§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2.
§ (7.51.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I beg to move the omission from Clause 2, page 2, line 8, of Subsection 2.—Agreed to.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
I beg to move the omission from Clause 2, page 2, line 11, of the words "a sum not exceeding 40"in order to insert the words "the sum of 90." I hope the Committee will extend its indulgence to me, because it is impossible that this Amendment can be adequately discussed unless it is placed in clear contrast with an Amendment which stands lower down in the Paper, in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The situation, in fact, is this—the ingenious financial schemes of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, tempered and modified by the hazards of the legislative Session, have resulted in placing before us the sum of £50,000, which has to be expended somehow or other in Scotland, and our business is to find not only a good and beneficial object for its expenditure, but the object which shall be the most beneficial and the most agreeable to the wishes of the Scottish people. I, therefore, have to show that my proposal is better than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope that the Chairman will turn a blind eye on any references which it may be necessary to make to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I have, however, first of all to make out a case for my own proposal, which is that the sum now available should be devoted to freeing from payment of fees the entire system of primary education in Scotland. It is a proposal that has been standing on the Paper in the name of several of my hon. Friends, to whose courtesy I am indebted for allowing me to come before them—a proposal put forward as an alternative to what was originally intended by Her Majesty's Government. It is, in fact, but the development, and the necessary development, of the principle for which many of us have con- 1110 tended ever since this question of Local Government and Local Finance has come under the review of Parliament. But in order that the Committee, and especially such Members as may not have followed the course of Scottish affairs, may understand the precise present position of this question, I should like to make a brief reference to the facts of its history during the last Session of Parliament. The moment it became known that a large sum from the Probate Duty was available for the relief of local burdens in Scotland, several of my hon. Friends put forward free education as the first demand to be satisfied. My hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen issued a statement of the case, formed a Committee, and did all he could to concentrate public opinion upon the question; and it soon became apparent that there was a strong current of opinion in Scotland in favour of the abolition of school fees, and that any other proposal had no chance of public favour. And this need not surprise us, because while the pressure of this burden is more irksome and more widely spread among the poorest classes of the community than that of any other local burden, we must, at the same time, remember that there has always been a traditional sentiment in Scotland in favour of a widely diffused system of education, and especially of primary education, and that sentiment strongly and very obviously accepted this destination of the money as the best that could be adopted. This current of feeling was in no sense of a political character. Members on the other side of the House fell in with it, and we were all gratified to find when the Local Government Bill was introduced that the Government had recognised the sentiment, and proposed to meet it by a considerable relief of school fees. But the Government proposed to go only to a very modest and timid extent. They proposed to confine the relief to the lowest three standards. It was generally felt that such a concession would be altogether inadequate, and that it would probably do more harm than good. It was thought it would do substantial injury to the interests of education, because it would throw on the whole of the advanced standards a great degree of prejudice and discouragement, and, 1111 therefore, last Session the whole I machinery of Parliament pressure was brought to bear on the Government to egg them on to grant as large an amount of money for the purpose of free education as they had at their disposal. These efforts were successful. In fact, we succeeded in getting transferred to the purpose of free education a large sum of money which was intended for the very object of direct relief of rates, to which this money is now proposed to be devoted. In the end a Minute of the Scotch Education Department was issued, abolishing fees for the three lower standards, and for as much of the 4th and 5th standards as the money available would be sufficient for. This is, I believe, an accurate and impartial account of what occurred; but what was our surprise when we went down to the country after the Session was over, and the severities of the Autumn campaign commenced—a campaign which turns what is still by convention called a holiday into the most hard-working portion of the whole year for the unfortunate Member of Parliament—to discover that we had been entirely mistaken, that the activity of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) and his friends was nothing but a dream, and that it was not the case that the Scottish people, and still less the Scottish Members, had forced Her Majesty's Government step by step to enter upon and develop this policy. We were assured, on the platforms and in the Press, by the supporters of the Government, that they were the true authors of the policy of free education, and that any apparent reluctance they had shown in making these advances was only their way of dissembling their zeal, and this view was confirmed when the Prime Minister said that he was in a state of impatient expectation for the time when if the Budget was favourable and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was good-natured, he would extend to benighted England those blessings of free education which he and his Colleagues had already spontaneously given to Scotland. I am not concerned to inquire into the question, interesting as it may be, to whom credit is due for this thing, but I want the thing to be done, and I want it to be done thoroughly and at once, and 1112 that is why I move this Amendment. I am glad, at the same time, in moving it, to afford an opportunity to the Government and their friends, which, no doubt, they have been longing for, of justifying and confirming all those fine phrases and declarations which they made so freely last Recess. I have stated how Parliament left this question. But what have the School Boards of Scotland done? They were obliged, as I have said, to abolish all fees in Standards I., II., and III., and more or less in Standards IV. and V., and they were free in the matter of remitting the rest. What has happened is this: In 2,265 schools, fees have been abolished up to and including Standard V., in 100 schools up to and including Standard VI., and in 674 schools the fees have been abolished for all scholars. I would ask, Can anyone conversant with Scotland doubt that the 674 schools in which all fees have been abolished have the sympathy and approval of the great mass of the people in that country? Can anyone doubt that the 2,265 other schools would have followed that good example if it had not been that they were timid as to the financial result? And they were timid with good reason, because, unfortunately, many of the schools which were bold enough to abolish fees altogether, with the full approval and consent of the School Board constituents, found that they could not make both ends meet, and the Boards were compelled to impose a rate. Now, that is the position of things at present in Scotland. There are some, of course, who will say that we should stop short in this matter at the compulsory standards, and that there is no need to dispense with fees where attendance is voluntary. I do not know whether that is the line which the Government propose to take. Of course, everyone can see that there exists, in the one case, an argument that does not exist in the other. The argument is this—you compel a man to send his child to school, and it is too bad to impose on him the burden of a fee, but when he has an option in the matter, as in the case of the voluntary standards, it may be asked, Where is the hardship of a fee. My answer to that is, that, although there is a necessary limit to the compulsion exercised by the State, there is no 1113 limit whatever to the encouragement that ought to be given by the State, and that if at a certain period of a child's school career there is introduced the new element of a fee, you may depend upon it that you at once indicate discouragement even if you do not actually discourage from further attendance. Let the Committee consider for a moment how this works and what it involves. A child, I presume, when it has passed the fifth standard may be 10 years old. If it is discharged at that age from further attendance, not only is it debarred from the higher and further branches of learning, but by the lack of exercise it loses to a great extent all it has learned. We in Scotland are not, and have never been, devotees of the three R's. We have never believed that reading, writing, and ciphering are the whole educational duty of man. We have never feared to spoil our people with over knowledge. We have in our mind the traditional idea so often quoted of the ladder with its feet in the parish school and its upper steps in the University. That is the reason why we refuse to stop short at the compulsory standards, and why we will never rest until the scheme is complete. Now, I proceed to ask, "Can we do this?" The total amount sacrificed by the extinction of fees in these standards may be put at from £330,000 to £340,000. The amount -available last year was £250,000, so that there is a deficit of £80,000 or £90,000. The Government, under this Bill, propose to give £40,000. The Committee will see, then, that here is a gap in our educational system crying aloud to be filled up. Here is a great national purpose, a beneficent, necessary, and even vital purpose, waiting for a windfall of money to meet it, and here is a windfall of the exact sum required tumbling accidentally into the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and which we ask them to devote for this purpose. We have, let me say, no Party, or sinister, or selfish motive in moving this Amendment or making this recommendation. It is odd that I should have to say this, but we constantly are accustomed to have imputed to us the worst Parliamentary and political vices. We are supposed to be degrading Parliament, and to be anxious to bring about the dismemberment of the Empire, 1114 and I do not know what. This view of our conduct could not be better expressed than it was by the Home Secretary, on Saturday last, in Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman, who seems to be much more triumphant in Birmingham than he has ever been in this House, had the audacity to say of us, amongst many other complimentary things:—I ask you, if ever you meet those who differ with you in political opinion, to contrast the condition of Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's Opposition, and to challenge them to tell you what their Party have done except obstruct. What measure have they ever improved? What useful suggestion have they ever made? Their function has been to delay all useful legislation, to hamper the action both of the Government and the law, to waste the public time, to degrade Parliament.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
That is the opinion of the Home Secretary. Why, there is not one of his Bills which is not made up of the suggestions he has received from this side of the House. He goes down into the country and boasts of the Bills he has passed, but he cannot point to one as to which he has not received a useful suggestion from this side of the House. Having been challenged in this way, and told that we never make useful suggestions, I think I am in order in pointing out that here at least is one. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that no secret had been made on this side of the House of the object to which we think this money ought to be applied. We have told the Government that in this way they can gain credit and popularity, and make capital, if you like, if they choose to do so. They have not acted on that hint or advice, and it seems to me to be somewhat strange conduct for right hon. Gentlemen, who a few months ago expressed themselves as eaten up with a burning zeal in the cause of free education, to be obstinately resolved that, whatever else is done, this is a thing they will not do. Now I come to the other part of the question, and I wish to point out that it is not as if there were a great many other national purposes in Scotland to which this money could at present be devoted. Free education is not surrounded by a great number of competing attractions. I know, in 1115 fact, of no other subject fulfilling the conditions of the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been troubled, like Paris, with the beauties of contending goddesses. His choice is rather Hobson's choice. This is the only thing he can reasonably do with the money. The right hon. Gentleman has been for some weeks engaged in trying to find some other purpose to which to devote the money. It was shortly after Whitsuntide that the Licensing Clauses were withdrawn, and it was only on Monday that he could tell us what he is going to do with this money. And what is he going to do with it? He has ransacked Scotland from one end to the other to find some purpose to which he can devote the money, and although here before him is this great national purpose, he thrusts this £50,000 literally into the waste basket.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
In relief of local taxation! I have this personal advantage, that I have sat at the feet of the right hon. Gentleman in this very matter of the relations between Imperial and local finance. I was an inexperienced Member of the House of Commons during the years from 1868 to 1871, when the right hon. Gentleman was President of the Local Government Board—or, as it was then called, the Poor Law Board—and I listened with reverential awe to the doctrines he propounded, and absorbed his financial doctrines into my political fibre. One of the right hon. Gentleman's canons consisted in pointing out the evil effects of general subsidies in aid of local taxation. He urged that they led to extravagance and mal-administration; that a definite object ought to be kept in view in giving such grants; and that it should be a definite single tax which should be so devoted, and not a haphazard sum of money out of the general taxation fund.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman is really not representing my views. These are not propositions I laid down.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am representing my recollection of them. If he repudiates these principles I shall be very much astonished to hear him do 1116 so. Another point of the right hon. Gentleman's was that the money in relief of local taxation ought to be derived front the owners, if possible.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman's recollection is again wrong-That is an entire, involuntary misrepresentation of my views. The right hon. Gentleman said he absorbed my canons;. he seems to have exuded them.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not know whether I acquired these views by endosmosis or by ecdosmosis; but these were the general lines of financial doctrine that the right hon. Gentleman then propounded. They are in my very distinct recollection. The right hon. Gentleman now proposes to do that which conflicts with everyone of the principles I have alluded to. He takes a part of tax which is paid by the consumer, instead of taking a totally definite and distinct tax; and besides that he does not devote the money to any definite purpose, but merely hands it over to the County Councils and Town Councils that they may do with it what they like.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Can the right hon. Gentleman point to any passage in which I said that these contributions from new taxes ought to be devoted to a particular object, and not to the relief of general rates?
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is my impression. I confess I am speaking from recollection, and if the right hon. Gentleman repudiates that doctrine, I will admit that he never propounded it. What I wish to submit to the right hon. Gentleman is whether, in proposing to hand over this money in this loose and slovenly fashion to the County Councils and Town Councils in Scotland, he is not really handing it in the main to the landowners, and not to the great body of the ratepayers. At any rate that is so in the counties. The right hon. Gentleman is probably not aware that the general county rate is a consolidated rate—a stereotyped rate, and so long as the expenditure does not exceed the stereotyped limit the whole of that expenditure is paid by the owners. Therefore, the whole of the relief will be given to the owners, if the County Councils choose so to apply the money. I do not say they will do so in all cases. It may be asked, "Why should you object to relieving the ratepayers?" Well, I 1117 do not object to relieving the ratepayers on the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, but I do object to it in this loose fashion. Last year the Scotch Members deliberately and almost unanimously urged the Committee, and the Committee agreed, to transfer to remission of school fees large sums of money originally intended to go in relief of rates, and that was done with the entire approval of the country. And this is the very proceeding, the freeing of education, for which the Government took so much credit during the autumn of last year. I have little more to say. I appeal to the Committee to deal with this question as a Scotch question, and in accordance with the views of the Scottish people, and with the circumstances and necessities of Scotland. My proposal will not be questioned or objected to in any part of Scotland. I will not do the English people the discredit of saying that even they would not prefer to the mere naked brutal relief of rates in the indiscriminate fashion which is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, a definite relief given to the heavy burden of school fees with all the educational impulses which would necessarily follow. I am well content to set the two objects clearly before the Committee and the country and to leave it to their judgment. These are the two alternative purposes to which the money can be applied. The application of the money proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer sins, as I think, and as I think he himself would have admitted 20 years ago, against sound principles of finance. The relief afforded will be inappreciable, and it is not asked for by the very bodies who will receive it. It will benefit most the class which least requires it. On the other hand, the destination of the money which I ask the Committee to approve is eagerly desired by the Public Bodies who will have the distribution of the money. It will benefit the most hardly pressed class in the community, it will save many a poor man from the temptation of failing to do justice to the capacity of his children, and, at the same time, it will maintain and vindicate that faith in the widest diffusion of learning which has been long a happy characteristic of the Scottish people. (8.35.)
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 11, to leave out the words "a sum not exceeding forty," and insert the words "the sum of ninety,"—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.) —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'a sum not exceeding forty' stand part of the Clause."
§ *(9.5.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I have no desire to-traverse the ground so ably traversed by my right hon. Friend who moved this Amendment, but I do desire to express sympathy with that Amendment on general terms, while indicating one or two reasons for its acceptance. In their own interests I think it is desirable the Government should accept the Amendment. They have already dealt, to the great satisfaction of the people of Scotland, with this question of the abolition of school fees, and it would greatly redound to their credit if they would complete the good work to which they have set their hand, and earn the gratitude of the people of Scotland to the full extent as they already have to a certain degree. This proposition is put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an alternative, and surely it is a great pity that he should propose to fritter away this money by handing it over to Local Authorities, while the work commenced stands in need of completion. I think we have the sympathy of the Lord Advocate in this matter. I do him the justice of assuming that, if he had his own free way, he would be glad to support this Amendment, but, owing to the exigencies of office, he has to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will not do him the injustice to suppose that he is not in sympathy with the desire to confer this boon upon the people of Scotland. I may urge the proposal on Conservative grounds. We wish to look back to a state of matters such as existed in Scotland in days long gone past. We have heard from right hon. Gentlemen glorifications of John Knox, and here is an opportunity to carry out, on Conservative grounds, with application to modern, interests and requirements, the grand doctrine of John Knox, that education in Scotland should be free. The Government should think themselves fortunate in having this £90,000 available for the 1119 purpose, and devote it to the completion of the work they have begun. It would be a graceful thing to do, and would be in accordance with the principles they professed. I need scarcely insist upon how much this is wished for by the people of Scotland. I think it has been sufficiently shown that these school fees are exigible from poor parents just at the time when they are least able to bear the payment, and no relief of taxation will give relief when it is so much needed. I will not retort upon the Government the adaptability to circumstances they have exhibited in regard to this money. I shall be perfectly content to forego all such remarks if they will only accept the Amendment. Let them complete this work, with the commencement of which their administration is already connected, and the Government will leave an excellent monument behind them to declare that, whatever their short-comings in other respects, at least, they did this good thing for Scotland, and to meet the clear wish of the Scotch people. As regards the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this money should be given to County Councils, Town Councils, and Police Burghs, I think the amount is so infinitesimal, when it comes to be divided, that really I may say it will have no effect at all in giving relief to localities. It has also been pointed out by my right hon. Friend that the rate that has to be paid now to County Councils, and I refer particularly to County Councils, the effect being very small in burghs, that the rate is a Consolidated Bate, and the money going to the reduction of this would relieve the landlords and larger ratepayers, and would not reach the poorer ratepayers at all. Give it to the relief of school fees, and you apply direct relief to the poorer classes. I think this has not been sufficiently taken into account, for I am sure it is the poorer ratepayers the Government would desire to relieve. I also appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to stand too much upon his dignity in this matter, now that it has been made clear to him what the motives of the people of Scotland really are. It was due to him that this should be made clear, and I appeal to him on the broad ground that he should assist the Scotch people to maintain their educa- 1120 tional position in the world. The Government proposition is that the distribution of this money should be according to valuation, and that, of course, means that the locality showing the larger valuation gets the larger share, and it is obvious that on this principle the apportionment will not be according to needs. Speaking for my own constituency, the part of the country with which I am best acquainted, I am certain, from the expressions of opinion at the time of the passing of the Local Government Act, that the feeling of the people is heartily in favour of free education not only for compulsory standards, but in the rural districts there is a strong desire for the application of the principle to higher education, that they may have a share in secondary education, such as is within reach of the inhabitants of burghs. I have still a hope the Government may accept the Amendment, but if not I shall have great pleasure in giving it the support of my vote.
§ *(9.15). MR. M. J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
There can be no question that the Conservative and Unionist Party were quite agreed in giving free education to the people of Scotland, and the statements made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite that every conceivable piece of legisla-lation should be thrown to the winds until the Irish Home Rule Bill was carried show that we should have heard nothing about free education if a Liberal Government had been elected on the last occasion. I must say, therefore, I am surprised to hear the vaunting statements of the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Banner-man) to the effect that free education was forced from the Government by Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member who has just sat down appears to distrust the County Councils and the Local Councils in the burghs. One would imagine, after listening to many platform speeches in Scotland, that Gentlemen opposite were willing to trust the County Councils with anything; but I hold that we on this side of the House are really more anxious to show our trust in them than they are. We wish to say to the County Councils, "You know your districts. We give you 1121 £50,000 amongst you. Do with it what you please."
§ * MR. A. SUTHERLAND
I make no complaint about the impartiality of the County Councils. What I complained of was that they were tied down to the Consolidated Rate.
§ * MR. M. J. STEWART
I maintain that my argument is strictly correct. I think we ought not to stint our trust in the County Councils in this House. We have given them very large powers already, and we wish to increase these powers, step by step. The hon. Member said the Lord Advocate had given way on this question, and then he made an appeal to him to give way further. I maintain that my right hon. and learned Friend has taken the proper course on this question. He is not going to consider one class only, but to give the money to the County Councils, for the benefit of all classes. There are many questions in the counties which require money in order that they may be properly dealt with, such as the parochial rates and the rates for roads, which press hardly upon tenant farmers and small proprietors. There is a tendency in many counties to expend more than has been spent, and if that expenditure can be reduced by £50,000, proposed to be devoted to the ratepayers, so much the better, not only for the proprietors but for every other class in the counties. This is just one of those question where, when one class benefits, all classes benefit. There has been no strong expression of opinion in Scotland in favour of getting this money for education, whereas there have been strong representations on the other side, and I, therefore, think the Government are taking the right course. I have not received a single letter in favour of handing over the £50,000 for free education. I hope the Government will stand by the proposals, and will not be led away by any specious arguments on the other side.
§ *(9.24.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
The hon. Member has talked about trusting the County Councils. Will he and the Government agree to let the County Councils expend this £50,000 on any good purpose they, in their discretion, think wise? If not, what becomes of the hon. Member's argument about trusting the County Councils? The fact is, that the hon. Member, with his Con- 1122 servative views, wishes that this money should be tied down for distribution by the wealthier part of the ratepayers, as a relief fund for themselves. That is really what it comes to, and the people of Scotland will be able to judge respecting the views the hon. Member entertains as to the discretion of the County Councils. I am obliged to the Lord Advocate for the courteous assistance he has given me in seeking to obtain information as to the destiny of this £50,000. The right hon. Gentleman has been clear and courteous in the answers he has given to my questions on the subject, and has, thereby, I think, enabled us to obtain a clearer issue than would otherwise have been the case before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that it is within the discretion of the County Councils to apply the whole of this £50,000 to relieve the landlords and proprietors of Scotland from the obligations they took up last year in regard to the Consolidated Rate. There are very few purposes to which, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, it is possible to apply this money. There is the improvement of public health to which the money can be applied, I admit, for the benefit of the whole community; but, after all, public health, lies at the doors of the proprietors. It is the duty of every proprietor to make the dwelling he owns healthy and fit for his tenants to live in. Therefore, we can dispense with the question of sanitation. Then we are induced to look at the Road Rate. That rate has never fallen at all heavily upon the great masses of the population in Scotland; it has fallen largely, and very properly so, upon the landed proprietors and tenant farmers. The obligation to keep up the roads has rested hitherto upon those who use the roads for the purpose of carrying on their business. We are consequently reduced to the old Consolidated Rate, which includes payment for police and other purposes in the counties, of a very light kind indeed. The obligations which are heavy in Scotland are the obligations in respect to the relief of the poor and the education of the people. The County Councils have no power to apply a single penny of this £50,000 to the people in these respects. Originally the Government proposed to apply the 1123 money to the promotion of temperance, but, at the request of the Scotch Members, they" withdrew their proposal, and now we have to apply the money to some better purpose. In making their original proposal, the Government had the good of the people at heart; will they, and my hon. Friend who has just spoken, accept the decision of the Representatives of the people of Scotland on this subject? My hon. Friend says he has not received a single communication from his constituents in favour of applying the money to the completion of the scheme of free education in Scotland. I have had many communications, and I have had none from Scotland which has not been in favour of applying this money to the completion of the scheme of free education. I believe the landed proprietors and large farmers, who will be benefited to some slight extent by this £50,000, will feel more pride and satisfaction by far in having the system of free education made complete, than in receiving the relief at present proposed But we are not confined to free education. It has been a matter of great regret to every educationalist in Scotland that while we have got the great boon of free education up to Standard V., we suffer greatly from the want of opportunities for secondary and higher education. Here young people are forced through Standard V. at a very early age—often at 11 years of age, and certainly in all cases at 12 years of age. These young people, on account of the necessities of the families, are sent out to work. They have no chance of receiving secondary, or higher education, and, to a large extent, they lose the education they acquired in their young days. The people of Scotland have long desired the establishment of technical and evening schools. Such schools exist in large industrial centres, owing to endowments which have been wisely given by the Endowed Schools' Commissioners; but they are entirely wanting in the counties of Scotland. Not only do the people want evening schools and schools for technical and higher education, but they feel that if no other purpose could be found to which to devote this £50,000, the money might be usefully employed in establishing free libraries in large centres of population. I hope the Lord Advocate who, on several occasions, has taken a liberal view of 1124 Scotch affairs will not take the retrograde step of relieving the landed and wealthier-classes at the expense of damping the aspirations of the people of Scotland in respect to secondary and higher education. If a poll of the Scottish people were taken, I do not think there would be half-a-dozen Scotch Members who could come to the House and say that the landed proprietors and the larger farmers are desirous of absorbing the whole of this £50,000. If the money is applied as now proposed, it will do no good to any large class of the community, and it will be received with no thankfulness by the County Councils.
§ *(9.38.) MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)
During his political career hitherto, I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs has only been celebrated for one magnificent phrase, the phrase of his "having found salvation," but to-night he has used another phrase which will become celebrated, and which I trust every ratepayer in the country will carefully note, namely, "the naked and brutal relief of rates." Surely that is a form of nakedness and that is a form of brutality of which no Government need be ashamed. Undoubtedly, from every point of view, this is a question of rates. According to the plan of the Government it is proposed to hand this money over to the County Councils, and a considerable portion of the money will probably go to the relief of the Road Rate. That rate is paid half by the occupier and half by the owner, and relief to that rate will be warmly welcomed by too long suffering ratepayers. I think I have some right to speak on this subject, because it was actually on my Amendment that the Government were run so close last year, that they gave way upon the question of the large additional grant for free education. I acted with the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) as teller in the memorable Division in which the Government majority was reduced to 13. The object we had in view last year was to secure the entire freedom of the compulsory standards in Scotland. With the addition of the £40,000 already allocated, the compulsory standards will, according to the proposals of the Government, be set perfectly free. But the right hon. Gentleman says that he would 1125 put no limit to the freeing of education. Does this mean that the Universities are also to be free? ["Hear, hear!"] I congratulate hon. Members opposite on having the courage of their convictions, because I do not think that the ratepayers of Scotland will support them in that proposition. I am myself in favour of all the standards in primary schools in Scotland being free; but where, at present, is the money to come from? The sum now allotted to the relief of rates was never meant for education. Next year we have every reason to hope that free education will be granted to England out of Imperial funds, and, of course, Scotland will then receive her share from the same source. The people of Scotland will then be able to free all the standards in the primary schools, and will also have a very considerable sum for the relief of rates; but, in the meantime, let the Committee be just before it is generous.
§ (9.44.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I am glad to take part in this Debate before it partakes in any sense of a Party character, because I want to lay before the Committee a practical argument which I think is unanswerable. I recognise the practical interest the hon. Member for South Lanarkshire (Mr. Hozier) has shown in freeing education in Scotland. He says that he and we last year did not go further than urging the Government to set free the compulsory standards. That is quite true, because the money which we were dealing with last year was not sufficient even to free the compulsory standards. But now Providence, in the shape of this distribution of the Spirit and Beer Duty, has placed before us this sum of money we never expected, and now we make a further demand. The hon. Member for South Lanarkshire asks whether we put any limit to free education, whether we desire to set free the high schools and the universities. I reply that we want to make elementary education free in Scotland; we wish to set free all the standards in the elementary schools. Do hon. Members know what the state of elementary education in Scotland is at this moment? It is free in the lower standards, but parents have to pay in the higher standards, in almost all cases, and so the higher standards are omitted. At present the parents of children in the Sixth Standard 1126 pay fees in 2,310 schools in Scotland. And what, after all, is the Sixth Standard? It consists of reading aloud with appropriate expression, writing a short letter on a given subject, and working out some extremely simple questions in arithmetic. In addition there are what are called class subjects, which consist of intelligent explanation of passages in English read by students, learning by heart 150 lines of poetry, and answering a few questions on the geography of the world and British colonies and dependencies. In addition, there are certain special subjects which may be taken up in a very humble and elementary manner by children in the Sixth Standard. Now, I ask hon. Members, and Scotch Members particularly, whether this presents such an extended system of education that we should be satisfied if only a few children reach it? Out of 648,000 children on the register, and 510,000 in average attendance, less than 30,000 attain the Sixth Standard. The main cause of this is that parents of the working classes are tempted and induced to take their children away from school because, after a certain point, the fees increase with the standard reached, until the amount becomes considerable to the poorer class of people. I have a paper here which gives the highest and the lowest fees charged in the different standards. The minimum fee rises from 2d. to 3d. and from 4d. to 4½d. in the Sixth Standard, and the maximum from 6d. to 9d. and from 1s. to 1s. 6d. I maintain, therefore, that this increase of fees is the reason why so many children in Scotland are removed from school before they reach the higher standards. I hope the Government will not yet commit themselves to a proposal that will perpetuate this system. I may remind the Committee of the Report of that important Commission upon educational results in England, and I may quote a few lines from the minority Report of that Commission, to which great weight will be given, as being the Report of very eminent, practical educationalists, and which cannot be considered prejudiced, as my right hon. Friend (Sir W. Hart Dyke) will agree. The Report says—We think that in no case should fees be raised with the standard in which the children are being educated. The increase of fees as the children get higher, has had an increasing 1127 tendency to drive the children prematurely to work.Now, I would ask hon. Members to consider, if this is the effect of raising the fees, how much more is the effect of driving children prematurely from school likely to be brought about when it is not a question of raising fees merely, but of instituting fees for the first time on entrance to the Sixth Standard? Yet the Government, by the course they propose to adopt, would help to perpetuate this unsatisfactory state of things, and I venture to say that their action will cause much disappointment in Scotland. There are 44 schools in Scotland where fees are paid in all standards. In Glasgow, 10 schools have been picked out, and in these fees are paid and from these schools children of poorer parents have been evicted by the hundred, and are obliged to walk past the doors of these schools to some distant and less efficient schools where fees are not charged. In good faith the Glasgow School Board have made this arrangement; they have not money enough to free all the schools, but the result is that the attention of people interested in education is concentrated upon these 10 schools, and diverted from the other schools. The poorer children, the ragged children, the waifs and strays, are concentrated in the free schools, and socially and morally there is a tendency in these schools for the tone to deteriorate, they having no proportion of the better class poor children among them. The hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. Stewart) says it is necessary to be just before we are generous, and we should give relief to the ordinary ratepayers, but just see what the relief would be to Glasgow. A sum of £7,000 falls to the share of Glasgow, and at the very outside that is a relief of ¾d. in the £1. On the other hand, concentrate the relief upon education, and you assist people at the very moment when they want it most, when their children are young. A good deal has been said about the wish of Scotland in this matter. I will not refer, as others have done, to coming elections, but I will simply direct the attention of the Government to the coming Division of the Committee to-night as an indication of the feeling of Scotch Members, and of Scotland, on the question. Let this be the test. Let me remind the right hon. 1128 Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury of the very effective speech he made in St. Andrew's Hall, Glasgow, last year, when he said that in the carrying out of these financial proposals for the assistance of local rates, deference had been paid by the Government, deference which it was their duty to pay, to the expression of Scotch opinion. Let him pay that deference now to that opinion as it will be expressed to-night. The Division will show that Scotland unquestionably desires that this £90,000 should be given to free elementary education, and the amount is just sufficient to enable the much-desired object to be carried out, with a few thousands on the right side. It has been said that we have been trying this Session to legislate for classes, and not for the benefit of the people as a whole. Each side has been charged with this by the other; but here, at all events, is an opportunity to do something for the benefit of an entire community, something for which they will be grateful; and I appeal especially to those who are in favour of free education not to let this opportunity pass. Here we have an opportunity to accomplish an object thoroughly and completely. To those who are nervous about free education, I would direct attention to the present state of things in Scotland. They will see that all the harm that could happen from free education in Scotland has been done already. If free education makes men dependent, and robs them of self-reliance, that has been done already, because all the dependent and non-self-reliant classes already get their children paid for. But you have stopped exactly at that point, and I say, if the system be left as it now exists, there will be an immense temptation to parents to remove their children from school before reaching those subjects which have been the glory of Scotland in the past. The Amendment, if adopted, will avert a great blow to all that is best in Scotch education. I have not discussed the matter from a Party point of view, and I hope the Government will agree to do that which will be so much to the benefit of Scotland. If they do, the House will never have done a better day's work, nor will the Government have ever made a more gracious concession.
§ (10.2.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
The right hon. Gentleman felicitated himself upon rising at that opportune moment in the Debate, up to which no Party element had been introduced. He has qualified himself for making that observation by having studiously absented himself from listening to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). That speech was conceived in such a tone that even the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at Birmingham must be made the subject of his comment—not because it was relevant to the subject, but merely because it was made by an opposing partisan. The right hon. Gentleman dilated with eagerness upon the ferocious attacks made by my right hon. Friend upon the dilatory tactics of the Opposition, but he failed to convince anyone of the relevancy of his arguments. Accordingly, I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton upon the judicious method by which, when he has got points which he considers, with some justice, to be fair points, and points which are ad rem, he abstains from listening to the intemperate utterances of some of the more furious and violent spirits of his Party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs rose to heroics such as we are not accustomed to from that quarter. I am sorry to observe that they have deserted him now, because I do not see him in his place. But in filling up the canvas with a very broad brush, he said the option presented to the Committee on the present Amendment was that, on the one hand, we might choose mere naked brutal relief of the rates, and, on the other hand, what he described, in what I observed to be written and deliberate language, as the widest diffusion of knowledge. This is a monetary question. We have to determine the allocation of £50,000, and the question is whether we are to descend into the abyss of political degradation involved in the handing over of this £50,000 to the naked and brutal relief of the rates, or whether we are going to offer up the £50,000 towards some evanescent wave in favour of "the widest diffusion of knowledge." The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that 1130 if we adopted the naked and brutal plan our money was not worth having. Yes, but rates sound in money, because they are made up of nothing else. Well, the right hon. Gentleman goes on in the strain the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevel-yan) warns us against. He wanted to inquire whether we would discard an opportunity of showing our zeal for a policy to which he considers we are committed. If he means the policy which he most inaccurately described as free education—if that is the policy for which we are invited to show our zeal, may I retort with the very appposite question: "When did he begin to show his zeal?" He has been a Member of this House, and a responsible Minister for a number of years, but I cannot recall, and if he had been here I should have asked him to aid my recollection, any occasion on which he showed any such zeal. [At this point Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN re-entered the House.] I am asking when the right hon. Gentleman showed his zeal for free education, until free education had been introduced from another political quarter into the arena. It is not a question which has risen into existence or into prominence since 1885. It has been a standing problem for years, and therefore I think that before the right hon. Gentleman charges us with lack of zeal, he ought to look a little at his own record, and show that he was of the regenerate when we were of the unregenerate. I might further remind him that the essential ground of his politics, and the ground upon which he stands now, was only discovered by him to be essential in the year 1886. The right hon. Gentleman asks what I am talking about. If he makes an observation in a tone accessible to this side of the House, he must take the consequences; but this new apostle of free education transcends the limits not only of moderation, but of discretion, in describing the scope of his ambition. He tells us what he aims at is the widest diffusion of knowledge. But when he descends to more specific terms what is it I find? His spirit rises above even relevancy, and he has, in the most apposite and convincing, against himself, illustration, pointed to what he revels in describing as the old Scottish system of 1131 education. It certainly was a most admirable system in one respect. A lad went to a parish school. He found that he got from the schoolmaster instruction in Greek and in Latin, and he went straight from the parish school to the University. Does the right hon. Gentleman propose that we should complete the scheme of last year by carrying this lad into his studies of Latin and Greek at the school?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
But the right hon. Gentleman does not say no. That is left to his inconsequent supporter behind him. Well, the right hon. Gentleman does not propose that. No, but I do not think his theory or principles or aspirations will permit him to stop short of voting money out of the Local Taxation Account towards carrying enterprising boys into and through the University. The right hon. Gentleman assents to that. Well, then, let me put this question to him. What is your tariff? Would £50,000 suit you? Would £100,000 suit you?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The hon. Member who interrupts me has spoken on such a variety of subjects during the evening that I think he had better reserve his energies. I should like to ask any reasonable Member of the House this question: Is the demand made upon us—is the Amendment we are now considering an Amendment which implies that the House of Commons is to be asked to vote moneys arising from taxation to the purpose of educating boys at college? If so, let the ratepayers of Scotland know it, and let them know it over and over again. I cannot understand this new-born enthusiasm on such a large scale, because we are now rising, I am afraid, out of the region of the masses, and are following the classes into their ignominious and academic seclusion. You would really be subsidising the apostates from the cause of 1132 freedom, because you would be conferring a bonus on every one who leaves the elementary school and seeks a refuge among that class, which is the most widely denounced of all the others that are now proscribed, namely, the educated class. Therefore, I rejoice that I have drawn an exposition of policy from the Front Bench opposite. We now understand that the proposal is not merely to get to the Sixth Standard or to the specific subjects in the schools, but that you are going to carry boys through the course of training usually found in intermediate schools, and you are going to carry them through the Universities, and all at the expense of the ratepayers. No limit was prescribed. The only limit pointed out was that alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs when he said he went in for "the wide diffusion of knowledge." "The knowable," then is the limit for education at the expense of the ratepayers. If we are going to descend from the elevation to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division aspires, and if we are going into the question of Party politics, then I will gladly undertake to discuss the question in any constituency in Scotland whether the money of the ratepayers is going to be spent on academic and on intermediate education. The right hon. Gentleman has thought that it would promote general political interests, because he avowed that political interests was what he was speaking for. The right hon. Gentleman must pardon me for turning to the question of what is the alternative plan proposed by the Government. Now, he has resorted to a method which is the most crude that I have ever discovered in the demagogic party. I listened with some surprise to the right hon. Gentleman upon this account. He thinks, apparently, that it is a good plan to call attention to the amount of rates which are paid in the counties by landlords, and he deduces from that that we are making an attempt to give money to the landlords. There is a large amount of uninstructed sympathy with that statement among hon. Members opposite. How does the case stand? We are proposing to give money for distribution by the County Councils and the Town Councils throughout Scotland, and the 1133 right hon. Gentleman says we are proposing to give it to the landlords.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I did not say yon were proposing to give it to the landlords. I said, if the money was devoted as the Government propose, there is a chance of a large part of it going to landlords owing to the system of rating.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Yes; but I think the right hon. Gentleman will grant me this—and, if he does not grant it the House knows it—that in describing our alternative scheme of relieving the ratepayers, he presented it as conferring a boon on the landlords. I want to show how the fact stands. We are giving this money equally between counties and burghs.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen speaks a great deal more frequently in the House than I do, and I really think when I am speaking I might be conceded a freedom from listening to him. I say we are giving this money between the counties and burghs of Scotland, and in what proportion between the two? The counties are about £13,500,000 of valuation, and the burghs are about £12,000,000. Accordingly, they are very nearly equal. In the burghs the rating is wholly upon the occupiers; and accordingly, in the burghs you are conferring it on the occupiers, to the exclusion of the landlords. I turn to the counties; and the right hon. Gentleman, who, by-the-bye, is a Scottish landlord, apparently is so ignorant of his own affairs that he does not know that of rates administered by the County Councils, the greater part falls, not upon the landlords alone, but half on landlords and half on occupiers. The rates levied by the Commissioners of Supply according to the last Local Taxation Accounts were £187,000, which fell on owners alone, and the road rates in counties were £255,000. I think I must say 1134 that liberties are being taken with this Committee when assertions are made by the right hon. Gentleman, who I do not say consciously misleads the Committee on the subject, when he leaves out of account the half of that which fell on the occupiers only, and then, turning to the other half, misrepresents it to this extent, that of the half he selects the greater part is a divided rate. Accordingly, I say, to represent the proposals of the Government as being an attempt to favour the class of landlords, is one of the wildest and most desperate attempts that has come from a quarter in which, I am afraid, such attempts are not infrequent. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is marked by this characteristic at the outset, that, if such a proposal is carried out to its results, and unlimited by figures—and the right hon. Gentleman gave no figures—it carries with it consequences which are absolutely untenable if you have the slightest regard to the interests of the ratepayers. There are some Members who may be anxious to know how the facts stand about our educational scheme. Is there a necessity for a larger grant than £40,000? That is the question which is primarily before the Committee, but which has been voluntarily altered by the right hon. Gentleman. He has indulged in a long historical narrative, mostly entirely inaccurate, as to what took place only so lately as last year. Parliament is not committed in any sense or degree to the wild scheme of enfranchising or freeing education in Scotland. Nothing of the kind. When the Local Government Bill was introduced, the giving of the money to the relief of fees was an integral part of our scheme. Speaking with the special instructions of the Government, I said, in introducing the Local Government Bill, that we thought ourselves justified in proposing relief to fees, because, inasmuch as parents were compelled to pay fees for the compulsory standards, there was at least an opening given for the approval of Parliament to relief by the payment of these fees. I made no limitation on the subject. Our proposal related to the lower standards, but the principle we have asserted as regards the compulsory standards is irrespective of the 1135 number. Is there the smallest warrant for saying that we have gone beyond that? I do not remember, except in the speeches or lectures of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) that there was on the part of hon. Gentlemen any recommendation of the wider scheme which is now enunciated. Most certainly, among the cautious utterances which came from that quarter, I do not think there was much said about the "wide diffusion of knowledge," spoken of by the right hon. Member for Stirling. Our proposals being thus limited, what I am concerned to show is, that we are now completing them by the grant of £40,000. In the first place, I want to ask this: To what extent is it that our present supply of money falls short of freeing the five compulsory standards in State-aided schools? Here is the answer. There are 3,134 State-aided schools. 2,981 have no fees in compulsory standards; that leaves only 153 in which there are some fees; but of these 13 are voluntary schools, which lie outside our scheme and do not take the grant. Forty-two are fee-paying schools in the large towns, where, I think, it would be preposterous to force people to go free when they want to pay, leaving only 98 schools in which the state of matters is this: that they come under the second alternative of our regulations and provide the first three standards absolutely free and only a proportion free in the Fourth and Fifth Standards. Therefore, the problem before us in order to confer free education in the State-aided schools in Scotland is merely to get rid of the payment of fees in 98 schools.
§ MR. HUNTER
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman how these figures are to be reconciled with the Return presented to the House on the 16th March, from which it appears that there are 25 schools only which are under the five standards, 16 where the grant is not claimed, and 42 where it is claimed.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
That is a very fair question. The hon. Member is quite accurate in saying the smaller figure was the figure at a previous date; 1136 but the increase to 98 has arisen from the fact that the School Boards found that they had outrun their funds, and accordingly they were reducing these School Boards which accepted freedom in the Fourth and Fifth Standard absolutely to School Boards in which freedom was only accepted for a proportion of places. Before leaving this subject, let me point out that, so far as the mere problem of dealing with free education in the State-aided schools within the five compulsory standards is concerned, we are limited to 98 schools alone requiring aid, but I see, and we have always seen, the force of the indication given by the increase from 25 to 98. Some of the School Boards have gone too far for their means, and they have enfranchised the standards without attending to their resources. If we were to stand by the 98—and I do not see any reason why it should be much increased—if we were to look a little ahead, we should have to regard the financial position of the School Boards generally, in order to conjecture whether more might come into the 98, so as to increase the number. And this leads me to consider the question of how stands the balance between the financial state of the school managers before our system was introduced and after. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling gave figures which, I think, he will find are not quite accurate; I will state what I believe are the accurate figures as regards, in the first place; the receipts of the School Boards and school managers when the system of fees for the five standards was permitted. They amounted to £315,000, of which £295,000 was paid primarily by parents, and about £20,000 by Parochial Boards as standing in loco parentis to poor children. I want to make this quite clear. In striking a balance sheet, of course, you take into account what is the alteration of the scheme as affected by your plan of last year. £315,000 is the sum we start from. But part of that is covered by the Sixth Standard and the extra standards. Therefore, to compare what the School Boards got as compared with what they gave up, you must reduce the total receipts 1137 by the amount of the higher standards, which we do not touch. I do not know what hon. Gentlemen opposite consider to be the cost of the Sixth Standard and the special subjects, but they will not quarrel if I put it at as low a figure as possible —say 10 per cent. I understand that is a very low estimate. That leaves £283,000 as the amount of fees which we may ascribe to the five compulsory standards. Now, we already give £250,000, and we propose to give £40,000 more. Thus the Committee will see that while it requires £33,000 we give £40,000. Accordingly, I do think that we make adequately fair pro vision. The margin between £33,000, and £40,000 is on the footing that fees were probably rising when we did away with them. If a defect can be pointed out in this calculation it is on the side of our being more than liberal. Now, in what I say I am addressing my self to the Committee upon the footing that you are not going to adopt the mere general diffusion of knowledge, but stick to the compulsory standards. I pursue this because I think the point is important. It has been suggested, and I have not the least doubt that the reflection occurs to many hon. Gentlemen, that, after all, one can name places where there is greater deficiency in the rate than will be made up by the grant we propose. I conceive that to be the case, but every effort to equalise payments by a grant of this kind must necessarily regard the aggregate and not individual cases. I will tell the Committee why. Because the scale of fees varies to a very great extent. There are some places, which I could name if it were not invidious, where there is a heavy deficit. But these places are the rich and not the poor places. The reason of the deficit is a simple one: that in these places they have fixed high fees, that being merely an indication of their wealth, and it is in consequence of that that our grant, which is distributed according to the average attendance, is inadequate to fill up the gap made by the withdrawal of fees which are only calculated on their own affluent abilities. Therefore, it is in vain to pursue any plan for filling up gaps and holes in the finances of School Boards. If we do that, the result will be either that we 1138 shall give the money entirely over to those large and rich places, and give nothing to the poorer districts, or that we shall have to increase our additions enormously and give to the poor districts pari passu according to the emergencies of the richer districts created by requirements of which the poorer districts are entirely ignorant. I venture to think the Committee will appreciate the justness of the standard I suggested, and if that is so, is not the conclusive reason this: that in the bottom of their hearts and minds they know that the fair principle of distribution of this money ought to be, education or no education, the relief of the people who have to pay rates. There is, however, one point which I ought not to omit. I included 2,981 as the number of school managers who have no fees in the compulsory standards, but in that there are degrees of liberality. Of these 2,247 have abolished fees up to and including the Fifth Standard, but 734 have outstripped Parliament's notions of liberality and abolished fees altogether. Then there comes the question which has been boldly mooted by the right hon. Gentleman in his adventurous speech. I quite understand that if School Boards are so constituted that Members can retain their seats after having voted in favour of a wide diffusion of knowledge, Parliament cannot control them. That is quite a matter for them to determine, and if a programme of that kind finds acceptance in the arena of School Boards, good and well; but the question we have to consider is whether it is permissible to us to take money which in the first view belongs to the ratepayers, and apply it to those elevated and expensive notions. I think the Committee will decline to agree with them. I fully believe that education in Scotland is extremely popular. I am entirely in favour of giving all proper facilities for that purpose, but I do not think there would be any justification for Parliament to take away money which primarily belongs to the larger class of the ratepayers, and limiting the gift. [Cries of "No, no !"] Certainly the larger classes. Does any hon. Gentleman opposite pretend to such statistical knowledge as to believe that all people who pay rates have children at the Board or elementary schools? 1139 That is putting an exception in favour of unmarried and childless people which is not to be found in Statutes. Is this the proper moment to make the present proposal? Why, of all others, it seems the very moment when it would be very unwise to make any fresh departure, to encourage any fresh unrecognised liabilities on the part of the rates or ratepayers towards the cost of education. It is an open secret that there are proposals in contemplation as regards England for assisting education by grants from public moneys. If so, it will be borne in mind when that method is applied to Scotland that the transaction of last year was not a vote of Imperial money to Scotch education, but was a surrender, an assignation from the Scotch ratepayers towards free education. Would it not be well to wait, leaving our hands free, having nearly completed the system to which Parliament is already committed, and enter upon the consideration of what is to be done for Scotland then, with all the fresh ideas furnished by the aspirations of Scotch opinion, and also enlightened by the experience of the last experimental year. I think the Committee would do wisely to adopt the proposal of the Government, and I cannot believe any defeat will be encountered by Scotch education if we do not limit our aspirations by what would be merely a tentative and somewhat limited plan.
§ (10.40.) MR. HUNTER
With one statement we shall all agree, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government was most incorrectly described as a policy of free education. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the admission, because some of his friends in Scotland have been posing as advocates of free education, and have claimed credit to the Government for this policy. One point, then, is cleared up. I would remind the Committee that in endeavouring to extort from the Tory Party free education for Scotland, we have been engaged in a very difficult and arduous task. The policy of Her Majesty's Government has never been a policy of free education; it has been entirely opposed to free 1140 education, and they have never budged one inch, or made the slightest concession, except under terror of losing all Tory representation in Scotland. On December 21st, 1888, the application of the Probate Duty in Scotland 'to free education was suggested by myself about half-past 2 in the morning. I did not want a patent for the idea; I presented it as a free gift to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it appeared not to have occurred to him, and I told him he would make himself most popular if, instead of foolishly squandering the money on what he was pleased to call the rates, he devoted it to freeing education. I might as well have appealed to a stone wall. The right hon. Gentleman would not listen to me, and then, for once in my life, I made a great mistake. I allowed him to take the Second Reading of his Bill after 12 o'clock, when a simple objection would have stayed its progress. That was on Tuesday. On the next morning I repented of my error, and arranged with the late Mr. Biggar, the Whip of the Irish Party, that on the Wednesday his friends of the Irish Party should discuss those grievances which afflicted them until half-past 4, by which time I hoped I might bring the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Her Majesty's Government to reason. Sir, sweet are the uses of obstruction! Before 3 o'clock the Chancellor of the Exchequer surrendered to force majeure and consented to confine his Bill to the then coming year. The fact was, he had an engagement at dinner that evening; he had to meet the Civil servants at the Hotel Metropole, and make what we all recognised as an important speech; so between the Irish Members in the earlier part of the day, and the coming dinner, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, much against his will, saw reason and consented to make his Bill applicable to the current year. That gave us an opportunity to test the opinion of Scotland in regard to the application of the Probate Duty. It happened that on this side there was exhibited an unanimous opinion in favour of education. What did the 1141 Government do? After they were made acquainted with this unanimous opinion, they introduced a Bill which limited the application of the principle of free education to Standards I., II., and III. That was what we met with in the beginning of the Session of 1889, and that concession was made, but, I agree with the Lord Advocate, not because they hold the slightest possible inclination in favour of free education—I am sure they have not—but solely and simply to stave off the demand for free education and to defeat the purpose of those who are in favour of that proposal. What did the Government do after they had introduced their Bill in 1889? They stood to it in the firmest possible manner. I remember going with a deputation to meet the Secretary for Scotland, and it was very near the time when the Government Bill would be going into Committee, and the Secretary for Scotland put down his foot in the firmest manner and said he would have nothing to do with free education, and would not go an inch beyond the Third Standard. Well, we are familiar with the causes that induced the Government to go beyond that, and make another concession. We had a Division in Committee, and 52 Scotch Members voted against the Government, and only 10 in their favour. The next day the Government came down and announced another surrender. Therefore, I cheerfully recognise the claim of the Lord Advocate to be an enemy of free education and one who has not taken any steps towards it, except under external compulsion. The right hon. Gentleman is in this dilemma: As a matter of fact, at the present time very nearly a fourth of the schools in Scotland have adopted the principle of free education through all the standards—700 out of nearly 3,000. The argument upon principle is, therefore, not now an open one, because these schools which have abolished fees could not have done so without the express consent of the Education Department, which includes, of course, the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Permit me to explain. The consent of the Scotch Education Department was limited only to certifying that certain 1142 conditions were fulfilled; assent was given to nothing beyond.
§ MR. HUNTER
That is open to another difficulty; that the Scotch Department, for what reason I do not know, sanctioned that relief in the case of 25 per cent. of the schools, and now they refuse it.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Certainly, because the question was whether they came under conditions of which the Education Department was especially seized, and on this the Department assented to the arrangemont.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Assent was limited to those considerations with which the Department are conversant, the first five standards.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
It is inconvenient to continue interrupting the hon. Gentleman, and if he continues repeating his statement, he must consider me as giving the most emphatic denial that courtesy will allow.
§ MR. HUNTER
Well, it is not denied that 734 schools have abolished fees in all standards. Now, I wish to say a word in regard to the alternative proposal, to which the Lord Advocate alluded. I should greatly regret if there should be any mistake or exaggeration on this point. The Government divide the £50,000 between the counties and the burghs, not according to the amount of the rates which are payable by them respectively, but according to their wealth, which is a totally irrelevant consideration. The result is, that for every 6d. given for the relief of rates in burghs, 1s. 6d. is given for the relief of rates in counties. That is a fact not capable of serious denial, because you find in burghs, rates are, roughly speaking, three times what they are in counties. You have adopted not 1143 the standard of burden of rates, which would be relevant, but the standard of wealth, which is wholly irrelevant. It is in the power of the County Councils to apply the money in relief of the rates that are paid by landlords only. In Aberdeen 75 per cent. of the houses are under £10 rental; and the benefit would be 5d. to a man at £10, 3d. to a man at £6. For these ridiculous benefits the people of Scotland are to be denied the dearest wish of their hearts—the completion of the scheme of free education. I ask the Government to make this concession, because, in the first place, it is obvious that if we have a system of free education for the lower standards and begin school fees for the higher, we deal a deadly blow at these higher standards. But another reason for the concession is, that it is demanded by the almost universal opinion of Scotland. The distinction between non-compulsory and compulsory standards does not commend itself to the people of Scotland. Why should the Government, having swallowed the camel, now strain at the gnat? The total amount required is very small compared with what has been already given, and their refusal is viewed by the people of Scotland, not with amazement, but with absolute stupefaction. I ask the Government to remember that the tax out of which this money comes was imposed against the wishes of two to one of the Scottish Members. That taxation produces £200,000 a year, equal to 1s. per head of the population of Scotland, or an average of 5s. per family. When the working man is told that a fifth of that goes to the provision of pensions for the police, he will not unnaturally say, I would rather the 1s. went towards a pension for myself. Then another 1s. is to be expended on the extension of free education. That the people of Scotland are not only prepared to assent to, but they enthusiastically welcome it. What becomes of the other 3s? You propose to give 1s. 3d. to the rates. But this will scarcely benefit the poorer ratepayer; he will only benefit to the extent of the 3d., while the richer ratepayer will not only 1144 get all the 1s. 3d. which is intended to go to him, but also the 1s. which is withdrawn from the poorer ratepayer. Still you have 1s. 9d. left, and what does the Chancellor of the Exchequer say about that? He says "I cannot give that to you; I must give that to England. "And thus the whole of the 5s. is disposed of, and a more outrageous or more iniquitous financial proceeding it would be difficult to imagine. Out of the £200,000 you are giving the working man only a paltry 3d. or 4d., a result that is at once ludicrous and scandalous. All I can say is that the Scotch Members will not consent to this waste of money, and that they are determined that their schools shall be free from top to bottom. There are magnificent palaces of education in Scotland, but over their portals is written "The sons of working men not admitted here." I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reconsider the matter, that he will compare the advantages to be gained by concession with those likely to result from resistance, and that he will make provision out of this Fund to abolish all school fees in Scotland.
§ (11.5.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
I think the appeal of the hon. Member is not likely to be successful by reason of, the manner in which he has treated the concessions made last year to those who, in the course of the Debates On the Local Government Bill, demanded Free Education for Scotland, I do not think it was fair for the hon. Member for Aberdeen to claim for himself and his friends the credit for the concessions granted last year by the Unionist Government. But I am sorry that the hon. Member was not the only speaker to introduce Party considerations into this Debate. I think the Lord Advocate would have been better advised had he not taunted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs with the introduction of Party politics into tonight's Debate. He taunted him with a new born zeal for free education, and said his only limit was the widest diffusion of knowledge that can be given. I 1145 venture to say that the Scotch people care very little as to when the right hon. Gentleman first came to the conclusion he now seems to hold, that education throughout the elementary schools of Scotland should be free. This is absolutely a non-party question in Scotland, and I say that the opinion of the people so far as I have been able to gather it, is that, as far as possible, elementary education should be free. I represent not a rich city like Edinburgh, or a rich burgh like Glasgow, but comparatively poor districts, and on their behalf I can only express regret that the Government have not seen their way to giving a larger sum than they propose for educational purposes. To carry free education from the elementary schools to the higher schools, and from the higher schools to the University, may be a dream of the future, but it is not desired at the present time by the Scotch people; at this moment they only desire to see elementary education absolutely free, and that is the reason why we ask the Government to grant a further sum. I appreciate the difficulty in which Her Majesty's Government find themselves. Of course they do not know if the extra duty on spirits and beer will be imposed for a longer period than one year, and if they freed all the standards now they would be committing themselves to the proposition that the standards other than the compulsory ones should be free in the future. I admit that it is not unreasonable for the Government to say that, at any rate for this Session, all they can do is to free the compulsory standards. But why should the Government refuse the suggestion that has been made to them, that they should give the County Councils the right, if they deem it advisable, to apply some portion of this money to the purposes of education, so that the County Councils may hand some part of the money over to the School Boards to lessen the burden of fees? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, in answer to a question I put to him the other day, that it was not in the power of the County Councils to give grants for educational purposes, as they had no control over such matters. 1146 But if he will not go so far as is suggested in the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, he surely might make some concession, and allow County and Town Councils to grant for educational purposes some portion of this money if they so decide, so as to lessen the burden of school fees. It must be remembered that in the Debate last year, some of us protested strongly against the proposals of the Government to free the lower standards. We felt that if anything was to be done for the relief of education, it should be rather by abolishing the fees in the higher standards. During the whole of last year's Debate there was an Amendment on the Paper in my name which suggested that. The Amendment we are now discussing is a step in the same direction, and unless Her Majesty's Government modify their scheme by accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs, or by adopting the suggestion I have mentioned, very few of the Scottish Members will support Her Majesty's Government on this matter. The Scottish people are anxious to see elementary education entirely freed from school fees, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will meet this widespread feeling, and the all but unanimous wish of the Scotch Members.
§ *(11.16.) SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
When we discussed in this House the proposal to appoint a Minister for Scotland, I expressed my fear that the Lord Advocate would be the Minister for Education in this House, and that the real Minister would be in the other House. The speech of the Lord Advocate to-night has confirmed my worst apprehensions as to the manner in which Scottish education would be dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the "wild scheme" of free education for Scotland. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman hold that language in the constituencies at the next General Election?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Certainly, sir; and I shall state the matter exactly as I did to-night—the"wild language of the scheme as stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Yes, the word "the" being demonstrative of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, including free University education.
§ * SIR L. PLAYFAIR
The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was against free education in Scotland in the upper standards, though the principle of the Scotch system is to encourage higher education in public schools. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have wholly mistaken the principles which have ruled Scotch education in the past. I should not have objected if the right hon. Gentleman had done for Scotland what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done for Wales in the matter of intermediate education. On the contrary, I should have been exceedingly pleased. What we ask is that the Government should free the upper standards as they had freed the lower. The great bulk of the Scottish Members request that the money shall be applied to that purpose. Why should not the Government be gracious and carry out the work they have begun? The right hon. Gentleman, whose speeches I always read with interest, took much credit at Inverness last year to the Government for having freed education in Scotland. But, if he wishes the Government to retain that credit, if he wishes them to hold a position in Scotch politics in the future, I would advise them not to apply this money to a mere reduction of the rates, but to accede to the wishes of the Scotch people and free the upper standards.
§ (11.23.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 188; Noes 164.—(Div. List, No. 207.)
§ *(11.36.) MR. C.S. PARKER (Perth)
I hope that the Government, after the Division just taken, will be open to argument. I think that the Lord Advocate will not find it easy to defend in Scotland the language he has uttered in this House. It is the general wish of 1148 Scotland that education in all the standards should be free; it is not a wild scheme which is entertained either by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs, or by anyone else. It is the deliberate conviction of teachers, of School Boards, and of others who best understand the question, that it is not well to confine freedom from fees to the compulsory standards. I hope that the Government will re-consider the position, and will not limit the application of this money, so cut down as it now is to £40,000. There are many School Boards in Scotland which have freed all the compulsory standards, and in their case if this money may not be applied to the higher standards it will become simply a grant in relief of the rates. Why should not the Government leave it open to School Boards to use the money at their discretion, subject to the approval of Dover House? I have only one other remark to make. Whereas the Lord Advocate seemed to put his foot down firmly against going beyond abolishing the fees for the compulsory standards, yet, afterwards, he seemed to forget that principle when he dwelt on what might be done for Scotch education next year, and agreed that whenever England got money from National Funds for purposes of free elementary education, Scotland should insist on having a corresponding sum for higher instruction.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, lines 13 and 14, to leave out the words "of children in the compulsory standards of the Scotch Code.)"— (Mr. Charles Parker.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (11.43.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I can hardly suppose that the Committee will expect any formal reply from me on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member, which is manifestly within the scope of the Debate which has just closed. The question between the compulsory and non-compulsory standards was the gist and essence of that debate. The hon. Member has totally misconceived what I have said. I have not indicated, and 1149 did not intend to indicate, that in future years the non-compulsory standard will be the subject of any grant by Parliament.
§ (11.44.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I think we have reason, to complain of the manner in which this important subject has been treated by the Lord Advocate. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs as if it was a wild and vague proposition for the diffusion of useful knowledge. The Lord Advocate evidently spoke under great excitement in the greater part of his speech, which must have been intended as a reply to some castigation which he had previously received from my right hon. Friend, because the speech of the Lord Advocate was in no way relevant to the speech of my right hon. Friend. If my right hon. Friend feels that he has been extinguished by the exuberant eloquence of the Lord Advocate, he must feel he is buried in flowers, because such an accumulation of flowers of rhetoric as the right hon. and learned Gentleman presented to the House we have rarely had the advantage of hearing. Indeed, I was glad when at last the right hon. Gentleman came to figures, and returned to his accustomed clear style of oratory. This question of devoting the money to freeing non-compulsory standards is a very important one for Scotland. I for one disapprove altogether of this system of grants in aid by which one interest after another is sought to be bribed. We have some reason to complain, when we have a useful object on which almost all the Representatives of Scotland are at one, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes no pains to ascertain what the wishes of the Scottish people are; and when they are forced on his attention, he attempts some means for the disposal of the money which will go contrary to 1150 our wishes. There is no object of legislation which Scotland cares for that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not find some opportunity of flouting and thwarting, and though I believe there is just reason to complain of the manner in which Scottish business is neglected in this House, it is with regret that I observe when proposals about Scottish Home Rule are mooted, which we think extreme, the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes it impossible for us to give an answer to them to our constituents. From the point of view of Party, the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do the Opposition nothing but good, but I would rather see the people get this boon than secure a Party advantage, and I therefore appeal to the Government at the eleventh hour to assent to the Amendment.
§ (11.52.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
According to this clause, the £40,000 can only be applied for the purpose of freeing education in the compulsory standards. Yet the statistics quoted by the Lord Advocate shew that these standards are already free in all the elementary schools, and that more money is not required. You are dealing with Imperial money, and I maintain that every portion of Scotland is entitled to a share of it, and that it is wrong to impose a restriction that the money shall be applied to freeing education in the compulsory standards. I contend that the money could not be better spent than in freeing the higher standards, and in that way, you will be placing all your schools in the same position as the 734 schools which charge no fee whatever. I hope that the Amendment will be carried.
§ (11.55.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
In Caithness all the compulsory standards in the schools are free. The rates in that county are high, varying from 2s. to 4s. 6d. in the£l, and the fees low, and I am anxious to know whether we are to lose our share of this money.
§ (11.56.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
No, Sir. The schools indicated by the hon. Member will participate in the grant just as the others would.
§ *(11.57.) MR. C. S. PARKER
If the Clause passes in its present form, will a School Board be able to pay the fees in the compulsory standards out of this grant of £40,000, and then apply money from the Probate Duty to the sixth standard?
§ (11.58.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Yes, Sir. The condition of the payment will be, that the Boards shall free the compulsory standards. When that is done, they may deal with the rest of the money as they please.
§ (11.59.) MR. HUNTER
I cannot agree with that construction of the clause. It is distinctly stated that the £40,000 shall be applied for the compulsory standards, and the effect of that will be that those schools which provide for more than the five standards must necessarily be deprived of any share of this grant.
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.