§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government have considered the financial results of the change made in the Scotch Code, 1891, at this late period of the year current; whether he is aware that School Boards in Scotland have made their financial arrangements upon the footing of the exemption from school fees being restricted to the compulsory standards, whilst the alteration just made in the Code giving exemption to children between 5 and 14 years of age will involve many School Boards in Scotland in considerable loss of Revenue; and whether the Government have made, or intend making, any provision for recouping School Boards the loss which they may sustain?
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I have been requested by my right hon. Friend to answer this question. The Government have had under consideration the financial results of the change in the Code proposed in the Minute laid upon the Table, and we think that the large assistance to the rates to which, as I recently indicated, we shall ask the approval of the House, is not without an important bearing upon any estimate of these results. We have also had in view the fact that in a large number of schools free education has already been carried beyond the compulsory standards. In those cases no additional burden will be caused; and while it is inevitable that the financial effect of the process whereby fees are relieved should vary widely in different localities, we think that any adjustment must be dealt with in connection with the allocation of the Scotch grant already indicated for next year. Meanwhile, the funds available under the Local Government Act have so far exceeded the estimate as to warrant the expectation that the capitation grant payable during the current financial year will be 12s. instead of 11s., as in the year ended 31st March last, and if this anticipation is realised it will go far to alleviate any additional burden.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether the Scotch Education Department has taken into consideration the effect of the change on 287 the Scotch Code 1891, made at this late period of the year current, in suddenly depriving children under five years of age, and presently attending school, of the right to free education; whether it is intended to discourage the sending of such children to State-aided schools by the reimposition of school fees; and whether the complaints in Scotland have been rather of the late than of the early age at which children are sent to school?
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Should the Minute yesterday laid upon the Table be approved, we are confident that the change which it involves will be carried out with due consideration of the circumstances. But considering the extension of relief in another direction afforded by that Minute, it is thought that this restriction will commend itself to those who have the best opportunities of judging, and will prevent the heavy cost which might be caused by the large influx of children at an age earlier than that at which education can generally begin. While the Department has frequently urged the necessity of school attendance in the earlier years prescribed by the Education Acts, this does not apply to children below these years, with regard to whom parents are under no compulsion, and for whom it cannot be said to be a hardship that a small fee should be charged.