up, and I had to oppose what was then called free education, because I was opposed to making the ratepayers who had been put to great expense in educating their own children pay for the education of the children of others. But when I find that, in consequence of the admirable manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has managed the financial affairs of the nation during the last two or three years, there is a considerable surplus of money to be given to meet local taxation, then I think the thing is very different. I am sorry that the sum to be devoted to this object is not larger. I wish a grant could be made in respect of education in the whole of the six standards; but we must cut our coat according to our cloth, and I think that the Scotch people will not be sorry to find that a boon has been given without imposing an extra penny of taxation upon them. Many allegations have been made as to the effect of this boon. It has been said it will actually cause a deterioration in the education of the country. I do not think that is very likely. Surely those who have had so much money expended upon them will like to finish their education. There is one class in whose behalf I desire to plead, and that is the clerks. There are many artizans whose earnings are larger than the average amount of money paid to clerks. A clerk has to keep up a respectable position, and if his master found he was not giving his children a good schooling, he would most likely lose his situation. To this class this relief will be a great boon. Now, as to the grant of £30,000 to the Highlands, we must look at the reasons for the giving of the grants on the first occasion. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say that the money given will only go into the pockets of one class. It is true those unhappy crofters who do not pay any rates will not get any benefit at all; but surely it would be wrong, when you are giving certain money from the Imperial Exchequer in relief of rates, to exempt landlords and the small proprietors from participation in the relief.

* SIR G.TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I do not propose to speak longer than we are accustomed to speak in Committee, because we have had two speeches—that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) and that of the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell)—which have put the whole case in such a manner that it is impossible to supplement it. I only regret the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not the good fortune to hear the speech of the hon. Member for St. Rollox, for it must have brought conviction to the breast of any hon. Member accustomed to finance. What hon. Members do not appear to have noticed is that we are not here to discuss the question whether we shall give £30,000 to the Highlands. We are discussing whether we are to make an eternal and immortal appropriation of £30,000 a year from the taxation of Scotland for the relief of an exceptional part of Scotland. We all know what will happen. If the Government stick to their guns a great number of English Members who have not heard the debate will come from without and outvote the nearly unanimous voice of Scotland. And this will be an occasion when the monstrosity of that proceeding will come out in the liveliest colours. We have spent the best part of two evenings—and I do not regret it—in resisting the so-called relief of Ireland, from the pocket of the taxpayer, in the shape of drainage loans and drainage grants, but on that occasion hon. Members who had not heard the debate were dealing with their own money and with the money of their own constituents. But on this occasion they will come in and vote for the relief of a special part of the country, not even out of the money of their own constituents, but out of the money of the limited number of Scotch Members, every one of whom, except the official Members, and the Members for the districts, which are said to be benefited—[Cries of"No!"]— except some of them, and I am glad to hear it—and except the hon. Member for Renfrewshire (Sir A. Campbell) will be heartily opposed. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer know what he is doing? He is actually giving out of Scotch taxation £30,000 to relieve certain special districts of Scotland, and to what quarter that relief will go has been shown by the hon. Member for St. Rollox in a manner that cannot be answered. We were complaining lately that grants from the English Exchequer were given for drainage purposes to rich districts of Ireland. But here we have the money of the taxpayers of Scotland that is given to the relief of the rates in parishes, which are very lightly rated as compared with the great number of parishes which will be taxed to relieve them, and this is being done for ever. What a waste of money is this Under this clause £100,000, as nearly as possible, is being devoted to various purposes, in some of which the Scotch have very little interest, and to the first of which the great majority are absolutely opposed. We have heard from the hon. Member for Aberdeen how that will maim and render almost nugatory the concession which is being made. I have here the figures of the proportion of Scotch children who attend school during the various ages. Out of 98,000 children between the ages of 6 and 7, 72,000 attend school; out of 95,000 between 7 and 8, 83,000 attend school; out of 92,000 between 8 and 9, 83,000 attend school. The same proportion holds in the case of children between 9 and 10, 10 and 11, and 11 and 12. But does any one in these advanced days of education say that education should stop at 12? And yet we find that even now out of 85,000 children between 12 and 13, only 57,000 attend school; and out of 84,000 between 13 and 14 only 31,000 attend school. That is the normal and natural drop at present. Just imagine how that will be increased when the fees are paid up to the Third Standard; that is, during the time that the schools are full, but when fees are exacted at a time when parents are only too willing to take their children away. This enormous difficulty and danger to education in the future might largely be removed if the Government would accede to the almost unanimous wish of the Scotch Members, and strike out the three first items in this 19th clause, beginning with the one which we are are now contesting. In special districts this scheme of the Government, as it at present stands, will raise the greatest difficulties. Take the great city, one district of which I have the honour to represent. Glasgow has a School Board which, perhaps, is second to none of the great educational machines of the country. That School Board, writing most deliberately and with a full knowledge of the subject, represents to the Government and to Parliament that while under this scheme they will obtain £17,000 a year they will sacrifice £22,000 a year; so that in order that you may do this worse than useless operation of giving £30,000 to certain districts, you condemn Glasgow, and, in proportion, other places situated like Glasgow with a perpetual fine of £5,000 a year. I would be the very last person to wish to snub the Highland people. The hon. Member for St. Rollox admirably put before the Committee the shape in which we ought to assist the Highlands if we intend to assist them, and I must beg the attention of the Committee to this fact—that if you accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, you will assist in the very best and just shape those parts of the Highlands which must be assisted, and assist them exactly in proportion as they suffer. There is a great deal to be said about increasing the poor rate in connection with the agrarian difficulties of the Highlands; but the immense school rate has grown up, in consequence of circumstances for which no one is to blame, but on account of the lamentable circumstances in which the great bulk of the population are placed. Taking four parishes in the Highlands, I find that the average attendance at schools under the School Boards is only half of what it ought to be, and that of £190 that ought to be paid in fees the sum of £5 1s. was actually paid. Now, here you have the causes of educational distress, and on the Motion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen you have the means of relieving it. If you accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend then you will have money enough to remit the whole of the fees, for I am afraid these poor people do not carry on the education of their children to the higher standards, and this addition to the £100,000 will probably fulfil all demands for the remission of fees both in the Highlands and in the Lowlands. I am glad to think that the Representatives of the Highlands themselves repudiate the idea of being put in the invidious position of being the cause of the denial of free education to their countrymen; they do not wish to have this subsidy at the expense of this boon to the whole of Scotland; they do not wish to have it thrown in their teeth that it was owing to the Highland counties that this great boon so earnestly desired was denied to the whole of Scotland.


Let me recall the Committee to the precise question before us. The proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen is to eliminate the provision of £30,000 for the Highlands, and yet with the utmost frankness he has declared that his primary object is to pick up items that will supply the required funds for providing what he calls free education for the whole of Scotland. Of course, the Committee will understand the Amendment is part of the scheme for securing free education, and the hon. and learned Member begins by depriving the ratepayers of the relief provided for them in this part of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman has so high an opinion of the value of freeing education that he will make this sacrifice of the relief to local taxation. In the first place, I invite the consideration of the Committee to the question whether it considers itself to be under some obligation to free all the standards in the Scotch schools—to that I maintain a negative—and, secondly, whether the £30,000 for the Highlands and Islands is, on its own merits, so bad a provision that it ought to be rejected. I would like to ask whether any Party in the House, least of all the Government, is in any way committed to the theory that education must be free in Scotland? 'To this I say, most certainly not. It has been well urged by my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire there is no such compelling sense of duty. Before we advance further, I should like to remind the Committee how very important it is that we should not yield to any sentiments, however generously expressed, however liberal in views, as stated by the hon. Member for Aberdeen. We must adhere to our duty in the distribution of this money, and we have primary obligations to the ratepayers which we must meet in the sense of being just before we are generous. Local taxation, which has been exceedingly harsh and oppressive, has fallen, and must necessarily fall upon every householder in the community, but school fees do not fall upon the whole of the ratepayers. It is all very well to lavish eulogies upon a Liberal policy in the matter of free education, but we must recognize the duties that belong to us by seeing that we give benefits arising from public money equally to all who have contributed to it. I am bound to say I think the Committee is under an obligation to restrain those generous and liberal sympathies, and to adhere to the policy that has been followed for a long course of years of devoting grants in aid of local burdens of ratepayers. The hon. Member, with reference to a most legitimate object, has awowed at the outset his purpose in making this attack on the clause.


I may explain that I did refer to the rates, but my objection is to the deduction of this £30,000 from the Probate Duty when it should be provided from Imperial Funds.


Yes, I think the Committee will understand the object of the hon. Members for Aberdeen is to enter upon a predatory expedition against the ratepayers in the interests of the parents who pay school fees. He makes his attack in detail, and hopes to get the support of the enemies of this grant on this occasion, though he may not keep their support hereafter for his scheme of free education; but I desire to impress upon my hon. Friends on both sides of the House that the Government are not proposing any general scheme of free education as a duty upon the State. We are merely applying moneys available for Scotch local purposes to an object which is found to be most congenial to the wishes of the Scotch ratepayers. I protest against the Motion that this is a case in which the Government are proposing to found this £30,000 for districts on the ground of their poverty alone. If that were so there would be much to be said for and against the proposal to take the relief from Imperial Funds. It may be said that, where a community is poor to that extent that it is a danger or a special burden to the body politic, relief should come from Imperial sources. But we have not to deal with a position of that kind. We find that in the distribution of the money provided out of the Probate Duty and the Excise Duty there arises a special anomaly regarding the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and the object of the Government is to supply out of those moneys a provision which should meet and supplant the grants hitherto made out of moneys hitherto annually voted by Parliament. An injustice is done in the case of the Highland counties, and the only way to redress that is to give them a bonus such as is represented in this grant. It is said that we are going to put this money into the pockets of the landlords. That is not the fact. We merely put it into the pockets of the landlords if and in so far as the lord lords pay the rates. Would the Government be justified in adopting a method of appropriation which would land the money in the pockets of anybody except those who pay rates—those who run the machine of Local Government? If the crofters choose to pay their share of the local burdens, the grant now to be made will flow into their pockets as well as into those of other people who pay rates. I am bound to say I cannot but be surprised that the hon. Member, who usually speaks with so much intelligence and candour, should over and over again, in entire disregard of the answer which over and over again has been rendered, ignore the fact that in these Highland districts the pressure on the ratepayers is exceptionally heavy, and those against whom these stale denunciations are launched suffer as much as any other class. I have studiously abstained from discussing the question whether the money should be granted in aid of the school fees in the higher or in the lower standards, because it would confuse the Debate to mix it up with the other two questions, which were raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, and with which I have dealt.

* MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)

The right hon. Gentleman has wisely narrowed the scope of the present discussion; the point as to the particular form in which relief to school fees should be given will be raised later. My hon. and learned Friend, in his comprehensive and instructive speech in moving the Amendment, did cover nearly the whole ground, as we might expect from him who has given so much attention to this subject. The object of my hon. and learned Friend is twofold—to relieve his countrymen from an oppressive burden and to promote the interests of education; and he does not find the second of these objects secured by the proposal of the Government, however much the first may be. The Lord Advocate is, no doubt, anxious to have the Committee believe that the Government are not in favour of free education. The truth is, the Government have offered a benefit, and they are anxious to increase its value; but there sits behind the Front Ministerial Bench a row of Gentlemen—I do not wish to be offensive in calling them wolves—who are waiting to pounce down from the English fold and to gobble up the little Scotch ewe lamb. But we will deal with those Gentlemen when they make their attack. The presence and influence of the hon. Members in question, however, has had such an effect upon the Lord Advocate that he is most anxious to tell the Committee that he does not accept the idea of free education. The fact as represented by the Lord Advocate would seem to be that he has gone about seeking how he could employ this money, and, as a happy thought, it occurs to him, "Let us abolish these school fees." Well, I do not think the Government will be able to stop there. Although the right hon. Gentleman makes a comparison between the relief he proposes to afford and that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, and points out how he desires to relieve the great body of Scotch ratepayers, I think he must bear in mind that those who are most keen on the subject are, perhaps, those best qualified to express the minds of the Scotch ratepayers on the matter. This question, though it lies at the root of the matter, has been interwoven with another, because, as the first step towards the accomplishment of his ultimate object, my hon. and learned Friend proposes to withdraw the proposal to grant £30,000 to the relief of Highland rates. Now, we have had a great deal of light thrown to-night on, the nature of this grant of £30,000. For my own part, until b heard what has been said to-night, I was rather in, of favour this grant; but the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Mackintosh) was the first person to open my eyes to the nature of the grant, and I must say that I never heard a more extraordinary argument than that used by the hon. Member for Inverness, developed since with much fervour and ability by the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell), who unfortunately spoke when few Members were in the House, and I may perhaps, therefore, repeat some of the information he gave us. Let the Committee remember that this grant of £30,000 was given in aid of certain parts of the Highlands which, we were told, were in a deplorable condition, where the poor rate had reached an almost fabulous amount, and exceptional means of relief were required. Here we have the hon. Member for Inverness coming forward and saying that in the parish of Inverness, where he resides, this grant has had most most beneficial effects, and that £1,600 has been spent there out of the whole £30,000. Well, on looking at the return, we discover that in the parish of Inverness the rate stands only at is 4d. in the £1. The whole of the parishes of Inverness shire receive £5,000, and of that sum this parish of Inverness, where there is really no necessity for relief at all, receives no less than £1,600. Thou the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow quoted the case of Dunoon, a large and flourishing watering-place in Argyll-shire, which, with a total poor rate of 5½d. in the £1, has received £500, and I have found for myself another instance worth quoting in the case of Campbelltown. This, again, is a prosperous and flourishing locality, and with a total rate of 11¼d. it has received £610, an entire misappropriation of the money. The Lord Advocate says the money is not given on the ground of poverty alone, but—unless I am very much mistaken—it was on the ground of poverty that Parliament was induced to grant it. With great ingenuity the Lord Advocate seeks to make out that this is a bonus given to these counties because by the substitution of the Excise duties for the present Parliamentary grants they lose heavily in comparison with other counties. But is that so? I have not had the opportunity of looking closely into the matter; but I have taken the first two counties on the list, and I find with regard to Aberdeenshire that it is losing, through not receiving the Parliamentary grant it used to receive, £19,612. That is the loss to Aberdeenshire, which has to bear the whole burden of its own misfortunes. In the case of Argyllshire, which receives this special assistance, the loss has been £9,482.


How does the hon. Gentleman arrive at those figures?


From the Return as to License Duties, Probate Duty grant, and Parliamentary grants dealt with in this Bill. Let the Committee mark the comparsion between the two figures I have quoted. One would expect, from the argument of the Lord Advocate, the figures as to the Excise Duties, which are to be given in substitution, to be widely different from this proportion; but in Aberdeenshire the licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquors amounted to £7,811, and in Argyllshire to £3,400, which is not far from the same proportion.


In order to draw a proper comparison you must take the grants that are discontinued and the License Duties given in lieu of grants in both counties. The hon. Member will find that in Aberdeenshire the total amount of grants discontinued was £19,000, and the amount of License Duty to be received is £19,800, leaving a balance in favour of licenses, whereas in Argyllshire the amount discontinued was £9,500, and the amount of licenses to be given in lieu is £8,600.


Then Argyllshire, on account of the difference between £9,400 and £8,600, is to receive this large eleemosynary contribution to assist it. I venture to say that no ground has been shown in these figures to justify the distribution of this £30,000. The Lord Advocate regards with great satisfaction the fact that the bulk of this money will go into the pockets of the landlords. The landlords no doubt pay half the rates but we have been accustomed to look on this—and it has been represented to us and the world generally—as being a contribution in aid of special distress; and if the landlords in the Highlands and Islands are in any condition of special distress, it is largely owing to their own misfortune or misconduct in the management of their estates in past years. The rates they have to pay they have succeeded to with their property, and we are not at all disposed to regard the handing over of this money to the landlords of the Highlands and the Western Islands as a proper appropriation of the money. I must say I think those hon. Gentlemen who repre- ent these counties deserve some thanks for standing out against what they consider to be an improper employment of the money, even though its distribution will be of some benefit to their own constituents. But there is the further point, that although we should not object to the £30,000 being spent in proper relief, we do not see that any argument has been advanced to show that it should be done at the cost of all other parts of Scotland. If relief of any special sort is due to any part of Scotland let it be given at the expense of the Imperial taxpayer as it has been our habit to give it in other cases. How would English Members—some of whom are here watching against this policy of free education for Scotland—like it if they were told that out of the Probate Duty paid to England some £260,000 or £270,000 was to be given for the relief of exceptional distress, say, in Wales? So far as this money is given to the Highlands and Islands it is taken from the other counties. I trust that this proposal, having been supported as it has in the most candid and straightforward way by Members who do not usually act with my immediate friends, will receive more favourable consideration at the hands of the Government than has yet been accorded to it.

* MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh E.)

I must say one word on the ingenious speech of the Lord Advocate. He has failed to draw the distinction between a State grant given in relief of or assistance to the ratepayers and a State grant given in compensation of parents who are by law compelled to educate their children. It seemed to me that his speech was very much an endeavour to refute the popular proverb that we must be just before we are generous. A State grant in aid of ratepayers seems to me to be a gift—an act of generosity on the part of the State. The Lord Advocate said that the assistance ought to go to the people who are running the machine; but I would ask in whose interests are these people running the machine? It is only in their own interest and for their own benefit. When people pay rates they do not give them away for nothing. They pay them for something in return, and they receive a return which they consider worth the money. Therefore, if they get this gift from the State it is so much put into their pockets for nothing; but when you turn to the case of compulsory education by the State it is a different matter. A parent who is educating his children under a compulsory law is making a sacrifice. He is losing the services of his children, and he acts not in his own interest, but in the interest of the State. He is compelled to make the sacrifice by the State in the interest of the community, and accordingly, when a grant is made to him to save him from paying fees which he is obliged to pay by compulsory law, he is simply receiving compensation for the sacrifice the State has required him to make. Accordingly, on this general principle, I feel myself totally unconvinced by the arguments the Lord Advocate has advanced. The Lord Advocate himself recognized this principle when he introduced the measure, and he recognized in Scotland also that the claim was diferent from the nature of the claim in Eng land. In England, the first claim, so far as the popular demand went, was, he said, for relief in respect of the ratepayer, whilst the claim in Scotland was for relief in respect of school fees. It seems impossible to me to put the two demands on the same footing; and I think justice demands that we should give full compensation in the matter of school fees, before we make a present to the ratepayers.


I trust the House will understand this matter before we go to a Division. The issue is a narrow one—whether the money for the relief of the Highlands should come from an Imperial Fund, or from the Lowlands of Scotland? That issue has been somewhat obscured in the Debate which has taken place. It is much to be regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been present to take part in the discussion, and that he should have left the Lord Advocate to exercise his forensic arguments in making the best of a bad case. Not a shred of argument has been advanced to show why this money should be advanced by the Lowlands; but, on the other hand, scandalous abuses have been pointed out in the distribution of this £30,000. Some of the places selected for relief are amongst the richest districts in Scotland.


I would reply to, one observation of the Lord Advocate. His contention was that the sums given to these Highland parishes were given to place those parishes in an equal position with other parishes of Scotland. Well, the case of Dunoon shows the entire fallacy of that contention, the local rate there being only 5½d. in the £1, and £500 having been given in aid of the local rates. In addition to this £500 Danoon had received £380 in other grants. The thing is monstrous, yet no explanation has been given by the Lord Advocate. [A laugh.] it is all very well for him to sit there and laugh; but these things will be brought before the Scotch people. Take, again, the parish of Campsie, of the Parochial Board of which I am Chairman. There the total rates are £1,349, or 1s. 1d in the £1, and the parish has received out of the £30,000 £489. And people wonder how it is that the Scotch Members are not in touch with the Government. Why, they bring in English Members to mow us down, so to speak, when we endeavour to resist these acts of injustice. But this matter will not rest where it is, for this money, if it is allocated to Scotland, must be allocated on a just principle.


The Lord Advocate started a new argument when he said that owing to the distribution of the Licence Duties there would be a deficiency in some of the counties. Well, I have looked up the subject, and I find that the deficiency will be £8,000 over the whole of the Highland counties, and how that can justify a contribution of £30,000, I think it is difficult to understand. It is said I have spoken rather unfairly of the claims of the Highlands. I do not think so. I adhere to everything I have said; but I am quite prepared to admit that something should be done to relieve the Highland parishes of the debt they have contracted for school buildings, recognizing that the expenditure falls more heavily per head on sparsely populated districts than on others.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 154; Noes 141.—(Div. List, No. 191.)

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I somewhat reluctantly consented last year to the passing of the clause relating to the money to be used for the benefit of the crofters in the Highlands and Islands. I consented because I thought the distress in those districts had been caused by the action of this House. But, Mr. Courtney, when I saw the Return to which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollox has called attention, and when I saw how the money had been allocated by the Secretary for Scotland, I felt very indignant, and considered that the Government had got the Bill under false pretences. Now, I heard the reason given to-night by the Lord Advocate, and in order to test it I will take a typical Lowland and a typical Highland parish, and you will see how much weight there is in it. I take the parish of Inverness, where the hon. Member for that constituency has had a considerable reduction of the rate on his property, and I take the parish of Kilmarnock, in Ayrshire. I find Kilmarnock has lost £1,370, and will gain by licences £2,070—a net gain of £709. Inverness parish will lose £1,469, and gain £2,246—a net gain of £777. Inverness parish, therefore, will not lose one single farthing, but will gain nearly £2,400. Inverness is a town of middle-class people—it is, of its kind, the most prosperous town of Scotland. As to Dunoon, seven-eighths of its population consists of retired Glasgow, Paisley, or Greenock merchants. They have no poverty, and hence they have a low rate. The money, I say, has been obtained upon false pretences, and if you wish to ameliorate the condition of the people of Scotland you will apply it differently, and instead of using it for the landowners and for the large farmers you will limit it on the lines of the Amendment which I am about to move. My hon. Friend on the other side argued as if poverty could only be found on one side of the Clyde; but there is as much poverty round the Mull of Galloway as round the Mull of Cantire. In fact, there is more poverty in the parish of Wigtonshire than in Argyllshire. Now, we have the Lord Advocate defending a very much abused class—namely, the sporting tenants and big farmers. How on earth have the sporting tenants suffered I should like to know? Ingenious and clever as the right hon. Gentleman is, I think it will be very difficult for him to prove that sporting tenants, who spend thousands on sporting for amusement, have suffered by heavy taxation. The graziers and large farmers in the Highlands have suffered, it is true; but they have not suffered any more than the graziers and farmers in the South of Scotland. It is true that the large farmers in the North of Scotland have been suffering, because the land is fast going back to a state of nature. They cannot send their 6,000 or 7,000 sheep to he runs as they used to do; they cannot send more than 3,000 or 4,000; and, labour and capital being now withdrawn, the condition of the land is going back until, instead of good grass, it produces nothing but heather and rushes, and other growths that have taken the place of the grass. The men whom the present occupiers have replaced have gone across the Atlantic and the Pacific, and are sending home produce which makes it impossible for the land they have left to pay. If my Amendment were carried, instead of throwing away money on the Highland landlords, who have suffered no more than those of the Lowlands, instead of giving the Highland landlords au unjust privilege and monopoly, the House would be doing something to prevent what may yet prove a serious danger to the Highlands of Scotland. My proposition is that the amount the Government propose to give in relief of local taxation shall only he given for the benefit of the cottars and crofters. The large farmers are capitalists, and can look out for themselves; and the sporting tenants go to the Highlands for their own amusement and because they have plenty of money; but, of course, they have a good deal of interest in this question, inasmuch as the grant proposed by the Government will be in reduction of their rates. Neither of these classes deserve this unnecessary generosity, and the result of what is about to be done will be this—that while you have been sending a Crofters' Commission to reduce the unfair rents, you are now offering the landlords a reduction of their rates and 50 per cent more. This being so, it must be a good thing to be a Highland landlord. If, however, my Amendment be accepted, Scotland would still be the recipient of so much money for the benefit of a poor and deserving class; and if that of the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Sutherland) were adopted, the money would be granted to the County Councils to carry out much needed improvements in the Highlands. It should be remembered that the Highlands are peculiarly situa- ted, and are unable to get at anything tending to the development of their industries, unless they are able to offer substantial guarantees. For instance, the Postmaster General will afford them no facilities unless guarantees are forthcoming; in point of fact, it is almost impossible to get a telegraph or a post office in some parts of the Highlands, without a guarantee that there shall be no loss to the Post Office Department. We are, furthermore, in need of light railways for the development of our fisheries, and piers and harbours to prevent our fishermen from being drowned, as hundreds of them are, very frequently, in sight of land. A few hundreds of pounds judiciously expended would be the means of saving hundreds of lives; and if the Government will give the money asked for they may largely aid in relieving the condition of many over-populated districts, Of course, if it is intended to assist either in migration or emigration in or from the Highlands, money must be expended for the purpose; but if you do not intend so to employ the money, we shall then know that the Government have no intention to benefit the crofters and cottars of the Highlands. As far as I can see, all the Government want to do is to benefit the big farmers by reducing their rents, and to put so much a year in the pockets of the landlords through the reduction of the rates. I do not propose to say anything against the Highland landlords. Some of them have behaved as reasonably as we could expect landlords to behave.


Oh, oh!


Yes; as reasonably as we could expect landlords to behave. I do not say that Highland landlords are any worse than other landlords, or that they are guilty of the rack-renting which is so much denounced, and which I think is not so much due to them as to the competition which has taken place for the land, and which has taken the best portion of it away from the people and driven them to the sea-shore and other localities, where there is nothing but the worst description of land. I am not blaming the men of the present day for the sins of their forefathers; but I do not see why the existing class of landlords and large tenants should be advantaged in the way proposed by the Government. The Highland land- lords are no more deserving than the Lowland landlords—it is probable that the landlords of both Highlands and Lowlands are about on a par—and I do not see why we should be asked to rob Peter in order to pay Paul by giving a special grant to the Highland landlords, to the detriment of those in the Lowlands. Probably the Government will refuse to accept my Amendment; but if they can see their way to its adoption. I think they would find things would be much better for them; for in that case there might be some defence of their position—a defence which they certainly require, considering the small majority by which they succeeded in the recent Division. Surely they might make some compromise in this matter. I voted against the money going to the landlords because I thought the people of the Highlands would be more benefited if the money were spent in the way suggested by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter). According to the statistics of the Royal Commission it is my belief that of the £30,000 it is proposed to give for the relief of local taxation, £15,000 would go direct to the landlords, £11,000 to the sporting tenants and large farmers, and only about £4,000 would go to the crofters and cottars. Even where this latter class is paying only 1d. per week in school fees, they would gain more by having that payment abolished than they would gain by the proposed reduction of local rates. In conclusion, I beg to move the Amendment I have placed on the Paper.

Amendment proposed, page 10, line 12, to leave out the words "local taxation," in order to insert the words "the crofters and cottars."—(Dr. Clark.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'local taxation' stand part of the Clause."


I will not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman through the long list of accusations he has thought proper to make against those who bear the burden of local taxation and who discharge the, duties to which he has referred; but I will express the hope that the Committee will adhere to the principle of applying the money it is proposed to grant to the relief of local taxation. I must strongly deprecate the attempt to divert the attention of the Committee from the main object we have in view, which is the relief of local taxation, and to fix it on the vague purpose of giving a dole to one particular class—namely, the crofters and cottars. I am unable to discover the slightest ground on which such a proposal can be argued. I can understand the feelings that may be entertained towards that class; but I hold it absolutely indefensible to disregard a principle such as has been laid down for the purpose of advantaging one particular section of the community. The hon. Gentleman has accused me of having misrepresented the true state of the facts in reference to what he called Inverness. I did not say one syllable about the comparative receipts of Inverness as between the present grants and the local duties of the future. I did say something about the county including Inverness, and that at present the grants, in the case of Inverness, were £8,963, while the local duties would only be £6,741, leaving a large deficit. Bat because the county and parish bear the same name the hon. Member attempted to fix on me a misrepresentation. I can only reply that those are not my methods. I will now pass from this subject. Various remarks have been made, and certain anomalies have been pointed out, as to the receipts of particular parts of counties which are to enjoy the proposed advantages; but I would point out the sub-section under consideration is one that gives the fullest power to the Secretary for Scotland, as it proposes to give— The sum of £30,000 for the relief of local taxation in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in such proportion and manner as may be from time to time directed by the Secretary for Scotland. Now, Sir, my noble Friend will draw up a scheme which will be the subject of very careful scrutiny. Observations have been made which will probably direct attention to anomalies that are susceptible of rectification. Some parishes, from their affluence and other circumstances, need not receive so large a share as at present falls to their lot, and it is the object of our clause to enable rectification and re-consideration of the scheme. On this subject I have no hesitation in saying that my noble Friend will give consideration to any suggestions that may be made It will, undoubtedly, be necessary to reconsider the question of the requirements of certain parishes, and the point may be raised whether the whole amount of the proposed grant is required to meet the exigencies of the district. The primary point is, however, whether or not it may be better allocated than as at present proposed, and upon that point I will engage there shall be careful consideration.


Then are we to take it that before we arrive at Clause 23 the Government will consider Sub-section 1 of that clause, and come to a decision whether the £30,000 is required, or whether it shall be appropriated in a somewhat different way?


The first question will be whether there could be a better apportionment of the £30,000 in the prescribed area, and the second whether so large a sum as £30,000 is required. I do not think we could give a final decision on these points before the Report stage is reached.

* DR M'DONALD (Ross and Cromarty)

I fail to see how the speech of the right hon. Gentleman constitutes an answer to my hon. Friend's Amendment. I do not think it touched upon the real point raised—that the money should be given to the crofters and cottars in the Highlands. I went into the Lobby with the Government on the last Division, because I wanted to keep this money for the Highlanders. I entirely disagree with the money being taken from the rest of Scotland; but the Highlanders are poor, and as the money was offered to us we could not refuse the bait. I think that after all the Highland people will get very little of the amount; the grant seems to me to be made by the Government for the benefit of Highland landlords, to recoup them the losses they have sustained through the action of the Crofters Commission. I happened to look the other day at some of the most recent decisions of that Commission. I find the reductions of rent and remissions of arrears, if capitalized, would represent a donation of £30 to every crofter whose case has been dealt with; and if a landlord who takes £30 from every small tenant on his estate is not a bad landlord, I do not know what is a bad landlord. Now, we want this grant for the people of the Highlands, and not for the landlords; and if the Government do not give way on this Amendment, it seems to me their conduct will be open to the assumption that the grant is intended as a sop to the landlords for the losses they have incurred by the action of a Commission appointed by the Government to revise the rents of their tenants.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

So far as free education is concerned, the crofting people of the Highlands will practically derive no benefit from it. The entire subsidy in favour of free education will go into the pockets of the ratepayers, of whom the landlords form by far the most considerable portion. In 1881 I brought in a Bill to permit free education being given in Scotland, and we had a Second Reading defeat on it. But in connection with that Bill, I obtained a Return showing the amount of school fees in different districts, and the rateable value of those districts. That Return showed that, in a great number of the Highland parishes, the school fees were almost nothing. In one parish in which a penny in the £1 produced £21 15s. 7d., the school fees in the year ending June, 1880, were only 13s.; in Barra, another Highland district, the amount of school fees received were only £1 5s. 5d., and that sum represents the entire relief that will be gained by that district by the remission of school fees. In a third district——


Order, order! I do not see how this is appropriate to the Amendment.


I am dealing with the abolition of fees, and endeavouring to show that the remission will be merely a reduction of the education rate. Your theory is that you are going to give a great boon to the working population in the ratepaying district, and I desire to show that the benefit will not be reaped by the crofters and the cottars. The Return to which I have referred showed that in 182 out of 930 school districts in Scotland the total fees not paid by the Parochial Boards were less than the produce of a penny rate, and therefore the poorer population of a great number of parishes in the Highlands will not really be benefited. But there is another matter to which, I think, the House should have special regard, and that is the absolute discretion proposed to be placed in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland. If it were a simple matter of the distribution of a temporary grant, I should not object to it; but the same phraseology is followed in subsequent sections of the Bill, which deal with the permanent disposal of the money, and we are asked to grant this £30,000 to be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary for Scotland. I object to giving a blank cheque to the Secretary for Scotland. It has been shown conclusively that the distribution, according to the discretion of the Secretary for Scotland, has been highly unsatisfactory. In fact, it has been made on a perfectly unintelligible basis, and I hold that we ought to have in the Bill a direction how the money voted shall be applied.


The question raised by this Amendment is whether this £30,000 shall be given to the Highlands, or whether it shall be left at the disposal of the Secretary for Scotland. I should like to point out the case of two towns like Inverness and Kilmarnock. While the population of Inverness is 22,000 and of Kilmarnock 26,000, the assessment of Inverness £5,690, of Kilmarnock £4,832, and the rate in Inverness Is. 4d., and in Kilmarnock 1s. 2d., the grants in aid to Inverness were £1,628, and to Kilmarnock £920. Besides the ordinary grant Inverness also got a special grant, which brought up the amount of the grant to Inverness to £3,257 on a total assessment of £5,690. The question, therefore, is whether we are to give the Secretary for Scotland a discretion which may be exercised in the way I have pointed out.


I am sorry that the Lord Advocate should have taken offence at my remarks. The right hon. Gentleman was defending the grant to the town of Inverness on the ground that it lost by the change. I wished to point out how my own county was also losing. I beg to withdraw any remarks that may have given offence.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 173; Noes 109.— (Div. List, No. 192.)

It being after midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.