HC Deb 07 November 1911 vol 30 cc1590-614

I rise to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to withhold his assent to the scheme of allocation of the balance of the Education (Scotland) Fund for 1911–12, contained in a Minute of the Committee in Council on Education in Scotland, dated the 1st day of August, and laid upon the Table of this House on the 7th day of August, 1911. I consider the scheme of allocation of the balance of the Scottish Education Fund, which was laid on the Table on 1st August, to be unjust in its incidence and contrary to the Act of 1908. Upon every possible occasion I have objected to this allocation. I have objected to it upon the Scottish Estimates; I have objected to it when a Minute or scheme has been laid on the Table; and I shall continue to object to it until, I trust, it is finally altered. In order that there may be no misunderstanding in the minds of my colleagues from Scotland, I wish it to be understood that I lay no blame personally at the door of the Secretary for Scotland. The evil, if evil it was, of the unjust distribution of this Scottish Fund commenced before he came into office. What, if anything, I complain of, is that he has not been strong enough to stop the injustice. Nor do I lay any personal blame whatever upon Sir John Struthers, the courteous head of the Department. I assume, on the contrary, that Clauses 15 and 16 were his work or that he was chiefly instrumental in framing them. The plain language of this Act should have made the injustice cease. I complain that even he has not been strong enough to cause the injustice to cease.


May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on the question of this Minute? As I read it, the Clause in the Act that deals with the question of the Minute has already become, so far as the Act is concerned, final. Sub-section (2) of Section (16) of the Act of 1908 provides that if within one month—exclusive of any period of prorogation—from the date that the Minute is laid on the Table and an Address is not presented to the Crown, against it, it shall be lawful for the King in Council by Order to approve the Minute.

As a matter of fact, the Minute was laid on the Table on "7th August. More than a month elapsed, and there has been no prorogation of the House; therefore the period prescribed by the Act has expired. So far as the provisions of the Act are concerned, they do not provide for an address being now presented or consent being withheld. Personally, I have no desire to prevent discussion; indeed, I say quite frankly that I would rather welcome it, but it seems to me that it would be undesirable that the House should be kept sitting for a discussion at this hour unless some practical effect should come out of it.


Before, Mr. Speaker, you give your ruling, may I put this point: That if a Department puts a Minute upon the Table of the House at such a time and under such circumstances as we were under on 7th August, when it was utterly impossible to conduct any discussion, is not that an evasion of the principle that a Minute of this kind should be laid so that it may be discussed?


I would not like to give a reply to the question of the right hon. Gentleman. He can take the opportunity of putting his views when the Scottish Estimates are before the House. I think it is quite clear, under the provisions of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, that this address, if carried, will not be in time. The proviso of the Clause quoted, Section 16, Sub-section (2), reads:— Provided that such scheme shall be forthwith laid before both Houses of Parliament, if Parliament, is sitting, or, if not, then within three weeks after the commencement of the next ensuing Session of Parliament, and if neither House of Parliament within one month, exclusive of any period of prorogation, after a scheme has been laid before it, presents an address praying the King to withhold his consent from such scheme or any part thereof, it shall be lawful for the King in Council by Order to approve the same or any part thereof to which such address does not relate. This scheme was laid on 7th August. There had been no prorogation. Therefore on 7th September it was lawful for the King in Council by Order to approve the same. Therefore the address, if carried, would be out of time. On the other hand, I do not think it is any function of mine to step in and prevent hon. Members presenting an address if they feel a desire to address the Crown. It is always open to them to address the Crown. What effect such address would have I cannot say.


I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your decision in this matter. The fact that this Prayer to His Majesty may not have effect now as the time has elapsed was brought to my knowledge and was within the knowledge of the Government when they gave me the time. I therefore, have to thank the Government for giving me this opportunity for bringing on what is felt by a large and increasing number of people in Scotland to be a very considerable injustice. I was saying I lay no blame whatever upon the head of the Education Department. I should also like to say I lay no blame whatever upon the Lord Advocate. We in Scotland are too much indebted to the Lord Advocate for his speeches upon many occasions. It would be with no light heart that I should offend him in any shape or form. Nevertheless, I trust I shall have a conciliatory reply to what I am about to say to-night. I consider this scheme of allocation to be unjust. I do not intend to give the House a multitude of figures; I have done that on many occasions. I think this is the fourth or fifth time in which I have objected to this allocation. It is not necessary to say, as the Secretary for Scotland did the other night at a conference, that if our wishes were carried, and if the statute was administered according to the first scheme, that the people of Berwickshire and Kirkcudbrightshire would have nothing for bursaries, and that there would be a deficit in their education fund, and that they would require to increase the rates. To me it is no argument whatever to say that these and other counties in Scotland have spent the money which they got and regulated their expenditure according to the money they received. Berwickshire, for example, gets 19s. for every scholar in average attendance under this allocation, and Lanarkshire only 9s. If Berwickshire got double that amount, 38s. per scholar in average attendance, they would have spent their money, increased the number of bursaries and scholars, and the rates would be even lower than they are, and if they got that 38s. at the expense of Lanarkshire, then Lanarkshire would get only 4s. 6d., instead of 9s., and Lanarkshire would require to have fewer bursaries and would require a greater education rate than at present. No form of words, and the Secretary for Scotland was very eloquent the other night, can defend this allocation, because it is unjust. Let me give one other case. I remember being at a meeting in my Constituency at Biggar, and after that at a meeting at Skerling, in Peebleshire. There is only a distance of four or five miles between these two places. In Skerling they get 21s. 1d. out of this allocation grant for every scholar in average attendance at the school, whereas at this other place, five miles distant, they get 8s. 10d. There does not appear to me to be any reason why that should be so. There is no scientific frontier, and there are no rivers to cross or mountains to climb. It is a quiet country place. There is no reason whatever for this discrepancy. The Act says that the purpose of the Subsection was to give greater aid to those districts in which the burden of educational expenditure was excessive. If that Clause of the Act were fulfilled, Biggar, in my Constituency, would receive double the amount. The school rate in Peebleshire averages 6d., and in Lanarkshire it averages 11d. The valuation in Peebles is £12 per head of the inhabitants, and in Lanarkshire it is £6. This is directly contrary to the spirit and intention of the Act of Parliament. The Secretary for Scotland said the Clause did not say the aid was to be in exact proportion to these factors. I do not know what he means by "in exact proportion." I suppose two and two make four. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We are told what it does do. The Act states what is to be done in places with a low valuation and a high school rate. The Secretary for Scotland says:— Nor do we exclude oilier considerations from the distribution so long as the general result is secured of getting more aid for districts with high expenditure. The general results have not been gained, and so far as the principal counties of Scotland and the School Boards are concerned the result has been diametrically opposed to the spirit and intention of those words. If the Act said it was intended to give less aid to those districts in which the burden of educational expenditure was excessive as compared with valuation, and to give greater aid to those districts where it was low as compared with the valuation, then, so far as Lanarkshire is concerned, it has been fulfilled. May I ask one or two questions about the statement that nowhere was it stated that the distribution was to be in exact proportion to these factors. What is the use of us saying anything at all about allocation? Do the Government think it right that the exact proportion should not be stated, and that the Act allows the Education Department to give 20s. or 30s. per child in average attendance in one county and 8s. or 10s. in another county? We have no control over this. With reference to what the hon. Member for Forfarshire said, I wish it to be understood that I am quite aware that this allocation has been passed. The loss to the country of Lanark is estimated at £14,000. That loss is irretrievable. It has been suggested to me once or twice that the Scottish Members might meet together and arrange this amongst themselves. A more ridiculous proposition was never made. We are all careful enough about our own farthings: we would not keep a single farthing in our pockets which did not belong to us, but no Scottish Member would give up to another Scottish Member the advantage of this allocation: to ask us to arrange it mutually and amicably is simply ridiculous and preposterous. An hon. Member would consider he was betraying his constituents if he were to give way to the extent of a single farthing.

Suppose I went to an M.P. whose school board constituents are receiving a grant out of this allocation to the extent of 20s., whereas the school board in my own Constituency is receiving only 10s. Suppose I said to him, "We will divide this thing up by arrangement." He would naturally say it is ridiculous to think he would give away a single farthing belonging to his own constituency. A similar suggestion has been made to the school board authorities but no one could think that that could be of any effect. The Secretary for Scotland said that if a conference between the school board authorities were unsuccessful the Government would have to act on its own responsibility. But it seems to me that that is the only course open for a responsible and self-respecting Government, and it is absurd to ask hon. Members to arrange this matter among themselves.

11.0 P.M.

I was deeply disappointed with the letter I received from the Secretary for Scotland, in which he suggested that on the completion of this year's working of the scheme of allocation its permanent effects would be more clear, and when that time came the Government would make such adjustments as the figures warranted in the proposals for the year ending 1913. I would suggest there are certain facts and figures connected with the Lanark County Council which are eminently worthy of the best consideration of the Government. These facts and figures have never been for one moment questioned. They have been before the Education Committee for three years. Every time this allocation comes up they point out exactly what they have lost and what other districts have gained. Their loss this year is £14,000. It has been £10,000 and £12,000 in previous years. These facts prove, and I ask the attention of the Government to the fact that £37,309 have been given to certain districts to the disadvantage of others and directly contrary to the intent and meaning of the Act of Parliament. I think the first duty of the Secretary for Scotland for his own credit is to make up that sum to those disadvantaged districts. If he is not strong enough to do it now, if he would undertake, out of the first new grant for any pupose which he gets from the Imperial Treasury, to make these presently penalised districts equal to the other districts, then, so far as I am concerned, I should allow this matter to drop. It would in reality become equal to a per capita grant to every district. I would like to make clear this is an offer which I am making myself, and not after consultation with the county, but I should like it to be understood no new grant of money from the Treasury will be satisfactory unless the relative position is altered. If he allocated that grant according to the unaltered scheme it would only accentuate the agitation which is going on now. I am a man of peace, but I am not for peace at any price. This agitation will never drop in the west of Scotland. A considerable amount of the gain has been in the cast of Scotland. This is no flash in the pan. I would be betraying my own Constituency if I allowed it to drop for a moment. The Secretary for Scotland when he was in this House was so impressed two or three years ago with what I said about South Lanark that he suggested he would see if it were possible to make a new education district out of my part of the country. I need hardly say nothing has been done. I make this renewed protest. I consider this allocation not only unjust, but contrary to the Statutes passed by the Government.


I beg to second the Motion. I will give all the support that can be obtained from the East to this Motion. In the first place, the acknowledgments of the provinces that have been disinherited are due to the Government for having given us this discussion. In view of the ruling of Mr. Speaker—and the ground for it seemed sufficiently plain—I do not see what advantage can be gained by taking a division upon this occasion. I agree that a better case could not be taken to a division than the one we have to submit to the House, and I trust that before the allocation is again made the Government will give us an opportunity, when our votes would be effective, of urging our support, because the opposition that we have hitherto maintained to this proposal we always shall maintain until the Act of Parliament is rectified by the Department. Our acknowledgments are not due to the Department. To have to put down a motion of this kind, at a time of the year when discussion is absolutely impossible, is an evasion of the Act and of the Standing Orders of the House, by which opportunity is offered to the representatives of Scotland to have some control over the legislative independence of the Scottish Education Department. Last year the Lord Advocate was good enough to say that he did not dispute the figures which I put forward. I think that those figures have never been disputed yet, and cannot be disputed. I contend that they show that the Scottish Education Department is practically legislating by Minute, and that when it finds an Act of Parliament in its way it does not scruple to go outside the Act of Parliament.

I admit that the allocation of this money is only a part of the whole question, for what is really needed is more money if the educational policy of the Department is to be carried out. As the Department cuts the coat it ought to find the cloth. If there is one way more than another in which the Department has failed, it has been in the finding of the money which is necessary in order to carry out its policy. As a member of the County Committee of Fife I feel that if our resources were diminished, the work we are endeavouring to carry out would be seriously hampered, but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the disadvantaged or disinherited communities suffering from this Act have been absolutely crippled and rendered unable to carry out the necessary work of these county committees. It must be recognised further that a fixed basis for these contributions is not less needed. Nothing could be more irregular than a scheme under which the work of education in Scotland should depend upon whether Scotland is drunk or whether she is sober. The policy of the Education Department may have been often extravagant, arbitrary, and ill-considered, but that policy is its own policy, and I contend that that policy can never be satisfactorily carried out until it is properly financed. Here, at any rate, we have a policy. It is not a policy which has been sanctioned by the Act of Parliament. It is a policy which can only be carried out by making a considerable addition to the Education (Scotland) Fund.

What was the Act of Parliament which has been evaded and which still holds good in this House if it does not outside? The allocation made by the Department, instead of being based upon present educational needs in Scotland as Parliament had determined, is based largely on past practice and past payments, £140,000 out of the £400,000 has been allotted to various districts as before the Act, whilst only £88,000 is allocated under the principle of the Act. Of that £140,000, £62,000 is distributed upon a valuation basis. The £30,000 formerly given to the secondary schools is stereotyped, and so is the £48.000 granted for the starting of small schools, a very doubtful policy which has encouraged the pernicious side-school system throughout the country instead of developing the transport of children to better and more central schools. This policy of side schools and the starting of unnecessary small schools would have been checked if the burden of that policy had been left upon the rates, whilst by stereotyping £30,000 a year to the secondary schools several counties doing exactly the same work get nothing, and Leith gets nothing. The comparison between Leith and Edinburgh is highly instructive. The Lord Advocate may say, no doubt, that it would be a hardship to have withdrawn that £30,000 a year for the secondary schools, but the secondary schools have been placed on an entirely new foundation. They have been put upon the rates, and the children who attend the schools in the surrounding district are charged for their education in those schools, whilst if there are special circumstances, which, I admit, may attach to small schools or to poor districts, those special circumstances ought to be met by a special grant, and not by upsetting the Education (Scotland) Fund policy as it is sanctioned by this House. I said the comparison between Leith and Edinburgh was interesting. The contention of the Department is that the distribution of the Scottish Education Fund in the Minute of this year is according to the Act of 1908, inasmuch as it gives the larger amounts to necessitous districts. One thing showing the necessity is the amount paid per head from the balance of the Education Fund in lieu of the General Aid Grant. How do the figures for Edinburgh and Leith work out for the past two years? In Edinburgh in 1909 there was 8s. 9d. per scholar in average attendance, and in 1910 6s. 9d. In Leith in 1909 there was 6s. 9d., and in 1910 2s. 9d. Yet Edinburgh gets an extra sum of £5,000 and is a necessitous district. Leith is a non-necessitous district. Edinburgh's school rate is a shade under 1s. 2d. The school rate of Leith is 1s. 9¾d.

Yet, with these figures before the Scottish Education Department, we are told by the head of it that Leith and Edinburgh are advantaged by the Minute. To say that is an abuse of the English language. I invite a reply to my contention that this example alone proves that the Act is over-ridden. No attempt has been made to answer any argument advanced by the deputations at Dover House. Two points were made. It was stated first that the advantaged districts were better off than they were before. In the pre-fund days the General Aid Grant amounted to 3s. 6d. per scholar in average attendance, and went up to 4s. 4d. Last year, after payment of the secondary education account, it was 2s. 9d. in Leith. This year it will probably be 1s. 9d., and very shortly it will be nothing at all. Secondly, it was stated that the disinherited districts got most of the excess grants; but these excess grants are a mere fraction of the fund—a matter of £30,000 or £40,000. Suppose you have £1 to divide between two men, and you give one 14s. and the other 6s. Another 6d. turns up, and you give the 14s. man 2d. and the 6s. man 4d., then I suppose you would be able to say that there had been a fair distribution. That is what the argument of the Department amounts to.

Reference has been made by my hon. Friend to the figures admirably prepared by the clerk to the Lanarkshire County Council. What are those figures? They show that under the arbitrary allocation of the Department a scheme has been devised which is contrary to the Act, which is indefensible in debate, and which is unfair in its application. In the disinherited districts the valuation per head is £6.23, the rates 1s. 0½d. on the average, and the grant is 9s. 8½d. In the favoured districts the valuation per head is £8.05, the rates are 10d., and the grant 13s. 3d. The Lord Advocate may look these figures firmly in the face and pass by on the other side, but they are figures which have never been answered and never will be answered. That is a simple rough outline of our case in this matter, and I do not know that a stronger case has ever been presented, or presented under more extraordinary circumstances. The circumstances are these: Under an Act of Parliament passed by this House we had an allocation. It may possibly not have been the only allocation that could have been made, but it was one which was in consonance with the spirit of the Act. We have had an allocation over-riding the Act, the product of the Department. That allocation has given us these extraordinary and unjust results. Those who oppose the allocation will never cease to oppose it until the evils which it has created are redressed.


It is impossible not to have some sympathy with the hon. Member for South Lanarkshire (Sir W. Menzies) in his frequent attempts to get rectified what I am sure he imagines is a grievance, but I cannot help thinking that he resembles the widow in respect that he hopes by indomitable perseverance to accomplish what hitherto at least the strength of his case has not been able to bring him. He and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Leith Burghs want to get a little more money out of this fund for their constituencies. [An HON. MEMBER: "We want equity."] The hon. Member for Lanarkshire says that we would all like to get something for our own constituencies. So we would. But underlying all these merely selfish motives there must after all prevail the real question whether fairness and justice have been done. From the point of view of those who attack the scheme, the constituency which I represent is one of the advantaged districts. We do not think so. We do not think we get more than fair treatment. There are only two points on which these objections turn. One point is the statement sometimes made that the existing scheme of allocation is illegal, and sometimes made that it is contrary to the spirit of the Act; and the other is the allegation that by a comparison of figures which are said to be irrefragable, inequity can be shown to exist in the application of the present scheme. On the first question it would be odd indeed if the Department committed an illegality under the Statute of 1908.

The supposed illegality is that what was known as the first scheme was abandoned and the second scheme was adopted. It is said that the Department did not apply the mathematical formula of expenditure multiplied by population and divided by valuation. To those Members who say that that formula is prescribed by the Act I do not say that they have not read the Act, but I do say that they are reading something into it which the Act does not say. All that the Act says is that the Department is to frame a Minute for the division of this fund, and to frame it so as to give greater aid—not greater in proportion—to those districts where the burden is greater as compared with the valuation. If the intention of Parliament had been to regulate the allocation of this money as the basis of a precise, rigid, mathematical formula nothing would have been easier than to say so in the Act. It does not say anything of the kind. Therefore if you want to make a charge against the Department in this matter you must say that the Department is not succeeding in framing a scheme which will give greater assistance to those districts where the burden is great as compared with the valuation. Nobody has attempted to say that except in general terms, and nobody can say that. It would be wholly untrue to say it. The Department has framed such a scheme.


No, no.


I was going particularly to challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith, who says not only that is not so, but that the first scheme was before Parliament in 1908. The Bill was before Parliament in 1908, and the first scheme was shown to be so inapplicable, so certain to defeat precisely the spirit and intention of the Act, that, while the Bill was still before Parliament, it was withdrawn, and what is known as the second scheme, of which all these complaints are made, was put before Parliament—[An HON. MEMBER: "NO."]—Yes, indeed—as showing what the Department thought would be a fair model for working this thing in accordance with the spirit and intention of the Act. I go this far, and say, in view of that having been done, and, what is more, of that scheme having been accepted by the Parliament of the day as reasonably working within the intention of the Act, that the Department would be doing something which was not its duty if it made a change without strong reason for making an alteration. But when one looks at the other side of the facts one finds them based on figures. First of all, I do not believe the wit of man could devise a scheme for allocation which would not be open to some attack by picking out individual instances which seem unfair compared with other instances. I do not think anyone would disagree with that.


I certainly disagree. The way to do it is by per capita grant.


We cannot have it both ways, and I very respectfully suggest that a per capita grant would not be a solution at all. It does not meet the case of the district which has incurred large expenditure on the faith of the grant. It is not business, but above all it is not the Act. To go to the figures, you can always make some kind of a case on the figures of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs very fairly put himself on more substantial ground; but Edinburgh and Leith are singularly unhappy instances to quote. Under the second scheme adopted in 1908, and at present in operation, Leith was improved as compared with its former condition a great deal more than Edinburgh. Leith was improved between 25 and 30 per cent. and Edinburgh was not improved much more than 20 per cent. Leith came a great deal better out, under the scheme, than did Edinburgh, and I, for my part, am not in the least sorry that it did. Observe what the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) method is. He says: "I will ignore the past. I will not consider what the liabilities have been. I do not want to consider how Edinburgh and Leith stood before the second scheme was brought into operation." Taking the second scheme, he makes tabula rasa of all the work, and says you can find inequalties. Of course you can find inequalities and injustices when you select inequalities without reference to the conditions to which the scheme applies. The honest truth is there is no argument which will hold water in this matter. They are based on unrealities and imaginations to begin with, and are only consistent with the fact that you can ignore the state of facts to which the allocation was applied, in which case, no doubt, you could construct a dozen imaginary injustices and inequalities. It seems to me that the only way in which any change in this scheme can hope to receive favourable acceptance would be to show that a change can legitimately be made in favour of one set of localities, it may be, as against another, consistently with respecting their existing obligations, and consistently with respecting the natural expectations on which those obligations were actually conferred. Those grants, which would be completely upset by the scheme, which the hon. Member for Lanarkshire and the right hon. Gentleman are disposed to support, have been in operation for periods of between six and twenty years. Some were made twenty years before the scheme was brought in, and are you going suddenly to upset them? Then the answer is, the thing is impossible.


There is Clause 15.


We are back to the old question, that the Act says so. The Act says nothing of the kind. Will somebody who follows me say where the Act requires the Department to upset the whole settled course of development up to the date of the Act of 1908? I cannot find it in the Act, and I do not think it is to be found in it. It seems to me that this is just one of those cases in which, when there are funds to be divided, there is apt to be dispute as to the exact amount of the division, and nothing more. The whole dispute is that all of us would like a little more money. So would I like a little more money.


But there is a way of dividing it under the Act.


The hon. Member is still persuaded that the Act prescribes a method of division. The Act does not prescribe so.


The Act prescribes a formula for dividing the funds.


If the hon. Member would allow me to say so, nothing could more completely exhibit his ignorance of the terms of the Section than that interruption. Absolutely no formula is prescribed in the Section whatsoever, and the Lord Advocate will tell you, I have no doubt, whether that is so or not. It seems to me that the discussion is not only futile for any immediate object, but as regards the merits that underlie it, that it is devoid of all foundation.


I happen to be a Member from the West of Scotland, unlike the hon. Member, who comes from the East. I much regret that that element has been imported into the Debate at all. I rise to associate myself with the Prayer to His Majesty the King that he shall withhold assent from this scheme, because, with all respect to my hon. and learned Friend, I think the scheme is directly contrary to the clear instructions of the Act of 1908. So far as I can read the Act it prescribes that a certain sum of money, called the Scottish Education Fund, shall be allocated in a certain manner, after certain provision has been made for other things that are not to come under the allocation of the Fund. Up to the passing of that Act there had been grants made under certain Acts of Parliament and Minutes of the Department for a great many objects, and they came out of a certain fund there specified. Therefore our quarrel is not that the allocation of this Fund has not been in accordance with this or that provision, but that it has not been allocated at all in accordance with the clear instructions of the Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged those who object to the scheme to adduce some evidence on this point. In Section 15 (2) he will find that the residue grant was not part of the Scotland Education Fund, and therefore that money should have been provided out of moneys altogether outside of this Fund. But instead of the £405,000, which is available this year for the Scottish Education Fund, being distributed as it ought to have been, the first thing that strikes one in reading the Minute of this year is that there shall be allocated to each secondary committee district a fixed sum, "consisting of the following items," of which the first is:— the average amount of the Residue Grant under Section 2 of the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act, 1890, allotted to the various local authorities within such district for the five years preceding 1st April, 1909. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find in Section 15 (2) a direct instruction that that money shall not be included in the Fund in question.


Section 14 (2), which relates to the money in question, after describing the money, says:— … shall no longer be applied or distributed as provided in these Acts, but, on the contrary, shall be paid into one fund hereby constituted.


Quite so. Therefore it shall be applied in certain ways, one of the ways directing the Department to spend the money before we reach the Residue Grant question. That, I think, is the clear reading of the Act. Certain things are there enumerated. These moneys have to be provided for purposes for which fixed grants were made prior to 1908, and they have to be provided before we reach the Scotland Education Fund in regard to which this matter arises. The second item was— the amount of the grant receivable by secondary schools under a Minute of the Department dated 27th April, 1899. That was cancelled by a Minute five or six years ago under the Act of 1905, and special provision is made for it under the Act of 1908. Again— The amount which the districts received under a Minute of the Department dated 25th February, 1908. All these things, it seems to me, are or should be outside the £405,000 now in question. My complaint is that certain moneys are being taken out of the £405,000 for purposes otherwise provided for under the Act of 1908, and moreover are being spent, although the conditions under which they were spent before no longer exist, as, for instance, the fixed amounts prior to 1908 were given in regard to payments for individual schools—for the staffing of the school in a certain way as approved by the Department, and various things of that sort. These moneys are now being paid out of the £405,000, and the conditions that used to apply to the granting of these moneys no longer apply. The moneys that come out of the £405,000 need not be spent by any Committee in the way of special grants to individual schools. They will come out of the Scottish Education Fund, and can be spent in the ordinary way for the general purposes of education. Those bodies that get the money will be under no obligation to spend it in the manner usual before the Act of 1908.

I do not like to introduce comparisons, for the question ought to be dealt with in a general way. My right hon. Friend behind me has pointed out that these three items deducted from the £405,000 that ought to be available this year amount to no less a figure than £140,000. That only leaves £255,000, and even this is not spent according to the clear instructions of the Act of 1908. There has been a good deal of talk about formula. I do not think that there can be any mistake as to the formula under which this money was to be divided, which was according to the burden of education, as to the population of the district, the available resources of the district in regard to valuation, and so on. It ought to go to the poor districts, and advantage them as compared with richer districts. As will doubtless be admitted by the Lord Advocate when he replies, even when we reach the £255,000 that principle does not apply. It is clearly laid down in the Minute of the Department that two-thirds of the money is to be allocated, I believe, on the principle of population. Only about £88,000 is left to be allocated according to the Act of 1908. That produces some curious results. It is noticeable that the richer districts gain and the poorer districts lose. Aberdeen City loses £4,825, and I believe it is the highest rated placed in Scotland. Dundee, which is also a very highly rated place, loses £2,300. Glasgow city loses the paltry sum of £230 this year. It will lose more in future, because the City is extending its boundaries all the time, and it will be taking in a considerable population now outside of its boundaries, which population is a poor one. Glasgow will not gain by any of this money which is to be devoted towards the staffing of schools or in the way of individual schools as under the old system, because these grants were only made in respect of existing schools. It so happens that on the joining of Glasgow later on by annexation or otherwise there were none of these schools existing, and when they are set up Glasgow will get no share of these moneys out of the Education Grant this year. Therefore, although Glasgow only loses this sum this year it will lose more in the near future in the event of her population increasing, as it will. The Act lays down in Section 17 (11) the balance of the Fund shall be applied for the school boards and for the voluntary schools. That has a very important bearing upon the poorer districts.

It is said if a district is disadvantaged under this it can raise money in rates. That is a serious matter for the poorer districts, and it is a more serious matter still for the voluntary schools, and which have no rates to fall back on, a large number of which are in Glasgow. It seems to me when these sums are taken out of the moneys and conserved for other purposes there will be very little left for voluntary schools or for poorer schools, and that will be an injustice and hardship in regard to these schools in Glasgow. In the poorer districts struggling with adversity and catering for the poorest classes of the population, there will be nothing left for these poor people, whereas if the whole amount was applied, as I think it ought to have been applied, there might have been a considerable sum left for these poor districts. I am glad to associate myself with those who have raised this question. I think they have a good case. I remember the Act of 1908 passing through this House, and with all respect I beg to differ with the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the circumstances under which these schedules were drawn up. The first one was drawn up concurrently with the Act, but it raised such a storm from those that were to be disadvantaged by it that the second scheme was hurriedly drawn up, but unfortunately the Act was not altered when the second scheme was drawn up, and the second scheme was altogether inconsistent with the Act of Parliament. We have to press the Department to draw up another scheme consistent with the Act of Parliament and consistent with the instructions laid down, and for my part, so long as the hon. Member (Sir W. Menzies) brings this matter forward, he will have my whole-hearted support.


My hon. Friend seems to have forgotten the history of 1908. I remember the first scheme being put forward in Committee and the trouble there was about that scheme. The Committee stage, Report and Third Reading of that Act were passed with the full knowledge of every hon. Member that the second scheme was the one involved in the Bill. The Rt. Hon. James Caldwell was so strongly impressed upon that occasion that he made a speech of one hour's duration in Committee. The Act simply says that the Minute has to be so framed as to give greater aid to those districts in which per head of the population the burden of expenditure for educational purposes is excessive as compared with the valuation of the district. What do you mean by valuation? There is no such thing as a county valuation for school board rates in Scotland. You find a rich parish with very few people and a small rate, but that does not come to the relief of the poor parish in the Highlands with a heavy rate. I admire the courage of my hon. Friend who gets up time after time and asks the House to give Lanarkshire an enormous sum compared with anybody else. I am sure when I have given the figures you will see what it is my hon. Friends are driving at. Up to 1908 a certain sum was allocated to twenty-nine committees of councils amounting to £371,000, and that was practically 3s. 6d. per head of the scholars throughout the county. That is a simple fact and figures. What is the amount divided this time in excess of the 3s. 6d. The amount to be divided totals £405,000, which is £33,700 more than was paid in 1908. My hon. Friend wants £17,349 of that amount, and Banffshire, Lanarkshire, Dundee, and Govan take £24,000 out of the £33,000. Let us see how the figures run in some other localities. I will take Argyllshire and Aberdeenshire. Argyllshire up to the time of the Act had £7,422. According to my hon. Friend's scheme poor Argyllshire has £5,900, or a loss of £1,500. The thing is ridiculous. Aberdeenshire prior to 1908 got £15,437. The allocation now is £14,439, or a loss of £1,000 less than we got in 1908. Although the Act throws upon us all the secondary education and the inspection of children, yet we are going to get £1,000 less, while Lanark gets £17,000 more. It has nothing to do with population, but mark that you have a widespread district, and the cost per scholar must be greater than in a populous district. I could take you to schools in these constituencies where the scholars only number five or ten. There are no schools better than those in these two counties, who do their very best and have lived up to the Act so far as they can. If this allocation of my hon. Friend's were to obtain it would be absolutely ruinous, and in many cases they could not carry out the Act by several thousand pounds.

12.0 M.

Let us see how these various places have been benefited by these grants. In the case of Leith the 3s. 6d. is reduced to 2s. 9d. That is to say, they are 9d. worse off than they were. In Govan they have 3s. 8d., which is 2d. better. Dundee has 3s. 11d., or 5d. better. Aberdeen City has 3s. 11d., or 5d. better. Edinburgh has 6s. 5d., or 2s. 11d. better. Aberdeenshire is 2s. 7d. worse, and Argyle is 2s. 7d. worse. They were getting 3s. 6d. before; they are only getting 11d. now. Dumfries has 3s. 3d.; Lanark has 3s. 3d. They have dropped 3d., while Aberdeenshire has dropped 2s. 7d. Glasgow gets 9s. According to the proposal of my hon. Friend, Forfar would lose £3,805. The claim of the hon. Member for Lanark would deprive the great bulk of the committees of what they actually had in 1908. It would make them poorer to-day than they were then, with all the additional work which the Act calls upon them to perform. I have no hesitation in saying that this second Minute was before the Committee and the House on the Report stage and upon the Third Reading. When you talk about it being illegal you are putting a slur upon the Committee and the House for passing it. The first Minute, I admit, was first of all put forward in a perfunctory manner, upon a wrong basis of calculation. The moment it was seen to be so absurd as to be untenable it was put right. My hon. Friend has ever since struggled to get this large share, this impossible share, of the extra money, and so long as he has breath in him and represents Lanark, I suppose he will struggle to get the best for Lanark. I think he has struggled to get a little too much, and this House would be doing a very wrong thing if they countenanced such a wrong distribution of the money as the scheme proposed.


I associate myself with the protest made by the Member for South Lanark (Sir W. Menzies) and others as regards the present Minute of allocation. It is a matter of great importance to Scotland. Educational authorities in Scotland who represent 64 per cent. of the population are opposed to the Minute, which they maintain will not only seriously prejudice their interests, but is contrary to the policy laid down in the Education Act of 1908. The question has been treated to-night by the hon. and learned Member for West Edinburgh as a struggle which has taken place between the different authorities to secure certain advantages at the expense one of the other—but I should like to say that the point of view this question ought to be regarded from is not from that of seeking to take money from other authorities, whom we desire to see get what I think they are entitled to get, but from the point of view of securing an equitable scheme of distribution of grants throughout the whole of Scotland. We want to see that the scheme is carried out in such a way as to not unfairly deprive other authorities of what they ought to get under the principle laid down in the Act itself. As to the abolition altogether of the old fixed grants we made a very strong case. Section 15 of the Act of 1908 does distinctly say that these sums should no longer be applied or distributed under the former Acts, but should be paid into one fund, and our whole contention is that being paid into that one fund they are no longer to be distributed as they were before. But we find that the Residue grant, the Secondary Schools grant, and the General Aid grant, are being distributed exactly as they were before, and on that matter I do not think we have had any answer to our argument submitted this evening.

As to the second point, we cannot carry out the principle of Section 16 (2) by means of any cut-and-dry code or formula. I think the Education Department is entitled to say there are other considerations to be taken into account, but we say the principle which is embodied in Section 16 (2) is one which ought to be carried out having regard to certain particular factors—the factors of population, burden of expenditure on educational purposes per head of population, and the valuation of the district. With regard to the principle involved there has not been any doubt whatever that it was intended to introduce a new principle altogether to that which regulated the distribution of the moneys at an earlier stage. The Secretary for Scotland, in introducing the Bill, made that perfectly clear. We say the present scheme does not give effect to that which it was intended to do, and I think we are very much justified in opposing the Minute by what took place at the recent deputation to the Scottish Office, when a great number of educational authorities were present, and when we did get a very clear admission that the scheme as outlined in the present Minute was not considered altogether satisfactory by the Department itself. It was made perfectly clear to the deputation that there were certain modifications of the existing scheme, notably in the matter of the stereotyped grants, which were worthy of consideration, and it was suggested that two Members from either side should meet the Secretary for Scotland and examine possible modifications, with a view to arriving at a permanent mode of distribution. That proves our case, that we have here an admitted grievance which still demands a remedy. It is because that remedy has been so long delayed that we are anxious that further pressure should be put upon the Department, in order that an arrangement should be arrived at which would meet the views of those who are justly criticising the scheme.

I represent one of the very populous districts in the West of Scotland, where considerable hardship has been incurred under the present method of distribution. I will take one illustration, which will show how the district I have the honour to represent compares with the figures given for Aberdeen county. Aberdeen county, with a population of leas than one-third of Lanarkshire, and with an education rate of 9½d., receives in stereotyped grants under the Minute £7,549, while Lanarkshire only receives £8,428, with an education rate of 1s. 1d. That makes it clear that under these stereotyped grants great injustice is being done to certain districts and notably in Lanarkshire, a very populous industrial district, where the element of population is one of the factors referred to in Section 16 (2), and ought to be taken into account. Figures have been given with regard to valuation which have not been successfully challenged. I do not desire to dwell upon them, but I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should seek to accelerate, if possible, the reconsideration of this scheme, with a view to meeting the views of those who have some legitimate criticism to offer as to its effect in Lanarkshire and other populous districts in Scotland. We are not speaking for the minority, but for the majority. We are speaking for 64 per cent. of the population of Scotland. I think our criticism is worthy of attention. In this matter we only ask for a modification of the existing scheme, at least, speaking for myself, I think we ought to ask for a modification of the existing scheme to bring it into line with the suggestions which have been thrown out. I should welcome the opportunity of having this matter discussed by those who are well fitted to make suggestions to the Scottish Education Department, although the responsibility must rest upon the Department. I would desire that those districts which are aggrieved should have an opportunity of submitting their case, and getting an immediate answer to it in the form of some immediate modification of the present scheme. I hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give us some assurance on that head.


The Government has been charged to-night with having deliberately attempted to evade discussion of this scheme by laying it upon the Table of the House at a date when an effective challenge was impossible. The charge is baseless. It is impossible to tell before the end of July what moneys will be available, and accordingly a scheme never can be laid on the Table before the commencement of August. The scheme was laid on the Table at the earliest possible date, and at a date when the idea of an Autumn Session had not entered into the mind of any of us. But although effective discussion is at present impossible, the Government welcomes this opportunity of treading once more the well-known and familiar path. The Statute to which reference has been made constitutes a Scottish Education Fund, into which all the money is poured which is devoted to education in Scotland. The Statute specifically directs that that money should be devoted to six separate and distinct purposes and the balance is to be distributed amongst those districts in Scotland in which secondary education committees have been set up. Wide discretionary powers are given to the Department in the allocation of that money in various districts subject to the criticism, examination, and Challenge of this House.

One direction only is given to guide whoever allocates the money. Greater aid is to be given to those districts where the burden of education is per head of the population excessive in relation to valuation. That means that the needy districts are to get a greater aid than the less needy districts. Greater than what? Greater than what would be given to them if the distribution were per head of the population. There are two factors entering into consideration when you come to allocate, first the weight of the burden, and secondly, the ability of the shoulders to bear it. The weight of the burden is estimated, of course, by the cost of education per scholar. That is the only means by which you could estimate the weight of the burden and the Statute selects, as a rough and ready test of ability to pay, valuation. I do not offer any criticism upon that. The needy district is a district where the weight is great and the ability to bear the weight is small. A needy district is not a district where the weight is heavy and the ability to carry the weight is great, nor is it one in which the weight is light and the ability to bear it is not great, and accordingly what the Department has to do is to consider whether or no the weight in any particular district is excessive in relation to the ability to bear it. The House will not be astonished to know that the cost of education per scholar varies greatly in the various districts in Scotland. That is an element which has never from beginning to end of this controversy been taken into account by those who have challenged the Minute. I have read every speech that has been made on this subject and heard most of them, and I have not noticed that a single hon. Member has taken into account the fact which lies at the very root of this calculation—what is the weight of the burden?

Let me give an instance, for the purpose of showing that that is vital and goes absolutely to the very root—is the pith and marrow of the whole case. In Peebles it costs 120s. per head to educate the scholars. In Argyllshire it costs 114s. per head. In Berwick, Roxburgh, Sutherland, and Wigton the cost is over 100s. per head, Lanarkshire 89s., Banff 83s., Orkney 80s., and Linlithgowshire 78s. The House will see at once that this is a vital factor in the calculation—the weight of the burden. When you approach the Statute you see that you are entirely outside the region of formula and cut and dry tests. The Statute prescribes no formula and lays down no hard and fast rules. It is a question of what is excessive, and obviously you are there in the region of estimates and opinions on which honest and intelligent men might quite reasonably differ.

It is out of the question to suppose that there could be any formula laid down. Look at the Act of Parliament itself. You are simply to give greater aid to needy districts than to the less needy. That shows at once that the Minute is needed and that you require to allocate the fund from time to time, otherwise the office boy could have made the calculation merely by multiplying the expenditure and dividing by the valuation. The Minute is absolutely necessary because you have in framing the allocation to take into account so many elements besides the mere elements of population, expenditure, and valuation. Those who assail the scheme may do so on two distinct grounds. They may say that it is contrary to the Statute, or that it is quite inequitable though in harmony with the Statute. If they make out the one proposition or the other they succeed. On the other hand the defence of the scheme obviously rests upon establishing that it is legal, and, secondly, that it is equitable. I have shown that it is legal. At all events, nobody denies that we give under this scheme greater aid to the needy districts. I am aware that those who challenge the scheme do so on the ground that it is inequitable, but it is now apparent that it is not challenged as illegal.

Instantly you abandon scheme number one, all that becomes wholly inapplicable to our discussion. It becomes now apparent that the sole ground of challenge by those who dissent is that the scheme is itself inequitable. I undertake to show that it is not only legal but equitable. It was framed on the 3rd of June, 1908, and was before the Committee which considered the Bill, and every hon. Member who voted for the Bill did so knowing that that scheme of allocation was the scheme which would be considered in harmony with the provisions of the Bill. There have been three distributions of money under that scheme. In the first year, 1909–10, there was available under this Fund something like £50,000 more than was distributed the year before the Act came into operation. How was it distributed between the twenty-one authorities who support the scheme and the seventeen who oppose it? The non-contents, who were only 64 per cent. of the population, received 69 per cent. of the money, and the contents, who were 36 per cent. of the population, received only the remaining 31 per cent. of the money. So hon. Members will see that not only was the statutory direction followed, but that the result was not inequitable. In the next year there was more money available—£75,000. The non-contents got 66.5 and the contents 33.5 per cent., the population remaining the same. In the third year there was only £34,000 available, and the non-contents, still only 64 per cent. of the population, received 73 per cent. of the money, while the contents received only 27 per cent. That shows plainly that the result was not inequitable, and was certainly in consonance with the spirit and the letter of the Statute. I go further, and point out that every one of the thirty-eight districts of Scotland which are entitled to a share of this money receives more than formerly. Certainly the non-contents receive considerably more than they received before. Eight of the seventeen receive over 13 per cent. more, while Orkney receives 35 per cent. and Shetland 31 per cent. more.

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members not being present—

The House was adjourned at twenty-eight minutes after Twelve of the clock a.m., 8th November.