§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [24th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ * SIR HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigton): Mr. Speaker ,
in resuming the discussion, discontinued on Friday night, on the subject of this Bill, I must confess that I do not feel myself adequately equipped for the occasion, for the reason that, my duty lying in the Lobby more than this chamber, it has not been my privilege to listen to the greater part of the speeches delivered. I have, however, most carefully read such reports as have appeared in the newspapers. I am quite aware that those reports must be to a certain extent imperfect, and I therefore trust that, in alluding to what has fallen from hon. Members, if I do not give the ipsissima verba it will not be attributed to any intention on my part to misrepresent what has been said. The impression made in my mind on perusing the speeches of hon. Members was that, with one solitary exception, they have-been singularly temperate and encouraging in the aspect which they have exhibited towards this Bill. I would especially allude to the speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen. It was a model of Parliamentary criticism, and ought to enhance his Parliamentary reputation, though I do not pretend to agree with all that fell from him. His speech was devoted to the proposals of the Government dealing with education. He and other Members expressed the view that the Government, in their proposal to remit the payment of school fees, had dealt with the lower rather than the 1175 upper standards. In dealing with this subject Her Majesty's Government had been actuated by motives which I think are not altogether unworthy or discreditable—namely, to do the greatest good to the greatest number. Of the children in the Board Schools in Scotland, two-thirds of them pay half the fees. Those two-thirds are in the three lower standards. The remaining half are paid by the one-third of the children in the upper standards. Therefore it is obvious that a greater number of parents are benefited than if the upper standards had been taken. Further, the School Boards of Scotland are elected by the parents of the children, and for the most part the School Boards of Scotland naturally interpret the wishes of those parents. I believe I am correct in saying that without a single exception, the payment of fees is increased according as the standard is higher. The payment of fees in the lower standards is invariably less than in the upper standards. These fees are fixed by the School Boards, and therefore we are so far acting in accordance with the expressed views of the electors of the School Boards of Scotland in believing that relief to the fees in the lower standards will be greater than to fees in the upper standards. There is another argument which the hon. Member for North Aberdeen has left out of account. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must have in their recollection many a late sitting last Session in discussing schemes brought forward by the Education Commissioners. The invariable complaint was that the tendency of those schemes was to lift the endowments from primary and to devote them to higher education.
§ MR. CALDWELL (St. Rollox)
It meant that they took the money from the poor people, to whom it was dedicated, and gave it to those in a better position of life.
* SIR, H. MAXWELL
Exactly. That is one of the arguments, and I think that that argument would not have been wanting if we had reversed our proposal, and devised a scheme by which education in the upper standards would have been rendered free, and if two-thirds of the children attending school in Scotland had been made liable to payment. I think a great many of the arguments we have heard in favour of primary rather than of advanced education would 1176 have been better applied had we brought forward any such proposal. Other hon. Members have said that if we give free education to the lower standards, there will be a tendency among the parents to take their children away when their education in those standards is completed. I do not believe that for one moment. I have some confidence in my fellow countrymen. The educational history of Scotland shows that there is no such tendency, and that the great desire of Scotch parents, however humble their position in life, is to give their children the very best education they can. Will not these parents be much more likely to be able to pay for education in the higher standards, if they are saved the fees during the time their children are being educated in the lower standards? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Clackmannan, has said that something like an inquisition will be required in order to ascertain the ability of parents to pay their children's fees. I was for many years Chairman of a rural School Board, many of the conditions of whose district are similar to what are to be found in wealthy districts, and I can conceive of nobody better able to judge of the children, who should be encouraged by giving them free education in the higher standards, or as to the ability of their parents to pay for that education, than members of School Boards who are elected by the people of the parish. It so happens that I received about an hour ago a letter from the Chairman of one of the largest School Boards in Scotland—a parish in Paisley. After expressing the hope that the Government will adhere to the proposal they have made in regard to free education, he concludes:—I am persuaded that the School Board, with an efficient officer is thoroughly fitted to discriminate as to cases in which special exemption from the Third Standard is needed, and I do not doubt the general feeling outside the larger towns will be in favour of discretion being given to the School Boards.I should like to revert for a moment to the speech of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen. I think there was a certain fallacy underlying his figures, and it is important that what I consider the true aspect of those figures should be put before the House and the country. Take the case of Aberdeen. The hon. Member has sup 1177 posed the Government voting £100,000 for the relief of the poor rate—that is, all over Scotland. But that sum of £100,000 is altogether imaginary.
MR. HUNTER (N. Aberdeen)
That would have reference to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, when he suggested that he would devote £100,000 to the poor rate.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
The poor rate of last year is not before the House. But it appears in all the Scotch papers, and this proposal has attracted, as it deserves, considerable attention. And the aspect in which it is presented to the people of Scotland is that there is a proposal to vote £100,000 for the relief of the poor rate, which as the hon. Member justly says would hardly be perceptible in many cases. But if we want to get the value of the relief afforded to the ratepayers by a sum of over £300,000 devoted to free education, we must take a like amount and see what it would do for the relief of the local rates. I will take the case of a man in Aberdeen paying £12 a year rent—not an exorbitant rent in an urban district. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen was 7,700, which would be only an average of 2¾d., the people paying not more than £2 a year rent.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
Certainly not more than £2, by the hon. Member's own figures. I venture to say that persons paying that amount of rent will not be paying large school fees. Take the rent of £12, which is a more manageable figure. If £300,000 were devoted to the relief of the local rates, the relief obtained would be 2s. 2d. on £12 rent.
§ SIR W. MAXWELL
On the poor rate the hon. Gentleman takes the relief which would be obtained by a man having three children at school and puts the school fees at 39s. a year; but if a man has three children at school the School Board invariably either remit the fees of the third child or make a considerable reduction, and in 9 out of 10 parishes in Scotland—I am not speaking with regard to Aberdeen—if a man has two or three children at school and the fees are 39s. a year he would get them educated for 25s. But I will go 1178 further and suppose the education to be free, in which case that man would certainly get relief to the extent of 25s. a year for his three children, but for how long? He does not keep them at school all their lives, and it would be a very exceptional case for a man to have three children at school for more than three years. But the man is a ratepayer, and the hon. Member opposite has either forgotten or omitted to mention the fact that the rate is payable for life, or at any rate during tenancy, while the school fees are only payable during the education of the children. Therefore, if we take the ordinary relief the man would receive from the application of £300,000 a year to the rates, at 2s. 3d. a year his saving in 30 years would be £3 7s. 6d., while the saving of the parent under the system of free education would be only £3 15s. I submit, therefore, that taking the case the hon. Member has put, he has not put that case fairly—that is, supposing every ratepayer to be a parent with a child at school age. Now, what are the facts in Aberdeen, where at the present moment 14,000 children are being educated in the schools? Suppose those 14,000 children are the children of ratepayers, and the ratepayers of Aberdeen number 22,000; the result would be that the relief, if applied as the hon. Member desires, would only affect two-thirds of the ratepayers in that town. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell) made a speech on Thursday night to which I listened with considerable attention. He pronounced a sort of requiem over the Commissioners of Supply. I do not doubt for one moment the sincerity of the limited compliment he paid that body for the manner in which they had discharged their duties in the past, but I very much regret that he should have thought proper to have dealt a sort of a back-hander to those gentlemen, who, I believe, in the general opinion of the country, have done their duty well. The right hon. Gentleman said that nine-tenths of the Commissioners of Supply took no part in the discharge of the business imposed upon that body. Well, Sir, I know that there is a certain school of political thought which values a scheme of political reform rather by the indignity it metes out to those who are deprived of the privileges 1179 it will accord than by the benefits it will confer on those who are admitted to partake of it. I willingly acquit the right hon. Gentleman of any sympathy with that school, but I cannot help thinking that in deference to the opinions of some of his less generous supporters he was led into an expression which somewhat marred the speech he delivered on the occasion referred to, and I regret it much. I only allude to this because I think it of the greatest importance that the Commissioners of Supply should not be discouraged by anything that is said, either here or elsewhere, from taking their full share of the public business in their different districts under the new state of things. I think, therefore, that in parting with the old state of things, it would have been better and more graceful on the part of the right hon. Gentleman if he had omitted that remark. Now, Sir, there is one subject which I am specially anxious to touch on, because it is a part of the proposals of the Government which has received rather severe criticism, not only from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but also from hon. Members sitting behind me. I allude to the proposals in regard to the service franchise. It has been said that we have excluded the voters under the service franchise from participation in the election of the County Councils. But I assert that we have done nothing of the kind. What we have done is to open the door to them by a very simple process which I am conscious they will be able to appreciate. I protest against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clack-mannan's (Mr. J. B. Balfour) description of the objection that had been urged in this matter. He says it has been alleged that if working men were admitted to this franchise they would be extravagant, and would not spare the money to which they did not contribute. Now, that I think is a most unfair way of putting the case. What we say is that if a man is to be entitled to assist in laying a burden on the shoulders of others he should be called on to bear a portion of the burden himself. The right hon. Gentleman says he objects to putting a man in such a position as to be told, "If you care to make a certain payment you shall have a vote, but if you do not make that payment you shall not have 1180 vote; either the man ought to have a vote, or he ought not; but in the interests of the country, as well as his own, his vote should not be dependent on payment." But what is the law now? Has not a man to pay his rates before he is put on the roll of voters? I am much mistaken if that is not so; at any rate, I have always understood that such is the case. Well, it is exactly the same proposal that is made here. But, whatever may be the ultimate decision of the House on this question, I am confident of this, that there is no class of the community which has a keener sense of true justice than the agricultural labourer of Scotland, and I am not a bit afraid of his thinking he has been unfairly dealt with by this provision. The agricultural labourer at present has no vote for the School Board, although he has one for the Parliamentary representation. I admit there is an anomaly in this respect; but it rests on the same ground as in the present case, that he pays no school rate, and he has a right to be relieved from the payment of school fees. Therefore, I have not the slightest fear of creating any sense of injustice in his mind. Then there is the question of licenses. Hon. Members opposite have expressed regret that the question of licenses should not have been put under the new body. Speaking entirely for myself, I must say that I sympathise with that objection; and to my constituents and elsewhere I have always encouraged the hope that the licensing question will ultimately be referred to the local bodies. But at the same time it should be remembered that we are setting up a new and a very delicate machinery and that the organization of the temperance bodies is very formidable and complete, and very fully armed. I think therefore that my right hon. Friend has done well in hesitating to expose this new machinery to the very perfectly appointed machinery already in existence. I do not, however, abandon the hope that the day is not far distant when the new county system will be so workable that it will be able to undertake the discharge of this duty. I have said there was one exception I must notice to the general tone of the speeches on this proposal on the part of the Government, and as I see opposite to me the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. 1181 Marjoribanks), who delivered the speech I refer to, I will make a few remarks upon it now. The right hon. Gentleman is the single exception to the fairness and impartiality with which these Bills have been received. There was, I regret to say. but one motive apparent in that speech from first to last, and that was to put difficulties in the way of the Government and endeavour to defeat their object. I will not enter into any of the allusions that were made as to battering rams and other things in connection with the agitation in Ireland; nor will I follow the right hon. Gentleman in his references to the Commissioners of Supply. I would, however, remind him of the old Scottish proverb—"He is the son of a laird and will in time be one of the lairds himsel'." He is a Commissioner of Supply and the son of a Commissioner of Supply, and I think the remarks that he addressed to the House with regard to that body came very ill from him. Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember another old proverb—"It is an ill bird that fouls its ain nest." This is certainly not a lairds' or a landlords' Bill, and I cannot conceive under what possible conditions it can be described as such. It is a Bill which will hand over a very large measure of power which has hitherto been in the hands of the landlords to the people of the country, and if it does not go so far as the right hon. Gentleman in his new-born zeal would wish, I think he might at least admit that it goes a considerable way. The right hon. Gentleman has threatened that unless his views are largely met he will do his utmost to defeat the Bill. I am glad to say he is the only one in any part of the House who has used that sort of language. I will not detain the House longer except to express a hope that the motion for the Second Reading will not be deferred beyond to-night. I would remind the House that the year is going on and we have already arrived at a late part of the Session. We are all, with the exception I have mentioned, agreed on the general principle of the Bill, although we may differ in our opinions as to the mode of carrying out the details; and I do not altogether despair of getting the assent of hon. and right hon. gentlemen opposite to the proposition that as far as it goes it is a good Bill. 1182 Therefore I think the sooner we come to the Vote the better. But, Sir, before I sit down, I should like to take this opportunity, which is probably the last and not improbably the best I shall have of expressing a confident hope—amounting almost to a belief—that my brother Commissioners of Supply in Scotland will not stand aloof from the new order of things which is to be set up. I believe it is most important, in the best interests of every class of the community, that men of leisure and means should continue that which they have done in the past, namely, to take an intelligent and active interest in the administration of affairs in their own locality. I hope they will follow the excellent example which has been set to them by members of Quarter Sessionsin England, and that they will not shrink from the irritation and risk of defeat which is inseparable from a popular election, but will come forward and do what I believe to be their duty, and if they do, it will, I believe, be not only for the good of the community at large, but it will be also to their own satisfaction, for they will be discharging this duty, not in virtue of any circumstances of position or birth, but because they have been elected by the approving voice of their fellow citizens.
§ MR. CHARLES S. PARKER (Perth)
I respond to the hope of the hon. Baronet that this debate may be brought to a conclusion this evening, and therefore, for my part, I shall endeavour to compress within a very small compass what I have to say. And first, let me in return for the compliment which the hon. Baronet has paid to this side of the House, say I treat it as a matter of rejoicing for the country, that we have on both sides of the House so much harmony, at all events, on the principle of this Bill. I am rather sorry that the hon. Baronet should have found it necessary to make any exception in his references to this side of the House. For my own part, nothing could have been more simple and more fair than the speech he has just delivered. The truth is that the broad principle of this Bill is one on which we are all happily agreed, and I think I may, in fairness to this side of the House, say it is a principle which has been largely advocated by us. For the last 20 years I have been in the 1183 habit of advocating the broad principle which is laid down by those who have introduced this measure, that the system of Municipal Government in boroughs should be extended to the counties. I have always regarded it as one consequence of the introduction of household suffrage, so I only regret—and that is the opinion and feeling on this side of the House—that having so boldly laid down the principle, the Government have not been equally bold in its application. I think the country generally has felt that this Bill is inadequate, and that there has been less enthusiasm and less interest displayed in Scotland about it than certainly would have been the case, if it had dealt more boldly with the question with which we have to do. We are,in principle, creating a new Government which, we believe, will be the best Government for the counties, and is it not strange that we should withhold from that Government some of the most important functions of County Government, and thereby run the risk that Gentlemen whose time is of value, and who otherwise might come forward as the hon. Baronet hopes, to take a prominent part in the administration of county matters, may possibly feel hardly enough interest in the County Council to induce them to do so? Now, Sir, we have entrusted to the Municipal Government in boroughs the charge of the police, and yet, while we are creating on the same model a Municipal Government for the counties, we do not entrust them with like functions in that respect. The only explanation I have heard of this is a suggestion that with certain counties in Scotland, under the franchise given by this Bill, it might happen that the County Council would perhaps be scarcely competent or scarcely disposed to exercise with efficiency the control of the police on important questions. But suppose we grant this, instead of mutilating the Bill, there are two other courses, either of which I think it would have been wiser to adopt. It might have been possible, provided those apprehensions as to certain counties were well founded, to have made exceptional provisions for those counties. On the other hand, as has been already suggested, if we had not done that, we might at all events make provision that in the case of failure on the part of the County Council to per 1184 form its duty, that duty should devolve on the Secretary for Scotland or some other high authority, just as in other cases, where the School Board refuses to do its duty, or the parish vestry does not properly perform its functions, there are high authorities which can step in and do it. As to licensing, I must admit there is a good deal in the argument which has been adduced for not having introduced it into this Bill. I certainly should have preferred a bolder course, although I know that the extreme temperance party are by no means satisfied with the licensing system in boroughs. Still, taking the broad, general opinion which prevails in Scotland, I think there is no very great complaint about the administration of the licensing laws in boroughs. On the whole, I think the system is very efficiently carried out. And while, then, we are creating a new responsible elective government in counties, we have side by side with them the present Magistrates of large experience. The question is, which of the two are the most likely to be able to conduct these laws in exact accordance with the wishes of the community. I am sure that the opinion throughout Scotland would be in favour of the licensing being managed by those who are responsible to the people. I know that the trade concerned might be apprehensive that their interests under such a system might be harshly dealt with; but that has not proved to be the case in boroughs, and I do not know of any good reason why in counties it should be the result. I imagine the new County Council would probably deal as justly with the liquor trade as the Magistrates in boroughs do, and therefore we might safely leave it in their hands. Another matter in which we are somewhat disappointed is the manner in which education is dealt with in this Bill. There has been a general expectation throughout Scotland that there might be some means of dealing in this Bill with education through the County Authority, especially with regard to higher education, which cannot be very well dealt with in the smaller districts. I think most Members of the House are aware of the terms of the Bill which was recently introduced in this House in regard to intermediate education in Wales—a Bill which proposed an organization for controlling it in con 1185 nection with the County Councils, and probably most of the Scotch Members will remember that a Scotch Member last year brought in a Bill in which some similar proposal was included, giving the County Authority limited power of dealing with higher education in counties. There has been a general hope among teachers in Scotland that the county organization would afford some kind of higher authority, which could act as a Court of Appeal in cases of arbitrary dismissal, such as occasionally occur under the smaller School Boards where personal feeling is apt to have some influence. But both of these things are absent from the Bill. We are told from the Treasury Bench it was a mistake to suppose that this was a Bill for free education. I do not like to refer to electioneering topics; possibly on another occasion, and in another place, we may hear claims as to which is the party that has introduced free education to Scotland. The Treasury tell us, that simply, in this case, there was a sum of money coming to Scotland from personal property to be given in relief of the rates, and that owing to manifestations of opinion throughout Scotland, not confined to one party, it became evident that the Scotch people preferred that the money should go to educational purposes, and particularly to the relief of parents in the payment of school fees. Now there does seem to me to be a want of thoroughness in this Bill. If you intend to devote so large a sum as —171,000 to the relief of parents in the matter of school fees, why should not the Government have fairly faced the whole question of free education on this occasion, because when they were dealing with so large a sum annually, surely it was time to consider how far they could go if more money had been available for free education? I am sorry that we have been practically left by the English Members to discuss this matter alone, for I believe that there are many English Members, who, if they had been present, would have evinced great interest in this first experiment in the matter of free education. Now, how is it proposed to apply this money which is to be devoted to the purposes of free education? The question is, should you give it to the earlier standards, or should it be given to the higher standards. Well, no doubt, the 1186 simpler and most obvious course was to give it to the lower standards, but I have no doubt that many Members of this House have received, as I have done, letters from School Boards and other Educational Authorities, pointing out the danger of adopting this course. I do not think that the hon. Baronet quite adequately answered the arguments on this point. He said that the parents in Scotland, generally, had a very great deal more regard for education than those in England, and that, if you relieve them in the lower standards they will be likely to spend money in keeping their children at school when they reach the higher standards. I hope it may be true; but we must he practical, and I think, taking it practically, every one who has watched the question must be well aware that there comes a crisis in the school life of a child, at which its power of earning wages becomes worth something—at which it is costing more for food and clothing, and at which, consequently, the parent begins to think of taking it away from school. If we relieve a parent from the payment of fees up to a certain point, and he is suddenly called upon to pay fees at a time at which the child becomes capable of earning wages, I am afraid there will be a considerable tendency to make that the point, more than at present, at which children shall leave school. Of course I know that in competition with this scheme there are certain non-educational claims. There is the proposed grant of £30,000 for the highlands and of £34,000 for roads, and in Committee we shall have to discuss whether these sums are to be devoted to this purpose. But there is another resource for us and that is the rates, and it might be fitting for the School Board, after the child leaves the compulsory standard, to decide if he should receive aid in the other standards; indeed, in this way you might institute a description of bursaries to encourage parents to allow their children to continue at school. There are other points on which I should like to speak, but I will not trespass longer on the time of the House. What I have endeavoured to represent is that it would have been better if this Bill containing a bold principle had been bolder in its application, and I entertain some hope that in Committee we may be able to hand over 1187 the control of the police to the County Councils in proper safeguards. I am afraid we may not this year entrust to the Council Licensing Duties, but I hope we may do so before long. And in regard to education, I think that in respect of education I may say that if we have not sufficient money to secure a complete system of education, we may, at any rate, after a child has passed through the compulsory standards, provide something in the shape of bursaries rather than in that of eleemosynary aid.
§ MR. J. H. C. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)
I believe that the general principle underlying this Bill receives such a large measure of acceptance from Members sitting on both sides of the House, that it will undoubtedly be read a second time without a Division. The debate has indeed been somewhat extended, but it has been suggested—I confess with considerable force—that this debate, which has been more or less of a detailed character, may have the effect of lessening the discussion in Committee. It is, therefore, only right that those who sit on this side of the House, and who feel very strongly on this subject, should take an opportunity of expressing their opinion as freely, as fully, and as frankly as hon. Members opposite, in order that the Government may be in a position to know exactly the general tendency of feeling throughout the House. Now, Sir, in the first instance, I trust that I may be allowed to offer a well-merited compliment to the Commissioners of Supply in the various counties of Scotland. I am well aware that in certain counties, especially perhaps in Lanarkshire, a portion of which I have the honour to represent, there is a feeling of soreness amongst the Commissioners of Supply, for they think that this measure casts somewhat of a slur upon them in regard to their action in the past. But I am perfectly certain that nothing could be further from the mind of the Government who introduced this measure than any idea of that sort. We Scotsmen in every part of the House fully appreciate and are deeply grateful for the admirable economy and efficiency with which the Commissioners of Supply have managed county business in the past, and especially is this the case with regard to Lanarkshire, where as the work has been greater, so is the gratitude greater. 1188 But sentiment is an important factor in politics. Many provisions of this Bill are opposed more or less as a matter of sentiment, while sentiment has had much to do with the demand for a scheme of Scottish County Government. Only last year we in Scotland were miles ahead of England in the matter of County Government. But last year England took a gigantic stride and passed us, and it is therefore thought necessary we should hurry up in order to regain our position. I congratulate the Government on the broad and comprehensive principles which underlie the whole of this measure. Roughly speaking, it is a Bill to constitute a popularly elected County Council which is to take the place of the Commissioners of Supply in the management of county business. How is that Council to be constituted? A county is to be divided into single-membered constituencies. I am well aware that that raises differences of opinion which are not political. I myself have received expressions of opinion from both political Parties, advocating a larger number of Members than one for each constituency; but having gone into the facts of the case, I confess I am still inclined to be in favour of the principle of single-member constituencies, but it is a point which merits careful consideration. Well, the constituencies being constituted, the next question which arises is—Who are to be the electors? In the first place, the householders are to be the electors, both male and female; and at once the difficulty confronts us, that in Scotland all rates are paid by the owner, and there is a Radical maxim that taxation and representation should go together. I agree that they should. And in order to obviate the difficulty, the principle of stereotyping the old rates is introduced into this Bill. The principle, I admit, is, at first sight, extremely captivating, but there are special cases which must be dealt with. In several counties there has been capital expenditure incurred for paying off debts arising from the provision of public buildings—such as police stations, court houses, and asylums. In Lanarkshire, for instance, in the year 1888–89, £10,000 has been tpaid as temporary capital expendiure, and this ought not, in fair 1189 ness, to be included in the normal rate for stereotyping purposes. Therefore, I cannot too strongly emphasize the fact that, in all fairness, some alteration should be made in the arrangement which has been laid down. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) suggested as an alternative that the rates should be paid in equal proportions except of course in the case of existing leases by landlords and tenants. That plan has, at first sight, the merit of fairness and eminently the merit of simplicity. But from what I know of the right hon. Gentleman politically, if the Government had proceeded upon such a plan the right hon. Gentleman would have been one of the first to denounce the Government for a proposal which he would say was under cover of Local Government to shift a burden from owners to occupiers. But if the right hon. Gentleman expresses the view he did the other night as the matured opinion of the official Opposition, I confess I should be inclined to advise the Government to accept the suggestion as such, and make it known in Scotland that they do so to meet the views of Leaders of the Opposition. The next body of electors is that of the Peers, but as they are not very numerous their register will not give much difficulty. But then we come to the service franchise, and the Government proposal is that those who hold houses as part of their conditions of service shall vote when they claim to pay rates. Personally, I am strongly in favour of including all service franchise occupiers on the County Council register. There are two minor objections to the Government proposal; one is the expense and trouble of an extra and complicated register instead of adopting the whole Parliamentary register, with the addition of women and Peers, and another difficulty arises from the fact that these voters will only be called upon to pay rates in the current—year "that is to say, every third year. But after all, the great objection is that these voters will, whether rightly or wrongly, consider themselves to be placed in a position of inferiority when, as a matter of fact, they are entitled to every possible consideration. I have a special place in my mind— 1190 Leadhills, in my own constituency. The population of Leadhills, to a very large extent, hold under a peculiar tenure, and vote for a Parliamentary representative under the service franchise while they have no votes at School Board elections. There is a very large number of voters there on the Parliamentary Register, but only 20 or so on the School Board roll. So strongly impressed am I with the necessity of their case that I have placed my name on the back of a Bill in company with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) for the purpose of putting the Leadhills voters on the School Board Register. It seems to me that service franchise occupiers pay rates almost. if not quite, to the same extent as other householders. They pay indirectly, but they pay because the rates of the houses on which they live form part of the value they receive for their services, and I suppose something of this sort was recognized when they were placed on the Parliamentary Register. Whether or not I think it is scarcely worth while making two bites at a cherry. I am perfectly certain that the County Council Vote will be given to all service franchise occupiers within the next year or two, and why not make the concession at once? The Councils are to be elected by single Member constituencies, and the first thing that struck the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Firth) is that there are to be no alder men. The hon. Member says he is glad there are no aldermen. I am equally glad we have no prospect of Deputy Chairmen with salaries of —2,000 a year. I cordially recognize the advantage of making the Convener of tho County, the Lord Lieutenant, the Chairman of County Road Trustees, and the Chairman of the Local Authority ex officio members of the first Council; it is something in the direction of continuity, which is secured in burghs by the system of one member in three retiring each year, so that the ward has always two more or less experienced representatives. Objection has been urged to the latitude allowed in the choice of Chairman, but be it remembered, the power to the Council to go outside for a Chairman is merely permissive; it simply widens the field of choice. They are not required to choose 1191 an outsider any more than the Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill would compel a man to marry his deceased wife's sister. After all, if you cannot trust a County Council to elect its own Chairman, with what can you trust it? One hon. Member mentioned the analogy of Parliament, but I, for my part, consider that it would be most unfortunate if we, having a Member, eminently qualified in our opinion for Speaker, being, in fact, a Speaker of experience, and having the confidence of the House, lose him because of some local quarrel in his his constituency. Let us in this respect improve upon the precedent of the House of Commons. This cannot be regarded as overriding the public will any more than what occurs in the burghs. In the burghs each Councillor holds his seat for three years, but if close to the end of his tenure of office he is elected Provost by his fellow Councillors, he gets a fresh lease of office for three years without any reference whatever to his constituents. Many points there are I might touch upon in the Bill, but such discussion would perhaps be more pertinent to the next stage. But I am anxious to point out that I cordially welcome the concession of the Government to the principle of free education, and am proud of the fact that I was one of the first to force this on the attention of Her Majesty's Government There are two provisos required by me in regard to the question of free education—first, that, if possible, no additional burden shall be cast upon the ratepayers, and, secondly, that the denominational schools shall not be in any way prejudiced. The scheme of the Government satisfies both these conditions. As a former member of a School Board, I can say that the most painful part of my official experience was when defaulting parents were brought before the Board, and it was too evident that they were scarcely able to find food and clothing for their children. They certainly could not afford school fees, and yet were too proud to go to the Parochial Board. The plan of the Government gets rid of this reference to the Parochial Board, and is admirable so far as it goes. I say emphatically so far as it goes. It is a scheme which has been well thought out, and I believe I am correct in saying that it adds to the many obligations we 1192 owe to Mr. Craig, the Secretary of the Scotch Education Department. If we are only to have £171,000 for educational purposes I do not think we could possibly make a better use of the money than is here proposed. I know the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Hunter) advises that the fees should be abolished for the three higher standards rather than the three lower standards, but with all respect for his high educational authority, I think that is too "professorial" a view of the matter. Undoubtedly two-thirds at least of the entire number of children in our schools are in the lower standards, and it should be further remembered that the vast majority of the very poor never at present get beyond these first three standards; their homes are not comfortable and do not provide the means for learning and preparing lessons out of school hours, and so the children do not rise to the higher standards. It is the invariable rule, with elected School Boards to make the fees higher for the higher standards, and this they do entirely in accordance with the wishes of their constituents. For my own part, I think it would be sheer madness to remove the fees for the higher standards and leave them for the lower if you wish to benefit the class upon whom the pressure of school fees is most heavy. The whole gist of the attacks we from time to time make upon the endowment schemes of the Education Department is that higher education is favoured at the expense of elementary education. I am perfectly certain you would get no thanks from the people of Scotland if you adopted the hon. Member's suggestion in this particular; it would be a case of giving a stone when bread is asked for. I do not, however, see why the limit for educational purposes should be £171,000. I do not see why the £21,000 for Parochial Boards should not be diverted to educational purposes, as the Parochial Boards will, in future, be relieved from having to pay an annually increasing sum of £20,000 in payment of school fees, and though I am of opinion that £30,000 for the Highlands is thoroughly well appropriated, yet I am of an equally strong opinion that the amount should come from Imperial sources. The Highlands are an integral portion of the United Kingdom just as Cornwall, 1193 and just as, if exceptional distress existed in Cornwall, relief would be given from the Imperial Exchequer, so also should it come from that source for the Highlands. Unfortunately, however, the Secretary for Scotland is not in the Cabinet. No head of a spending Department receives proper justice unless he has a seat in the Cabinet where he can constantly worry, bombard, and "nag" at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He then gets what he wants. Letters and calls will never do it. Letters remain unanswered and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is never at home. With these sums of £21,000 and £30,000 added to the original £171,000 we should have £222,000 for education. But I protest against any alienation of the grant of £35,000 for roads; the rate for roads is exceptionally heavy in most rural parishes, and it may be pointed out that this rate falls half on the owner and half on the occupier. But there is another way in which about £35,000 might be obtained to free education. In the larger towns School Boards would probably be empowered by their constituents to charge foes in some schools, and these schools might continue to receive the old grants but not the new grants. subject, of course, to the veto of the Scotch Education Department. Care would of course have to be taken that there is an ample supply of quite Free Schools. Some arrangement of this kind would set loose a sum of between £30,000 and £35,000. £155,000 would free the lowest standards, and an additional £90,000 would free the next two standards. Therefore, £245,000 would free the five standards, leaving £12,000 for establishing free scholarships in the Sixth Standard. That would be practically free education all round, without limiting it, as my hon. Friend does,to four years. I believe the Bill to be a useful and a good measure, and if the Government can introduce a system which will be as near free education as possible, without increasing the local rates or affecting the position of the denominational schools, I am confident they will receive the unbounded and unstinted gratitude of the Scottish people.
§ * SIR JOHN KINLOCH (Perth, E.)
There are four important subjects on which we on this (the Opposition) side of the House think the Bill must be 1194 amended, in order to make it acceptable to the people of Scotland. Those four points are an addition to the constituencies which are to elect the Councils, the abolition of the Commissioners of Supply, free education, and, if possible, the introduction of the licensing question. As to the first point, we contend that the service franchise voters indirectly pay rates. I think the voluntary payment proposed by the Government we may at once dismiss, as in actual practice it would be a dead letter. The service franchise voters consist of ploughmen, labourers, gardeners, keepers, and so on in the country, and a few miners in the mining districts. These men occupy houses which are certainly worth £4, but which are not returned by the owners in the valuation, and the occupiers are therefore excluded from the duties of citizenship. It seems to me that because the owner does not return the house, that is no reason why a man should be deprived of his civil rights. £4 is generally considered as the value of the labourer's cottages in Scotland, and I think if we cannot get the full service franchise it would be a step in the right direction to insist that these houses should be returned in the Valuation Roll at their value or at a minimum value of £4. The working of this would be to make a £4 house a consequence to the service voter, who had a house at all. By adopting a provision of this kind, at least two-thirds of the service franchise voters would have the vote, only the single-room voters being then excluded. The District Committees would really have very important duties to perform. They would have the management of the roads, they would be the Local Authority and have charge of the public health. The Government proposed that these Committees should be composed of County Councillors and two Members from every Parochial Board or Parish Council. We should have begun, then, at the parish, which is really the first unit of Local Government, and fixed who were to elect the Parish Councillors. They should be elected by the same body that elected the County Council. It would also be an advantage to have one register, so that one list of voters might serve the County Council, the Parish Council, and the School Board. I hope, also, there will be a clause in the Bill making women eligible to sit in the 1195 Councils. With regard to the Commissioners of Supply, it seems to me that the best of the Commissioners will be elected to the County Councils, as the counties will trust those who have done the business so admirably before, and you would only have the rump of the Commissioners of Supply to choose your Committee of seven from. As to the control of the police, the argument that the boroughs do already take charge of the police seems to me unanswerable so far as the counties are concerned, and no doubt the Police Committe of the County Council will do the work admirably if, added to the Committee, we have the Sheriff and the Lord Lieutenant. I think it important that the Sheriff should be a member of the Committee, though not the Chairman, as I do not think he would have time to do the work of Chairman. The second function for which the Commissioners of Supply were kept up was to have a check on capital expenditure. I may point out that the School Boards, a popular elected body, had no such check imposed upon them; and, taking Scotland generally, they had not over expended the money. I will not detain the House with reference to free education, and I will say no more about licensing than that it would be an improvement on the present system if a Committee of the County Council had the conduct of licensing. If, however, the first three points are met—namely those with regard to the service franchise, the Commissioners of Supply, and free education, I think this measure will be thoroughly appreciated by the people of Scotland.
§ MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
I should be very glad if the Government would see their way to give the service voters a vote for the County Council. But I am not prepared to support most of the views of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. This discussion has taken the form of a minute criticism of details, and I hope that this will have the effect of shortening the discussion in Committee on the Bill. The speech, which has been so justly eulogized, of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) in some respects, I think, went rather over the mark. I think my hon. and learned Friend gave rather too dark a colour to the present condition of education in Scotland. He spoke of there 1196 being 75 per cent of children of school age now on the register, and only 58 per cent in average attendance, and said these figures showed an alarming state of matters. I do not agree with him. I do not find in the Reports of the Education Department of last year that the figures are exactly as he gave them. According to the Education Report, out of 100 children of school age in Scotland 80 were on the register and 60 in daily attendance, and the Report went on to say that that showed that the gradual improvement of previous years was still maintained, though it was not yet quite satisfactory. In Scotland the school age does not begin until five, and it is rare to find children so young at school. That explains the low average attendance. I think my hon. Friend did injustice to the public schools in Scotland in comparing the merits of the different classes of schools. He said that the Free Church Schools were the best, and that they were more efficient because they gained a Government grant of 20s. 1¼d., whereas the School Board Schools gained only 18s. 5d. I do not dispute that the Free Church Schools are very good, but I object to having them compared in this way with the public schools. We cannot satisfactorily compare two things unless they are of the same kind. I maintain that the Free Church Schools are quite different from the public schools of Scotland. The public schools contain among them schools of all kinds, from the very poorest. The Free Church Schools are an illustration of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. There are only 25 of them, and amongst them are normal schools in connection with training colleges. With regard to the school fees, I admit that very substantial relief will be given by the Government proposal to contribute to the payment of fees. I frankly acknowledge that I have not been an advocate of free education, because I think that the parent has an interest in the education of his child, and that interest is represented by the school fee. In practice there has not been any great grievance felt, because by the Education Act provision has been made for the very poorest, but not in the best possible way, as the parents are brought into contact with the Parochial Boards, which in itself is very objectionable. I think, however, that objection might be overcome by putting the School Board 1197 in between the parent and the Parochial Board. Then we have a considerable provision of educational endowments available for free scholarships for promising children. In Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen these endowments are very large. I understand that in Glasgow about one-tenth of the children attending schools have their fees paid, to some extent by the Parochial Board, but to a greater extent by educational endowments. Besides this, we have private benevolence to fall back upon in assisting the payment of fees. In this way it has come about that there has been no strong complaint of any hardship in connection with the payment of fees. The Committee of Council on Education in Scotland, in their last year's Report, say—We have no evidence that the failure in attendance is caused by the pressure of school fees. In the district where the attendance is most defective school fees are almost virtually in abeyance, and the revenue therefrom is very small.At the same time, there is no denying that the abolition of school fees would be a great relief to many and would make education easier. The plan of the Government for applying this contribution of —171,000, is, I agree wit] other hon. Members, as good a one a could be devised for a limited amount of this kind. It has been objected by several hon. Members that the Government are beginning at the wrong end, the foot of the scale instead of the top; and from an educational point of view that is true. But now the question is how to give most relief, and that being so, the Government could not do better than by proceeding as they propose. With regard to the provision for full places for children in the higher standard, it has been objected that the power given to the School Board would virtually repeat the obnoxious interference of the Parochial Boards. I do not think so. No doubt the School Boards will have to consider who are deserving and who are in circumstances to require assistance; but an inquiry of this kind by the School Board is quite different from an investigation by the Parochial Board, and I do not think it would be regarded by a parent as so invidious or as so offensive as an inquiry by the Parochial Board. A doubt has been expressed whether the School Board is at liberty to conduct an inquiry 1198 of this kind. The same kind of thing' however, is already being done. Large sums of money under the schemes of the Endowment Commissioners are entrusted to the governing bodies of schools to b spent on free education. In Glasgow there is a Free Educational Board, and considerable sums are spent by it on free scholarships, whilst in Edinburgh a very large number of free scholarships are distributed by the governors. This has been going on now for one or two years, and has been working very satisfactorily. There has been no complaint of any difficulty on the part of the governors in making a satisfactory selection of scholars. No doubt it would be more logical, if the money was at hand, to go further than the Government propose to go—to go the whole length, up to the limit of compulsory education. Powers would have to be given to School Boards to inquire into the circumstances of the scholars, and money should be especially allocated to them for scholarships. I hope the Government will lose no time in fixing the date at which the fees in the lower standards are to stop. I am informed that already, because of these discussions in Parliament, some parents are beginning to grudge paying the fees. They understand that fees are to be no longer required, and the School Boards are put to a disadvantage through not knowing the date when the change is to take place. Then, I would say a word on the subject of the application of this money in lieu of school fees being made to all State-aided schools on the same terms. I have been surprised to hear some hon. Gentlemen question the propriety of that arrangement. But, in the eye of the State, all schools which conform to the regulations of the Education Act are part of the national system, and they should be all treated equally in such a matter as contribution in lieu of school fees. It would be unfair and unjust to deal otherwise with them. Reference has been made to denominational education, but neither in public schools nor in voluntary schools does the Education Department—or, in other words, does the State—take any cognizance of religious education except that it is given accompanied with the restriction of the conscience clause. No Government grant is given for religious instruction. There is no Government inspection; there is no fee charged for 1199 it in the Government schools, therefore it would be altogether unreasonable to take it into account either in public schools or private schools in dealing with the question of school fees. Religious education is given in these schools in accordance with the almost unanimous wish of the people of Scotland, and it is strange that reflection should be cast on the giving of that instruction by hon. Members who pride themselves on their advocacy of Home Rule. The question of including education among the subjects to be administered by the County Councils has been frequently referred to. I think the Government are right in not disturbing existing arrangements at present until it has been seen how these new Councils will work. There is no doubt there is some change desirable in our parish arrangements in connection with the School Board. It is generally felt that many of the School Board areas are too small, and whether by uniting the areas and reducing the number of School Boards, or by placing the School Boards under the supervision of a Committee of the County Council, it may be desirable to have some change. In the meantime, the work is going on, and it would be a pity to disturb it by any new arrangement; therefore, I think the Government are right in not including education in any way in the Bill. Such a question can only be satisfactorily dealt with by a Board elected for the purpose. As to the £30,000 to be allocated to the Highlands, to which reference has been made by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, it is not quite obvious why the money should come from Scotland and not from the Imperial Exchequer. I am disposed to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland that it would be better to have larger electoral areas, to return each two Members, as the result would probably be that owners and occupiers would be equally represented. However, it is not a matter of pressing importance. I am particularly pleased that there is to be an officer of health for each district, as the Public Health Act is almost a dead letter in Scotland. The Act is not carried out as it ought to be, and this Bill gives us the opportunity of seeing a better state of things inaugurated. I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate on the general character of the criticisms 1200 on the Bill—the minuteness of which criticism may probably prove a saving of the time of the House when we get into Committee.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
It is plain that there is a great deal of diversity of opinion in relation to this Bill. Judging from the feeling of the people of my own constituency, this Bill has caused great disappointment in Scotland, and has everywhere failed to excite anything like enthusiasm. It has fallen flat on the community, and it will take a great deal of skill to give it vitality. If the Lord Advocate had been left a free hand, I feel assured he would have given to his countrymen a Bill which would have been more acceptable, and which would have embraced subjects which he has left out entirely, for what reason is best known to himself. The only real power the County Councils will have will be to levy rates and to look after roads, bridges, and sanitation. A real Local Government measure ought to give the Councils all the power possessed by Municipal Authorities in burghs. To my mind it will be a very difficult thing to get good men to take a seat on a Board the main business of which is to impose rates. And the Government are not content with the invidious distinction of asking gentlemen to go upon a Board of this kind, but they lay down the principle which would not be tolerated for an instant by a sensible, intelligent man—that the Councils are to go outside themselves for a Convener in order, as it was stated by one right hon. Gentleman, that they might put the machinery in motion—as if, forsooth, the gentlemen who will be elected to the County Council would not be able of themselves to put the machinery in motion for conducting their own body. Why, in 1872, when the present Education Act was put into force in Scotland, the best men in the country vied for seats on the School Boards, and there was no difficulty experienced in finding men of sufficient ability to act as Conveners, although the new Boards had an immense amount of work to do. They had the whole machinery of education to set in order, and they had also—especially in the large towns—a great deal of work to do in the erection of suitable schools. I feel satisfied that if in Scotland we could find men capable 1201 of setting in motion the machinery of the Education Act of 1872, we shall also find gentlemen within the pale of the County Councils perfectly capable in every district of fulfilling the duty of Conveners of the counties. I was greatly pleased with the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, which treated on education and gave some highly interesting and satisfactory statistics which will go a long way towards enlightening the minds of hon. Members as to what is wanted in Scotland. I hope he will find the necessary funds to carry out his scheme, and give free education up to the Sixth Standard, and that the Lord Advocate will induce the Government to give effect to it. I would qualify that by saying that it ought to be provided that where a parent does not want his children to go beyond the Third Standard, it should not be compulsory on him to go further, for we all know that the labouring classes in Scotland cannot afford to keep their children long at school after they have mastered the elements of education—reading, writing, and counting. When their girls have arrived at a certain age they want them to assist in the management of the house, and they want their boys to be earning wages. Of course, when it is desired, these boys and girls should be allowed to remain at school until they have passed the Sixth Standard, facilities being afforded the parents for obtaining the education free. With regard to the question of licensing, the Lord Advocate has had in view what happened in connection with the English Local Government Bill, "Burnt bairns dread the fire," and I suppose the right hon. Gentleman thought it better to let the question of licensing alone. But this is one of those matters which the people of Scotland will not let alone. They have made up their minds with regard to it. I would suggest that the Lord Advocate should tack on to his Bill the Local Veto Bill of the hon. Member for Linlithgowshire, and if he does this I am sure there is nothing, apart from the question of education, which will give greater satisfaction to the majority of the people of Scotland. Many Scotch Members, myself amongst the number, are pledged up to the eyes to do all in our power to secure the passing of a Local Veto Bill, and I am convinced that in the event of a General 1202 Election taking place no candidate would have a chance of being returned for a Scotch constituency unless prepared to support a Local Veto Bill. We are branded throughout the world as the most drunken nation on the face of the earth, and the people are determined to wipe out the disgrace. Nothing will satisfy them until the responsibility of granting licenses is put in the hands of the ratepayers. It is said that the license fees or duty are to be given to the County Councils by the Government. Well, I hold that this is a very delicate proposal to make. If the License Duty is to go in aid of the rates, it will be an incentive to the localities to support the granting of licenses and the giving of facilities for the carrying on of a trade that the majority of the people are seeking to restrain. As the Government have the Excise in their hands, I hope they will still retain the License Duty, and give to the people of Scotland an equivalent from the Consolidated Fund, so that the County Councils will have no incentive to encourage licensed houses. With regard to the question of police, I hold that as the County Councils are to be responsible for the peace and for the protection of person and property, it is necessary that they have the control and entire supervision of the police. The Secretary for Ireland said it was necessary, in the interests of law and order, that the Imperial Government should have charge of the police in the counties, and he hinted at something which had occurred amongst the crofters in the Highlands, as if they were the bug-bear which should induce the House to deprive the Councils of the control of their own police. I say that it is not the crofters that this House and the right hon. Gentleman have to fear, but the landlords in the Highland districts, who have driven the crofters to desperation. If the people in the Highlands were treated with fairness and consideration, there would be no more loyal people in the dominion. No one has done more to build up this great Empire, by their blood and their lives, than have these Highlanders, and it is a mistake on the part of the House and the Government not to stand by them. We know not the day when we may not be only too glad to avail ourselves of their services. I fear the surroundings of the Chief Secretary are not conducive to his taking an unbiassed view of this 1203 matter. Then, with regard to the service franchise, it is said that the holders of this franchise should not vote for the County Councils because they do not pay direct taxation, and could not, therefore, be trusted with the dispensing of the rates. But from my own experience, I can say that there are no more keen conservators of the public purse than the working man of this country, and I think it ill becomes Gentlemen who, within a very few days, with a light heart, went into the Lobby to vote away millions of money for a very questionable purpose, to use these arguments. These men, together with the holders of the larger franchise, are the bone and sinew of the country, and the producers of the wealth of the country, and we should do all we can to carry them along with us in the government of the country, especially as we have recognized their right to vote for Members of this House. In conclusion, I would merely say that I believe if you clothe the County Councils with the powers I have indicated, and make them co-equal with the Councils in the burghs, you will get the best men of the country to come forward and make the new Local Government what it ought to be, and what the people of Scotland expect it to be.
§ MR. ASHER (Elgin, N.)
In the course of the debate to-night we have had the unusual and interesting feature of two maiden speeches from Scottish Members, and I hope it will not be thought presumption on my part if I offer them my congratulations at their speeches, and express the satisfaction we Scotch Members feel at these acquisitions to our ranks. This debate was opened to-night by an interesting speech from the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire. It was one to which I looked forward, because I imagined there was some chance that we should find in it an indication of the intentions of the Government with regard to the concessions they might be disposed to make to the views so largely expressed on this side of the House. And I was sorry to find no indication of any concession. I hope, however, we have not yet heard the last word from this Government. Before I deal with some of the more general features of the Bill, there are two preliminary matters with regard to 1204 which I should like to say a few words. In the first place, as the representative of a district of burghs in Scotland, desire to express my concurrence in the course that has been taken by the framers of the Bill, in leaving the Royal and Parliamentary burghs in Scotland alone. I do not deny that there is a loud demand for the extension of Local Government, but I fully recognize that it would have been altogether wrong to attempt to give this extended power to burghs in dealing with counties. I regret there has not been a more complete extension of the burgh system to the counties than is proposed in this Bill. I regret that the Local Government of Scotland is to be dealt with in two separate Bills. It is of importance that the country generally, the householders and ratepayers, should understand the details of the system under which their local affairs are to be governed, and I can conceive nothing more complicated than cross references from one Bill to another. I hope the Lord Advocate will yet consider whether, as a matter of convenience, it would be advantageous to amalgamate the two Bills. It must have been manifest to everyone who has attended these debates that there has rarely been an occasion on which there has been a more general desire entirely to put aside anything of the nature of Party feeling in considering and discussing these measures. The Liberal Party are familiar, by experience, with situations like the present, where they find that nearly the whole of the principles which they had advocated for years are adopted by their opponents. It simply furnishes an illustration of the educational activity of our opponents. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, in the course of his speech, said the broad principle of the Bill was this, that they transferred the government of the county from the representatives of property to representatives of all classes of the ratepayers. I entirely and absolutely assent to the principle, and if I had an examination of the Bills, and discovered that that was their principle, I should have given them my assent. But I should be much more disposed to describe their principle as this—to establish a County Council based on popular election, but subject to unnecessary restrictions, and from which all the more important parts of the county are 1205 most carefully and scrupulously withheld. The defects of the present system, admitted by all parties as I understand, are these: That the government of county affairs is in the hands of bodies not popularly-elected, and that there is an unnecessary multiplication of separate and independent Boards and governing bodies—resulting in waste of time, power, and money which belong to multiplicity of machinery, and in the inferior work, which is the product of the subdivision of authority. A proper scheme of Local Government must grapple with these defects and remove them. With regard to the constitution of the governing bodies, I readily acknowledge that an important step has been taken in the present Bills in providing for a County Council upon a popular franchise, and I think it may be said that the constitution of the County Council is of a satisfactory character. Subject to the one point—namely, the limitation regarding the service franchise occupier, I cannot help thinking that Her Majesty's Government may still take the course of giving way to the strongly-expressed opinion from various quarters of the House as to the franchise on which the County Council is to be based. The whole of the Liberal Members for Scotland, the majority of the Scotch Conservative Members, and all the Members for Scotland belonging to the dissentient Liberal Party are united in opinion upon this point, and I cannot doubt that Her Majesty's Government will take the circumstances into consideration before they come to a final decision on the matter. The other defect is the multiplicity of Boards and governing bodies. There is necessity for their consolidation; but I confess I find a very little step, indeed, in that direction. We have just now the Commissioners of Supply, the road trustees, the Local Authority under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, the Justices of the Peace, the School Boards, and the parochial bodies. [An hon. MEMBER: And the burghs.] I have carefully guarded myself against an expression of the view that we are not in need of reform of Local Government in burghs; but I accept the view of the framers of the Bills that at present they ought to be limited to the counties. I have dealt with the defects in the government of counties, and one of the cardinal features of the 1206 Bills should be to grapple with the defect I have alluded to by consolidating those bodies and uniting their functions in one popularly-constituted body; but I find very little progress in this Bill in that direction. The Commissioners of Supply, carefully maintained by Statute regulating their appointment, will still be an existing part of the administrative bodies of the county. There will still be the Justices of the Peace, the School Boards, and the Parochial Boards, and the only step in the direction of consolidation effected by this Bill, so far as I can see, will be the extinction of the road trustees and the Local Authority under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. But then you are setting up the separate body of the County Council, and therefore you will have substantially a multiplication of governing bodies rather than a consolidation, which, to my mind, is the direction in which a reform ought to have gone. It is proposed to transfer from the Commissioners of Supply to a popularly-elected Council those duties which the Commissioners of Supply at present discharge. These functions include the making up of the valuation roll, the duties imposed under the Registration Act, the control of the rates, matters affecting the public health, and those entrusted to the Parochial Board. When we come to the Justices, we find that the transfer which is proposed relates to duties which, no doubt, are in themselves important, but which, relatively to other functions devolving on the County Councils, are altogether inferior and unimportant. For instance, it is proposed to transfer from the Justices of the Peace the duties named in the 11th Section of the Bill, such as matters connected with gas supply, regulations as to explosive substances, supervision of weights and measures, and other functions relating to drunkards, wild birds, lunatics, and scientific societies. I give these things in the exact order in which they appear as the functions transferred to the County Councils from the Justices of the Peace. Now, what are the branches of local business which, after these popularly-elected Councils are constituted, will continue to be administered entirely outside the limits of their functions by the old County and Parish Boards, which in my humble opinion, ought to cease to exist after the passing of this Bill? There will remain, 1207 entirely outside the discretion of the County Councils, first, the important subject of education; next, the important business of the administration of the Poor Law; thirdly, the important duties connected with the regulation of the police; in the fourth place, the important functions appertaining to the licensing system; and fifthly, all the judicial functions, and a great many others, that are at present performed by the Justices of the Peace. Well, Sir, I must say that a Bill which merely affects what I have pointed out, which sets up County Councils, but does so little in the way of transferring to those Councils the business of the counties, is, in my opinion, much too limited in its scope to constitute a satisfactory measure of Local Government Reform. I may, however, be fairly asked if I am dissatisfied with this measure, what is the principle and what the scope of a Bill which I myself would recommend. Well, Sir, I reply that I entirely approve of the constitution of a County Council elected by the people, but I think it should be elected on a franchise which ought in all respects to be as extensive as the Parliamentary franchise. Then, Sir, I think that, in the next place, there should be a recognition of the existing territorial districts of Scotland and the county parishes; and while I also approve of District Committees, I am of opinion that there should also be Committees for the parishes, for I am unable to see why persons elected by the several electoral divisions of the parishes should not be constituted into Parish Committees, just as the District Committees are constituted. In the next place, I think that the whole business of both county and parish should be transferred to the new authorities created by this Bill. There ought, in my opinion, to be an allocation of the business of the County Council to the District Committee or the Parish Committee, as the particular business thus remitted might be best adapted to those subordinate bodies. The advantage of such a system would be that with reference to those portions of the business which might be allocated to the smaller areas, there could be a right of appeal from tho Parish to the District Committee, in regard to certain matters, or from the District Committee to the Council. In that way you would have the whole business within the county area allocated to the parishes 1208 according to requirements, and you would have the Council, as the representative body, overlooking and managing the general business of the county, with a provision for appeal or review, which has hitherto been so much wanted, and which, in regard to some matters, the House must recognize as an important requisite to secure. Then there would be, in addition to this, the great advantage of simplification in regard to the levying of rates; because, if the whole of the business is placed in the hands of the Councils, the District Committees, and the Parish Committees, I fail to see why there should be the slightest difficulty in the smaller and subordinate bodies, who would require money for the discharge of their functions, ascertaining the amount they require; so that, by reporting it to the Rating Authority, it might be easy, by means of a single rate, to levy all it was necessary for the whole business of the county. Sir, when I come to ask why this Bill has not been framed on some such comprehensive plan as that which I have just indicated, I have no doubt the answer will be, that it would have been inexpedient to have loaded the measure with all these details, whereby its passage through this House might have been endangered. I may add that I should have thought—turning again for a moment to the question of the transfer of powers—that it would have been desirable to have transferred from the Justices the whole of their duties—in fact, to have extinguished the existing Justices altogether, and to have given the County Council power to elect Magistrates from their own number, who would possess all the judicial functions appertaining to the Magistrates of the county, and to whom might be transferred all the duties connected with the granting of licenses. Well, Sir, I entirely fail to see how a scheme of this kind would have been so comprehensive in its character as to have endangered the passing of the Bill, and in saying this I totally dissent from the view of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. In my opinion, to have adopted such a plan would have been to have facilitated the passing of the measure; because, as far as we on this side of the House are concerned, there is not the slightest doubt that the only difficulty the Government will experience in getting their Bill accepted will 1209 arise from its extremely limited scope. Every effort will be made on this side to extend the provisions of the measure, and I cannot doubt that, had the Government taken such a course as suggest, hon. Members opposite would have been equally in favour of a more comprehensive scheme. I am quit aware that the right hon. Gentleman deprecated the expediency of taking up those branches of reform which in any way were suggestive or touched the subjects which were being dealt with ii this Bill. I fully appreciate the fore of the argument, and the scheme which I have sketched out does not involve any such danger, because, Sir, it appears to me that a Bill of this kind would not fulfil its functions if it simply acted as a transfer. Is there any reason why this Bill, which admits of Magistrates popularly elected being brought into existence, should not give to them powers to take over the existing functions of the non-elective Magistrates? This is a question which will have to be dealt with in separate measure. It will have to be decided how far the function and the duty of licensing which is to be transferred shall be displaced by a system giving a larger measure of power to those resident in the locality. I venture humbly to think that the progress of the Bill would have been facilitated by its being made larger and more comprehensive than it is; but I look upon it as a frame upon which a comprehensive plan may be carried out. We have now sufficient experience of the system of popular election in this country to know that it is perfectly safe to apply it to the administration of local affairs. Therefore, I humbly think there is no good ground for the suggestion that this body is not well fitted to discharge all those functions which we suggest should have been given to it. It may be asked why, after this criticism against the Bill—which, however, I hope I have not delivered in a hostile spirit—I concur in the view which is generally taken on this side of the House, that there should not be any opposition to the Second Reading. My answer is, in the first place, that the objectionable features of the Bill to which I have referred may be removed in Committee, and I am not without hope that the Government may still be disposed to make some large concession to the demand from this side 1210 of the House in the way of extending the scope and utility of this measure. But if I should be disappointed in this expectation, there is no doubt that this Bill is an important Bill, in so far as it recognizes the great principle of popularly-elected governing bodies for the counties, and I have such faith in the validity and elasticity of that principle, that even if the Bill were to pass in its present form, tied down and unnecessarily fettered as I think that principle is, I feel perfectly certain that the inherent vigour of that principle will very shortly burst all fetters and bonds in this Bill, and its passing even in its present form undoubtedly will facilitate the passing, after the next General Election, of such a supplementary measure as may be necessary to make the reform of Local Government in Scotland most complete, satisfactory and effective.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College Division)
There are one or two points on which I should like to say a few words. I do not propose to enter into detail, but shall confine myself to two points of principle, and I think this is the more necessary because we have had a great deal of discussion upon detail, in the course of which the guiding principles of the Bill are rather apt to be lost sight of. My hon. and learned. Friend quoted the description of the principle of the Bill which was given by the President of the Local Government Board in a speech he delivered the other day, in which he said that it was a measure intended to transfer powers in counties from the representatives of property to the representatives of all classes. Now, sir, I hail the Bill with satisfaction because that is its principle. But how is that principle carried out? The object has already been achieved in boroughs in Scotland by the municipal system which has been on its trial for nearly half a century, and which has worked perfectly well, and the most obvious way of carrying out that principle in the counties would simply have been to have extended the principle from the burghs to the counties. If that had been done, the Bill need simply to have been composed of two clauses which would have sufficed to make the transfer. But, besides that, the Bill has had engrafted upon it a number of restrictions, and had my proposal been adopted the result would have been, if these 1211 restrictions were to have been introduced. that the two clauses affecting the transfer of the municipal system would have had to be followed by a long string of clauses placing restrictions on the powers of the new body. There would have been one clause depriving the newly-constituted authority of the power of enrolling the police—a power which the Burgh Authorities possess. There would have been another clause depriving them of the control of the licensing system, which is also possessed by the burghs, and there would have been a further clause super-imposing on them for certain purposes a Committee of the Commissioners of Supply. Now, Sir, I cannot understand why the Government did not take the obvious method of calling into existence this power in the counties, unless they did not wish to set before the people of Scotland in all their nakedness the extensive restrictions which they put on Municipal or County Governing Councils. The Lord Advocate laid down another principle. He said he did not intend to deal with the subject of corrupt practices in these County Council elections, because he thought that to do so would be to encumber the Bill. I quite agree as to the advisability of doing that; but still, if the Lord Advocate had assimilated the system to that found in our municipal bodies in towns, we should then have had one homogeneous system throughout the country. This is an important point of principle, and I think if you analyze the objections taken by Members on this side of the House, you will find that they all resolve themselves into objections of the Bill not having been drafted on the well understood lines that regulate our municipal system in towns. Objection has been taken to the withdrawal of the police from the control of the Councils, as compared with the municipal powers granted to towns. Then, again, there is the question of licensing. If the right hon. Gentleman had followed the lines of our old burghal system of administration, I think that many of these objections would have disappeared, because they are based on the withdrawal from the body which it is supposed to call into existence, powers which are already entrusted to Municipal Councils. There is another point on which I wish to say 1212 a few words, and that is the question of rating. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs suggested that as the rating system proposed by the Lord Advocate is cumbersome and complicated, it might be better to divide the county rates, once and for all, between owners and occupiers exempting leases from the operation of the change. I do not intend to enter into details on this point. I think the Lord Advocate will recognize that the whole system of rating in Scotland is in a state of utter chaos. The Lord Advocate, as a Member of the Committee, which last year sat for many weeks and months to consider this question, will not, I think, deny that the powers of classification and deduction entrusted to the Parochial Boards in Scotland with regard to the incidence of the most important portion of rating in Scotland as between owner and occupier are in a state of utter chaos, varying in almost every parish in Scotland; and, therefore, the time is come when we ought to lay down some general principle to regulate the incidence of rating of all kinds in Scotland. Now, it appears that Parliament has, to a certain extent of late years, established such a principle; it has provided that the rates shall be divided between owner and occupier in certain cases, and following that precedent the educational rating has been divided, and more recently the road rate has been similarly divided. In towns, as the right hon. Gentleman doubtless knows, there is a strong and urgent demand for the division of local and municipal rates between owner and occupier, and it would be a very great comfort and blessing to the country if one principle could be laid down, and advantage taken of the important step which we are about to adopt in reforming County Government, to make some intelligible and simple plan applying to the entire country and to all sorts of rates. It will not make much difference to the occupier in the counties if the present leases are exempted. The amount of the county rates, as compared with the education and other rates, is infinitesimally small. I wish to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman to see whether advantage cannot be taken of the measure he is now introducing to lay down some general and simple principle applicable to all manner of rating, which will put an end 1213 to the utter chaos and confusion which now reign throughout Scotland, especially in the matter of most burdensome rates connected with the education rates and the Poor Law. Now, we want free education. I know the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board cordially told us that he did not agree with free education. There was a certain sum to be allotted to Scotland, to which a certain amount was required for particular grants in relief of local taxation; and he said they were willing to apply the rest in the same direction, but the people of Scotland preferred to have it in the shape of free education, and the Government were quite willing that the money should be appropriated as the people of Scotland wished. Well, Sir, that is all very well; as I say, the people of Scotland want free education, and they want the Government to have backbone enough to give it to them. If they will not give us any more money, let them say they will not give this additional grant to School Boards unless they comply with a condition to give free education and abolish fees. I believe unless you do that you will have a mongrel sort of education, which possesses none of the advantages of free education, and none of the supposed advantages of an education for which the parent has to pay. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to give us some fuller information both about the educational proposals and the financial proposals of the Government. I do not profess to understand the financial proposals contained in the Bill, and I must say that the Finance Committee of the Glasgow Town Council, whose business it is to study these financial matters, also state that they cannot understand them; therefore we cannot be expected to receive, without considerable discussion, financial proposals so abstruse that those most immediately concerned profess themselves unable to understand them. So far as my constituency is concerned, the matter has been complicated by the action of the Government with respect to the Glasgow Boundaries Commission Bill. It used to be understood on both sides of the House, both by the burghs and by the County Authorities, that some extensive change must take place, and the upset that necessarily follows the financial arrangements under this Bill renders 1214 still more unintelligible the unintelligible financial propositions of the Government. If the Glasgow burghs had not been allowed to expect that action would have been taken by the Government on the Commissioners' Report in respect of this boundaries question, they would probably have settled it for themselves by bringing in a private Bill, but they have been staved off, and nothing has been done, in the expectation that the Government would take up the matter. Now, at a critical moment, the Government has left them in the lurch, and when the proper time comes to discuss this point, I and my colleagues certainly intend to do our best to induce the Government to repair the injury which has been caused by allowing this boundaries question to remain unsettled.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I beg to move the Adjournment of the Debate.
Debate further adjourned till Thursday.