§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [23rd May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
* MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I propose to ask the attention of the House to one of the questions raised in this Bill—namely, the provisions which deal with the application of the Probate Duty to free education in Scotland. The House will remember the position in which we stand in reference to that question. Five days before the prorogation in December last, a Bill was introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the distribution of the Probate Duty in Scotland. We took objection to that Bill on the ground that it applied the money in Scotland, as has been done in England, to the reduction of rates, whereas we held that a more worthy and proper object was the reduction of school fees. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion gave three pledges to the Scotch 957 Members—first, that he would confine the Bill to the 31st March, 1889; that pledge has been kept. The second was that he would introduce his proposals in the Local Government Bill; that pledge has been redeemed also. The third pledge was that the Government and the House should remain entirely uncommitted to the principles of the Act then passed by the House. It was agreed on all sides to waive any criticism on the Bill at that time, on the distinct understanding that neither the Government nor the House were to be pledged as to the distribution of the money. That pledge has only been partially redeemed, and I propose to offer to Her Majesty's Government some considerations which may induce them to redeem that pledge in a full and satisfactory manner, I will not trouble the House at any length upon the question of free education, for the reason that in Scotland there exists an all but unanimous opinion in favour of free education, and the only obstacle to its adoption is the reluctance of the people to throw the cost upon the rates, because half the rates are paid by the owners of property, who will hardly obtain any advantage from its adoption. There is an opinion prevalent that the state of education in Scotland is highly satisfactory. I regret to say that is not the fact, because the figures given to us by the Government show there is an educational destitution of a serious character. There are 833,000 children of school age, and of these only 622,000 are on the register of any public elementary school. Only 75 per cent of the children of school age are on the register, while the average attendance is only 58. It is true that even with these deficiencies Scotland is slightly ahead of England, but the difference is only a small one, and measures are required to remove the educational destitution that now exists. I believe that the existence of excessive fees prevents children from being sent to school, and also prevents the School Boards from stringently using their compulsory powers, and thereby compelling parents to go in forma pauperis to the Parish Authorities. A bright side of the matter is the efficiency of the teachers in Scotland. This cannot be more clearly brought out than by comparing, the average earnings per head, and these in Scotland are 958 18s. 4d. as against 17s. in England. That results in the very substantial gain to Scotland of £34,000 a year more than is gained by England for the relief of the rates. The best schools are those of the Free Church, which make 2[...]s. 1¼d. a child; next came the Board Schools, 18s. 5d., then the Roman Catholics with 16s. 7½d., and then the Episcopalians 16s. 3½d. It is a remarkable fact that in Scotland the Episcopalians Schools are 3s. 10d. behind the Free Church Schools, and in England the Church of England Schools earn only 16s. 7¼d. as compared with 17s. 5d. earned by the children at the English Board schools. Not only is it satisfactory to find the earnings are so high, but they have been increasing, and still continued to grow. During the last fifteen years they have grown from 9s. 2d. to 18s. In the first triennial period the Government grant was 9s. 2d., in the second 14s. 8d., in the. third 16s. 9d., in the fourth 17s. 5d., and in the last 18s. Thus there has been a continual growth. That is a satisfactory circumstance. I believe the Government is able, if it chooses, to abolish school fees, not only in respect to the first three standards, but for the higher also in all schools in Scotland. The Government are in a position to do this for four years, on the assumption that there is no increase in the Imperial grant over that of 1886–7. The total fees that have to be paid in the current year amounted to £310,000, of which. £290,000 will be paid by the parents, and £20,000 by the Parochial Boards. That can be met very easily. The Government had at their command £557,000 from the Probate Duties and from licenses. The grants in 1886–7 amounted to £287,000. That leaves a balance of £270,000. If the Government adhere to the basis of the grant of 1886–87 they will have at least £260,000 of that £270,000 that they might apply to free education. Supposing they postpone the abolition of fees until 1st January, 1890, three-quarters of the financial year would give them a sum of £190,000 in hand, and that would suffice to pay all the fees for four years There are some grounds on which the House should press the Government to devote the whole share of the Probate Duties to fees. For instance, they are adopting only a half 959 measure, in allocating the entire sum neither to rates nor to the abolition of fees. In doing this they will give satisfaction neither to the ratepayers nor to those who pay fees. They should take the whole of the money for one purpose or the other. One reason why the fees should have a preferential claim on any money coming from the Probate Duty is to be found in the educational condition of Scotland, as it existed from the Reformation till 1872, during which period the land was liable to contribute towards the maintenance of the parish scholars. The real argument against the scheme of the Government, however, is this: that by applying this money for the rates they produce a result which is absolutely inappreciable to nine-tenths of the population. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Government devote £100,000 to the relief of the poor rate in Aberdeen, the proportion in that city being very much the same as in other Scottish towns. By giving £100,000 to the poor rate, out of a total of 22,000 ratepayers, 7,700 will get an average benefit of 1½d. per annum; 9,900 will get an average benefit of 3¾d. per annum; 3,470 will get 7d.; 1,200 will get 1s. 4d.; 360 will get 2s. 10d.; and 38 will get a little more. When, therefore, they place such a result as this in competition with the abolition of school fees, the proposal of the Government appeared to be absolutely ridiculous. What is the result of abolishing school fees? To a man, say with three children, the benefit of abolishing fees is £1 19s. a year, whereas under the scheme of relieving the local rates a benefit of only 1½d. would be obtained. I think also there are grave objections to stopping relief at the Third Standard, and great inconvenience must arise from it. If we have to make a choice, I think that, from an educational point of view, we should remove the fees from the higher rather than the lower standards. One of the traditions of Scotland is that parents have always made great sacrifices in order to give their children as good an education as they possibly can, That is a noble tradition, and there is nothing more prejudicial to its maintenance than lowering the recognized standards as it is now proposed to do. Selfish parents would take advantage of the arrangement and keep their children in the lower standards instead of 960 urging them on to the higher. The Government scheme certainly gives an interest to keep children back—it gives a motive and direct incentive to retard their educational progress. How is the scheme going to affect the School Boards? In the last 15 years the amount of Government grant has doubled. To a large extent it has been earned by the higher standards, and if, under this scheme children are taken away from these standards, School Boards may actually in the end lose more money by the diminution of the grant than they would by paying the fees out of the rates. There is one duty to be thrown on the School Boards, to which I take great objection. The Parochial Boards are no longer to pay the fees of children whose parents are unable to pay, but when the children reach the Fourth Standard it will be necessary to make some provision for the children who formerly received their fees from the Parochial Boards. That is to be done by the School Board. They are to hold an inquisition and select the children whom they will educate without fee. I do not envy them the discharge of that duty; it is casting upon them a difficult and inviduous task that it will be impossible for them to discharge with universal satisfaction. It is casting on them a duty they might well be spared As to the position of the poorer children, it is estimated that £155,000 would be required for the three standards. For the present that might be enough, but it is very doubtful whether in the near future it will be sufficient, for it was possible the School Boards may not be so stringent and exacting as the Parochial Boards. That leads me to mention a fact of a most alarming and instructive character in regard to education. It is this, that during recent years there has been an enormous and rapid growth of the sums paid by the Parochial Boards, and a large increase in the number of pauper children. During the last 12 years the average attendance of children at the Board Schools has increased by 3 per cent per annum That is satisfactory, because the natural increase of the population has been only 1 per cent, and it shows that we are overtaking our educational destitution. But while the annual increase in average attendance 961 has been 3 per cent, the increase in the number of pauper children has been 11 per cent. Between 1874–76 the average amount paid was £3,801, and the number of children 10,114; in 1886–88 the amount was £17,198, and the number of children 31,437. That melancholy fact is explained by the growing amount of the fees and diminution of the self-respect of the parents. Contact with the Parochial Board is not a salutary education. I think there is only one reason that would justify the Government stopping short at the three standards, and that is that they have not the money to go further. How does it stand? The Government can easily pay the whole fees if they adopt the plan I have suggested, and make no new grants. They have since 1887 introduced new grants to the extent of £85,000. £20,000 of that went to the Parochial Boards. That in itself is about one of the most unobjectionable grants that can be devised, but it is nearly equal to the sum paid by the Parochial Boards to the School Boards in respect to pauper children. If the Parochial Boards were relieved of the payment of the £20,000 it might well be said that they should not get the grant from the Imperial Exchequer. The next grant was that of £30,000 for the Highlands, which is one of about the most monstrous kind that could be suggested, but it has gone down because "Highlands" and "grant" seem to some minds to naturally go together. I complain strongly of the Government that up to the present time when they are asking the House to assent to the Second Reading of this Bill, they have withheld all detailed inquiries with respect to the distribution of this £30,000. My hon. Friend the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. Caldwell) induced the Government to agree to a Return, but I imagine the figures will not be in our hands for some weeks yet—until we have concluded the discussion upon this Bill. It is, therefore, difficult to indicate with precision how the £30,000 has been disposed. £2,721 has been given to the Scotch Education Department, who have given it to the schools in the Highlands. It has been given as a bribe to weak-kneed School Boards to hand over the control of education to the Government Inspector, and 962 to substitute the Government Inspector for the School Board. The School Board are to appoint a Committee of two persons to act with Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools. It is, however, provided that if there is any difference of opinion between the Inspector and the other two members of the Committee, the opinions of the majority is not to prevail, but the question is to be referred to the Education Department. In the next place, £22,000 is to be given for the relief of the poor rates. What I complain of is that the Government do not give us the figures to enable us to understand who are the persons who are going to get this money. I am left to make a conjecture, and the conjecture I make is based upon the four parishes which are mentioned in the Crofter Commissioners' Report, and which are supposed to be typical of the parishes in the Highlands, and I find that of the £22,000, £11,000 goes at one fell swoop into the pockets of the landlords, £5,250 goes, in the first instance, to the large sheep farmers, but of course when the leases expire this sum also goes to the landlords, and £2,000 goes to the shooting and fishing tenants in the first place, but ultimately, of course, to the landlords. Of £22,000, therefore, you are giving £18,250 to the landlords directly or indirectly. The remainder goes to the crofters. The reductions of rents by the Crofter Commissioners in the two years of work amount to £7,342. It will be admitted under these circumstances that the Government are doing very well for their landlord friends in the Highlands. I ask what ground can there be for the landlords in the Highlands coming in an eleemosynary fashion, begging alms in the respect of money which belongs to the whole of the Scottish people. I know of no claim which either the shooting tenants or the landlords or the big farmers have except that they are a perpetual source of disturbance in the Highlands, and a considerable cause of disorder and confusion. I invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider the position they will be in when they have to face their constituents at a General Election. You have not abolished the school fees for the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Standards. Why? Because you want the money to make a gift to the landlords in the Highlands. So much for 963 the grant to the Highlands. The next grant which the Government propose to give is upwards of £34,000 to the roads, £30,000 to the counties, and £4,000 to the burghs. It is a remarkable fact that although we have had two speeches from the Government Bench, we have not heard a single argument in favour of the grant to the roads. The road grant was originally introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), and 1882–3 was the first year it appeared in the Local Taxation Return. The concession which was made by the right hon. Gentleman was a concession, at all events, to necessity if not to conviction. A Motion had been carried by Sir Massey Lopes in favour of a Government grant to local rates, and I daresay that if he had been willing to do so the right hon. Gentleman was not strong enough to resist the cry of the rural landlord for a subsidy from the State. If we were to do justice to the people of Scotland we would take that £34,000 and give it in aid of education. It is most important if you propose new grants to consider how the existing Imperial grants stands in relation to owners and occupiers and to the distinction between burghs and counties. If you have any Imperial grants at all they ought to be distributed impartially between owners and occupiers, counties or burghs. We find a remarkable contrast. In the counties substantially the whole of the rates are paid by the owners of property; in the burghs nearly the whole of the rates are paid by occupiers. What is the proportion of the Government grants to the counties respectively? 39 per cent to the counties and 7 per cent to the burghs. The figures are these:—County rates paid by owners, £156,000, by occupiers £7,000, and Government grant £68,188; burgh rates paid by landlords, £183,000, by occupiers, £1,165,000, and Government grants, £93,000. So that you have a proportion of 7 per cent in the burghs as against a proportion of 39 per cent in the counties. Therefore, at the present moment the counties have actually 4½ times more than their fair share of Imperial grants. It is the same with regard to the police. 48 per cent of the entire cost of the police in the counties is paid by the Government grant as against 964 40 per cent in the burghs, although the ratable value in the counties is much higher than the ratable value in the burghs. The same disproportion is observable with regard to the roads. You give nearly £31,000 to the counties and only £3,400 to the burghs. The proportion of the Government grant in respect to the roads in 1886–7 was, in in the counties 9 per cent and in the burghs 2.5 per cent, so that the counties, got almost four times as much in proportion as the burghs. But that is not by any means the worst of it, because I am omitting the expense of the streets, which are to the burghs precisely what the roads are to the counties. When you take the streets into account you find that the proportion of assistance given to the burghs for the maintenance of the roads is 73 per cent, whereas in the counties it is 9 per cent. In other words, it is 13 times as much in the counties as in the burghs. I venture to think that even the Government, when they come to look at the thing, will hesitate before they ask the House to adopt such a strange distribution of the money. I wish to touch upon the question of what are erroneously called the denominational schools. The distinction in Scotland is not between denominational schools and undenominational schools, but between schools under popularly-elected Boards and schools under private management. With some exceptions, I think all the Board Schools are denominational. On the other hand, some of the schools which have private managers are undenominational. I mention the distinction because, probably, it does not exist in England, and it is important to bear in mind, that we are not dealing with the question of denominational education at all, but with the contrast between those schools which are controlled by the public and those which are controlled by private individuals. There is another marked distinction between the schools in England and those in Scotland. In Scotland 82½ per cent of the children attend the Board Schools, and only 17½ per cent are to be found in other schools. In England the proportion of children in Board Schools is only 36½ per cent. The schools not under School Boards in Scotland may be divided into three classes—namely, schools which are increasing in number, schools which are 965 stationary in number, and schools which are diminishing in number, and being constantly transferred to the School Boards. The last class—the excellent schools, the best schools in Scotland—belong to the Established Church, the Free Church, and to the class called undenominational. A marked feature about this excellent class of schools is that the process of transferring them to the School Boards has been going on spontaneously and uninterruptedly for the last fifteen years. In 1874 there were 883 schools of this character under private control, and this year there are 300, and the proportion of these schools to Board Schools, which was 65 per cent in 1874, is now only 11 per cent. These are the crack schools of Scotland, but they are characterized by high fees, and would, therefore, receive very little benefitfrom the scheme of Her Majesty's Government. I will just refer to the case of the Free Church Schools to show that the amount of the voluntary contributions in Scotland has diminished both absolutely and relatively—absolutely from £40,000 to £29,000 in 15 years, and relatively in this way, that the proportion of the income of the schools derived from voluntary contributions is every year getting smaller and smaller. The Free Church Schools are an extreme example of this tendency. In the Free Church Schools only four per cent of the entire cost of education is obtained by voluntary contributions. Another important fact is that during the 15 years there has been a continued tendency to increase the fees, and both in the voluntary schools and the Board Schools the whole energy of the managers has been directed towards the increase of the Government grant, so that in the one case they may spare the rates and the other spare the voluntary contributions. Thus, while the fees have increased steadily during these years, the voluntary contributions have diminished every year at the rate of 2.8 per annum. This has been a constant decrease. These are some of the reasons why I think that by the end of four years the schools may have been entirely transferred to the School Boards. The reason why I fix on the term of four years is not because I suggest that it would be right to pay denominational schools for four years and not right to pay them afterwards, but because, in the peculiar circumstances 966 in which Scotland stands at the present time, you have influences at work which are gradually solving the question of voluntary schools without any assistance from Parliament. Then comes the question of the Episcopalian and the Roman Catholic Schools. There are some reasons why we may hope that even these schools may ultimately be brought under the control of the ratepayers. Though the voluntary subscriptions are diminishing in these cases, still those subscriptions form a considerable amount of the incomes of the schools. These schools are less efficient than the ordinary schools, and their average attendance is not so high, whilst the teachers have lower salaries. Under these circumstances, I think these schools will be pressed on the one hand by the competition of the Board Schools and Free Schools, and on the other by the burden of the voluntary subscriptions and by the want of efficiency. There can be no question that if these schools were transferred to the School Boards they would become as efficient as the Board Schools are at the present time—that is to say, their efficiency would increase by 12 per cent. The Episcopalian Schools are stationary in number, and the Roman Catholic Schools have doubled in 15 years. Let me inquire into the reason for this. I find that out of the total number of children attending the Roman Catholic Schools no less than 21 per cent pay no fees whatever—that is to say, that the Roman Catholic schools are actually competing with the Protestant Schools at the present time by offering 21 per cent of their accomodation free of charge to the poor children Fourteen per cent of the remaining fees are paid by the Parochial Boards, and it is a most remarkable fact that the Roman Catholic Schools display a marvellous skill, in the first place, in inducing the Parochial Boards to pay for so many of the children, and in the second place in inducing them to pay more for the poor children than is paid for the children whose fees are provided by the parents. It is a most remarkable fact that while the Roman Catholics in Scotland obtained 12s. 5d. per child from the Parochial Boards, the School Board only got 10s. 8d. for the same class of children, notwithstanding the fact that whilst the School 967 Boards charge parents an average of 13s. 11d., the Roman Catholics charge parents only 10s. 8d.—a difference of more than 3s. Therefore, while in the Board Schools the children whose fees are paid by the Parochial Boards may be regarded as almost the paupers of the Schools, in the Roman Catholic Schools the children whose fees are so paid may be looked upon as the aristocracy of the schools. There is another fact still more extraordinary, and that is that in the rapid growth of the sums paid by the Parochial Board, the Roman Catholics have more than the fair share. While the amount paid to the ordinary schools has only doubled, it has in the case of the Roman Catholics trebled, so that we have come to this, that no less than 35 per cent of the fees paid in the Catholic Schools are paid by the parochial funds or out of voluntary subscriptions. It is remarkable that with an inferior class of schools and an inferior average attendance, the Roman Catholic Schools do as well as they do. Under all these disadvantages they actually earn a trifle more per head from the Government grant than the Church of England Schools in England. Now, I think it is important that the Government should have fully before them the financial effects of their proposals, and the reasons that induce us to press upon them that they should give the whole of this grant for free education. Public opinion is not only generally, but strongly in favour of the application to fees of all the money the Government may fairly apply. I think the Government may take their stand upon the Imperial grants of 1886–7, and taking their stand on that they are in a position to abolish fees for four years. Then, at the end of that period what is to happen? I do not fear to face the question. In the first place, I apprehend by increased attendance and by other causes earnings from the Government grant will be much larger than they are at the present moment; but if at the end of four years they are not quite equal to the amount of fees, then let the balance be made up from the rates. £50,000 a year is only a farthing in the £, and thus a £10 occupation would only mean twopence halfpenny in the £ a year; therefore the increase of the school rate, if it were required—and I am not certain that it would be required—would be so small 968 that it is not worth taking into account; and I am perfectly sure that if the Scotch people have known the advantages of free education for four years, they are not to part with it or scruple to take the necessary balance from a school rate. I am sorry to have detained the House so long, and am grateful for the indulgence shown me. I trust the Government will deal with us in the amicable spirit in which we have dealt with them. I have not used language of a threatening or an intimidatory character. I have appealed entirely to facts that are known, that are, at all events, within the knowledge of the Government, and I trust they will be able to give way as to the three higher standards as for the three lower, and the Government may rest assured they will not suffer in popular estimation in Scotland by so doing.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIF, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
No one, I am sure, can complain of the way in which the hon. Gentleman has dealt with this question, which we all know he has much at heart, in the speech delivered to-day; and although he apologized for the length of his speech, I do not think we have any grounds for complaint, looking at the large number of points he had to allude to. It is, of course, very satisfactory to the House to know from the opening sentences of the hon. Gentleman's speech that the condition of education in Scotland is of so satisfactory a character; and for myself, as a Scotchman, I take pride in the knowledge that we have no reason to fear comparison in this respect with our neighbours in England or elsewhere. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman is that the whole of the available money over and above the grants for the year 1886–7 should be devisable for educational purposes, rather than that it should be limited to the amount of £171,000, such as we propose to appropriate to that purpose. I was rather anxious for the hon. Gentleman to come to the point at which he was to explain at once how he would deal with the question when he comes to the end of the first four years, for he started by asserting that even if we took the whole of the money it would not be available under present circumstances for a longer period than four years. At the end of his 969 speech the hon. Gentleman explained—and broadly, I may say, his explanation amounted to this—that he expected that at the end of four years voluntary schools would probably be abolished.
I drew a distinction between the Established Church and the Free Church denominations which might possibly be transferred, and the Episcopalian and Roman Catholic Schools, of which I am not sanguine.
§ MR. RITCHIE
No; I expect the hon. Gentleman in his reference to Roman Catholic Schools was influenced by political considerations somewhat. I can understand the difficulty he would have been in had he attempted to advocate the abolition of Roman Catholic Schools. But I do not care whether they are Roman Catholic Schools or other schools so far as I am concerned. I should regard any system which would abolish denominational education with a very considerable amount of regret. I do not imagine that the general bulk of the community would regard with satisfaction any system which would put an end to the voluntary system of education. Certainly so far as we in England are concerned, I should regard such a consummation with apprehension and alarm. Passing away from that particular question, I will endeavour to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. I am sure he will not expect, nor will the House expect, that I should enter into the great mass of detail he entered into, and which from his point of view he was justified in doing, for it is clear to me that if we are to make progress with the debate at this stage, we must apply ourselves generally to large principles not devoting an undue amount of time to minute particulars more properly to be dealt with at another stage. The speech of the hon. Gentleman advocated in the strongest possible form the principle of free education, and I will only say at once that is not the point of view from which the Government regard what has been done in reference to their proposal. As the House knows our original proposal was to allocate the whole of the balance to the relief of the ratepayers, following in that respect the method we have pursued in reference to England. Now, it is well known that for years past there has been a great cry in all parts of England as to the burden of local rates, 970 and as to the fact that the great bulk of the burden rested upon the shoulders of a particular kind of property owners. Every year the demand has been raised, and I think with the assent of the great majority of the people, that the rates should be supplemented by contributions from personal property, and that was the principle we followed in reference to the grants made in England. We allocated a certain sum of money, all derivable from personal property, in aid of local rates, and thus yielded to the demand made in England for many years. We felt that the proper course in dealing with a similar condition of things in reference to Scotland was to follow the precedent we had set in England. It was well known, in regard to our proposals of last year, we were following the general wish in allocating the whole balance which might arise to the aid of local rates; but we cannot disguise from ourselves that the feeling which has undoubtedly been great in England with reference to relief from local taxation, and to the sources from which it should come, does not exist to anything like the same extent in Scotland, and, while we felt, and still think, that the proposal originally made was perfectly sound and justifiable, we could not, and did not, feel ourselves able to resist the demand made upon us—and not from one part of the House only—by Members representing Scotch constituencies, that it would be more acceptable that whatever balance should exist should go to the relief of school fees, and so from that point of view we have dealt with the money, not because we wish to propose any great scheme of free education, but because we are driven to the criticism which is forced upon us, that the Scottish people prefer to have the balance go to school fees rather than to the relief of the local rates. But I am not at all sure whether a feeling such as that which exists towards a sum of money which has never been in the pockets of the ratepayers at all, which is, as it were, something newly discovered, would also exist in reference to a large sum to be taken out of the ratepayers' pockets. It is one thing to allocate a new gift with the assent of the ratepayers, but it is another thing to take away a large sum pre 971 viously enjoyed and applied by the ratepayers to the relief of their local rates. I view with apprehension the growth of the practice of children going to the Parochial Board for relief from school fees, while I am glad to think that, so far as the proposals we have made are concerned, the taint of having to make application to Parochial Boards for relief will be altogether removed. It is a mode of dealing with the question with which nobody is satisfied, and it is a matter of great satisfaction to us that the Bill provides the means by which this contamination, as it has been called, will cease. The hon. Gentleman gave figures by which he showed that the amount of relief for fees had trebled in 14 years, but the honourable Gentleman must not suppose that anything like the number of children who now go to the Parochial Board will go to the school managers for relief for fees, for I am sure he knows perfectly well that the enormous majority of children who go to the Parochial Boards for relief fees are above the Third Standard. When it is remembered that in the ordinary Board School about two-thirds of the children are below the Third Standard, it will be seen that even taking the average number of children in the schools as a criterion, not more than a third of those who go to the Parochial Board will have to go to the school manager and demand the inquiry which the hon. Member deprecates into their ability to pay or not to pay. But even this one-third is considerably more than are likely to go under ordinary circumstances, because no doubt the great majority of these children are in the poorer schools; but at any rate this is undoubted, that out of this large number of 31,000, which the hon. Member says now go to the Parochial Boards, certainly not more than 10,000 will go under the circumstances of the Bill, and in all probability not nearly so many. The hon. Gentleman, in telling us how this money should be found, deals first with the item of £30,000 for the Highlands, and a good deal was said about this yesterday. I do not think any hon. or right hon. Gentleman advocated the abolition of this grant altogether; but what they did advocate was that, instead of it coming from Scottish money, it should come from Imperial money; that if the need is shown in these Highland 972 districts, and that need arises from poverty, then relief should come from the Imperial Exchequer, not from the local funds of Scotland, and this, I find, receives assent in this quarter of the House as well as that. But I think there is a strong argument why this money should come from local, not Imperial funds. It will be seen, when the House is in possession of how the different counties will be affected by the giving up to them of the Licensing Duties, that while, as a whole, there will be a gain of £28,000—the hon. Gentleman said, I think, that the licenses would equal the grant, but that is not quite so —it will be seen, taking Scotland as a whole, that while the great majority of counties will gain rateably, at the same time some of the counties, instead of gaining, will absolutely lose by the substitution, because the licenses collected in these particular counties are not proportionately so large as the licenses collected in an ordinary county, and it will be found that these are the very counties which participated in the grant of £30,000 to the Highlands. This giving of £30,000 will be putting these counties in the same relative position as the other counties will be in. If that be true, surely it is a strong argument that the £30,000 should come out of the common purse for Scotland, that purse being made up by amounts for distribution in lieu of grants to the Scottish people. I do not see how the philanthropic views of hon. Gentlemen can meet that argument and claim that this £30,000 should come from the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunter) went on to criticize one or two items in this £30,000 severely, and one of these was the grant in aid of education, which he stated—and there he departed, I think, from the general tone of his observations—was given to weak-kneed School Boards in order to secure Government control, and also in relief of the poor rate. But I think he must be aware of the fact that the schools were in a hopeless state of insolvency. I am not going to enter into the question of how it arose. Perhaps it might be shown, and I think there is good reason for thinking it could be shown, that it was mainly in consequence of the extravagance of the School Boards themselves. However it may be, it looked as if the 973 cause of education had come to hopeless ruin, and the Government thought to prevent such a catastrophe it was desirable to give a grant, and, of course, with that they were bound to take care the money was properly administered. Now, so far as the landlords are concerned, no doubt—looking at the fact that the landlords, owing to the hopeless condition of these particular districts, had the weight of the rates—as the hon. Gentleman must be perfectly well aware, the condition of the landlords in some of these Highland parishes was deplorable in the extreme. Speaking in February last year my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland made this statement—The rates in the parish of Lochs, supposing them to be paid, would be 11s. 6d. in the £ on the present rents, including the shooting rents. If they abolished the latter the rates would rise to 21s. in the £; and if they were, in addition, to destroy every farm above £30 rental, the rates would rise from 11s. 6d. to about 24s.That is à propos of what the hon. Gentleman said in reference to the shooting rents. Therefore, whether regarded from the point of view of the rates or relief of the burden thrown by the poverty of the district on the landlords, or in reference to the shooting, I maintain my case is absolutely unanswerable. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say that if we are only to give the money which we are now giving for the relief of school fees, then he would rather begin at the top of the standards than at the bottom. Well, that is not our view. It is the poorer class of poor parents who would feel the relief most, and it is among the children of this class that there is the greatest difficulty of. securing school attendance. If we were to adopt the theory of the hon. Gentleman and apply the grant to the higher standards, there would be no relief to the poorer class, who most need it. Another item the hon. Gentleman desired to lay hold of was the £34,000 for roads. I do not propose to go into all the various items he criticized, but with reference to this I maintain what I said at the commencement of my observations. We do not think we should be justified in dipping into the ratepayers' pockets and advocating for other purposes sums which have gone to the relief of their local burdens. The hon. 974 Gentleman suggests that we should take the £34,000 from roads for education, and he draws attention to the amount of difference in the relief to burghs and to counties so far as the grant is concerned. I am prepared to admit that the relief to counties is larger than the relief to burghs, and so it has always been in England. There are many towns in England that for years past have not derived any benefit at all from the grants given for road relief, but it has been recognized in England, and I cannot for the life of me see how it can possibly be denied; that the great roads through the country are as much for the convenience of the towns as for that of the country districts.
* MR. HUNTER
The streets of a town are as much for the benefit of the surrounding country as for that of the inhabitants of the town.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I do not admit that at all. If you take the ratepaying farmer in the country, and estimate what his liabilities are in connection with roads, you will find that what he has to pay is infinitely more onerous than the payments of the ratepayers in town, even taking into account all the streets of the town. But this is not the time to pursue these details. As every point the hon. Gentleman has raised against our proposals was put forward in favour of free education, we have endeavoured to fairly allocate the balance at our disposal, allowing the ratepayers to retain the relief they have always received. We do not feel it is possible for us to go further. And now I must allude to some of the speeches made last evening. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling, while on the whole he was inclined rather favourably to criticize the main proposals of the Government, somewhat unnecessarily endeavoured to minimize he general effect of the Bill. I must say I was astonished at the capacity he evinced for legislation when he complained that along with the four Bills the House is called upon to deal with, we have not submitted the Burgh Police Bill with its hundreds of clauses.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Yes, but the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself as disappointed because we had not pro 975 duced that Bill. The broad principle of our Bill is that we transfer the government of the counties from representatives of property to representatives of all classes of the ratepayers. That of itself is a sufficiently great change to deserve the commendation and approval of the right hon. Gentleman, but I find, looking to the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Members opposite, that that is not at all sufficient for their purposes. They are not satisfied with that. They want the government of counties transferred, not from one class of ratepayers to another, but from the ratepayers to non-ratepayers. ["No, no."] I would like to understand this. The right hon. Member for Berwickshire told us that three-fourths of his constituents were service voters.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The increase, of which the right hon. Member says three-fourths are service voters, is very much larger than the original number. Therefore, looking at the rapid increase to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, we can very easily find out when the service voters will be in a majority, if that moment has not yet arrived. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that that period has already arrived. The proposal with reference to the service voters is that they should be empowered to deal with the ratepayers' money, they themselves not being in any shape or form liable to the rates. I should like to know how it is possible for the service voters to feel the rise and fall of the rates. After all, the great test, as far as the administration of the rates is concerned, is whether those who have to administer the affairs for which the rates are necessarily liable feel the rise or fall which may be attributable to any step they may consider it necessary to take. I do not know that it is altogether impossible, if the landlords desire that the service voters should be admitted to the franchise, for them to make arrangements which would secure that end. I think it may very well be that, if the landlord is to be relieved of the greater portion of the rate, he should add something to the service voters' wages to enable the service voter to undertake the increased liability. In 976 that case the service voter would feel the rise and fall of taxation, and that is absolutely necessary if you are going to entrust him with the power of making rates. Great objection has been taken to the constitution of the Standing Committee, which is to administer the affairs of the police and to have a voice in capital expenditure. I think the question of the police may be divided into the two subjects of expenditure and the maintenance of law and order. With reference to the expenditure, it must be remembered that the whole cost of the police in the county falls upon the owners. That being so, it does not seem to be a very extraordinary thing that we should provide that one-half of the new body that is to control the expenditure should be composed of those who pay the whole of the rate. The question has been asked, "Why not, as you do in the burghs, give the control of the police to popularly elected bodies?" It is quite true that in the burghs the Town Councils, which have the control of the police, represent the occupiers. But, then, the whole control of the police in burghs is borne by the occupiers. With regard to the question of law and order, I am not myself disposed to regard with equanimity the handing over of the discharge of law and order from a body that has for years done its work well to an entirely new body, constituted in an entirely different way. Here, again, I do not think the analogy of the burghs holds good. In the burghs you have a small and homogeneous body that has been for years past accustomed to the administration of justice, and in the counties you have a widely-scattered population held together by no such bonds as the population in the burghs, and which has not been accustomed to deal with questions of this kind. So that, whether you regard the question from the point of view of the maintenance of law and order, or from the point of view of expenditure, I say that the proposal to transfer the control of the police from the owners to a body composed half of owners and half of occupiers, is a broad and liberal proposal, and I am bound to say that from that proposal we cannot recede. I know my right hon. Friend opposite strongly objects to the Sheriff being Chairman of the Committee. My right hon. Friend 977 knows, however, that the Sheriff is at present by Statute a Member of the County Police Committee, and, further, that he is the officer who is responsible for law and order in the county, and that he has the control of the police. We did not think it an unnatural thing that a gentleman occupying that position by Statute should also preside over the Police Committee. I do not suppose, however, that this is a matter of the greatest importance. Now, Sir, I do not propose to go into the mass of detailed criticism brought before the House yesterday, because I regard most of the points raised as matters for discussion in Committee. Having dealt with the three main objections raised against our scheme, I revert to what I said at the beginning of my remarks. The Bill we have introduced is one of a far-reaching character, and although the powers we propose to transfer may not be as great as some hon. Members desire, what we have to do with is the constitution of a body that will undertake the powers which it is thought ought to be transferred. It was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) that there was no enthusiasm about the Bill in Scotland. But perhaps the enthusiasm which would be created by the adoption of his suggestions in one part of the community would be counterbalanced by a very different feeling in another part of the community. The Government do not think it militates against their proposals because they are not received with enthusiasm. We have dealt plainly and in a straightforward manner with the whole subject, and have endeavoured to keep out the sensational element altogether. We have been particularly anxious not to overload the Bill unnecessarily by introducing such questions as that of licensing, which would have raised much discussion and difference of opinion, and might have very seriously imperilled the passing of the measure. The Bill is founded on a broad and popular basis, and, as such, the Government believe it will find acceptance at the hands of the Scottish people.
* MR. J. B. BALFOUR (Clackmannan, &c.)
In dealing with the first of his three points, it appeared to me that the right hon. Gentleman, who has just sat down, transgressed the canon 978 laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs, and accepted on his own side of the House by the Secretary for Ireland that the question should be viewed from a Scottish and not from an English standpoint. At least three times in the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with education, told the House that the genesis of the allocation of the grant was an English precedent. He said, in the first place, that a certain amount of dissatisfaction had been felt in England at the pressure upon the ratepayers, and, following that precedent, that it had been at first proposed in Scotland to make an allocation that would relieve the Scotch ratepayers in a manner analogous to that in which the English ratepayers had been relieved; but finding that Scotch opinion had a different destination for the money, the Government now proposed so to allocate it to education by way of concession to that opinion. What the Lord Advocate laid down as to this matter appeared to me to be a much safer standard and guide. He said that in England the pressure of taxation was felt by a particular class of persons, and that an analogous pressure was not felt in Scotland, but that another burden was severely felt there, to wit, the education rate, and that where the shoe pinched the relief would be given, though the grievances of the two countries differed. I think that a sound canon to apply. We do not complain of having got so much as we have—we are glad of it; but what the hon. Member for Aberdeen contended for, and what, I think, is a sound contention, was, that the same principle should be carried a little further, because, as it happens, it stops short of the more important point and leaves a large part of the existing grievance with fresh difficulties and grounds of complaint not present before. It was on that question that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen was based. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has not met the points raised by the hon. Member in his admirable speech, which, I trust, will appear in a form which will enable the statistics contained in it to be readily referred to in Scotland hereafter. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if other requirements were to be first satis 979 fied, and only the unallocated balance was to go to education. I venture to think it would be more sound, still applying the same canon, to give relief in the first place in those directions where it is most required, and to apply the balance, if any balance remains, to the other purposes mentioned. The figures seemed to show that, without going to the rates at all for free education, the application of the total grant, with some handling, by no means difficult, would, for a measurable number of years, practically give free education, This plan would not be open to the objection of merely dealing incidentally and accidentally with the appropriation of the grant towards freeing education, but would carry out consistently and completely the principle which has been largely conceded on this point. The Chief Secretary for Ireland said last night that there were £171,000 available under the proposal of the Government for school purposes, but £155,000 of that, I think he said, would be needed to cover the first three standards, which would leave £16,000 available for freeing the other standards as far as it would go, but very far short of freeing them entirely. There was one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech with which I agree, though I draw from it a different conclusion from that which he founded upon it. He said, and said truly, that in Scotland it has been felt a misfortune that it should be necessary to go to the Parochial Boards for the purpose of asking them who should have free education. The right hon. Gentleman used in connection with this the word "taint"—a phrase not uncommonly applied, as it is felt by many of the industrious poor that to go to the Parochial Board for relief from school fees, infers a contact with pauperism. I agree with him in that. But the plan by which, under the Bills, certain free places are to be provided in the standards above the third will throw upon the School Boards a new function for which they were not brought into existence and for which they are not well adapted. Under the present system, it is the duty of the Parochial Board, for their own purposes, to wit, the administration of the Poor Law, to inform themselves of the circumstances of parents and to make that information available for deciding who 980 shall get relief from school rates. Under the proposal explained by the Chief Secretary, a precisely analogous function is to be thrown on the School Boards, and they are to say who shall be the recipients of the free places and who shall not. How is the School Board to get that information? Is it to go to the Parochial Board? Or is the School Board to set up a machinery to inquire into the circumstances and ability of parents to pay for their children in the higher standards? The balance of this money—the £16,000—would go a long way towards obviating this difficulty. Moreover, I object to the plan on the ground that it would give a kind of Parliamentary sanction to the notion that the Third Standard is high enough. If the State provides money for education, why should it stop short at the Third Standard? Surely the fact of its stopping there would have the effect of injuring the higher standards by inducing parents to keep their children in those standards which are paid for, instead of stimulating them to rise to those which are not paid for. I say nothing more on that head. I should now like to make a few general remarks upon these Bills as we have them before us, indicating the lines on which it appears to me they should be amended—for it seems to me the duty of all hon. Members, to endeavour to render the scheme as perfect as possible. Now it appears to me that if the County Council is to be an elective body, it should be altogether elective, and the duties with which it should be entrusted should comprehend the management of all local, as distinguished from national or Imperial, affairs. If there is to be Local Government, let it be Local Government. Instead of having one broad, simple, and popular electoral body, what is the net result of the proposals contained in these Bills—I mean, of course, in the three? These Bills relate to Local Government. There will be three electorates, three local bodies, and a considerable number of persons who will not be elected at all. The three electorates are—first, the Parliamentary electorate, plus women not labouring under certain disabilities, but minus the service vote. This electorate is only to be entrusted with the election of a body exercising 981 exceedingly minor functions. The next electorate is a somewhat singular one—consisting in part of the Commissioners of Supply, who are to be kept alive to choose seven of themselves, and in part of the County Council, which also will choose seven of its members, so as to constitute a Joint Committee. That strikes me as being a very complex and curious kind of body. Then there is a third electorate, under the Parochial Boards Bill, which is to consist half of owners and half of occupiers—which is a very anomalous sort of body. I submit that it would be far better to allow the first electorate to be the sole electorate, and do away with these complex proposals of the Government. As I have said, there is to be a fourth class of functionaries, who are not to be elected at all. If the system is to be elective, it does seem strange that it should be permitted under Clause 10 that the Convener or Chairman of the County Council may not only be elected from among the County Councillors, but may also be chosen from among all the persons qualified for the office of County Councillor. This, of course, requires that he shall be a county voter, and therefore one who shall have a certain connection with the county; but I ask why, when you are dealing with a system of election, should you not go through with it consistently, and leave this body and all the other bodies to choose their own Chairman for themselves? What would you think if in any burgh, say in the Royal burghs, the Councillors were allowed to elect their Provosts from outside the municipal bodies? The Chairman is the chief person in the elected body, and one who, of all others, should have stood the test of public approval if he is intended to be a deliberative and voting member. If he had been merely a sort of assessor I could have seen some reason for the proposal, but this is not to be his position under these Bills. Surely it is driving a great wedge into the principle of election to say that even the most popularly constituted body may go outside to choose its chief. The hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. M. Stewart) gave instances in which he thought it would be hard if persons not elected to the Council were not eligible for the office of Convener, and he pointed out that there 982 might be someone who was too old to stand the work of a canvass, but whose experience might make it desirable that he should be chosen. If, however, a man is too old to stand the strain incidental to an election, he would also be too old for the work attaching to the office. I certainly think the Government would do well to strike out the last four or five words of the clause so as to leave the Convener to be chosen from the body of elected Councillors. The Convener of a county is at this moment chosen from the Commissioners of Supply, and it was never proposed that the Commissioners of Supply should go outside its own body. Reference has been made to the Parochial Boards Bill to show that in that case there is a larger latitude. The Chairman of the Parochial Board is to be elected "by the Parochial Board from among the Parish Councillors or other fit persons," which would seem to mean some one who need not have the qualification for election as a Parish Councillor. That is a very large proposal. I desire to say a few words as to what we on this side of the House regard as a grave defect in the definition of the electoral qualification—namely, that it excludes the holder of what is known as the service franchise. Now, this matter has assumed an entirely different position from that in which it would have stood prior to the Acts of 1884 and 1885. The service man has been admitted to the Parliamentary franchise, and in that capacity has the means of giving a mandate to persons whose duty it is to deal with matters of the utmost magnitude and importance. A great deal has been said about his not contributing to the rates; but that is merely the old argument that was adduced against every enlargement of the Parliamentary franchise. It was said, "If you divorce representation from property"—this argument being the foundation of the old property qualification—"you will allow men by their representatives to vote money which they do not contribute to provide." There have been many arguments of this sort urged, not only against the service franchise, but also against the lodger franchise. The lodger was the person upon whom this argument was last concentrated, and it was pointed out that if he neither 983 smoked tobacco nor drank Excisable liquors, he would not contribute either directly or indirectly towards the taxation of the country. Nevertheless, he was admitted to the franchise, no doubt upon the broad and clear principle that he was a citizen of the country, a man fulfilling all the duties of citizenship, one who was interested in the prosperity of the nation and who would share in that prosperity if it were rightly administered, or in its adversity if it were misgoverned. The view did not prevail that in dealing with a question of this kind you ought to strike a ledger balance between contribution to the taxes and the concession of the rights of citizenship. I do not say that this is absolutely identical with the case of local rating, but I ask is there any sufficient difference between the two cases to exclude the general principle to which I have referred? If so, what is it? Primâ facie, one would suppose that the considerations applicable to Imperial rates and to local rates are analogous, if not identical. It was alleged that if the working classes were allowed to be represented in Parliament they would be extravagant and would approve, or at least not object to a lavish expenditure of money to which they contribute only a very small share. But what has been the result? The contrary has proved the case. The experience we have had of the householders both in the towns and in the counties, as well as of the service men and the lodgers, proves that there has been no indication of anything like a tendency to extravagance on their part. We have seen that the more Members who are returned to this House as representatives of the working class constituencies, the more closely and vigilantly is attention directed to the Estimates, and the more strenuous are the efforts to enforce economy in the public expenditure. Why is it, then, that the service man is not to be allowed to vote in regard to matters concerning his own locality? Matters affecting sanitary condition of the locality, touching the health of himself and his family, and other similar matters are to be confided to the action of the County Council, and he has as direct an interets as anyone else in seeing that such affairs are rightly administered. I suppose the view of the Government must be that if 984 you give him a vote, he will be careless as to the expenditure of the rates to which he does not contribute and will bring ruin on the locality by sheer extravagance. But I would put it to the House is there any ground for this argument? Although he does not pay rates directly, he contributes to them indirectly; because if he paid rates directly he would receive more wages, and the landlord would make other and different arrangements with him; indeed, we find that in this very Bill such a case is pre-supposed, because it is provided that the service man shall be allowed to buy his vote by paying his proportion of the rates, and in that case there is to be a severance between the rate, in the first instance, laid on the property upon which he lives, as between the principal tenant and himself. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last—the President of the Local Government Board—said this was a matter concerning owners; but I say that it is not a matter concerning owners; the owner's position is fixed whether the service man is let in or not, and the division of the rate provided for is not between the owner and the service man, but between the occupier and the service man. It is not because of the ownership, but because of the occupation that this portion of the rate is imposed, and this, for good and sufficient reasons. I submit, then, that the exclusion of the service man is utterly indefensible, unless some exceedingly strong reason is put forward in its favour. Now that the service man has got the Parliamentary franchise, there will undoubtedly be a very sore feeling excited in his mind if he has not the analogous right conferred upon him of helping to choose the Council who are to have the management of his own local affairs. It appears to me that another grave objection to this proposal, is that it puts upon the person on whom the right is to be conferred the obligation of having virtually to pay for it. The aim of every recent electoral reform and every amendment of the, system of registration has been to make the system work automatically, and with much care directed to this end it has now been made to work very well indeed. My hon. Friends from Scotland know that we have 985 an admirable basis for making up the register, and that is the valuation roll, which contains, practically, all the information required for that purpose. When in 1884–85 we were framing the Bills extending the franchise to counties, and making the consequential alterations upon the registration laws, we provided that though there should be a Schedule having an entry of the houses occupied by service men, that they were not to be rated. Accordingly, the assessor in making up his list gets all the information he needed from the valuation roll. That will not be the case under this new system. From the point of view of the Government it must be provided that the money value of his house shall be placed against the name of the service man, which was not provided in the last Act.
* MR. J. B. BALFOUR
The assessor, however, in making up his list for County Councillors, has no valuation roll to work upon as regards service men. The service man has to claim, and the collector has to be provided with a number of forms of which, on application, he is to give one to the service man. So that instead of having an automatic system, no service man will be put upon the County Council Register who has not claimed. To give the service man a vote under such conditions is very much the same thing as not to give it to him at all; because very few would be sufficiently interested in the very limited powers conferred upon the County Councils to take the trouble of claiming. I altogether object to the principle of saying, "If you care to do certain things and make certain demands, you shall have a vote." Again, a possible danger from these conditions is, that they might be used towards the creation or non-creation of votes. A great employer of labour might—at all events, I do not see anything to prevent him—pay a wage intended to cover the rate, and you might in that case have the creation of a large number of votes; whereas another person might not wish that his servants should have votes, and might offer no facilities, in the matter of wages or otherwise, or might even put obstacles in the way of their obtaining them. It is a great pity that this exception of service men should 986 be made, and I hope, on re-consideration, the Government will see their way to strike it out, and thus at once enlarge and simplify the electoral body, I would like to know, further, how the domestic relations of the ladies are to be found out, because it does not appear from the valuation roll whether a married woman is living apart from her husband or not. But I have no doubt some provision will be made for that. I further desire to point out that under these Bills we shall have a very complex system of registration. There will be four registers for every locality—the Parliamentary register, the County Council register, the School Board register, and the Parish Council register. I do not know whether there will be a Commissioners of Supply register; but at all events, there will be four registers. As far as possible we should in this matter aim at simplicity, because simplicity means inexpensiveness, and if you multiply machinery you must multiply costs. That is what I have to say with regard to the larger County Council, and I hope the Government may see their way to obviate some of the objections stated. The next body is the Joint Standing Committee, and I certainly feel a very strong objection to the proposals with respect to it. The Commissioners of Supply stand upon the property qualification, and there has not hitherto been that remarkably nice weighing-out of power in proportion to taxation which is proposed by this Bill, because the Commissioners of Supply are all the owners of property in the county, but only those of over £100 annual value, and the eldest sons of owners, of £400, who have not yet come into possession, and, of course, pay no rates. All the proprietors under £100 would, under the system to be brought into operation by this Bill, as hitherto have no voice in the administration of the rates, while the eldest sons who have no property would continue to have a voice in that matter. What are the duties for which the Commissioners of Supply are thus proposed to be kept alive? To elect seven of their number to constitute, along with the seven elected by the County Councillors, the Trust Committee proposed to be created by the Bills. And what are the powers proposed to be confided to this somewhat anomalously constituted body? They are, 987 first, to deal with capital expenditure, and, secondly, with the police. Now, this principle of confining the power to dealing with capital expenditure to limited class, different from the general administrative body, is, so far as I know, unprecedented, except in the case of the Roads and Bridges Act. Therefore, it has neither the merit of antiquity nor of custom. The section of the Roads and Bridges Act to which I refer slipped through in 1878, and there may have been some considerations which justified it. There had been in times past enormous debts contracted by the land proprietors for the formation of roads. These debts were very burdensome, and I can quite understand that a special case might be made out in regard to the power of assessing the proprietors for their payment. But what I want to point out is this, that in so far as capital expenditure was provided for by the Roads and Bridges Act, it was to pay debts—that was the past capital expenditure; and it simply made the proper debtor pay his own debt. If you had introduced anybody else, you would have made one person pay the debt another person had already contracted. Accordingly, in that case, Parliament may have said—"We will deal with the matter of capital expenditure, past and future, in a broad way; we shall not divide the liability, and we will give the administration exclusively to the persons liable." But by the proposals of the Bills with respect to this Joint Committee, you really withdraw from the elective County Council that which is most valuable and most important. Such things as roads and bridges, water supply, and other matters most vitally affecting the health and life of the community are not to be confided to the County Council. The proposal practically is to give this Joint Committee power to stop the improvement of the country. If you disallow capital expenditure, except with their sanction and at their instance, it seems to me it would be quite possible to retard the development of the country and to prevent the sanitary arrangements, which are now so necessary, from being made. I wish to say a word about the capital expenditure in burghs. In the burghs you have got a popularly-elected body which deals with all such questions. The great peculiarity of this proposal is 988 that the truly elective Council is only to be allowed to maintain but not to extend or improve. There will not be one body which can take a general view of the question. That, I say, is a most serious defect. It is a defect which does not exist in the burgh administration. I am quite alive to the view upon which the proposal was founded—namely, that much of the capital expenditure in the counties is made by the proprietors, whereas, in the towns it is made chiefly by the occupiers. In burghs, I believe, about one-sixth of the rates are divided between the owner and the occupier, and five-sixths fall upon the occupier alone. But I never heard that because the owner and occupier divided some of the rates there ought to be separate administrative bodies with powers proportioned to the precise contribution of each. Then, again, there are some of the Commissioners of Supply who do not want to be kept alive. That is so in one of the counties which I have the honour to represent. I do not wonder that such a feeling should exist in the minds of the Commissioners of Supply seeing that it is a very poor duty, which they are to be kept alive to discharge, and they think that it is better to abolish them if you give them nothing better to do. In regard to the administration of the county rate, I will say a word as to what is called the stereotyping proposal. Undoubtedly, it is an important and difficult question how that rate should be dealt with. The proposal, I understand, is to fix as a guide for future payments the amount which has been paid on the average during the last five years. Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that it would be better not to stereotype anything, but to allow existing leases to run out, and then divide the charge between the owner and the occupier. I cannot say that, but it is clear to my mind that this would be just. Hitherto the county rate has generally been discharged upon the land, and a large part of it is the lineal descendant of what used to be called "rogue money." If a tax of this sort is stereotyped, whether the value of land goes up or down, the impost remains the same. If the land rises in value the generic contribution would not go up, and if the value of land goes down it will be the same; it would still be stereotyped at the same figure. The land tax 989 which in olden times bore a material proportion to the value of the land, does sot do so now, and the transference of a burden which has always formed a charge upon the ownership of land, from land to labour, would be open to objection. The question is, what proportion of the aggregate of local rates does the land pay now? Is it so large in proportion to other contributions that it might not well be thrown into the mass of a consolidated rate? If it were large, I could understand the proposal; but compared with the rates generally, it is very small. I have not been able to obtain the amount of the contribution last year. No local taxation Returns are as yet issued for a later date than 1886–87, and in that year the county rate levied by the Commissioners of Supply throughout Scotland amounted to £163,717. A very valuable Return was issued this morning which gives the rate per pound of each local charge in Scotland, but it does not specify the total amount of each. From another Return, however, it appears that the total amount of the rates levied with the poor rate down to August last year in the Scotch parishes and counties was £853,173, and in the burghs £521,411, making altogether £1,374,584. That example shows how enormous the rates generally are as compared with this particular contribution, and I submit for the consideration of the Government and of the House whether it is worth while to have the complexity of stereotyping for separate administration so relatively small an impost. Would it not be better to let it go into the consolidated rate? Then, in regard to the control of the police force, I say that unless some strong reason can be assigned there ought not to be a less power given to counties than is now, and have long been, possessed by burghs. The inhabitants of a rural district are as much interested in the protection of life and property within that district as are residents in a burgh. From time immemorial the burgesses themselves performed the police duty, "watch and ward," and when provision was made for the establishment of a regular police force, that force was placed under the charge of the elected members of the municipality. I entirely agree in what has been said of the Commissioners of Supply 990 that they have acted conscientiously and well as far as the matters with which they have had to deal are concerned, and the proposal now made does not arise from any dissatisfaction with them, but from a feeling that there is room for a much larger and wider administration, and that the field they covered was a very small one. As to the management of their police by the burghs, we have had a large experience. The County of Lanark has 262 police, besides ten extra men, making 272; but the City of Glasgow has 966, with 111 extra men, making a total of 1,077 police administered by a great democratic city, as against 272 administered by the county. Having that experience, what is there to lead to the conclusion that the County of Lanark could not by a popularly-elected Council administer its 272 police as well as the City of Glasgow does by its popularly-elected Council administer its force of 1,077 police? This is a very important matter, and I hardly think, after the speeches which have been made upon the question, that the Government will refuse to allow the County Councils to have the control of the police. Reference was made yesterday to some northern counties in which a spirit of lawlessness, which everyone must lament, had manifested itself. This is a subject which I admit deserves the most serious consideration. No one had graver or more constant anxiety than I had for some years when in office in regard to the condition of the localities referred to, and in any opinion I venture to express I fully recognize the character of the difficulty that may be supposed to exist there. But there are some points which I would ask the House to bear in mind in considering this matter. Unhappy as the disturbances among the crofters were, they did not occur among a population which can be described as criminal. No part of Scotland is more free from what may be called ordinary crime. It may, therefore, not be too much to express a hope that the causes which led to these disturbances were temporary in their nature; and it certainly would not be fair, on the experience of a short period of trouble in certain Highland counties, to found legislation which should be applicable to the whole of Scotland. I quite admit that this is a question 991 on which the special information in the possession of the Government places them in a better position to form an opinion than hon. Members who do not possess such information, but I may remind the House that the disturbances in question did not prevail over the whole of the counties in which they occurred, and I cannot say that anything came to my knowledge which would lead me to suppose that any Committee elected from a county, as a whole, would be adverse to the maintenance of the law, or desire that there should be any part of the county in which the Queen's writ would not run. But there is another consideration which I feel ought also to have great weight. If responsibility is thrown on a locality, the locality will respond to it; and I think, unless the Government possess some information leading them to suppose that there is a permanent spirit of insubordination and disregard for the law pervading the counties referred to so largely that the County Council, as a whole, would decline to enforce the law, they would do well to re-consider their decision on this point and endeavour to remove a grave inconvenience. It should also be borne in mind that there are various checks in the hands of the Government which would enable them to defeat any action on the part of County Councils in the direction of declining to provide such a police force as might be requisite for maintaining law and order. If, for instance, the Central Government found that insufficient provision has been made for these essential objects, they would have power to stop the Imperial contribution to the pay and clothing of the force. But if the Government, in the exercise of its responsibility, think that these considerations are inadequate, and that there are circumstances so exceptional in a particular locality as to induce them to believe that it would be unsafe to give the charge of the police to that locality, such an exceptional condition should be met by an exceptional remedy, but it would not constitute a good reason for placing the whole of the counties of Scotland under the like disability as regards the administration of their own police. As my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has pointed 992 out, if the people of Scotland are satisfied that the County Councils may be entrusted with the management of the police, that management and control ought to be placed in their hands. I therefore hope that the Government may reconsider the matter of police in order to see whether they cannot grant to the counties powers which have been exercised so long and with so much success by the towns. It would stimulate a proper amount of interest among the electors in the action of the Council, and would induce many persons possessing the requisite qualifications to come forward and stand as candidates The duties which by this Bill are not confided to the County Councils are, in the first place, education; secondly, lunacy; thirdly, the administration of the Poor Law; and lastly, the control of the capital expenditure. I do not think it can be disputed that the duties not confided to the popularly-elected body form by far the largest and most interesting portion of Local Government. A number of duties are enumerated in the Bill, but it appears to me that there is not so much substance in them as one would like to see; they are not of such a character as either to stimulate interest in the electors or induce them to come forward. The non-elective part of the Council has by far the largest portion of the duties connected with local administration. The bulk is saved to the non-elected, and but very little is given to the popularly-chosen body. The administration of the Contagious Diseases Act, although it is of importance in certain localities, is not a very stimulating and interesting duty for a popularly-elected body to discharge. Then, again, the Public Health Act would have been important if it had not been for the provision in regard to capital expenditure, which will make it impossible for the popular body to enter into any schemes for drainage, water supply, and road extension. The exceptions practically reduce the Council to the position of having to maintain things which other people are to provide. The only things really left to them uncontrolled are gas meters, explosive substances, weights and measures, habitual drunkards, wild fowls, and the registration of the rules of scientific societies—a somewhat hetero 993 genous mixture. While the general intention with which the Bill started was exceedingly good, it would have been better had the intention been kept up, and if the Government had seen their way, or can now see their way, to strike out the exceptions to which I have referred. I trust that on further consideration the Government will consent to extend a more generous confidence to the county population of Scotland. I had desired to say something on other matters, but I have taken up so much of the time of the House that I will refrain from doing so. I will only add, in conclusion, that I have pointed out what I conceive to be the defects of the Bill; not in any spirit of hostility, quite the reverse, but with a desire to see it extended to a sphere of greater and wider usefulness. It has been said that the powers of Councils might be afterwards enlarged; but it would be much better that the legislation in this important subject should not be merely provisional, but that from the first these popularly-elected bodies should have such powers as to make them strong, respected, and useful.
§ * MR. CRAIG SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness stated yesterday that, in his opinion, this is not a Second Reading debate, and I think that if he had been here to-day he would have admitted that the long speeches we have had have dealt with matters of detail rather than principle. Still, I think the House is greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Aberdeen for his speech and for the manner in which he has martialed his statistics. His speech, however, did not touch on the principle of the Bill; it was aimed at a single Sub-section of a single clause in one of the two Bills. Still, the speech will prove of value to us when we get into Committee on the Bill. Now, with regard to the principle of the Bill. I think we are practically agreed. There is no great divergence on either side of the House. Where we do differ is chiefly on matters of detail, and I therefore hope, when the Bill gets into Committee, the House will gain from the elaborate discussion on the Second Reading by the shortening of the debates in Committee and the consequent diminution of the labours of hon. Members. In con 994 sidering the Bill, I put to myself this question: I said, if it is to be satisfactory to the people of Scotland it should fulfil three requisites: first, it should be as popular or as democratic as the English Bill; secondly, that taxation and representation should go together throughout the Bill; and thirdly, that the machinery of the Bill should be of such an elastic character that if it does not now embrace various methods which are called Local Government in Scotland, it may in time be expanded so as to include them. Now, in my opinion, the Bill does sufficiently fulfil these conditions; but, in one or two particulars, not quite so fully as I should like. First, is the Bill as popular as the English one? We have heard a great deal from my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and from the Chief Secretary, to the effect that there should be no reference to the English Bill in this debate; that the latter Bill is an unclean thing which we in Scotland ought not to touch. I cannot agree with that. In origin and intention both the English and the Scotch Bills are identical. The origin of the English Bill was a desire to have a more democratic form of government in the counties. It was held that as the householders were the men who now returned Members to Parliament, as the householders in towns elected men to manage their Municipal affairs, so in counties the householders should have equal power in the management of their local business. Well, a precisely similar demand in Scotland has produced the Scotch Bills. Again, as to the intention of the two Bills being alike. The English Bill was intended to transfer the management of county business from an ex officio body to an elective and representative body. The same is the case in the Scotch Bill; precisely the same thing is proposed to be done—except in this, that, whereas in England there are Councillors selected by the Council, in Scotland there are no selected Councillors. But, Sir, in saying that, and in giving my entire agreement to the exclusion of selected Councillors, I am bound to say, that so far as I understand, the matter, selected Councillors have answered well in England; they have given a certain stability to the County Councils which otherwise they might not have had, because men of experience have been 995 chosen as the selected Councillors. Now, in a county in which I spend a good deal of my time, it happened that two Gentlemen equally experienced in county matters, men of the same Party and same complexion in politics, and both desirable candidates, stood for one division and ran a tie. The Returning Officer gave his vote in favour of one, and the first thing the County Council did was to elect the other one as an Alderman. The power of selection in that case was usefully exercised; still, notwithstanding that, I cannot regret its exclusion from the Scotch Bill. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), took exception to the fact, that four nominated or ex officio members are to be elected for the first County Council. My opinion is, that if we do not have selected Councillors, and if there is no way of having men of experience to manage county affairs, it is desirable to have at the start the four ex officio members whom the Government proposed. I should like to ask the Lord Advocate what is to be the numbers of the County Councillors in each county. I am aware that according to the Bill the Scotch Secretary is to decide the number, but I think it would be a matter of interest to the House and the people of Scotland to get some idea as to what the number in each county is to be. In my opinion it should be a large Council, because a large Council would represent a large body of public opinion, and there are many functions, independent of the administrations of the counties, which this large Council might discharge. When Scotch Bills are introduced into this House, it would be very desirable that they should be sent down to the large County Councils, who would be able to express a valuable opinion upon them. So much for the first requisite. The second requisite is that the principle of taxation and representation going together should be maintained in this Bill. I am surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs say that no doubt that principle had done good service in the past, but apparently he considered it is obsolete in the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire accepted the principle which he said has been won from the other side, but he added 996 that, in preference to such a principle, he went now for manhood and womanhood suffrage out and out.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
What I intended to say was that I considered that the suffrage on the part of man and woman at this moment rested upon the fact that the man and woman are citizens of this great Empire, and as such have a right to a voice in the management of its affairs.
§ * MR. CRAIG SELLAR
That is exactly what I said. It may be or may not be a sound view, but it does not appear to me that, even upon this great principle of humanity, we should throw over the principle of taxation and representation going together—which undoubtedly is a good and sound principle. I consider that this principle is violated in the proposal which stereotypes the contribution hitherto paid by the Commissioners of Supply. The objects of that contribution, the average of which for five years is to be stereotyped, are to meet the daily and continuous expenses of the county and to form a Sinking Fund to pay off the debt which has been incurred by the Commissioners of Supply. It may be right enough to stereotype contribution for the first of these objects, but it cannot be right to stereotype the second. In the County of Lanark the contributions to be stereotyped amounted to something like £27,000 a year, of which £17,000 is contributed for the daily and continuous expenses connected with the county, and £10,000 towards the Sinking Fund, in order to pay off a debt which is rapidly diminishing, and in a few years may disappear altogether. Assuming that the debt does disappear altogether, it surely is not fair that it should be stereotyped and continued for ever. There is another matter which requires consideration. In certain of the northern counties within the last five years, there have been incurred expenses of an exceptional character, and it is scarcely fair that these exceptional years should be taken in calculating the average to be stereotyped. Ten years, or some other period, should rather be adopted. As a matter of fact, however, it would be better to get rid of this stereotyped contribution altogether. Another violation of the principle of taxation and representation going together is the treatment of the 997 service franchise holders. I regard as sound the contention that the rates are practically paid by the service franchise holders, and that if the ploughman did not receive £40 and a free house, he would receive £45 or £50 as wages. I believe that, as a rule, the owner would pay the rate for the service franchise holder. If that rate were ten shillings—half paid by owner, half by occupier—the owner would increase the wages of the serviceman by five shillings to meet his portion of the rate. If that were so, is it really worth while to go through all this elaborate process to take 5s. out of one pocket to put it into another? I consider the service franchise holders as the cream of the electorate in many counties, and I should be exceedingly sorry that they should be prevented from exercising the franchise in the election of County Councillors. So much for the second requisite. Now as to the third. In my opinion, the scheme of the Government is sufficiently elastic to enable further functions, in course of time, to be entrusted to the new bodies. And now, Sir, I come to the question of the duties to be performed by the new County Councils. I have heard no reasons yet why the work now done by the School Boards, the Parochial Boards, the management of the roads and bridges, and all sanitary matter, should not be undertaken by one County Council. I am glad to think the Lord Advocate contemplates extending the powers of the Council. Of course, these bodies must creep before they can walk, and walk before they can run, and it might be a dangerous thing to put too many duties on them at once. These new duties will come in time, and the scheme will expand to meet them. Now, I consider it most important that the principle of free education has been conceded. I know that this proposal has in a sense been sprung upon us, but I think that, in spite of some defects, the scheme is as good as any likely to be proposed. The difficulty is that we have only £171,000 to deal with. I should have liked if we had had money enough to make a clean sweep and have free education entirely, and I hope if there are any other sources from which money can be got for the purpose that a clean sweep will be made. I wish to consider the matter now in reference to the £171,000. How is that to be disposed 998 of? The money is to be paid to the Education Department, which will hand, it over to the School Boards or school managers, who are to provide free education for children attending certain, schools. £155,000 is to be expended in this way, and as the cost per week per child is 2d., the number of children provided for is about 446,000. If that be so, a difficulty arises. The bulk of the fees at present are over 2d. The latest return shows that 23 per cent of the children pay 2d. and below 3d., 26 per cent pay 3d. and less than 4d., and 25 per cent pay 4d. and less than 6d. That is a difficulty to which I think the Government should give its attention. A great deal has been said about pauperizing children by compelling them to apply to the Parochial Board, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has told us that the Parochial Board is to be altogether eliminated. Are we to understand that the School Board is now to take the place of the Parochial Board, and is the School Board to make inquiries with regard to the ability or inability of the parents to pay fees, because, if so, the School Board must simply go to the Parochial Board, for there is no other means of getting the information? That is a difficulty, and I do not see how it is to be met. In arranging that children shall have free education up to the Third Standard and have their fees paid in the higher standards if their parents are unable to pay the fees, we are in a sense reverting to the old parochial system; for under that system it is well known that while some children paid their fees, others—children of "pregnant points," to use the words of the old Scotch Statute—got their education free. That system worked well in the past. I do not see why it should not work equally well in the future. Hitherto the Parochial Boards have paid £20,000 a year in fees. Will that grant continue? I assume it will not, and if it does not the £20,000 is gained. Again, under the Endowed Schools Act from £10,000 to £15,000 has been given in relief of fees. Will that continue? I assume it will not. Then there is the nest egg of upwards of £190,000 which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter). We should like to know 999 how all this money is to be disposed of; it might with advantage be spent in re-establishing and improving the system of higher education in Scotland. That system has never had fair play in Scotland. It has been starved. I should be glad if some of the money saved under this scheme could be given to the higher education. But the freeing of the lower standards is, perhaps, the first necessity. I assume that the object of the Government is, in the main, to diminish the pressure which is felt by the compulsory clauses. I have always hoped free education would come out of the taxation, but in this instance it is to come out of money which is a kind of windfall. I am not inclined to look a gift-horse in the mouth, and therefore I gladly accept the £171,000 in the hope that the financial genius of the Government will be able to devise a satisfactory scheme for its application. It is unnecessary for me to say much upon the question of denominational schools. It seems to me we must make up our minds, whatever our previous conviction, that all schools must be embraced in the scheme, that denominational schools, as well as public and Board Schools, must receive advantages equally. There is just one other point I desire to refer to. This Local Government scheme as introduced consists of four Bills. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) stated yesterday that in his opinion the Private Bill Procedure Bill would not be passed this Session. I hope it is not the Government's intention to drop that Bill because of all the matters connected with the Local Government scheme. I believe that measure is as popular, if not more popular, than any of the others.
§ MR. W. SINCLAIR (Falkirk Burghs)
I desire to say a very few words upon this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) occupies a high position, but that position carries with it corresponding obligations, and I believe I only express the view of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House j when I say we should like from hon. Members who occupy high positions a greater amount of condensation and a greater amount of arrangement in their 1000 speeches than was displayed by the hon and learned Gentleman. If we got that, a good deal more time would be allowed to non-official Members to speak upon subjects which interest not only themselves, but their constituents. Now, I am glad to find that the debate so far has not been characterized by any Party recrimination. There has been evinced on. both sides of the House a desire to recognize that this subject has been approached by the Government with a wish to settle this question as far as they can in accordance with Liberal principles, in accordance with the views of the Scotch people. I must express regret that the creation of Local Government, which is the birthright of the Liberal Party, has not fallen to their share; but in doing so I heartily congratulate the Conservative Government in having had the courage of the convictions they have more recently formed. I believe the object of the Bill is to lay stable foundations upon which Local Government can be well and properly carried on for the advantage of the Scottish people. I do not intend to travel over all the subjects touched upon in the course of the discussion, but only to refer to the question of the application of the Probate Duty grant for the purposes of education. The problem to be solved is how best to devote the £171,000, the amount available, to the relief of fees, and at the same time give the greatest relief to the ratepayers. My belief is that the Government have commenced at the wrong end in proposing a remission of fees in the lower standards rather than in the higher standards. We must take it for granted that there is a great inclination on the part of parents to take their children away from school at an early age, in order that they may reap some advantage from the wages the children may earn. That tendency is one that has been fought against by the Scottish people, and I think we ought to endeavour to encourage by legislative enactments the retention of children at school until they have passed all the standards. We must remember that it is part of the parent's responsibility to provide education for his child up to a certain standard just as much as it is part of the parent's responsibility to provide maintenance and clothing for his child up to 1001 a given age. If relief is to be given to the ratepayer who has children at school, it stands to reason that the school fees are heaviest while a child is attending the higher standards. The object of the Government, therefore, in relieving the ratepayer will be better effected by remitting the fees in the higher standards rather than in the lower. I sincerely hope the Government will find a means of abolishing all school fees, but failing that, I trust they will remit the fees in the higher instead of in the lower standards.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
Debate further adjourned till Monday next.