HC Deb 13 June 1892 vol 5 cc923-35


Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."

(4.38.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I beg to move that the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 2. The sum of £265,000 is given to Scotland as an equivalent for the ten shillings per head paid on the average attendance of children in England, and we find, on looking at the Estimates for this year, that there will be 567,000 children in Scotland requiring to be provided for. That means that we shall get £18,500 less than if we received ten shillings for every child attending school. If the Bill pass in its present form Scotland will therefore have only nine shillings and fourpence per head instead of ten shillings, as in England. This may seriously affect the School Boards in Scotland, and it may be necessary to increase the education rate. I can see no reason at all why we should not have ten shillings per head per child, as they have in England. If the Bill pass in its present form we shall lose £18,500 this year, and probably larger sums in future years.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now read the third time," in order to add the words "recommitted in respect of Clause 2."—(Dr. Clark.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

*(4.42.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Sir C. J. PEARSON,) Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities

It is the case, as the hon. Member has mentioned, that 567,000 children appear in the estimates for this year, but from that figure a certain deduction must be made in respect of children over fifteen years of age, because the average attendance of children in Scotland does not square with the average attendance in England. That, to a certain extent, reduces the magnitude of the objection stated by the hon. Member. I believe that in England about 32,000 children are deducted from the calculation on the ground that they are over fifteen years of age. The Scottish Education Department allow for a certain increase year by year, and I believe the increase allowed for this year is three and a half per cent. Last year the increase was unusually high; but according to experience of the past, the increase next year will be rather under than over the average, and if that is so it would very seriously affect the figures which the hon. Member has laid before the House. It cannot be taken as certain that the increase which appears in the estimates will be maintained. If the increase turns out to be less, and if the ten shillings per head is adopted, the difference will have to be surrendered. On the other hand, the English Education Department have only allowed for an increase of a little over two per cent. for this year, and if a Supplementary Estimate is rendered necessary the result will be that that Supplementary Estimate will go proportionately towards increasing the amount due to Scotland. That being so, I think the hon. Member may well leave the matter as it is. The figures which the hon. Member has laid before the House are not anything like sufficient to induce the Government to change the basis of calculation; and that calculation, so far as we can forecast the future, will not lead to the consequences which the hon. Member has shadowed forth. On this ground I would ask the hon. Member to be content with the protest he has made against the basis of calculation, and allow the Bill to be read a third time.

(4.46.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

I must protest against Scotland being treated in this case as a separate nationality, instead of as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The proportions in which the three countries receive the grant are eighty per cent. for England, eleven per cent. for Scotland, and nine percent. for Ireland; and the Government are seeking to stereotype these percentages before they have demonstrated their correctness. The question which, of course, arises is: what is the amount which Scotland should receive? Hitherto Scotland has been treated as an integral part of the United Kingdom; but in this case, while ten shillings is allowed per head for the children attending school in England, Scotland is reminded that it is no longer part of the United Kingdom, and that its children are not to get ten shillings per head. If, however, ten shillings per head is given for the children in England, you ought in fairness to give ten shillings per head for the average attendance of children in Scotland. What is the effect of this policy of treating Scotland as a separate nationality? We lose £18,500. Even if a deduction is to be made for the children over fifteen years of age, we shall still lose £16,000 a year. I think we are entitled at least to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a great mistake in dividing the United Kingdom into three separate nationalities in this matter, and in giving to Scotland less than its proper proportion of the grant. There is no reason whatever why Scotland should not be treated as an integral part of the United Kingdom, and why it should not be allowed ten shillings per head in respect of the average attendance of children, instead of being defrauded to the extent of £16,000 a year.

(4.56.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (, &c.) Stirling

I do not wish to lengthen the Debate at this stage. The facts of the case are perfectly simple and plain and do not think anyone could dispute the justice of the claim which we make on behalf of Scotland in regard to this Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has set up, during the last two or three years, a fantastic method of dealing with these so-called international money payments, and in order to suit our system to this arrangement the sum to be given to Scotland is made to depend upon the number of children attending school in England. That in itself would be enough to condemn it; but beside that, we find, on looking into it, that our original suspicions are more than confirmed, and that we in Scotland will be losers by the arrangement to the extent of £18,500 a year. The Lord Advocate makes some deduction from that sum on account of children over fifteen years of age, but even then we still lose £15,000 or £16,000 in consequence of this fantastic arrangement. I think that is quite enough to justify our protest against the proposals of the Bill, and I hope my hon. Friend will therefore go to a Division in order that we may express our opinion on the subject. The Lord Advocate may say, and has said, that the figures quoted are only estimates. But that is all we have to go upon. We have no information other than the estimates; and seeing that the estimates, of which we were not before aware, amply corroborate all our ideas and suspicions on the subject, we are still further convinced that the proposal is unjust to Scotland, as it is undoubtedly inconvenient and unreasonable in itself. And on those grounds, besides the lofty ground from which the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell) based the opposition—the ground of maintaining a decent union between Scotland and England—I hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division against the Bill.


I shall certainly support this Amendment. To me the question of the estimates appears to make very little difference, because the money will not be paid according to the estimate, but according to fact when the fact is ascertained. I support the Amendment not alone on the ground of the proposal being the deprivation to Scotland of many thousands of pounds, but I support it also on the ground that it is a very undesirable mode of conducting finance. I wish to point out that from first to last the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I believe, been consistent in this—that he has always absented himself whenever we have been discussing these financial arrangements. Member after Member has appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but what is the use of appealing to him when he is not present, and when only one Member of the Government answers such appeals? I think it is rather disrespectful to Scotland that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should absent himself during the discussion of this Bill, which is financial as well as educational in character, and thus preclude us from obtaining information we desire.


The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Charles Parker) who has just sat down has thought it necessary to attack the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not being present during the discussion of this Bill. But the hon. Gentleman must be aware of the calls made upon the time of Ministers, and that occasionally public business, urgent in character and which cannot be avoided, makes it absolutely imperative for a Minister to absent himself. On the merits of this question I do not propose to say very much, except that I think hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have greatly underrated the complexity of the problem with which we had to deal. If in Scotland and England you had a similar state of things calling for precisely similar treatment, then it would be perfectly unnecessary to go to the kind of division of the relative contributions of the three countries my right hon. Friend has had to adopt in settling the amount of this equivalent grant. But where you have systems so different as the English, Irish and Scotch systems in matters of education, you cannot go upon similar principles. It is absolutely necessary to find some other principle by which equity and justice can be done. I think it was the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell) who appeared to call in question the equity of the proportion of eleven per cent. which is given to Scotland. Well, Sir, I will not go into that; but I know that the calculation was made by the Treasury and based upon all the information at their disposal, and I do not believe that any of the criticisms to which it has been subjected have shaken it in any important degree. It is clearly convenient to allocate the money between the three countries in the manner we have observed, otherwise we might give much too little to one and too much to another. Education in Scotland costs, I believe, more per head than education in England, and education in Ireland costs very much less; and it seems to me that where the cost per head is so different as in this case, and where the system is so different, it would not be statesmanship but mere pedantry to apply the hard and fast rule of ten shillings per child in all cases. We have, therefore, had to fall back upon some other principle, and the only other principle at once clear, intelligent and equitable was the principle adopted by the Bill of giving Scotland in respect of the equivalent grant precisely a proportionate share of the amount given to England for carrying out similar objects. As a matter of fact that course, which I think justifiable in itself, was rendered almost necessary by the historical development of the whole subject; because, as the House will recollect, education was freed in Scotland, not out of the fund which is now going to be devoted to that subject, but out of quite a different fund, and therefore the whole subject was finished in Scotland before the ten shillings was fixed in regard to England. That, however, I admit is not a ground which ought for all time to necessarily regu- this matter, and I do not think that for all time the present arrangements must necessarily hold. But I do say that there are great difficulties, not present in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in dealing with a system so different from the English system as the Scotch system of education; and if you cannot deal with it in precisely the same manner, it is only natural and equitable to fall back upon the simple and obvious plan of giving to each country a proportion of its general contribution to the Imperial Revenue.


I cannot help thinking that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman were founded upon a misconception of the case. It is not a question of difference in education. It is a question whether Scotland's share of this money should be limited to the average attendance in England. It is well known that children attend very much better than in England, and it is a question that the money should be allocated upon the attendances made by Scotch children themselves. To put the argument upon any other grounds is, I think, to attempt to confuse the issues. My hon. Friend will be perfectly justified in dividing this House upon the question.

Question put.

(5.12.) The House divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 70.—(Div. List, No. 183.)

Main Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

As this Bill is now going to leave the House, I should like to take the opportunity of saying one word about it, and to repeat the expressions of regret which I have made on every occasion, and which I know are shared by a great many Members of this House, that an opportunity has been lost of conferring great benefits upon Scotland—an opportunity that may not return in our time. I thankfully admit that the Bill has been improved during its progress in the House. We have had the appointment conceded of a Departmental Committee, which it is to be hoped will render the plans for spending money on secondary education better than those which were shadowed out in the Memorandum presented to the House. And we have had from the Government the concession of powers to the County and Town Councils to apply the sum of £100,000 which is given to those Councils not merely for the relief of local rates, but to other objects of public utility which the Councils may propose. In these respects the Bill is certainly better than when it entered the House. But, at the same time, we view with very great regret the gift of no less than £50,000 to the Parochial Boards being spent by them upon the relief of the rates which they levy. We consider that is a substantial relief to the wealthier and better class of ratepayers, and that being taken out of the general taxation of the country, the larger proportion being paid by the poor, it is pro tanto not a relief of the poor. It is a measure framed for the benefit of the better and not the humbler class. We still more regret that since this sum is being applied to local purposes its destination should be one which, so far as I can see, has no promise of permanent improvement either in the addition of power or administration of Local Government in Scotland. I make these remarks for the pupose of calling attention to the fact that a very large number on this side of the House do not consider the present Bill is final. Indeed, the First Lord said a few moments ago, in defending the Government proposals with regard to the allotment of the money, that the proposals made in the Bill were not to be considered as to endure for all time.


I was referring to the particular allocation of money.


I quite understand that, and so I intended to convey. But I desire to extend the scope of his remark beyond that allocation, and to say that in our view the loss of this opportunity is one which we should try to repair at the earliest possible time. We look upon this as a tentative step, and we shall endeavour to reverse the policy in this Bill, and endeavour to submit those questions we have argued in Committee here, and upon which we have been defeated by an English majority, to another Parliament, and, if possible, to secure the devotion of the money to other purposes.


On behalf of the Government I will only say that in framing this Bill we have endeavoured to consult local opinion in Scotland; and though we are far from suggesting for a moment that the various representatives from Scotland do not discharge their duties as Members honourably and effectively, we cannot admit that they are the sole exponents of Scotch opinion, or that we are precluded from going beyond them in order to obtain the opinions of the various Local Bodies which have to administer the money. Having taken such measures to secure this opinion as were open to us, we believe that in determining the allocation of the money we have fixed upon a plan which generally, and speaking broadly, meets with the approval of the people of Scotland.


rose to address the House—


The hon. Gentleman has already spoken.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

There is one concession to which the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has not referred. I think it is desirable that public attention should be drawn to it, because it certainly is the most important concession we have been able to obtain from the Government by our opposition to this Bill. As this Bill was introduced, it proposed to give £100,000 per year to the County and the Town Councils in relief of local rates. Now, as the Bill leaves the House, discretion is given to the Local Authorities to apply the money, not in relief of local rates at all, but for the payment of any obligations which they may now incur, and also for any scheme of public utility framed by them, subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland. That is an important concession, because this is a Bill for the relief of local rates. It is a Bill which places the money absolutely at the disposal of the Town and County Councils; they may apply the money to technical education, continuation schools, public libraries, or for any object of public utility which may be sanctioned by the Secretary for Scotland. I also regard the concession as important, because if the working classes allow this money to be used in the relief of the richer classes, then the blame will fall upon them and not upon us. I regret that while the Bill has been improved in this direction, the Government have missed the opportunity of removing one of the greatest blots on the educational system in Scotland. They have given ninety thousand pounds per year for higher education; but they have so done it as to make that education synonymous with the education of the richer class. It was in their power, by applying the fifty thousand pounds for the relief of the poor rate, to supply the people of Scotland with a sum—insufficient, I agree, yet far from contemptible, for the creation of bursaries and exhibitions, which would enable a large number of the sons of working men to reap the advantage to the extent of secondary and University education. I regret very much that the Universities in Scotland are no longer the Universities of the poor to the extent they used to be. The tradition that the Scotch Universities were open to the sons of working men is, I am sorry to say, becoming more of a tradition than a reality, and that is due to the simple fact that in former days the distance between the elementary schools and the Universities was not so great as to prevent a considerable number of boys passing from elementary schools to the Universities. But owing to an improvement in the standard of the Universities, an improvement which I heartily approve of, that distance can only be bridged over by four or five years' education in a secondary school. How are sons of working men to go to these secondary schools, the fees of which are enormously increased? When I was at the Grammar School at Aberdeen the fees were 10s. a quarter, a sum which an ordinary working man would have no difficulty in providing. And when I look back I find that it is not the boys who came well dressed from the West End of Aberdeen who have most distinguished themselves in the world, but the boys who came with patched trousers. Now, Sir, if we are to retain the old traditions of the Scotch Universities, and to keep the doors of these seats of learning open to the poorest class, it is absolutely essential that a very large sum should be expended in providing exhibitions and bursaries to enable them to attend the secondary schools. When I tested the opinion of this House on this question, I was happy to find that I was supported by a majority of Scotch Members. We were, however, overruled by an English majority. I think that is very hard lines. After having expended their own money in their own way, surely the English Members might have abstained from interfering and frustrating the desires—and what I am sure no one will deny are most laudable desires—of the majority of the Scotch Members. And what makes it all the more cruel is that this £50,000 a year which is given for the relief of the poor rates will only to an unappreciable extent find its way into the pockets of the working classes. The 630,000 persons in Scotland who live in a house under £15 rental will get only £1,442 out of this £50,000; whereas if this money had been applied in the remission of the duties on tea, or of other taxes which press with equal severity on the poor and the rich, this same class of people, instead of receiving only £1,442, would have got £40,000. But by this ingenious plan—which has been patented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—of raising money by taxes on commodities and distributing it for the relief of the rates, £40,000 is kept out of the pockets of eighty per cent. of the occupiers of Scotland. Out of the remaining £40,000 the sum of £25,000 goes into the pockets of owners of property, and £15,000 into the pockets of the richer ratepayers—those with a rental of over £50 a year. Now, Sir, this Bill is the crowning edifice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the short time he has held office he has increased the grants in aid in Scotland from £300,000 to a million. I will let the House into the secret why money is raised on this lavish scale by Imperial taxation, to be expended in the relief of rates in Scotland. If this million of money were applied in the remission of taxation, how would the matter stand? Why, eighty per cent. of the occupiers in Scotland would receive a benefit which could be hardly less than three-quarters of a million. How much do they receive by the relief of rates? £80,000 only, so that the working classes, and all those whose rental is under £15, lose annually by this operation £670,000, of which half a million goes straight into the pockets of the owners of landed property, and £170,000 to those ratepayers whose rental is in excess of £48 a year. In other words, the money which is now being expended in local taxation in Scotland gives a relief of half a crown to eighty per cent. of the population; but if it had been applied in remission of taxes—in giving a free breakfast table, and in reducing the tax on tobacco—these same people, instead of receiving half a crown by way of relief in rates, would have benefited to the extent of 24s. in the relief of taxation. By this means nine-tenths of the people of Scotland lose—less perhaps, certainly not more, than one-tenth of the population of Scotland gain. Now, Sir, that is the crowning of the edifice. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may boast that he has done for the Tory Party what the Tory Party never had the wit to do for themselves—that whereas he found this system of grants in aid, this ingenious system of robbing the poor man in order to increase the riches of the rich, at the moderate figure of £300,000 a year, he has raised it to more than a million a year. And on the epitaph of the right hon. Gentleman may be inscribed the fact that never was any Chancellor of the Exchequer so ingenious as he in the art of fleecing the poor and adding to the luxuries of the rich.

*MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

I only rise to protest against the doctrine put forward by the First Lord of the Treasury to the effect that in a matter of this kind Local Bodies, such as Town Councils or Parochial Boards, are to be considered as representing the opinion of Scotland more than the Parliamentary Representatives of that Kingdom. Both on constitutional grounds and grounds of fact, I think that is a mistake. The Town Councils and Parochial Boards are not elected for the purpose of representing the people of Scotland on such a matter as this. They are elected on totally different grounds, and on the question as to whether this money should be given for the relief of rates or for the encouragement of education they have no authority to speak, and to attempt to set aside the opinion of the Scotch Representatives in favour of the opinion of these bodies is, I venture to say, insulting to Parliamentary institutions and inconsistent with the real facts of the situation. None of these Parochial Boards or Town Councils have been elected within the time that this subject has become a matter of public consideration in Scotland, and I venture to state in my place here, with a full sense of my responsibility, more especially as I shall soon have to meet my constituents, that they—and they are a fair specimen of the people of Scotland—are entirely out of sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters in the way that has been so well and so truly and statistically, if so repeatedly, described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter).

Main Question put, and agreed to.

read the third time, and passed.