§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 19.
§ MR. W. A. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I beg leave to move to report Progress, in order that the Lord Advocate may make a statement to the House on this clause.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
I am indebted to the hon. Member opposite. I have something to say with regard to the clause which is under the consideration of the Committee, and I understand the hon. Gentleman to take this course in order to expedite that statement. Sir, the Committee divided on a question arising out of the proposal that £30,000 should, during the year ending the 31st of March, 1889, be devoted to the relief of local taxation in the Highlands. The proposal of the Government has been opposed on several grounds. I intimated that we had it in view to reconsider the proposal, and that it might be found that not only the defects of the distribution might be rectified, but also that possibly the total amount might be found more than adequate for redressing defects in distribution of the money generally. The Government have considered the question, and have come to this conclusion. It is generally desired that a certain bonus or premium should be given to those parts of the country injuriously affected by the substitution of excise duties for Parliamentary grants. It is the case as will be found if these counties are examined, that there is a marked difference between the fortune of the Highland counties and that of the other counties in Scotland taken a a whole in that matter of the 162 substitution of the Excise duties for the Imperial grants. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen stated that the surplus was over £8,000, which was substantially accurate, but it can hardly be supposed that that is precisely accurate, and, accordingly, it may be well that there should be a round sum allotted to rectify that deficiency. The Government; therefore, propose that £10,000 should be given for that purpose, but only in years after that now current, for it is hardly possible to interfere with the year dealt with in the clause under discussion, which has been advanced into to the extent of about a quarter. That proposal, therefore, does not apply to the clause under discussion, but to subsequent years, and will constitute the permanent arrangement. The Committee will remember that out of the £30,000 there was provided by the scheme, which has been in operation since last year, not merely a relief to local taxation generally, but also a favour conferred on certain schools in this district which were in a state of complete embarrassment, amounting almost to a threat of stoppage. I may be asked what is to become of these schools. I am happy to say my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has seen his way to provide for that portion of the funds. It is a considerable sum, amounting to a few thousand pounds. I have, therefore, been able to clear that difficulty out of the way. The proposals the Government make, to repeat them for the sake of clearness, are that they recommend that a sum of £10,000 should be given instead of £30,000 for the relief of local taxation in those counties, which should be distributed through the County Council of each county, in proportion to the sum by which the amount payable to such Council out of the duties on licenses falls short of the existing grant at present paid to such counties. That, I hope, will meet the various difficulties stated by hon. Members on both sides of the House during the last discussion. I may point out several things which that proposal accomplishes. It reduces I the sum which was thought in some cases, and I think successfully pointed out, to be more than adequate to meet the purposes in question: It clears away what was a subject of comment—namely, the somewhat anomalous discretion placed 163 in the hands of the Minister as to the distribution of so considerable a sum. The distribution will now take place, not according to any scheme to be laid upon the Table of this House afterwards, but according to this rule which we propose to embody in the section. The duty of the Secretary for Scotland will be merely to work out the calculations so as to find out what are the sums to be paid in accordance with this proportion. It has also been urged that the actual imminent distress of this particular district received no recognition from Imperial funds. The real case of imminent danger—that of the stoppage of the ordinary establishments of education—will now be met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposing a grant in aid for that specific purpose. I do not propose to represent that as aid to poverty; it is merely an aid to a specific case which has occurred. I hope these proposals will meet the views of hon. Gentlemen. They are directed with a complete desire to meet and remove the various objections stated in the course of the last discussion. As to the clause immediately under consideration, I put it to the good sense of hon. Gentlemen whether the Government can be expected during a year actually current to withdraw money which I have not the least doubt has been reckoned on in the financial calculations of these bodies. Accordingly, on that clause I do not propose to make any alteration, but I thought it right the Committee should possess the views of the Government with regard to the permanent arrangement in advance.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
So far as the permanent arrangement is concerned, every one will, I think, have heard with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the clause before us which provides for the temporary arrangement, I should like to know whether the state of things which last year almost brought the educational machinery of the Highlands to a standstill is to be continued, or whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will provide for the wants of the Highlands this year.
§ DR. CAMERON
Then I fear we shall simply have a repetition of what was done last year. It must not for one 164 moment be understood that I waive my objection, because in the permanent arrangement the discretion will remain with the Minister and not with the House.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I should be the last to object to the compensation proposed to be given to the poorer districts in respect of the deficiency of the license duties as compared with the Parliamentary grants. The only thing is, I think the Government may have been somewhat hard on their friends. My objection still remains to the principle. We say that the sum, whether it be £30,000 or £10,000, ought to come not out of the Scotch Lowland counties, but out of the Imperial Exchequer. As to the Amendment which I have on the Paper, I propose to move it in order to secure an explanation of the principles on which the distribution will take place this year.
§ MR. HUNTER
I am glad the Government have given an indication of yielding to the Vote which was taken the other night. I can hardly see how they could have done otherwise seeing that 51 Scotch Members went into the Lobby against them, and only seven unofficial Members for Scotland supported them. If they desired to pay the slightest attention to the opinion of Scotland they could have taken no other step. Although it is a highly objectionable proceeding that this £30,000 should be wasted this year, as last I hope it will be found possible to secure the remission of fees up to the Fifth Standard. I think there will be sufficient money for that purpose, and accordingly I should be willing for the first sub-section of the clause to go through without debate. But upon the second and third sub-sections we must raise the whole question. The Lord Advocate must remember that the Local Authorities in Scotland cannot reasonably expect any thing this year, for when the money was distributed to them last year the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressly stated that it was not to be understood that the grant would be repeated another year. The authorities had in fact full warning that other arrangements might be made. Will the right hon. Gentleman not consent to an Amendment to Sub-section 1, giving the £30,000, and providing for its distribution in the 165 Highlands according to a scheme which he will undertake to bring before the House, or submit to a Committee of Scotch Members? If the distribution were undertaken in that fashion it would give great satisfaction to the House. The intention of the Government is practically to repeal Section 69 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1872—the section which authorizes the parent to go to the Parochial Boards and obtain the payment of fees. Now, although no fees are to be charged in the three lower standards—and consequently there will be no necessity in those standards for application to be made to the Parochial Boards—yet the necessity will still remain in the higher standards, and I trust the Lord Advocate will not lose sight of that point. There is another section which is hardly consistent with the proposal of the Government, and that is the one which provides that the School Board shall fix the fees to be paid for attendance. I would suggest the substitution of the words—"The School Board may, if they think fit, fix the fees." That will enable us to overcome some difficulties in connection with the working of the scheme.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I am sure that hon. Members from Scotland on both sides of the House will recognize that the Government have made a most substantial improvement in the Bill, and I would advise my hon. Friends to act upon the well known proverb and not look a gift horse in the mouth. They should at all events accept the principal parts of the concession which the Government offer. We have suffered throughout from the disadvantage in this matter of having to discuss the general question of a permanent arrangement on a clause which deals only with an arrangement for the present year. With regard to the £30,000 to be distributed this year, I quite admit there might be considerable difficulty in either withdrawing or diminishing that sum. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman would agree to the wish expressed by my hon. Friend behind me and let us have a little fuller knowledge of the manner in which the distribution will be made, I think it would improve the state of our feelings towards this particular sub-section. With regard to the 166 following sub-section, I hope we may be able to make out a case for an additional sum for the purpose of paying the fees when we come to consider it. The arrangement proposed for the future is, I think, a most satisfactory one—that is to say, that there shall be £10,000 instead of the £30,000, which was proposed to be allotted to these counties in relief of local taxation, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall make a special grant to avoid a repetition of the deadlock which has in some cases occurred in educational matters. I wish to make a further observation lest we should be held to have committed ourselves to a principle in which many of us do not believe. This sum of £10,000 is to be taken as representing the loss which these counties will suffer by the substitution of the local License Duties for the grants which hitherto have been made. Now there is a strong feeling among us, and I think in Scotland also, against handing over the License Duties to localities at all. But I will merely say this, let it be understood that though we acquiesce in the standard by which this amount is arrived at we must not be held as consenting parties to this particular arrangement, though the sum would not be affected if the different view we take were adopted. I do not think it is necessary to detain the Committee by discussing the matter any further. We are very sensible of the fact that Scotch Members have been able to make such an impression on the Government as to induce them to improve their scheme in this way. I cannot help saying that, although it arouses in us a feeling of gratitude for what we have received, and a desire to avoid an undue prolongation of debate, yet we cannot but be influenced by this experience of the result of our pertinacity.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Without dwelling on the warning these last words seemed to convey, I will proceed to deal with the points mentioned. In the first place I need hardly say that, in assenting to this proposal, we do not hold the right hon. Gentleman as committed to the principle, this is merely the question of amount. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Hunter) has pointed out that there is some clause in the existing Education Act which seems to be in conflict with this system, and I 167 may say we have not lost sight of this; and upon the Notice Paper for Tuesday, although by some accident it seems to have been omitted to-day, we had an Amendment dealing with the subject. I will see that the proposal is replaced. I do not know whether it will coincide with the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, but we will consider it in connection with what he has said. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy asks for some information as to the distribution of the grant. Now, the sum to be dealt with was £30,000. Of this £2,000 was set aside by a Member of the Scotch Education Department, which has been on the Table of the House all the Session, for educational purposes, and the remainder was disposed of by dividing the parishes into four classes according to the proportion of valuation to population, and upon this scale the distribution took place at such a rate that the larger portion fell to the same impoverished parishes. Shortly stated this was the method of distribution, and if anomalies have occurred as, no doubt, they have, I do not think that now we are so well on in the financial year, it is expedient to change the arrangements which I do not say we should permanently adhere to.
§ * MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Will this contribution or vote in aid to which the right hon. Gentleman says the Chancellor of the Exchequer has assented, be placed on the Estimates, or will it be expressly provided for in the Act?
§ * MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)
We are not all agreed as to the effect of the withdrawal of £30,000 from the Highlands and Islands. It certainly makes a serious difference to the Highland parishes. No doubt a good deal of the £30,000 was shamefully wasted in the past, and I think it might have been allocated in a more reasonable manner to give relief where it ought to fall. I notice that the Lord Advocate in his reply said the manner of allocating this £10,000 would be reconsidered, but whatever happens there must be a very serious diminution in the contributions from the common source towards the Highlands and 168 Islands. My objection the other day in regard to the contribution of £30,000 was that, as it was to relieve special pressure it should come from Imperial funds.
The whole of this discussion is somewhat irregular on a motion to report Progress. It may be convenient to the Committee that the new intentions of the Government should be stated and explained, but it would be irregular to raise any argument now which may be entered upon at the proper time.
§ * MR. C. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Invernessshire)
Before this Motion is withdrawn I should just like to say that though I am bound to admit that after the result of the Division, the Government could not very well come to any other conclusion, it will cause much dissatisfaction in the Highlands. When a year ago this grant was agreed to with general approval it was stated that the special state of affairs in the Highlands and Islands would need the vote annually. The circumstances are the same as last year, and yet we find a great proportion of the Scottish Members opposing the continuation of this grant. We are much obliged for the verbal sympathy generally displayed towards us, though I must say that sympathy seems to die away when it comes to giving it practical effect. I must warn the Lord Advocate that the same objections that were raised to the £30,000 will be raised to the £10,000, and whatever adjustment he proposes to make, let him stick to the decision, and not let it be affected by objections continually cropping up. As I said before, I am sorry the Government have come to this conclusion.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
Perhaps if we throw a little light on the matter, my hon. Friend will not feel so ill disposed towards this alteration. As I understand it the County Councils of certain counties will receive for distribution a sum equal to what they would receive from the License Duties in proportion to other counties. So those counties which will lose by the change will have the loss made up. Further, I understand the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in melting the heart of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a special grant will be given from Imperial sources for the alleviation of the educational distress 169 in special counties, such as Invernessshire and Rossshire and others, thus recognising a principle that has long been applied to Ireland. I cannot see then that there is just cause of complaint. I do not see that this can be objected to by any Lowland Member.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
We provide that £10,000 is to be devoted to making good the loss that the counties would suffer by the substitution of the Excise Duties for the grants given by Parliament. The result of our taking away the £30,000 would be but for the interposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the abolition of certain schools in the distressed districts; but here the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to the rescue to the extent of relieving these schools.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I will move the Amendment standing in my name for the sake of obtaining some information as to the actual mode of distributing the £30,000. Now, that is no inconsiderable sum, and I agree in the principle enunciated by the Lord Advocate that the largest proportion should go to the poorest parishes. But I am bound to say the very reverse of that principle seems to have been followed by the Secretary for Scotland. Rather it seems that the rule has been followed "To him that hath shall be given," etc. When I look at the amounts given to the richer and the poorer parishes, I am astonished at the divergence from the principle laid down by the Lord Advocate, and I can in no way reconcile the result with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. I take two parishes in Argyleshire of which I confess I have never before heard, Knapdale North and Knapdale South. Knapdale North seems to be a poor parish with a small rental and a large assessment for the poor. The rental is £4,326, the assessment £ 1,307. Knapdale South has a rental of £10,271, and an assessment of £700; yet Knapdale North, the poorer parish, gets from the £30,000 a sum of £59, and the richer parish of Knapdale South with an assessment of £700 as against£1,307,gets more than three times the amount £190. When I make other comparisons I find similar anomalies. For instance the excessively poor parish of North Uist in the Western Islands, with a 170 5s. 8d. poor rate, only gets £308. Nesting, in Shetland, with a poor rate of 7s. 5d. in the £1, only gets £227. There are several other very poor parishes in the constituency of my hon. Friend (Mr. Lyell) where the rates are very high, 4s. 7d., 4s. 1d., 4s. 6d., 5s. 3d., and 5s. 5d., yet these get a very small contribution from this £30,000. But I think the best illustration is the two Knapdales, and I should be glad if the Lord Advocate could explain how it is that the poorer parish with the higher assessment gets less than the other. I would add, there is yet time to correct these anomalies for the current year.
§ Amendment proposed, line 12, leave out from "Scotland" to end of Subsection 1.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I really must make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen. It is quite obvious that I am not in a pssition to stand cross-examination on all these particulars, and it is not reasonable to expect it. The hon. Gentleman prefaced his observations by saying that he knew nothing about the Knapdales, and that is rather an unfavourable introduction to a discussion. Considering that these provisions are of a temporary character for the year now running out, I will ask the Committee to consider if we shall be profitable spending our time in going into these cases? We quite admit there may be anomalies in the system which it is desirable to alter.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
This is a remarkable illustration of the evil of which we have often complained of not having the Secretary for Scotland in this House. I should have thought the distribution of this £30,000 a most important matter. True, it is not the function of the Lord Advocate to know all about it, but it is unfortunate that we should be unable to get any information. I admit I have no knowledge of the Knapdales, but these figures present themselves in the statement put before us, and I take them as illustrating the anomalies that run throughout the whole of the statement. Although I do not want to press my Amendment further, I do hope the Government will reconsider their deter- 171 mination not to make any change for the current year in a system that on the face of it seems unfair and extraordinary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I must apologize to the right hon. Gentleman for not having heard his explanation, and so I do not know to what extent it meets the Amendment of which I have given notice. If it does meet it, I will not move the Amendment.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Yes, I think the hon. Gentleman will find that my statement removes all necessity for his Amendment. It is a temporary arrangement at present; but at the end of the year a system will be introduced that will meet the point he raises.
§ MR. HUNTER
I now beg to move the omission of Sub-section 2; and I do so because, if for no other reason, the discussion of the question at this stage will save much time on the later clauses. But this is really the proper time to discuss the question of grants for roads, and I would ask the attention of the President of the Local Government Board as well as that of the Lord Advocate. As I read the sub-section, it provides for the contribution of a sum of £70,000 towards the maintenance of roads, this sum being made up of two parts—the old grant of £35,000, which is an Imperial grant to be withdrawn in the future, and £35,000, which is new. Now, I wish to point out that this charge of £35,000 on the Probate Duty is one that should fall upon the Imperial Exchequer. The next clause provides £21,000 for the same purpose. Thus, during the current financial year, in order that the Government may deprive themselves of funds they have available for the purpose of relieving the payment of school fees, in order that they may make themselves impecunious and unable to remove the fees on the five standards, they actually take £56,000 out, which ought to be paid by the Imperial Exchequer, and so during the current year Scotland will not get her eleven-twentieths. On this ground alone, I think the Government should not resist the Motion to reduce the road grant by £35,000. But I pass from that. I do not intend to trouble the Committee at any length, because the main issue we decided on Tuesday was 172 whether the Government ought to extend relief of fees to Standards Four and Five. Now, I claim that the Vote at which we arrived on Tuesday was not merely the special case of the Highlands, but a Vote on the principle, because my speech directly challenged the Government on the principle, and this was for the purpose of gaining time in the later stages of the Bill. Therefore, I may fairly appeal to the Lord Advocate that he now has authentic information as to the views of Scotch Members on the subject. He finds my Amendment was supported by 51 Scotch Members, while only 10 voted with the Government, and all the efforts of the whips could only secure for the Government a majority of 13. It is evident, therefore, that the House has considerable sympathy with our view. But I would point out to English Members what a monstrous thing it is that by their intervention they should subvert the Vote of Scotch Members on this question. You have had four-fifths of the Probate Duty, you have had your million where we have had our £100,000, and you have done with it what you thought fit. I do not object. I do not quarrel with your disposition of the amount, but this sum of £250,000 is the peculiar property of Scotland, and it is most unfair that 80 English Members should come down here and say, that although the people of Scotland, by more than five to one of their Representatives, wish to use this money for the relief of school fees, yet we shall insist on interfering with the people of Scotland in the distribution of their own money, and shall compel then to divert it from a useful and valuable object to an object of no value whatever. In fact the whole of our case rests on the proposition that the distribution of the money on the roads is throwing the money away; you might as well throw the money into the gutter. On a matter purely affecting Scotch interests, not affecting the English people in any shape or form, in dealing with money that belongs to us alone, are we to be told that the money is to be distributed not according to the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland, but according to the decision of a casual majority of English members, who do not even attend our discussions? If the Government are logical they will make a 173 similar concession in regard to this clause as has been made in regard to the Highlands. Now what is the position in regard to roads? Up to 1881–2, the disturnpiked roads of Scotland managed to get along without the assistance of any Imperial grant. There was never a demand made by Scotland for Imperial assistance on this account, but legislation having then been passed in the interests of English county Members, making a grant from the Imperial Exchequer in aid of roads in English counties, it was thought necessary, for the sake of consistency, that a grant should be similarly made in the case of Scotch roads. In 1882–3 the amount granted was £12,000, in 1884 it was £33,000; the last return shows it was £34,000, and now for the first time we have the proposal that the grant shall be doubled. But why? We have never heard any reason, not a shadow of a reason has been given why on earth disturnpiked roads should be singled out for this peculiar consideration. I have heard no reason, and I can imagine none; but I can tell the Members of this Committee that in Scotland there is a very strong feeling against the injustice, the iniquity—I may say the shamefulness—of this proposed Government grant. The Convention of Royal Scotch Burghs have sent petitions to the House against the iniquitous distribution of the grant by which £60,000 goes to the counties, and less than £10,000 to burghs. Now, I ask the Committee to look at this subject from a practical point of view. What good does this £35,000 do for the roads? Taking the average for Scotland, this £35,000 represents as nearly as possible three-eighths of a penny in the £ to occupiers in counties, and one-twentieth of a penny in the £ to occupiers in burghs. That is the entire amount of relief the Government propose to give. What is the largest class in the counties? It is the agricultural labourers and workmen. I do not think it would be unfair to say that £6 is a very high average of the rent paid by the labourers in the Scotch counties. Under your scheme of relief, a labourer will get the munificent sum of 2¼d. per annum. A small farm paying £40 a year will get 1s. 3d. a year. The richer men will get a somewhat slightly larger sum. It would be an 174 enormous advantage to the small farmers, agricultural labourers, and workmen in the counties if there was free education in Standards IV. and V.; because I cannot put the charge per annum for a child in Standard IV. or V. at less than 5s. A parent having three children in the higher standards would, under my proposal, receive relief to the extent of 15s. Under your scheme a labourer in the country would get 2¼d., but the tenant in a town with a house rented at £20 would only get ½d. a year. Apart altogether from the question of free education in the Fourth and Fifth Standards, I shall oppose the grant because I regard it as a bad and unreasonable grant; but when you are putting in competition, with this mode of wasting £35,000, the giving of free education in the Fourth and Fifth Standards, you know already what the opinion of the people of Scotland is.
§ Amendment proposed, Clause 19, page 10, line 15, leave out Sub-section (2).—(Mr. Hunter.)
§ Question proposed, "That Sub section (2) stand part of the Clause."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (MR. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
If it had not been for the direct appeal made to me by the hon. Gentleman I should have been almost afraid to interpose in this Debate in case it might be supposed I wanted to bring some English ideas to the discussion of Scotch business. With reference to the additional allowances, it was perfectly well understood at the time they were made that they were made in anticipation of the passing of the Local Government Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been for many years past a very urgent demand made from all parts of the House for more relief than previously to local taxation by means of grants from the Imperial Exchequer. It was because the Government had in contemplation a Local Government Bill in which they intended to propose considerable relief to local taxation, that they desired, being unable to pass the Bill two years ago, to anticipate the passing of that Bill by some measure of that relief. It was so explained at the time, and what was done in reference to Scotland was also done 175 in reference to England, and, therefore, if there be any complaint as to this grant in reference to Scotland, the same complaint may properly be made with reference to England. The hon. Gentleman made some strong remarks upon the fact that we were proposing to continue this additional relief to the ratepayer, notwithstanding the fact that in a Division which took place the other night, a majority of Scotch Members were in favour of disposing of the money in some other way. We felt we were at liberty to consider the practically unanimous wish of the Scotch Members so far as the balance of the Probate Duty was concerned, after having made provision for a continuance of all those grants which had been previously paid; but there is a great difference between disposing of money which the ratepayers have never received, and taking out of their pockets money which they have received previously. While admitting the wishes of the Scotch Members with reference to the additional sums to come into their pockets, we declined to take away from the ratepayers whom we thought were proper recipients of a portion of this money, money they had previously received, and in that I think we shall be supported by the ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman went on to ask why should roads have been singled out for double grant; and then he said considerably less was received by burghs than counties. That is the case in England, and perhaps to a greater degree than in Scotland. What has been recognized by the boroughs in England is what I hope will also be recognized by the burghs in Scotland, and that is that the roads in the counties are very largely maintained for the benefit of the burghs. The boroughs in England have willingly assented to the roads in the county having a larger proportion of the grant from the Government than has been received by the boroughs. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of the smallness of the relief which will be received by small farmers and labourers. I dare say that, as ratepayers, small farmers and labourers will not receive a very large sum, but then hon. Gentlemen must remember that these are just the people who will receive the largest relief by the proposal we have made in connection with education. We do not think it is at all a good argument that because 176 they do not receive large relief as ratepayers the other ratepayers should be deprived of all advantage. Therefore, I regret we cannot accede to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. HUNTER
I will withdraw the Amendment in order to propose another. I see that the effect of carrying an Amendment in the form of this one would be that the whole sum of £70,000 would disappear, and unless £35,000 were otherwise provided—for instance, out of the Estimates, over which I have no control—there would be nothing at all left for the roads. My intention is not to take the £70,000 but £35,000.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HUNTER
I now beg to move to insert after "thirty-first day of March," the words "one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven." That is the last period before any change was made. The change in the following year was made surreptitiously. We first heard of it in September last year, and we gave notice we would oppose it.
§ Amendment proposed, Clause 19, page 10, line 11, leave out all the words after "March" to end of section, in order to insert "one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven."—(Mr. Hunter.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ * MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I have been desirous that in arguing this point we should not waste our strength upon a Debate as to the sources from which the money comes, but when the President of the Local Government Board tells us that the Government have a right to look after the distribution of this £56,000 or £35,000, or any other sum which is applied to the rates, I want to know what he really means? Does he mean to say that Scotland has got more than Scotland's fair share of this money? If not, I want to know how he can say that the Scottish people shall not apply their own share of the grant to the purpose they think best? How is it that the President of the Local Government Board knows so much better than the Representatives of the constituencies of Scotland how the money should be applied? What we are con- 177 tending for is the abolition of school fees in all the five standards. The Government are willing to abolish school fees in all the five standards provided they have money enough to do it. They admit that in extending the abolition of the fees to three out of the five standards, they are conferring a boon upon Scotland, and we agree with them. The President of the Local Government Board contends that in their proposals the Government have the Members with them who represent the Scottish ratepayers in this House. If by a majority of votes the Scottish Members decide that they would rather devote this money to the freeing of education in the Fourth and Fifth Standards in preference to relieving the road rates, will the Government abide by that decision? That is a fair issue. As a county Member, I affirm that the people would rather free the education in all the standards than take this money for the roads. If that is the opinion of the Scottish Representatives, what reason can there be for the Government refusing this concession?
§ MR. THORBURN) (Peebles and Selkirk
I most heartily approve of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I have taken some considerable trouble to ascertain the opinion of my own constituents, and I can say that every man, no matter to what Party he belongs, approves of the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. I most earnestly ask the Government to give effect to what is really the wish of the great majority of the people. I feel that in doing so I am urging the Government to do what is in their own interest, and what will be looked upon with gratitude by the people of Scotland.
§ * MR. CHILDERS
I should like to say a few words upon this subject, having some historical interest in it. I do not think the facts of the case have been fully explained by the President of the Local Government Board. There was for many years a persistent agitation, headed by Sir Massey Lopes, on behalf of the country gentlemen of England seeking relief from local taxation. It was strongly urged that as it was impossible to carry a Local Government Bill, at the same time grants should be made by the Treasury at once in reduction of local burdens. That view was carried in the teeth of the Government of the day, who were anxious to 178 do the two things together. What was the result of the decision? It was that the Government found themselves constrained to propose a plan under which English road authorities would have a considerable subvention out of the public money. The suggestion was never even made as to Scotland, and it was only afterwards, when it became necessary for the Government to give effect to the view taken by Parliament at the time, that it was urged that the same must be done for Scotland that was done for England. What is the position now? The House has agreed to certain measures of relief to Scotland and England alike in connection with the establishment of Local Government. Surely Scotch Members have a right to say, "Let us have what is given to Scotland in our own way and for own purposes, and not necessarily in the same way as England." I am persuaded the Government will listen to the voice of the Scotch Members, and let the aid to Scotch local expenditure—which all are agreed should be equally given—be given to England in the way England wishes, and to Scotland in the way the Scotch people wish.
§ * MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
I trust the Government will accept the compromise suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, which I understand to be that the subvention to the rates in Scotland should be the amount given some few years ago. I have the honour to represent a large county in Scotland, but I confess I never heard anyone demand any subvention in respect of the roads. The people would greatly prefer that this £35,000 should be applied in the reduction of school fees than in the reduction of the road rate. Surely, it would conduce very much to an economy of time if the Government could make up their minds to accept this compromise. By doing so they would establish a claim to the lasting gratitude of the people of Scotland. In the end this will have to be done; in fact, I am persuaded their present proposals will not last much beyond the next General Election. The people of Scotland have made up their minds to seize this opportunity for obtaining free education, and the Government would gratify the people by distributing this money so as to attain this object.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I desire to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen. I also wish to confirm what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) with regard to the history of this grant. I may perhaps add that as soon as the double grant was proposed it was opposed by several Scotch Members. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward the Probate Duty Bill last year the right hon. Gentleman distinctly stated that the arrangement then made was a provisional one, and that all the items of the distribution of the grant would be subject to revision this year when the Local Government Bill was brought forward. We therefore claim that the whole of the money given as part of the Probate Duty grant to Scotland ought to be subject to review on this occasion, and that in the distribution of the money the Government should endeavour to accede to the wishes of the Scotch Members.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I quite agree with what bas been said in regard to this grant. It was not a grant ever desired by the people of Scotland. In 1881 it was proposed for England, and Scotland only got it because England wished it. Then in September, 1887, the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a supplementary grant, increasing the amount from £35,000 to £70,000. The Road Trustees in Scotland never made the slightest application for the doubling of the grant, and they were astonished when they received it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was giving an extra £250,000 to the roads in England, and he felt it was necessary to put Scotland on an equal footing with this. He therefore put down £35,000 for Scotland; and to Ireland he gave £50,000 for other purposes. With regard to the distribution of the money, it is important to observe that in Scotland the total annual valuation is £23,000,000, one-half of which is in the counties. When we came to distribute the £70,000 between burghs and counties we found the most extraordinary variations; the counties got £60,000 and the burghs £10,000. If, therefore, we look at the valuation, we find that the burgh ratepayers, instead of getting half the £35,000, only 180 get £10,000; and the county ratepayers, who pay on so much lower a valuation, get six times that amount, or £60,000. Then, again, look at the matter in regard to relief from taxation. Do we not find that taxation presses heaviest in burghs? I say, then, it is a most unfair way to distribute Scotch money. It was all very well when the money came out of Imperial funds, for then Scotch Members did not look particularly into the allocation of it, and any year the Vote on the Estimates was open to revision. But under this Bill we are, as it were, going to stereotype the sum for ever; and, therefore, it is of essential importance that we should exercise our judgment as Scotch Members and subject the application of this money to the most scrutinizing test. We all know why these things are done, why £10,000 only goes to burghs and six times that amount to counties, and the Scotch people understand it. Of the Scotch supporters of the Government opposite eight are Representatives of counties, and, of course, the money goes to their constituents; but, on the other hand, the great majority of Scotch burgh Members sit on this side. It is a notable thing, however, to find that at least three county Members have risen superior to the mere interest of their own ratepayers, and have expressed a desire for an equitable division between counties and burghs. I do hope that the Lord Advocate—himself a county Member—and other county Members on the other side, will follow the example and boldly say they disclaim all personal advantages and are content to throw in their lot with the rest of the Scotch ratepayers.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Before we go to a Division, which I hope may not be necessary, but that the Government will yield at once, there is one point to which I should like to call attention, and it is a very strong reason for increasing the sum available for educational purposes, and in relation to the adjustment of the exemption from fees as between the higher and lower standards. Hon. Members may have seen the statement circulated on high educational authority that the plan of the Government in applying relief to the lower standards only is open to very serious educational objections. It will tend, up to a certain 181 point, to diminish the disposition to keep children at school for the higher standards. It must be admitted that there are strong arguments against remitting the fees on higher standards in preference to the lower standards, where attendance is compulsory. Surely both these considerations point to the conclusion that it is not worth while doing these things by halves. If you are going to make these educational grants, make them equally so that they may really be an advantage to education, not creating an indisposition on the part of parents to complete the education of their children. I think we must all feel that the proposal of the Government, if carried, can only be a temporary one. Let the Government do a graceful thing, yield to the wishes of the majority of Scotch Members, and gain the credit of the concession.
§ * MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk)
I hope the Government are convinced that the opinion of the Scotch Members is almost unanimous, and will be content to give way. As has been said by more than one speaker—if the Government do not give way now, they will probably have to do so later. I may say, in reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) on the incidence of relief to fees in the higher and lower standards, that if he looks at the Amendment, of which I have given Notice—and which, of course, I do not propose now to discuss—he will see that it does not apply to all standards, but to those which are compulsory only. I would say in regard to the subject-matter of the Amendment that the burghs are thoroughly dissatisfied with the way in which the vote for the roads is applied, and think it would be much better to allocate the sums entirely to the relief of compulsory education.
§ * SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
It is significant that not a single Scotch Member from either side has supported the proposal of the Government. I would point out, as an educationalist, what would be the effect if the Government would agree to the unanimously expressed wish of Scotch Members. At the present moment in the higher standards which we are not, according to the view of the 182 Government to render free, you have to provide £161,000 in fees. The Government cannot halt half-way. If they are going to make this experiment in Scotland, they must make all education free, and by the present proposal they have the opportunity of saving considerable expenditure hereafter. In the £40,000 they have already a contribution towards this £161,000. The Scotch Members ask that this £35,000 of Scotch money should be added, making £75,000, or not far from half the fees required for the higher standards. Why do not the Government jump at this offer, because they must see that if the experiment of freeing the lower standards is made, all education will eventually have to be made free? Educationists would rather be without the aid of the Government in the lower standards if the higher standards are to be sacrificed in favour of this grant for roads.
§ DR. CLARK
I think the Government might very well accept the offered compromise. I should prefer that the whole sum of £70,000 should be diverted to education, but the compromise would put us in the position in which, we were two years ago. I can plead for the Islands, inasmuch as the road grant is an advantage to those who have to pay road money and yet have no roads. Most of their travelling is done by boats, and they have no interest in the mainland roads. In my own constituency, for instance, there is the Island of Stroma, with 300 or 400 inhabitants, and they are compelled to pay road money, though there is not a single road in Stroma. It will undoubtedly be a great deal better to appropriate this money to the higher standards of education. As I do not want special advantages for the Highlands, so I do not want them to be placed at a disadvantage, and this proposal of the hon. Member for Aberdeen offers a fair compromise. Why should the Government insist upon imposing on Scotland a system altogether opposed to Scotch ideas? This is in no way an Imperial matter; it concerns Scotch money spent in Scotland, and the English people will in no way be affected. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, or the right hon. the Chief Secretary for Ireland, will accept this 183 compromise without further waste of time.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
I know that among my own constituents, and I was recently with them, feeling is very strong on this subject. The situation here is remarkable. No single Scotch Member has supported the Government, though hon. Members from Scotland on the other side have been repeatedly challenged to do so. We have also a considerable number of English Members present—nearly a dozen I think—which is a considerable number for these Debates. Now, inasmuch as no Scotch Members have supported the Government, will not English Members support Scotch opinion on this matter, which has no Imperial concern whatever? It is simply a question of spending Scotch money according to Scotch opinion for the purpose of freeing education. The proposal of the Government is futile for any benefit to Scotland; it does not give relief of more than three-eights of a penny in the £1 anywhere. I would appeal to Conservative Members, is not this an occasion when they might judiciously interpose to assist us in a modest and reasonable request?
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)
I have no hesitation to express my opinion when challenged. I supported the Government proposal for a grant to the Highlands because I believed it was fair and just, and the carrying out of a bargain made with the ratepayers that they should be in a position equal to that they occupied previous to the passing of this Act. But when I come to consider this question of the grant for roads, I am bound to say that the money given for roads has not been asked for by Scotland. This is one of those matters on which a large sum has been frittered away to a considerable extent. I am bound to consider those who pay small sums to the roads, as well as those who pay larger sums, and I think the relief afforded is so inconsiderable, that I think it would be a graceful concession on the part of the Government if they were to yield on this point.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (W. H. Smith,) Strand, Westminster
I have listened with very great interest to this Debate, but I 184 suppose, as an English Member, I shall not be precluded from interposing now. This is a question of very considerable importance, touching as it does other financial questions which have to be handled with very great care. If, therefore, the Government do not vote against the Amendment on the present occasion, it must be understood that they reserve full liberty between now and the Report to consider its full effect on the whole financial question.
§ * MR. MARK STEWART (Kircudbright)
While admitting the expediency of the concession the right hon. Gentleman has made, I cannot but regret the Government have given way. Since the turn pikes were abolished, the money given to the roads has been of immense advantage, not only to the ratepayers, but to the whole country.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I cannot but acknowledge the frank way in which the right hon. Gentleman has met the wishes of Scotch Members in wisely accepting the opinion of Members as expressed in the Committee, without waiting to see the numbers on division. I take this to be a concession to our wishes, providing no financial difficulties interpose; and I am sure the Government will reap the benefit of this in Scotland, and that it will greatly facilitate the progress of the Bill.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN) (Glasgow, Bridgeton
It may save time if I say a word in reference to Clause 25. This Clause 19 is important; but Clause 25 is of greater, importance, and I hope the Government will consider that clause in the light of the debates on Clause 19, in order that when we get to that clause, as I hope we shortly may, discussion may be materially shortened.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the words 'one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I am sorry the hon. Member for South Lanark is not in his place. I would rather the Amendment I have to propose should come from him. I quite accept the view which I think was accepted by the decision on the last discussion, that the old standard of subventions should be maintained, but that the distribution of new money 185 should be according to the wishes of Scotch Members. So far as I can understand Sub-section 3, this is a new grant, and not in compensation for the old grant for pauper lunatics. It is a new grant, and treated differently from the money provided by Sub-section 2. Now, it is argued that the granting of sums in aid of English paupers is an attempt to force the local authorities to adopt the indoor system of relief. Of course, I do not mean to say this is an encouragement to manufacture lunatics, but I think the method of application is artificial and objectionable, and therefore I move the omission of the sub-section.
§ Amendment proposed, page 10, line 21, leave out Sub-section (3).
§ MR. HUNTER
I think we might dispose of this question very shortly, for there is really only one point in it. This £21,000 now paid to the Parochial Boards out of Imperial Funds is as nearly as possible identical with the sum now paid for the fees of pauper children; therefore, it is really a question to consider whether it is worth while keeping this up as a separate grant. Of course, it is obvious that it makes no difference to the ratepayers whether you keep it as a separate grant except in this way, that if in addition to relieving the Parochial Boards from school fees you add this, you make an addition of £21,000 to the Parochial Boards. I make no objection to that, except if you withdraw the implied prohibition of 1882, on School Boards against the remission of fees. The Act of 1882, though not in precise terms, by implication prohibits such remission. But really in the end it merely comes to a matter of account; and perhaps the Government will express their opinion?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I think it will be quite obvious that it is impossible to determine the question except on a review of the whole financial situation. My right hon. Friend has promised that the whole matter shall be reconsidered, and I do not think the Committee can usefully address itself to the question now.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
Then may I ask what the Government intend to do? On the last occasion they struck out the sub-section. Of course, I am quite in he hands of the Government.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Perhaps we had better let the sub-section stand as it is for consideration, as I suggested.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ * MR. HOWORTH (Salford)
There is a very old tradition of the House that a Member best secures its attention and respect when he only interposes upon subjects on which he has special knowledge, or where a special duty is placed upon him. I feel the force of this so very strongly that I should not have ventured to intervene in a Scotch Debate if I did not feel that the clause to which. I rise to take exception contains s principle not only exceedingly mischievous on its merits, but which traverses in my view, and in the view of many others near me, the best traditions we are here to represent. I refer to the principle of free education, which is conceded in this clause. I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate the other day protested rather warmly against the compliments showered upon him from the other side on his conversion to this principle, which, for the past 25 years, the party to which he belongs has denounced, but the fact remains that by this concession a man will, for the first time in our history, be in a position to claim as a right that his children shall be educated at the expense of others when he can afford to pay for it himself, and this is what we mean by Free Education. I cannot help thinking that some of us ought on this occasion to give the loyalty of our vote to the principles we have uniformly maintained on every platform wherever we had the opportunity of pressing them home. My objections to the clause and the principle it contains are, in the first place, formal objections. I think that when a party diverges from a ground which they have occupied so long that divergence ought not to be formulated in an obscure section of an Act of Parliament, which in essence is by no means germain to that section, but in a special enactment so that under the light of heaven it may be proclaimed to all who are interested what has been done. I object that in a Scotch Local Government Bill we should have an obscure clause of this kind passed to effect such a revolution in our principle and practice concerning education. But 187 it seems to me that this is not the only disguise in which this principle is recommended to the House. If this had been a direct proposition to assist education in the direction of making it free by imposing rates, we should have had a very strong opposition from more than one Scottish Member; but, because it is taken from a fund to which it is the fashion to think all are not contributors—the great milch cow of the State—Imperial taxation and duties—a milch cow which seems very remote from the ratepayers that it has succeeded in attracting to itself the popularity which it has secured. But, this is a mere disguise. In England the same tax is, no doubt, devoted to the relief of the ratepayers, and whether you pay for education out of the rates, or from a fund which otherwise would go for the relief of the taxpayer, it seems to me that eventually the Scottish ratepayer is the person who will have to pay for the principle of free education. My objections, however, are not merely formal. I am opposed to the principle of free education as being most mischievous in every possible aspect, not only à priori, but because empirically it has been proved mischievous in many countries. I will state one or two particular examples of the mischief I foresee. I will not enlarge on the tremendous danger we are perpetually in with a population growing at a rate which to some is like a dismal nightmare, and when inducement after inducement is being given to classes which have no prudence in their arrangements, matrimonial or otherwise, to increase that population, which is already so congested in many districts. "Free education" is a palpable misnomer. There is no such thing, and the expression means merely that the education, which ought to be paid for by one set of men has to be paid for by another, consisting in many cases of men quite as little able to bear the burden as those seeking relief. We ought to have regard to the great classes of clerks and superior artisans in the large towns who wish their children to be educated apart from the sinister influence of the gutter, who have paid for the education of their own children at considerable sacrifice, and upon whom will be imposed a double burden if they have to 188 pay for the education of their neighbours' children as well. I cannot help referring to the 4th Section of the Scotch Education Act, in which the duty of the State, and of the parent in this matter is stated in terms which, in an Act of Parliament, are almost poetical. It seems to me that in that clause, you have formulated in a way which cannot be improved, what we all feel, namely, that if there be a duty that is more parental than any other, it is distinctly that of educating a man's childdren when he has brought them into the world. I cannot follow the argument that because education has been made compulsory, we, therefore, ought to relieve the parent of the duty of paying for that education. Compulsion by the State in such a case is only the insistence that a man shall perform the duties naturally incumbent upon him. If he cannot afford to do it, we provide him with machinery for obtaining relief. I am aware that the method of relief in such cases is one which in some quarters raises a sentimental grievance, and I should be prepared to consider some method of remedying the grievance. But so long as a man can bear the burden, we have hitherto enacted that it shall be borne on his own shoulders. We know experimentally that a parent alone values for his children that which costs him some sacrifice. In this I am not speaking so much of Scotland where education has been looked upon as almost a religious duty; but I am thinking of the great masses in the large English towns and elsewhere. This fact should have weight with the party to which I belong, for it is surely one cardinal plank in its platform, that an individual ought at all hazard to bear burdens he makes for himself. Mr. Forster in his great education speech in 1870 recognised and insisted upon the duty of a parent paying for the education of his children, and pointed out that if free education were granted for elementary education, it would afterwards be demanded for secondary and primary education as well. But I would go beyond this à priori argument. We study politics generally as an experimental science, and not merely as a deductive art, and therefore it is as an experimental science that we ought to treat it when we deal with 189 cases like the present. Take the case of America—a country which is so like our own in antecedents and condition of life. It is a most remarkable fact that in America, where education is free, as is shown by the last Return of the Education Board, children attend school only 62 per cent. of the time they ought to be at school, while in the corresponding schools in England where fees are paid the time of attendance is 74 per cent. There you have a case where the experiment has been tried for many years, and where it has been tried under the best conditions, and I say the result is such as ought to make you hesitate very much before trying the experiment at home. I want myself to see the children of this country educated, and I would sacrifice a great deal to Socialism if I thought the Socialistic doctrines we are likely to add to the number of our educated people among the working classes, but in America they have proved to be an utter failure in this behalf. The best of all recent authorities on education, the late Mr. Matthew Arnold, was decidedly opposed to free education. Mr. Fitch, perhaps one of the most experienced English inspectors who have been to America to report on the educational system in practice there, and other educational authorities, are distinctly at one in contending that directly you take away the enormous inducement and pressure behind the parent, in the form of payment for the education of his child, you at once have a great amount of truant playing, the children do not attend school as they should, and there is an immense falling off in attendance. It is a remarkable circumstance that in a country like England, where the principle of free education has never been introduced at all, you should have a return of school attendance which tells so conspicuously in favour of our present system. To take another instance, in the old Kingdom of Prussia, where the children are almost dragooned into learning, we find the most remarkable fact that whereas in the Prussian Constitution of 1850 there is a clause making education both free and compulsory, it has never been enforced except in Berlin.
§ * MR. HOWORTH
Perhaps I am putting it a little too strongly. But, at any rate, in seven-eights or eight-tenths of the kingdom the system of free schools has not been introduced, and all the Prussian educational authorities completely condemned the principle. The principle has hardly been enforced at all in Prussia, and remains as it was before the year 1850, in all the towns except Berlin and Düsseldorf. And what is true of Prussia is also true in a measure of Bavaria and Saxony. In Paris, where the democratic theory prevails that all children ought to be put on the same level for their chance in life, one-third of the poor are not taught and where free education has been adopted as a plank of the ultra democratic platform in free schools, and a complete revolt is going on against them. The number in private schools is increasing largely, because there is in action a progress of grading schools, which is a necessity where you have a large mass of population living in the gutter, with which it would be a crime to make the children of the better people amongst the humbler classes associate compulsorily. I have never seen a rational scheme of grading these big schools so as to avoid contact with the dirty and the vicious. No doubt in Scotland the problem does not present itself in the same aspect, for amongst the people in the rural districts there much the same morals and cleanliness prevail, and there is no difficulty in mixing the poor, but there would be great difficulty in doing so in large communities like Glasgow, just as there would be in large English towns, such as Manchester and Salford. I can quite understand Members opposite giving their allegiance to the view that on this question they should give what is demanded by Scottish opinion and not what is necessary in the Imperial interests, because they are Home Rulers. But while I am in favour of extending as much as possible the principle of making the administrative machinery in Provincial districts adapted to their needs and demands, I hold that it is mischievous to introduce a fundamental principle for Scotland on the question of education which is not applicable to England. Grave questions of principle like this ought not to be decided by local and provincial feeling, as is desired 191 by Home Rulers opposite, but upon Imperial considerations, and it is because I am sure the same demand will be made in England if this precedent is established that I make a solemn protest against the proposal. We have no right, in regard to a question involving so much that is dangerous and doubtful, to settle it on behalf of a local district and in deference to provincial opinion, for it ought to be decided by this House for us all. You have already difficulties of the supremest kind created by divergence of principle in different parts of the Empire—one of which, I may mention, namely, the law of marriage, a man who has lived in adultery can in Scotland, after marriage, have his children regarded as legitimate, whereas they would be regarded as bastards in this country. That is the kind of difficulty which should not exist. It seems to me you are introducing another and similar difficulty in this Bill in trying to make one rule for Scotland and another for England. I protest against this new principle on every ground. I protest against it because it is the duty of a parent, if he can afford it, to educate his children, and because it will give a great blow to education instead of enhancing its benefits. I also object to it because by giving State aid merely for the three lowest standards you will induce great masses of the poor to treat everything beyond that miserable level as something which is mere luxury and you will be drawing a line by which poor people are to fix what is education and what is luxury. The standard in such matters is low enough already. I feel very strongly on this subject. I feel that I am committed by many pledges to oppose the introduction of free education, and by promises to deputations of persons verging on complete poverty, protesting against this principle. And, finally, I protest that we have no business in this House to steer our legislative ship by a merely provincial rudder, and that we ought in all these matters of supreme importance to adopt those views which our experience and theories teach us are good for us all. Feeling this, I think I ought to press my Amendment to a Division, if I can only get one hon. Member to tell with me in the Lobby.
§ Amendment moved, Clause 19, page 10, line 29, to leave out from "direct," to end of Sub-section 4.—(Mr. Howorth.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Black-friars, &c.)
The Scotch Members are tolerably well accustomed to being voted down in regard to measures which the great majority of them want; but I should be astonished if the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford obtains any support whatever on the other side of the House. The hon. Member objects to the question of free education being brought forward in what he calls an obscure clause. If there is anything obscure about the clause I hope it will be rectified before it leaves the House. Then the hon. Member objects on the ground that the money is not given by a direct Vote; but the fact is the money is given as directly as it possibly can be. More than that, it is Scotch money, and surely we have some right to say to what particular purpose it should be applied. The hon. Member next said that the population of Scotland was increasing very fast. Everybody admits that; but that is no reason why education should not be made free. A further point of the hon. Member's against the sub-section is that there are many clerks and superior mechanics in Salford who do not wish their children to mix with scholars who are not so well dressed—with gutter children, in fact, to use his own expression. Surely this is creating class within class, and I am glad that in Scotland we have no clerks and superior mechanics of this kind. Our duty is not to degrade the scholars, but to lift them up; and it would degrade those to whom we should say that children who wear finer clothes and who are better fed should not mix with them. The hon. Member quoted Mr. Forster in support of his contention; but free education has made many strides since Mr. Forster used the words which the Committee have heard read. Then the hon. Member told us that free education had proved a failure, and he quoted Prussia in support of his contention. First, he said the compulsory clauses had not been carried out in certain parts; then on being challenged 193 he reduced that statement, and I do not think the hon. Member can be much of an authority on education in Prussia, or he would have been more certain of his facts. He also mentioned the case of the United States. He pointed out that in the United States the attendance at free schools was 62 per cent. while in the United Kingdom it is 74 per cent. No doubt his figures may be correct; but here, again, he only told us part of the story. In the first place, in many parts of the United States compulsory attendance is not the law; and in some places where it is the law it is not inforced. Again, in many parts there is such a scattered population, that attendance is difficult in winter and bad weather, therefore, these and other reasons would account for the diminished average attendance in the United States as compared with the United Kingdom. The hon. Member did not mention Massachusetts; he said nothing about Boston, where attendances is compulsory and where the law is enforced. His figures represent the average for the United States, and are therefore misleading. I will not, however, go into details; I will content myself by pointing out that in the case of the nearest approach to Free Schools in this country—I refer to the Jew's school in East London where the average fee is only one halfpenny per week—there we get the highest rate of attendance in this country. In fact, the nearer we get to free schools, the higher is the rate of attendance. I have no doubt that where in the United States compulsion is the law—but is not—enforced, it might as well not be the law at all. The real reason which, no doubt, prompted the hon. Member to move the Amendment was the reflex action which must follow in England when free education has been given to Scotland. It is in the interests of the Church schools in England that the hon. Member spoke; in fact, he held a brief for the parson and not for those whom he represented in Salford. He admitted that if we adopted the fundamental principle of free education in Scotland it must travel to England, and I say that the sooner it is applied in both countries the better. It required a great deal of courage for the hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment, seeing that not a single Scotch Member 194 will support him. For an English Member to move such an Amendment against the interests of Scotland, and to be followed into the Lobby by English Members only, is a Parliamentary outrage. I consider it nothing less. I hope I shall never again have to speak on such an Amendment as this. When we made education compulsory, it was clear that in time it would also become free. That applies to England as well as to Scotland. English Members may succeed in holding the concession over until after the next General Election; but depend on it, if they do, the matter will constitute a plank in the platform of the candidates when the fight comes. It is admitted, I think, that, in past years, Scotchmen have been more generally educated than Englishmen; and yet we are told that, because we propose to place education within the reach of all the Scotch people, because it is to be free they will neglect it and lose their high position. No more absurd or outrageous argument was ever put forward in this House. I have very much pleasure in opposing the Amendment, and that pleasure will be enhanced if every Scotch and many English Members will rise to enforce, in much stronger language than I have used, the objections we entertain to this Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
I am surprised to hear the hon. Member suggest that Scotch opinion has not been sufficiently consulted in this Bill. It appears to me that Scottish opinion has been studiously consulted, almost to the point of ignominious surrender. The hon. Member complains of the action of the hon. Member for Salford in moving this Amendment. I would remind the Committee that English Members have, for the most part, abstained from taking part in the discussion of this Bill, and have left it to be carried on almost entirely by Representatives of Scotland. But when an innovation so important as this is foisted into a Local Government Bill, and when a precedent is set which is almost sure to be quoted in favour of a corresponding change in England, it seems to me to be right and proper that English Members should make their voices heard. I have not observed that Scottish Members practise the same self-restraint with respect to English 195 measures which they seek to impose on us. The hon. Member for Salford, holding on this matter the opinions which he does, it was not only his right but his duty to give expressions to those opinions. With his views on Free Education I heartily sympathize. At the same time, I should not have supported him on this occasion had it not been for what happened an hour ago. I was unwilling to take up an attitude of non possumus in face of the apparently unanimous wish of the Scottish Members, and an hour ago I saw a way out of the difficulty. If the Government had not made this succession of surrenders I might have supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk, which would have taken the sting out of the original concession. But the surrender of the Lord Advocate has quite revolutionized the position. What has happened up to the present time? The Lord Advocate has hitherto maintained that the proposal of the Government is not a concession of the principle of free education. Hon. Members opposite did not think it worth while to argue against my right hon. Friend's contention; they quietly assumed that the Bill did contain this principle. In my judgment they were perfectly right. The Government proposal was not merely to give relief in the matter of fees, but to remit them altogether. In the first three standards it is acknowledged that compulsion is not effective in the fourth and fifth standards, and that the majority of children do not go beyond the third standard.
§ MR. CALDWELL
May I explain to the hon. Gentleman that education is compulsory in Scotland up to the Fifth Standard.
§ * MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I am aware of that fact. I said that compulsion was not effective although it was legal. The inference I draw from that is that, according to the original proposal of the Lord Advocate, the majority of parents of the poorer class in Scotland would have been entirely relieved of school fees; and therefore the clause does contain the principle of free education. My hon. Friend used all his ingenuity to show that he was not making a surrender. I was reminded of the old controversy as to the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey. A learned critic argued that they 196 were not the works of Homer, but of another gentleman of the same name. The Lord Advocate, in making the proposal, said it was not a proposal for free education; yet it came to the same thing, and the common sense of the Committee so interpreted it. After what has occurred to-night, even the Government must admit that this interpretation is correct, and that they have practically accepted the principle of free education in Scotland; and that being so, it seems to me to be incumbent on the English Members to consider jealously the proposal that has been made, because sooner or later a similar change will be agitated for in England. I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Salford into his argument with respect to free education. For my own part, I do not consider that the application of compulsion logically or practically involves free education. I am, moreover, very sceptical as to the results of free education; and I foresee grave difficulties and complications in the attempt to introduce the principle into England. But what I do say is this, that it is neither right nor fair that so large and far-reaching a proposal should have been floated surreptitiously in on the wave of a Local Government Bill. What did the Government start with? With a proposal to relieve the rates. Then, in response to pressure brought to bear upon them by hon. Members for Scotland, they took away from the ratepayers a part of the money available, and applied it to relieve fees. Lastly, by their action to-night they openly accept the principle of free education, and so far from relieving the ratepayers, it appears the final result will be that the ratepayers will have to pay more than before. I do not suppose we have any chance of carrying the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford; however, I shall vote for it, as a protest against the course that has been pursued. This is a matter which most of us have discussed with our constituents, and many of us are pledged against it. I hope the Government are proud of the position which they have made for themselves.
§ MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
I think the hon. Member for Salford is to be congratulated on having the one supporter to go into the Lobby with him, for 197 whom he sighed at the end of his speech. It appears, indeed, that the seeds of incipient rebellion have been sown on the opposite Benches by the action of the Government. The last speaker states that the proposal for free education which has been on the face of this Bill all these weeks is an innovation foisted into the Bill, and that it has been floated in surreptitiously. He complained also of a succession of surrenders by the Government.
* MR. G. W.BALFOUR
I did not say that it had been floated surreptitiously into the Bill. I know it was contained in the Bill from the beginning. I said that the proposal was floated surreptitiously in on the wave of a Local Government Bill.
§ * MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
The hon. Member did use the three words I have quoted, and if they did not express his meaning it is not my fault. Perhaps he does not deny he used the words "innovation foisted into the Bill." I do not, indeed, see much difference between foisting and floating. I think the hon. Member for Salford should have gone a little further when he told us that free education traversed the best principles of the Conservative Party. He ought to have told us what those principles were. Let me remind him, however, that politics is an advancing science, and that the Radical of to-day will probably be the Tory of to-morrow. Just as hon. Gentlemen opposite have from a hundred platforms denounced free education, so to-day their leaders have accepted it with open arms. It seems to me that on this side of the House we have reason to congratulate ourselves very much on this introduction of the thin end of the wedge; and English Members will be able to congratulate their constituencies and to accept the prophecy of the hon. Member for Salford as to the application of the principle to England. What, after all, is the object and aim of free education? It is that every child in the community shall be educated. I was certainly astonished that the hon. Gentleman opposite ventured to invoke American experience on this question. Nearly 100 years ago it was said to be as rare to find an American who could neither read nor write as to feel an earthquake or see a comet. I recollect, not many years ago, investigating very 198 carefully some of the educational systems in States on the East Coast and the West Coast of America. I particularly recollect that in the town of Boston out of 63,000 children in the schools no less than 52,000 were in free schools—infant schools, middle schools, high schools, and normal schools for the training of teachers, that is to say, education at its highest point! I was astonished to hear even from the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) that the artizans would be unwilling, or that it was not desirable for their children to associate with the class below them. I suppose he would have society graded in much the same way as it is graded in India. If you go into the American schools, such as the high schools of Philadelphia, you will find the son of the artizan and the son of the clergyman and of the professional man side by side. In one of these schools I stood by the side of the master while he was questioning the children, and asked him, as the answers were given, what was the position of the parent of each child who replied, and I found there was an absolute fraternization as regards attendance at the school. The position which the State, I apprehend, takes up is that in its supreme wisdom it lays down the principle that every child ought to be educated for the advantage and security of the State, and in order to strengthen the guarantee for the preservation of the bounds of society. The question arises whether the State should say to the father—"You shall send your child to school and be deprived of the advantage of his labour, and yet you must pay for this privilege." With respect to truancy, my experience in the London School Board many years ago leads me to the conclusion that if we had a total abolition of fees we should have the children in much more extensive attendance as well as better fed. After all, if the parent has the money to feed the child, the end aimed at by the State—namely, the better education of the child—will be more readily attained. The hon. Gentleman said the Acts introduced into Scotland would extend to England, and he thus admitted that, in this matter of education, as in many others, Scotland leads the way. I am very glad the Government have bowed to the inevitable; and I think they and we are to be congratulated upon the introduction into this Bill of a 199 principle which, undoubtedly, the Division shortly to take place will show to be fully established in the law of England—a principle that will bring about a better and completer education in Scotland, and will enable the children to prove themselves worthy of the citizenship of the Empire.
§ SIR A. CAMPBELL
I think every one must have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, but certain things he brought forward are not the case with regard to Scotland. From the earliest times there has been the greatest difference between England and Scotland, for Scotland has had the advantage of its parochial schools, where free instruction did not restrict attendance, and the results were so satisfactory that the percentage of people who could read and write under the parochial school system was found to be higher than in Germany. Under these circumstances, I think that in reverting to the old system we shall not destroy the education of the country, as the hon. Member suggests. I may say that the difference between England and Scotland is very great at the present moment. In England you have the new system grafted on the old one, and the result is that a certain amount of elasticity is given to the education such as we do not find in Scotland. I was one of those who bitterly opposed the cutting down of the old system of education in Scotland, because I knew what had been done for the people, and I was not certain what the new system might produce. I am I very glad now we are going to return to a certain extent to the original practice in Scotland, and that in future people will not have to go to the parochial boards and be pauperised because they cannot pay the school fees. The amount of relief so given has risen from £10,000 to £30,000, and, therefore, the abolition of fees will be a great relief to the rates and a boon to a large class of people. As to education in the higher grades suffering, the rudiments are not higher instruction; but with the rudiment scholars can go on to higher education, and I have not yet heard that the possession of the rudiments has been a bar to such advance. Until children have the three R's they cannot, of course, obtain higher education. We are told that there will be a tremen- 200 dous mixture in these schools. There was a certain mixture in the old parish schools; but some of the best men of Scotland have come out of the old parochial schools, where they have rubbed shoulder to shoulder with poor and rich, and this fraternization is one of the main causes of the manly independence of the Scotch people. No doubt in large cities it may be found convenient to have graded schools; and I believe that in Glasgow, which has one of the most capable school boards in the country, there are schools in which higher fees are charged than in others. I am grateful to the Government for having intimated that they will take this question into consideration, and decide which schools should have relief and which should not. I believe this measure will be of great benefit to Scotland and that hon. Members who oppose it on the principle that it does not agree with their declarations must see that at all events, so far as Scotland is concerned, we are reverting to the old system.
§ * MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
Although the Debate on this Amendment has run to considerable length I do not think the time has been wasted. However much the Scotch Members may differ from the hon. Members for Salford and Leeds, those two hon. Members have taken a right course in calling attention to the principle on which we are about to act. I think it would be unworthy of Scotland to initiate so great a change as that from the present system to one of gratuitous education without more discussion on the principle than we were able to have in the Debate on the Second Reading of a general Bill for Local Government. I think, therefore, those two hon. Members have done good service, perhaps at a little expense to their own feelings, in acting as candid friends towards Her Majesty's Government. I ventured on the Second Reading to remark that we were apparently, in the view of the Government themselves, as put forward by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), going practically into this free education question without the Government so much as perceiving what they were doing. I do not think any good is to be got from going with eyes half shut into so great a 201 question. We ought, in the first place, to ask whether there is anything essentially educational in the transference of the burden of these fees from the parent to the ratepayer. I answer that there are some educational advantages, and first it is a great gain that parents should have to go no longer to the parochial boards for assistance in paying the fees. There is a second gain in regard to which I think we shall be almost unanimous—namely, that we shall relieve the teacher, whose hands are otherwise sufficiently full from the harassing duty of keeping a record of the fees, and looking up defaulters. Possibly also, there may be some good effect on school attendance. I hope there is some truth in what was put forward, I think in an exaggerated way, from the Treasury Bench—namely, that there is in Scotland a demand for education, and that if you relieve parents from fees for the lower standards, they may be encouraged to keep their elder children longer at school. But there are other more doubtful aspects of the question, and that is why I did not join in the round robin got up to place pressure on the Government to bring in this scheme. I thought it was better that there should be some debate on the principle before we all committed ourselves by putting our names on paper. The financial aspect of the question is very serious. Hitherto the financial resources of education in this country have been three—the taxes, the rates, and the fees, and at one time the contributions from each source were nearly equal. Before parting with all the income derived from parents, it would be wise and logical for us to consider what are the most pressing educational demands, and how they compare with the proposal for the total abolition of fees. It has been my lot to look closely into the educational question in Scotland, and I should like to mention one or two objects urgently requiring expenditure. There are about 1,000 small Country schools in Scotland which have not a staff capable of keeping up the higher education formerly given, and at the same time satisfying the inspectors so as to earn the Government grant. It was represented to the Committee of which I was a Member that if £30 per school could be found by the Govern- 202 ment, to encourage contributions from local sources, enough might be done to put these 1,000 schools on such a footing that they could continue to give the old higher education of Scotland, and at the same time give the education required in the modern standards. It was also represented by highly competent educational authorities that if £40,000 could be applied in aid of the old high schools, which somewhat illogically have been put under the control of the School Boards and of the Education Department without being given any grant or any claim on the school funds, these old schools would be saved from falling into a lower grade, which is happening to some. Thirdly, there is a strong feeling amongst the working classes of Scotland that more might be done by a liberal expenditure on evening schools. I believe that all these three objects might be attained for, perhaps, not much more than one-third of the sum required to entirely free education in all the standards. Therefore before we commit ourselves as to how many standards we will free, we should consider what other urgent demands there are for expenditure on education. I know that this is an aspect of the question which has not presented itself to some of my Scottish Colleagues; but I entreat them to consider it before they decide to extinguish all school fees. Parents in Scotland take the keenest interest in the education of their children We have it in evidence that in Glasgow and Govan they urge the School Boards to give somewhat higher education, and that when the question of fees is mentioned they say—"Never mind the expense: charge us a higher fee, we are quite willing to pay it." It seems to me that a source of income so natural should not be closed. I hope that, on the contrary, when we are sacrificing so much income from ordinary fees the Government may see their way to remove that limitation which embarrasses the finance of some School Boards—namely, the maximum average fee of ninepence. I also hope that the Government will bear in mind a matter which will be urged on them by the Glasgow School Board. They will find it is the deliberate and well-considered view of the Glasgow School Board that it would be well while giv- 203 ing to every parent a right to have his child educated free in the lower standards, to allow the School Board in a limited number of schools to charge fees. In Glasgow that would solve the financial difficulty which otherwise must be caused. The Government, in the hurry, supposed that if they gave the sum they first intended they would be able to free the first three standards. As a matter of fact, Glasgow would gain £17,000 and lose £22,000, leaving about £5,000 short. The Glasgow School Board say that if they were allowed to charge fees in a limited number of schools their finance would be restored, and out of the resources so obtained from the richer they would be able to lighten the burden to the poorer parents. I know the objection raised to such an arrangement is "we do not like these class distinctions." I agree it might not be a wise arrangement for country places and small towns, but there are cities in Scotland—Glasgow is one and Dundee another—where you have so mixed a population that some such arrangement is to be desired. The Glasgow School Board have already at work as many as five different grades of schools, with different fees. This difference in the fees has arisen in the most natural way—chiefly owing to the special wants and previous habits of each district. Lastly, if we can afford to have free education, which I am in favour of, in common with my colleagues, we should do ill to stop at the 3rd standard. We should try to carry out the principle and extend it to all the compulsory standards. But, on the other hand, in the large towns we should leave the School Boards free to work their own finance by having a limited number of fee paying schools, for those who may prefer them.
§ * MR. SHAW STEWART
I appeal to my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment. Perhaps my appeal may come with a little more force to the hon. Member when I say that in my judgment free education in the abstract is not a good thing. I sympathize very much with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. G. Balfour) when he said he regretted that this question of free education should have been floated in on the wave of a Local Government Bill. When I had the 204 honour of contesting a Scotch constituency in 1885 I did what I could to speak against Free Education because I am in favour of every man being as independent as possible of the State, and I confess that I fear that free education will tend to undermine that independence that I hope will ever be a characteristic of my countrymen. But I intend to support the Government for this simple reason, that they, in looking about for the best way of relieving the pressing burdens of the people, could look in no other direction than school fees. It is well known that the rates are not the most pressing burdens in Scotland, and the Government therefore were bound to address their efforts to relieving the burden of school fees. I hope that English Members will realize that whether we in Scotland are in favour of free education or not, we are all agreed on this point—that school fees are the most pressing burden, and the Government have no alternative but to apply this money to their relief. On this ground I do hope the hon. Member for Salford will withdraw his Amendment. I am sure no Scotch Member will regret that English Members have taken part in this interesting discussion, but with this discussion I think my hon. Friend might be satisfied and withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I should not have intervened but for the speech of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth). When an English Member takes part in a Scotch Debate and attempts to controvert the opinions expressed by Scotch Members on both sides, then I think that I, having had some experience of Scotch education matters, having administered the Education Department for five and a half years, may venture to trouble the Committee. I should not like the speech of the hon. Member for Salford to go forth uncontradicted, not only because of its effect in Scotland, but also because of its effect in England, and because I recognize as fully as any hon. Member in the House that what we are doing for Scotland we shall some 205 day, and I hope very soon, have to do for England. I am quite frank about that, although the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Richard Temple) seems to think that is a very serious question. I confess I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Salford, who has spoken with his usual evidences of sincerity, his usual urbanity, and courtesy, and no doubt he has placed before the House the very best case he could against free education. He has exhausted all the old reasons and he has added some of his own, which I have not heard before. I will endeavour to reply in order that the matter may be put fairly before the House and the country. The hon. Member lamented that the Party with which he was connected was parting with some of its best traditions. Well, the hon. Member has been but a short time a Member of this House; he has sat not for a very long time behind Her Majesty's Government. But I can assure him that the longer he sits there the more frequently will he have to part with some of his traditions; and I am quite sure that in doing so his Party will derive considerable advantage, and the country will be greatly benefited. That Party never parted with a tradition at a more opportune time than now in conferring what practically amounts to free education on Scotland. After the courteous concession made by the First Lord of the Treasury in the early part of the evening, I suspect the Government will be prepared to put enough money in the hands of Scotchmen to free education in all the compulsory standards, and will be ready to supplement that in order to make education entirely free throughout Scotland. Now, the hon. Member for Salford said he had considered this question of free education thoroughly, and that he found it mischievous in all its aspects; and he added that as an experiment it had proved an absolute failure. I am astounded at the auda- 206 city of this statement. The hon. Member quoted from Matthew Arnold, and upon that I have something to say. I had the honour of the friendship of Mr. Matthew Arnold for many years; and it was my pleasure to have almost daily intercourse with him during the time I was at the Education Department, and I know his views upon free education. When I was at the Department there was no man more opposed to free education than he was, and his views on free education are to be found in his Reports between the years 1880 and 1885. During the time I was at the Department nothing could be stronger than his protests against it; everything the hon. Member for Salford has advanced Mr. Matthew Arnold stated in that clear forcible style of his which made him such an effective critic, and made his writings so delightful to the reader. I had five and a half years of experience, and during that time had, as Vice-President, to defend myself against Motions in favour of free education, sometimes from Scotch Members, sometimes from English Members; but I was unable to budge in the least degree, because I had a Chancellor of the Exchequer behind me; yet the whole of my experience during that time went to show that free education was necessary and inevitable. In 1885 almost the first Act of Her Majesty's Government was to appoint a Royal Commission to enquire into the state of education for the blind, the deaf and the dumb, and I was appointed a Member of that Commission. I spent three months going through Europe enquiring into the condition of these afflicted classes, and at the same time I took the opportunity thoroughly to satisfy myself as to the working of free education in the countries I visited. I can well remember too that during the election of 1885, and I mention this that the hon. Member for Salford may know that the traditions of his Party are not quite so strong as he supposes, I remember I say that there was a Chancellor of the Exchequer who went to Birmingham, and there made a speech in favour of free education. Afterwards there was a great outcry of the Conservative party against free education, and the noble Lord wrote a letter to say that he thought that at all events fees should 207 be limited in elementary schools to a penny a week; but this was after he had made a capital speech in favour of free education. Now, during the election of 1885, I received a letter from Mr. Matthew Arnold in which he said—You have startled me with your views on free education. I am to be sent by the Government to follow your footsteps, and I want to know where you have been? Where are these free schools of yours?Well, I wrote and told him fairly where I had been, and what I had seen, and he made his inquiries. But does his Report support the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite? I said to Mr. Matthew Arnold—"You will have a great deal to unsay, a great deal to unlearn." Now, the object of his inquiry was to ascertain the state of elementary education in Germany, Switzerland, and France; he had first to inquire as to the quality of the free education given; then as to the efficiency of the teachers, and the attendance at school. Now, if free education is a failure, how came it that Mr. Matthew Arnold has reported that our education is so much inferior to that of those countries where education is free? How is it that he reports that the attendance in England is inferior to the attendance at free schools on the Continent? He says, as the result of his inquiries at Lucerne, that within the period of the establishment of free education attendance has more than doubled; and he says that from time to time he visited schools where the masters answered him that for 10 years there had not been a case of a single summons for non-attendance. He went to a school at Zurich, and he found all the children present with the exception of two, who were suffering from fever. There is not a word here to show that free education has failed. Every reference that Matthew Arnold makes goes to prove that education in these free schools is excellent, and far superior to anything we can attain to here. When the hon. Member speaks of the education at Salford, I wonder whether he would like a comparison between the education in Zurich and that in Salford. There is free education in Zurich, but it is infinitely superior to the education we are offering in Salford. I remember when at the Education Department that it was with the 208 greatest possible difficulty that we raised the half-time standard at Salford above number two. There is no more comparison between the education in Zurich and the education in Salford than between the sun at noonday and a farthing candle. I only wish the hon. Member for Salford would go through the Zurich schools and convince himself. The hon. Member then spoke of America, and he said the attendance there was 62 per cent. whereas in England it was 74 per cent. Yes; but he forgot to say that education in America, except in two or three cities, is not compulsory at all, and the attendance in rural districts is so small that it brings down the average enormously. But in Boston the average attendance is 94 per cent. What schools are best attended in England? The school that has the highest average attendance, and the poorest school in this Metropolis, is the Jews Free School. 3,400 children attend, children of the poorest parents, who hardly know a word of English, and speak in a patois the teachers can scarcely understand. What schools are the best attended in Scotland? The free schools of Edinburgh, where the average attendance is 95 per cent. while throughout the rest of Scotland it is 75 or 76 per cent. Surely that is some evidence of the effect of free education. What is the condition of things now in Scotland? I know that during my experience of the Education Department two things were going on side by side in Scotland—an increasing number of children were being brought into contact with pauperism, and children were passing out of the schools at an earlier age every year. Take the last Report of the Scotch Education Department and you find the same thing indicated, that there should be 100,000 more children on the register than there are. Look at the statistics of attendance at various ages and see how the numbers fell off as the children increase from seven years to 12 years, and you see there is a steady waste; and the disappearance of children from school at an early age is no doubt largely due to the higher fees as the children rise in standards. Now, the hon. Gentleman, among other statements, said that though according to the Constitution of Prussia education was free, it was not so in fact. It is quite true that under one Article 209 elementary education it is declared should be free; but then under another Article the application of this principle is left to the decision of the Local Authority. It is only within the last few years that it has been taken to by the authorities, and free education is now rapidly extending in Prussia. The hon. Member shakes his head, but I can assure him that is so. 12,000 children now enjoy free education in Berlin. I had the advantage of consulting the German Minister of Education, and I visited the schools with the permanent Secretary to the Education Department. I only wish we could see such schools in London. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the London School Board, to which I pay a high tribute, we have nothing to compare with the results of free education in Berlin. I conversed with the teachers, and I can assure hon. Members I did not make the visit with my mind made up; I took the part of the "devil's advocate," and said all I could say against the system in order to get the defence. The advantages, according to the teachers, were better attendance, less trouble in securing attendance, no difficulty about keeping accounts, no trouble to enforce payment, less expense of management, in fact, there was no comparison between the two systems—free education and fees. I do not see how, in the face of facts like these, the hon. Member can object to this extension of free education to Scotland. I was glad to hear the speeches from Scotch Conservative Members in favour of this principle. I once said in this House that if I could be born again I would be a Scotchman, and I am bound to say that the gifts of shrewdness and common sense with which Scotchmen are endowed encourage me in that view. The hon. Member for Salford finds an objection in the fact that the children of the clerks and artizans, if sent to school with the wretched outcasts from the streets, would of necessity contract vicious and dirty habits. Now, I can tell him my experience in Munich. There I called upon our Consul and learned what I could about the system of free education there. This Consul in Bavaria is well-known at the Foreign Office, a gentleman with the good English name of John Smith, who has married and 210 settled in Munich. I put the same objection as the hon. Member, when the Consul said his children were educated at the free school, and he said no distinction was made at the schools, the children of rich and poor meet together, and not more than 1 per cent of the population sent their children anywhere else than to the free schools. When I put the difficulty of children learning bad habits, bad manners, bad language, and contracting diseases, he said the middle classes, when they send their children to school, take care of all these things. We have no such difficulties here, he said. First, there is the notification of diseases required, and children are not allowed to attend school if there is any disease in their homes, and then there is a school society that looks after the children so that you cannot distinguish in the schools the rich from the poor. The system of self help prevails. All this is very astounding to an Englishman. I remember at Lucerne a Member of Parliament told me he sent his children to be educated at the free school, and in fact there was no support for a private teacher, I visited a high school for girls there, and I heard a professor giving such lessons in mathematics as I never heard before given in such a school, and I remarked to the teacher, "You have no poor children here." Then I was assured that I was mistaken, and I was told what great things these free schools had done for the country, how free education had made the rich and poor sympathize with each other; and it was mentioned that there were five poor children in the school for whom there was daily competition among the other scholars as to who should take them home to dinner. These are some of the advantages of the system. I see some Members opposite smile; but let me remind them that this was the practice in Scotland in the old time, a practice which I hope will come again. It is the true democratic system which teaches mutual respect between rich and poor. I cannot allow this statement of the hon. Gentleman to go forth uncontradicted—that free education has been tried throughout Europe and has failed; or that it has been tried in America and has failed. A reference to the Technical Education Commission Report, one of the best documents we 211 have on the subject, will show how successful the system has been in Switzerland. The hon. Member has not mentioned the experience of our English Colonies. In all our free colonies education is free. Throughout the whole of the English-speaking people of the world, except ourselves, there is free elementary education. On the Continent we have it in Switzerland, in France, in Italy, parts of Bavaria, Austria, and the greater part of Germany. I cannot doubt that what the Government are doing to-day is one of the best things they have done since they have held office. I believe it will prove a blessing in Scotland and will help Scotchmen to maintain their high position, and I am quite sure that when once this has been conceded to Scotland, England will not have long to wait for a similar advantage.
§ * SIR E. HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
This is indeed a very small sub-section, but it contains very much. The proposal it includes is like the genie who was confined in the small box which the fisherman who found it could carry in his hand, but who, when the seal was removed, sprang up to gigantic dimensions and overspread the whole country. Yet, Scotch Members have the audacity to tell us English Members that this is no concern of ours. Why, we have infinitely more concern in it than they have, for the effect of this measure will extend far indeed beyond the kingdom of Scotland. It means this, and only this—free education throughout Scotland, so far as the gum in question will admit of—a sum which has been so largely augmented during the present sitting by the unfortunate concessions of the Government. And this being the case, everybody knows that this is the first step towards what all must admit to be the wide and debatable land of free education. Then there have been endeavours to persuade the House by a kind of hocus-pocus that this sum is a free gift and will not fall as a burden upon any part of the community. But it is evident that if a 212 County Council applies part of its funds to an absolutely new purpose, it can only be at the expense of some other purpose. If the Councils received these revenues without restriction they could not apply them to the payment of school fees; they must devote them to other local purposes. These other purposes must now be provided for, and the only way in which County Councils can provide for them is by means of rates. Thus, we see, not only that the burden will fall on the community, but on what part of it it will fall. The children of part of the people will be educated at the expense of another part—and that other part will be the ratepayers. This will mean too often that the children of the idle and the dissolute will be a charge upon the industrious and the frugal. And if this measure is adopted for Scotland, does anybody think it can be withheld from England? It cannot be withheld, and we shall see the whole country committed—to what extent we know not—to what cannot but be called a revolutionary and Communistic policy, in which nobody will educate his own children, and everybody will educate the children of somebody else. And if this state of things is indeed approaching, it is a coming event which casts dark shadows before it—the shadows of a time when the unfortunate ratepayer will take his place beside the unfortunate landholder as the proper object of legislative plunder. If the Government really means to introduce the subject of free education, is this the way to do it? Is it fitting to place this great, this momentous, subject before the country in the corner of a Bill to which the Government itself dares not attach its real character? Let us hope that the Government will be persuaded to find a wise remedy for an unwise measure. I would suggest that as it has already postponed other sub-sections of the clause in deference to hon. Members opposite, that all may be considered together, so it might postpone this also for the same purpose.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I have great respect for the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and no one on this side, I am sure, will grudge them this opportunity of expressing their views on questions 213 which will affect their constituencies. As for myself, in 1885 I expressed myself in favour of free education, declaring, however, that it should be effected by the Imperial Parliament out of the Imperial purse. I still hold that opinion; but, at the same time, it has come about that the Government are willing to concede free education in another way, and the responsibility for the concession resting with the Government I have no objection to receiving it. At the same time, as representing the ratepayers, I must point out that this money is given in relief of local taxation as a just contribution of personalty, and is just as much the property of the ratepayers as the amount given to England and Ireland is the property of the ratepayers in those countries. It is no use for the Government to try to make out that it is open to them to devote the money to this or that purpose. They have dealt with it on the footing that it is at their disposal for purposes of free education. I might turn round and say that that is unfair to the ratepayer; but I look on it altogether as a temporary expedient, as far as the ratepayers are concerned. It is impossible to overlook the fact that the moment free education is conceded to Scotland, it will be agitated for in England, and that in the future at elections we shall find candidates pledging themselves to support a measure for free education. The result will be that you will require to face the question in England. Now, how can you do that? You have given this money to the ratepayers in England, and they will not allow themselves to be saddled with the burden of free education, as the ratepayers of Scotland have done. The ratepayers of England will refuse to allow themselves to be taxed for the support of denominational schools. You will, therefore, be obliged to pay for free education in England out of the Imperial purse, and when you do that you will be obliged to give the ratepayers of Scotland their just rights, which they are now being denuded of. For this reason I look 214 upon the present process as a temporary arrangement to be followed by a system of free education all over the country at the expense of the State. As the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in his place, I will call his attention to the fact that the proposal of his Budget was that this grant in aid was to be made as a just contribution of personalty to local taxation; but that, as a matter of fact the contribution from the Probate Duty is now being handed over to the Local Authorities in relief of school fees. What, I would ask, has become of all the right hon. Gentleman's grand principles?
§ * THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not think that the Government have a right to complain of the length to which the Debate has gone, because it must be admitted that it has travelled over a very important phase of the education question; and when I hear my hon. and gallant Friend complain of the action of the Government in this matter, I can only regret that he was not in the House to give expression to his opinions at a time when such expression might have been most important. The right hon. Member for Sheffield has given a long and very interesting, and if, without offence, I may say so, a somewhat autobiographical discourse on free education, which he began by telling my hon. Friend that as usual the Tory Party had given up their traditions, and that if my hon. Friend sat much longer in the House he must accustom himself to such surrenders. Whether, however, these strictures are right or wrong, they come very oddly from a right hon. Gentleman who, by his own admission, always opposed free education while he was Education Minister. Among the autobiographical incidents he gave us was one to the effect that he had constantly had to defend the existing system through five or six years, because he had to deal with an economical Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was, I believe, a Scotch Member—the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. 215 Childers.) I do not know how far the principle of the solidarity of the Government is admitted in these days; but I have never before heard one Member of the Administration get up and say that he was prevented from carrying out his convictions by one of his own Colleagues.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I said nothing of the kind. I said just the reverse. What I stated was, that during my whole career at the Education Department the idea was slowly growing up in my mind that free education was inevitable.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not recollect the right hon. Gentleman making that remark. I have no doubt he made it, if he says he did; but, at all events, he spoke of having defended his policy at that time against the advocates of free education, and of having had behind him an economical Chancellor of the Exchequer. I now leave the question of the right hon. Gentleman's consistency and turn to the question whether Her Majesty's Government have changed their opinions, which is the material point. The whole burden of the interesting and able speech of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) was that the Government had conceded the principle of free education for Scotland; and my hon. Friend and Relative, the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. G. Balfour), said that free education had been floated in surreptitiously on the wave of a Local Government Bill. Now, Sir, I frankly admit that if the Government had really done what they are accused of having done, if they had accepted the principle of free education for Scotland on the spur of the moment, in the course of a discussion in Committee upon a Local Government Bill, they would have given just cause of complaint to a large portion of the Conservative Party, who have over and over again stated that they object on principle to free education. But I do not admit that the Government 216 have done this. It must be observed that there are two main objections to free education. An educational objection and a rating objection. As regards the first we have to ask ourselves how free education will affect school attendance, a question, not of principle, but a question to be determined by the educational ideas and feelings of each community. The hon. Members for Leeds and Salford do not sufficiently consider the traditional desire of the whole Scotch population for education. There may be countries in which education will not be promoted by being given for nothing; but I do not think Scotland is one of them. I believe that the ingrained love of the Scotch people for education will protect it against that danger. The only result of making education easy will be that more Scotch parents will take advantage of it. As regards the second objection, the hon. Member for Salford argues that the Committee are asked to commit themselves to a large and indefinite expenditure which cannot be limited to primary schools, but must be extended to secondary schools. But I would point out to my hon. Friend that the Government are not committing themselves to a principle which will require indefinite expenditure in the future, but they are giving a specific sum, allocated out of the Imperial Exchequer, for Scotch purposes. The hon. Member expresses his strong dislike to acknowledging any abstract metaphysical right in a parent to have his children educated for nothing. Of course, I admit there is no such right; no man has a right to say that he chooses to have a large family, and because he has one the State or the locality must bear the cost of their education. That is a principle not accepted by Her Majesty's Government, nor, I believe, by the greater number of those who sit on the Ministerial side of the House. I absolutely deny that we are opening up a vista of indefinite expenditure; and those who say so misunderstand the proposed concession of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The general result of what has been done is that whereas we originally said we would give £170,000 towards lessening or abolishing school fees, we now give £220,000. But we 217 have not promised to give more than the £220,000. We have only promised to give that amount of money under an arrangement which, to the best of our ability, will go in the direction of relieving the poorer classes from the payment of school fees. I maintain that this concession is not giving free education. To give a particular sum, previously allocated to the relief of local taxation, to the diminution of the cost of education is in no sense committing the Government to free education in Scotland or in England. No doubt the original plan was to give this money in relief of rates; but the ratepayers of Scotland themselves, as far as we had any power of guaging their opinions, said they would rather it was given to aid education. We accepted that, and the original plan has been modified still further in the same direction by expressions of opinion from Scotch Members on both sides of the House. But the original intention remains unimpaired. It was always intended to give this money to the relief of Scotchmen in the manner most agreeable to Scotchmen; and the manner which proved to be most agreeable was that it should be given in aid of schools. We, however, do not commit ourselves to any increase of the sum in case it should prove inadequate, as it may prove inadequate to free all the compulsory standards. We commit ourselves to no general proposition that a deficiency, if deficiency there be, shall be filled up either from the Imperial Exchequer or the local rates. We acknowledge no right on the part of parents to get their children educated for nothing. And that being the case, I absolutely deny that in any sense we have committed ourselves to the principle of free education. I thought it necessary to make these remarks, because the whole of this debate appears to have turned upon what we regard as a total misconception of the policy of the Government, and it was absolutely necessary that some Member of the Government should correct that false impression.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I think the right hon. Gentleman has stated the case in a very fair manner, and has recalled the Committee to the 218 tone in which this question ought to have been discussed. I am quite sure that every member who is present to-day will draw a lesson of hope as regards the future. They will see how very quietly and pleasantly a great controversy can be settled in a single evening after causing much bad blood for a long period of time. It appears to me to be very unfair to taunt the Government with having given way, and especially for hon. Gentlemen to do so, who, if they had attended the Debates in this House on Scotch affairs as they have very freely attended the Divisions, must have noticed that what has happened to-night has not seriously changed the situation which has been confronting the House of Commons for a month. The Lord Advocate stated in the most complete and frank manner on the introduction of the Bill that the Government were prepared to accede to what was the all but unanimous voice of Scotland, as represented by its Members, on the question of devoting Scotland's share of the Probate Duty in the main to free education. The history of this question is the most remarkable I ever remember. One hon. Member, as far as I know, has the entire credit of what has been done. He canvassed his colleagues and through them canvassed the Scotch nation, and the Scotch nation decided in a day in favour of free education. The Government have now conceded to the wish of almost the united body of Scotch Members, and are going to devote the major part of this money to free education. Well, what has happened tonight? What has happened to-night is that we have had a bit of Home Rule. The Government acting as a Government have yielded to the wish of the Scottish nation. I am not going to draw any extensive lesson from that; and I may say I am not sure that because Scotland is ripe for free education, free education in England is a thing of to-morrow. I do not think it necessary to argue that point. What we are proud of is that as a 219 Parliament we have got free education for Scotland to-day. The only point on which I differ from the right hon. Gentleman is that he has put such limits on what we are doing for Scotland in the course of this Session. He says that only the limited sum named is to be given for free education in Scotland. We have already got £225,000, and when we come to Clause 23, relating to the Probate Duty, we shall seek to get the whole of that Duty, and to obtain such an increase of the grant as will cover all the compulsory standards of elementary education, with the exception possibly of a few thousands of pounds which, now that free education is once conceded, it is quite plain Parliament must find in some way or another. It appears to me that this is a very good night's work, and I think we should only spoil it by trying to make it a matter of Party triumph. We admit that the Government have treated us well, but we deserve to be treated well, for we have done a great work for Scotland in the past, and I now congratulate the House on the prospects of the future.
§ MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock)
I think we are all greatly indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) for his valuable contribution to this discussion on free education, and I do not think that the remarks of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Sir E. Hamley) detracted one iota from the force and weight of that speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant spoke of the speech of my right hon. Friend as an autobiographical speech; but to my mind autobiographical speeches giving the results of personal experiences and investigations are often the best speeches we can have on matters of practical administration. The proposals of her Majesty's Government in favour of free education have been discussed by hon. Members opposite on the ground of principle, but since the introduction of the Bill up to this very evening, not a single note of dissent has been heard from those on the benches opposite in regard to these proposals on 220 the score of principle. It is too late now for a determined opposition on that ground, and I sincerely hope that the English Members, who may be opposed to free education for their own country, will, at least as regards Scotland, allow the wishes of the Scotch Members, supported as they are to a large extent by the Government, to be carried into effect. Scotland wants free education, as far as that education is compulsory, and we think the wishes of the Scottish people ought not to be thwarted by the English Members, many of whom in persistently voting against the views put forward by the Scotch Members, have probably done so contrary to their own better feeling and sense of what is right. I would urge upon hon. Members opposite that it will be most unwise on their part to continue their opposition to this proposal, because by so doing they will be tending to convert the whole of the Scottish people into a band of Home Rulers, a result which, viewed as a matter of principle, would be far worse for them than the contemplation of that free education which is so much wanted in Scotland.
§ * SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcestershire, Evesham)
I feel bound to state my own position as an English Conservative upon this question—a position which is largely shared by my colleagues on these benches. The Government have been kind enough to explain that the tendency of this clause is not really towards free education in Scotland; but the question is, how is the matter understood by hon. Members opposite, especially by the Scotch Members, and a certain portion of the English Members, who agree with them? I have carefully listened to all that has been said during this debate, and I understand that this clause does, in the estimation of hon. Members opposite, amount to a recognition by Her Majesty's Government, and by this House, of the principle that it is good for those who are not absolutely poor to have their children educated at the public expense without the 221 payment of any fee whatever. That is a principle against which we Conservative Members have persistently protested. I myself have made repeated declarations against free education to my constituents during my election, and those declarations I have renewed at meetings which I have since attended; and I must add that, when I made those declarations, I believed I was speaking and acting up to the principles of that great Party to which I am proud to belong. There is no more loyal Party man on this side of the House than I am; nevertheless, when I come to choose between Party allegiance on the one hand and my own declarations on the other, I am bound to stand to my declarations. I ask my Parliamentary comrades to take warning from what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield to-night. He is a great educational authority, and he has distinctly told us to-night that the future policy of the Party opposite is to be the introduction of this principle of free education into England. Then I would remind the Government not only on my own part, but I venture to think I may also speak for hon. Members around me, that when this wedge which has been inserted on behalf of Scotland comes to be applied to England we intend to resist it. The principle of most of us on this side of the House is that of principiis obsta. Let us, on this occasion, register our protest against the policy embodied in this clause, so that, hereafter, we may derive what moral force that protest may give us when the case is brought nearer home. If we do that then we shall have a chance for success in the coming contest, if it shall ever come. But if we flinch now we shall deservedly lose any chance which we might otherwise have.
§ * MR. W. P. SINCLAIR
I have no fault to find with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) except so far as he claimed the result of to-night's proceedings as "a bit of Home Rule." I venture to say he misdescribed our proceedings in that allusion, and that what 222 is being done is rather a bit of anticipatory Local Government. We have now, I hope, obtained a hold, not altogether on free education, but to the extent of free education in the compulsory standards. But my object in rising was to call attention to the position of Scotland in regard to the present expenses of education. In answer to a question put by me on the 24th of last month, the Lord Advocate gave approximate figures as to the cost of education in each of the five compulsory standards, the result being that for infants the sum expended was £37,000; in Standard I., £38,000; in Standard II., £42,000; in Standard III., £50,000; in Standard IV., £66,000; and in Standard V., £48,000—the total amounts being £281,000, a sum which the Lord Advocate considered to be over the mark, giving it approximately at £265,000. The net result of what has been done is that we have carried out the Government plan of making the first three standards free, and we only now want a sum of £22,000 to clear all the compulsory standards. That will be but a small amount to take from the rates, supposing we do not get it from the National Exchequer; and I am sure the people of Scotland will not grudge such a sum in return for the great advantage of freeing the whole of the compulsory standards.
§ * MR. H. DAVENPORT (Leek)
It will be remembered that at the Election of 1885 an authorized programme, published in the Times, of September 18, 1885, was issued to the Liberal Party, and in a paragraph relating to gratuitous education the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) put forward all the standing arguments against free education. The right hon. Gentleman stated that anything which cost nothing was not valued by the recipients, and that the State ought not to do for an individual or a class what they ought to do for themselves, that the action of the State was not to be preferred to that of the great religious communities—that free education was incompatible with definite religious 223 teaching, and would lower the character of the teaching in elementary schools.
MR. A. L. BROWN (Hawick)
The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) has spoken, among other things, about what he terms "human strata" and the damage that might result from these human strata being mixed up in one school. He also spoke of the working class as thriftless and improvident. I should rather like to see the hon. Gentleman go down to Salford and address the working men there, face to face, in the language he has employed with regard to them here to-night. He has also stated that we are guilty of a misnomer when we talk of free education; and of course we admit that though the poorer class may not directly pay school fees they do not altogether escape the incidence of those fees, because they pay their share in the contributions they make towards the Imperial Exchequer. But the hon. Gentleman went on to say it was the aim of the working man to shift the burdens of his class on to the shoulders of another class—an assertion he would find it very difficult to prove. The working class know very well that what is called free education cannot be absolutely free, and the position they take is this, "You compel us to send our children to school, and punish us if we do not pay the school fees. This is a tax upon us quite as much as the poors' rate. It is no longer a private duty on our part to send our children to school; it is a State duty, and all we ask is that instead of having to pay the whole of the education tax when the children are young, let us have it spread over the course of our lives." I greatly regret to hear anyone say that free education is calculated to sap the independence of the working man, and I deny the assertion. The working man, in asking for free education, is simply asking Parliament, which has the control of the Exchequer, to extend the tax he will have to pay that it may be less onerous than if it were payable within a limited period.
§ DR. CAMERON
Having listened with great interest to this debate, I feel myself very much in the position of the American poet, who said:Do I sleep, do I dream, do I wander in doubt;Or is our civilization a failure and the cable paid out?I find not only on this side of the House is there unanimous support to the proposal contained in this clause; but we also find that we have with us hon. Gentlemen who, eight years ago, would as soon have thought of countenancing Disestablishment as free education. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant has said that the Government do not go for the principle of free education; and I wish to emphasize his utterance on that point, coming, as it does, after what has been said by the President of the Local Government Board, and outside this House by the Marquess of Lothian, as showing the necessity for maintaining a guarded attitude in this matter. I regret that the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield to-night was not made as far back as 1881, for had it been made then we should long ago have had free education in Scotland. I have looked up the Debate which took place in that year, and I confess to a feeling of astonishment at the ingenuity now displayed by the right hon. Gentleman. He has argued to-night that if fees were abolished, we should have increased attendance; but in 1881 he said the constant complaint was that of absenteeism, and that where compulsion had produced the most regular attendance was in North Germany, Saxony, and Wurtemburg, where the fees were paid regularly and had been so paid from time immemorial. Although at that time the right hon. Gentleman was opposed to free education, he showed that he was, to a certain extent, endowed with the gift of prophecy, for he said he would not assert that the time would not come when they would have free education in Scotland. The cruellest cut of all, however, as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, occurred with regard to the Heriot Schools, which 225 at the time were giving free education to some 6,000 children. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill for the revision of educational endowments, under which the Heriot Free Schools were put an end to altogether. My right hon. Friend stated that if he were to be born again he would be born a Scotchman. Well, since the year 1881 he has been born a Scotchman, in spirit, if not in flesh; and I sincerely congratulate him on the great advance he has made since the period I have referred to.
§ SIR A. ORR-EWING (Dumbarton)
I am quite sure that the Scotch Members generally will thank the Government for the course they have taken in regard to this question, and I am perfectly certain they will never have cause to regret it. I do not think, however, that the hon. Member for the Hawick burghs (Mr. A. L. Brown) fairly represented the feeling of the Scotch Members when he put it that by compelling the working man to send his children to school they were imposing a heavy burden on him. It is my belief that the people of Scotland have a far higher appreciation of the value of education than that, and that they are proud to be able to educate their children in a manner fitting them for the positions they have to fill in after life. I should not have supported this measure had it not been that Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Schools are placed on exactly the same terms. If schools in England are all put on an equal footing, I take it that the people of England will not refuse to accept a similar measure.
§ * MR. MARK STEWART
As one of the few Scotch Members on this side of the House who issued an election address in 1885 which expressed an opinion in favour of free education, I wish to say that I am heartily glad that the Government have taken the action they have done to-night. The question must be looked at from a practical point of view. In the case of poor parents at present it is almost impossible to get convictions for non-attendance at school in Scotland, except in particularly bad cases. I hope 226 that the educational provisions of this Bill will give a great impetus to higher education; and, again, I say I heartily congratulate the Government on having followed the principle they have laid down in their Bill
§ * SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
I desire, as an English Member, to point out to the Committee that the application of public money in the direction of free education which has been proposed by Her Majesty's Government, is in accordance with the unanimous opinion of the Scotch Members in this House. When the hon. Member for Glasgow and other hon. Members opposite twit Conservative Members with a change of opinion on the question of free education, I reply to them that it is simply owing to their own fallacious use of the term "free education," for the proposals of the Government are strictly limited, in the first place, to Scotland, and, in the second place, to a certain fixed contribution. They are also limited to the compulsory standards; and, further than this, care has been taken that no injury shall be done to denominational schools; as the proposals of the Government insure that no injury shall be done to denominational schools. Again, I hold that these proposals take away that which is distinctly a blot on our present educational system; I refer to the necessity that is now imposed on the poorest parents, who cannot afford to pay the pence for their children's education, of going to the Guardians of the Poor in order to obtain relief. They are compelled to send their children to school, and at the same time they are compelled to pauperize themselves by going to the Guardians. This, I think, should not be the case; and therefore I most heartily support the proposals of the Government.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 52.—(Div. List, No. 197.)
§ * MR. W. P. SINCLAIR
The effect of my Amendment would have been, assuming that the amount at the disposal of the authorities for the relief of the payment of fees was not sufficient to cover all the compulsory standards, 227 that the money should have been devoted to the relief of rates in the higher rather than the lower standards. But the Government have already conceded so much to Scottish feeling and sentiment that I confidently trust that they will be found of the same mind on the Report stage as they are at present. Under the circumstances, I will accept the assurance of the Lord Advocate that he will consider this point before the Report stage, and therefore do not propose to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ MR.J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I may remark that the question may or may not become important, accordingly as the Government decide on other points.
§ DR. CAMERON
I do not think that anything would be gained by proceeding with the next Amendment which stands on the Paper, and I therefore beg to move to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress, to sit tomorrow.