§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.9 a.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill which will continue for two years the life of the present Educational Endowments Commission is a short one, of which I need say little, because it is practically in the same form as it was presented to Parliament at the end of last Session, and those who have taken an interest in the topic are familiar with the new provisions which are contained in it. I will refer briefly, therefore, to the new conditions, but I want to take this opportunity of dealing generally with the question of the Educational Endowments Commission, because with the exception of the Debate after 11 o'clock one day last spring, when the topic was discussed upon a rather narrow front, I have had no opportunity since I came into the office which I now hold of presenting to the House the general considerations with regard to the Bill. Therefore, I think that the House, or at any rate those who are interested in the topic will wish me to say something on the general subject. The Rouse will recollect that the Educational Endowments Commission which was appointed under the Act of 1928 for three years had its life continued by an Act passed by this Parliament in 1931 continuing its life until 31st December, of this year. Its work is not yet done. It has some 1,500 endowments or trusts to consider altogether, and it has had under review, many of them in a preliminary way, some fewer than 1,000. So the House may take it that two-thirds of its work has been partly accomplished.
It is, as a result of the work which it has done, in very full possession of a great deal of information about endowments which the Department could not itself claim to have, and there is in general every reason that the same procedure should be followed with regard 1158 to the present Commission as was followed by its predecessor appointed in 1882, which was that its life should be continued by successive Acts of Parliament until the general scope of its work was completed. I would add in parenthesis that the 1882 Commission, which dealt with a smaller number of endowments, took eight years to complete that work with the consent of the Parliament of the time. This Commission, with a larger field to survey, is proceeding at a greater rate of speed, and therefore, we propose to the House that the Commission's life should be continued for another two years. But the experience which has been gained since 1928 suggests that there should be certain alterations made with regard to procedure, first of all as to the constitutional position of the Commission vis-a-vis the Education Department, and, secondly, that an addition should be made to the directions which Parliament gives it to assist it in its work.
The constitutional changes are contained in Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill. The new directions are contained in Clause 2, but I will first deal briefly with the constitutional changes. Clause 3 of the Bill enables the Department to do what at present it cannot do, namely, to disapprove a scheme framed by the Commission. As the law stands at present, there is no provision against a deadlock, the procedure being that the Commission frames schemes, sends them to the Department for approval, and, if the Department finds that alterations in a draft scheme are necessary, it remits to the Commission a declaration with regard to the necessary alterations. But that process can go on indefinitely, and, if there be a fundamental difference of view between the Commission and the Department on any important topic in a draft scheme, the matter may be hung up indefinitely. The House must not exaggerate the results of a scheme being hung up, because, while a scheme is being considered, the old trust goes on functioning in its own way. Obviously, from the point of view of practical administration, it is undesirable that this deadlock should be possible, and therefore, in Clause 3 we take power to disapprove of a scheme, and, if that be necesary, then that is the end of that scheme, and it is as if it had never been. That is the first new power.
1159 The second new power is the power to the Department to amend schemes, so to speak, "off its own bat". I have explained how there may be a deadlock. We propose to alter that by giving the Department power where it has remitted a scheme with a declaration that it should be altered, to make the amendment which it desires if within six months the Commission has not given effect to the declaration. If hon. Members will look at this provision at the top of page 3, Clause 4, paragraph (i), they will notice that it is somewhat complicated, and in case I should be asked to explain the language let me say that where an amendment has been the subject of a declaration and remitted to the Commission with that declaration, then if the Commission do not act for six months, the amendment can be made by the Department itself and made operative.
If in the course of consideration the Department makes any amendment to the scheme of a material nature which is not covered by the declaration, then that scheme goes back to the Commission in the first place, in order that no material proposal in the scheme can come finally into operation without the Commission at some time having had it under their purview. I hope that I have made that point clear for I do not want to be delayed on points of detail. So much for the constitutional change—the power too disapprove and the power to amend. I have been given by the Secretary of State in the general allocation of Scottish Office work the duty of considering these schemes when they come to the Department, and I can state my own point of view without any qualification that I believe it is an advantage to have these two Amendments.
The other topic in the Bill is the addition to the directions which are given by Parliament to the Commission for the purpose of carrying out their work. At present the directions are that it shall be the duty of the Commissioners in reorganising any endowments in pursuance of powers under the Act to have special regard to three things, (1) to the spirit of the intention of the founders, (2) the interests of the locality to which the endowment belongs and (3) the possibility of effecting economies in administration 1160 by the grouping, amalgamation or combination of any two or more endowments. These three directions have to be kept in view. I would emphasise that special regard has to be given to the spirit of the intention of the founders as it is embodied either in the original deed, if that is still governing it, or a scheme approved by the 1882 Commission, or by Act of Parliament or any provision there may be. Therefore, it is the spirit of the intention of the benefactor as expressed either in the original scheme, or in any of the methods which Parliament has allowed or has itself carried out for changing the original trust. Those are the directions as they stand. We propose to add another direction, which will be found in Clause 2, as follows:to the need for continuing the provision from endowments of competitive bursaries at universities, central institutions, training colleges or other educational institutions of a similar character.The House is well aware that there has been, to put it broadly, a certain amount of anxiety in Scotland with regard to some of the proposals of the Commissioners. That anxiety has, on the whole, been directed towards the question of bursaries. When I deal with the general work of the Commission I will show that a very large part of that anxiety is, to say the least of it, premature. We take the view that it is important that the Commission should have special regard to competitive bursaries. Let the House recollect that as a background to this question there are an immense number of bursaries provided by education authorities, but in our view there is a distinction between these and truly competitive bursaries. We believe, I think with reason, that it is a more valuable thing for a young man or a young woman to go to a university with the hall mark upon him or her of having been successful in a competitive examination rather than merely to be one of the many who now receive county council bursaries, broadly speaking, not upon a severe competitive test but by having reached, no doubt, a very suitable standard of education to make them proper members of a university.
I think I may be regarded as knowing something of this topic from my own experience in life, because I could not have afforded to have gone to Oxford had I not been fortunate enough to be 1161 successful in a competitive scholarship examination at Christchurch. However little one has justified the assistance thus given, I say that a young man or a young woman going to a university goes there with a sense that something, at all events, has been achieved before he or she got there if he or she has been successful in going to the University by a competitive bursary. Therefore, my right hon Friend and myself and our advisers think that it is important in principle that regard should be had to maintaining the provision of competitive bursaries. These really are the whole of the matters with which the Bill is concerned, but I want to turn the attention of the House to the more general question connected with the matter. Let me start what I hope will not be a very long survey by saying that the 1928 Commission was nothing new or exceptional. It had in Scotland a predecessor in 1882, and in England for many years the Charity Commissioners were entrusted with exactly the same work of reviewing endowments for educational purposes. As a matter of fact the work of the Charity Commission in this respect was handed over to the English Board of Education in 1900 or 1901. If we are asked why we do not hand over the work of the Commission to our Education Department, we think that when the Commission is in medias res, the middle of the job, it would be a mistake to hand it over.
There is nothing exceptional or strange in Parliament providing for the review and reconsideration of the benefactions which have been given by pious donors for educational purposes. The first Commission of importance in Scotland was appointed in 1882 and the period over which it had power ended in the year 1872. That year was taken because in 1872 there was a vast change in the educational system of the country by the establishment of compulsory primary education. By 1920, which is the range of the present Bill, an alteration not less vast had taken place in our educational system. There were greater changes in education in Scotland between 1872 and 1918 than in any similar period since the Reformation and, therefore, the time was ripe for a review of existing endowments, a review not only of the endowments 1162 which had been given since the 1882 Commission, and which they did not review, but also a review of the schemes which the 1882 Commission had made.
What was the alteration? The 1882 Commission was told by Parliament to have special regard to the needs of higher education. By 1920, Parliament had met these needs fully. The Education Act of 1918 made it one of the duties of education authorities to elaborate a complete system of secondary education, and make certain that no child was debarred from making use of the system by want of means. What is the object of reviewing educational endowments? It is that the endowments of pious donors to assist the normal structure of education should be used for extending the confines of education, not doing merely what the State or the locality is by Act of Parliament charged with doing. That is why in 1882 higher education was concentrated upon by Parliament; there was no general provision for higher education. There is now. Therefore, when the Mackenzie Commission reported they clearly indicated new purposes for which endowments might well be released as a result of the State and the local authority having embraced a much wider field of education.
The first was residential halls for university students. Anyone who is familiar with Scottish Universities, with their immense traditions and their inestimable value to the life of Scotland, will agree that the more you can introduce into them a residential characteristic the more you strengthen their corporate life and make them a valuable instrument for the development of our race. Residential halls are an object in which many people have long been interested. There is no statutory provision for them and, therefore, from the point of view of university education and the future status and value of our universities, you could hardly select a more suitable subject for the use of these endowments than the establishment of residential halls. The second purpose is the assistance of central institutions, such as technical colleges, agricultural colleges, schools of art, domestic economy, and so on.
One of the features of our modern education is the establishment and extension of other forms of higher educa- 1163 tion which are subsidiary to the university education. Under such benefactions as the Carnegie Benefaction large numbers of people are assisted towards a university education and it may be that some assistance towards technical and agricultural colleges is a more pressing need. It was wise, therefore, for the Mackenzie Commission to single out this as one of the purposes for which endowments might be used. I must also mention hostels for school children. In the more scattered country districts of Scotland, in the Highlands and uplands, where the population is widespread, nothing can more reinforce the value of the secondary school system, now so widely and wisely established, than to provide places where those attending our secondary schools can live in peace and safety. It is one of the most valuable additions to our secondary school system in these scattered districts that there should be hostels for boys and girls going to the secondary school. That is the third purpose which the Mackenzie Commission suggested as a suitable object for any spare money there might be. In speaking of hostels one does not speak from theory only, because there are already one or two established in the Western Highlands, one I think is in Skye, and this experience has proved to be of immense value. Nothing can more undermine the value of secondary education than that children should have to go long journeys before getting to school.
The next purpose suggested by the Commission was adult education. We have a full system of continuation schools in Scotland, and a great deal of money has not vet been diverted to adult education. The next purpose is an increase in the number of playing fields. If there is anything in which people who are not specially interested in education feel strongly about it is that there should be suitable provision for playing fields. Everybody knows the importance of combining mental effort with proper physical release and recreation, and, therefore, the Commission in selecting this subject as one to which money might be applied were doing something with which I think the whole House will agree. They also mention social organisations, by which is meant boys' clubs, boy scouts and girl guides, and other things which, although 1164 outside the schoolroom, are none the less closely connected with education. Finally, they suggested that, if there was free money to be found, better methods of training nurses might be developed. The training of nurses is mainly done in voluntary hospitals. A development of private training schools for nurses would be of immense importance. So much so, that that was one of the subjects to which the Mackenzie Commission directed its attention.
I do not think that anyone who cares for education would differ from the general principle of the Mackenzie Commission, namely that the main function of endowment is to extend the areas of education and not to cover the ground already covered by Statute. So much for the background of the Commission's work. What is the work done? There has been great anxiety felt and expressed with regard to some of the Commission's schemes. That anxiety was expressed strongly in this House last Summer. I said then and repeat now that we, the Ministers responsible and the Education Department, are the proper target, as no scheme can come into operation even now until it has our approval. There has been criticism, based on that anxiety, which is perfectly justified; but I want now to point out that the schemes which mainly have produced anxiety and criticism are schemes which have not yet been passed by the Education Department. I apologise for delaying the House on the matter, but we have never had an opportunity of bringing it before this House and the larger audience in Scotland, and of seeing the thing as a whole.
There are three classes of schemes. There are those which have been approved; there are the schemes which are before the Department; and there are draft schemes which have been submitted for general discussion by the Commission. Of the schemes which have been approved and passed into law there are only two which raise criticisms. One was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson). It was the Ross and Cromarty scheme. His criticism was confined to this: That for certain bursaries in a school in Stornoway called the Nicolson Institution the examination formerly could be held on the island, but that under the new 1165 scheme candidates had to go to a University for examination. We considered the right hon. Gentleman's point, and we now have before us a draft scheme altering that particular provision. This shows the benefit of Parliamentary criticism and also the elasticity of method that is possible. In future in the case of the boy or girl trying to get the bursaries connected with the Nicolson Institution, the governors will decide what form of examination will be necessary and where it will be held.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
There are really two points in that particular case. One is the question where the examination took place, and the other one is whether the children would take the ordinary bursary examinations which apply to similar children all over the country. Do I understand that both those points have been conceded, and not only that the examination will take place at Stornoway but that there is to be some special examination?
§ Mr. SKELTON
It is rather that the matter has been left for the governors or the people in charge to decide the form of examination, and no doubt the governors will make use of their discretion. They will decide whether they will accept special leaving certificate standards or not. The alteration removes what was a real point of criticism. I hope that even after a scheme is passed, if a real point of criticism is brought to the attention of whatever Ministers are in charge of the Department, they will give the same sort of consideration to it that we have tried to give to this Stornoway case. The only other matter was the West Lothian (Newlands) scheme. I think I am right in saying that sums had been devoted to three University bursaries in the last few years and that only one bursary was made compulsory under the scheme. I do not think that that is a very big question in itself, but the House will see that that is the kind of scheme upon which the new direction in our Bill will throw some light.
So much for the schemes that have been passed. There are under consideration at the moment a number of schemes the mere enumeration of which will remind the House that I am touching a sensitive point. There are the Edinburgh education endowments, the Donaldson Hospital, the Angus Scheme, the Ayrshire 1166 Scheme, the Milnes Institution Scheme, and the Dumfriesshire Scheme. There is still the Aberdeen City Scheme. All these have been the subject of criticism and have created real anxiety. Before the Department approves any of these schemes full consideration will be given to the points that have been raised. Some of those points are very difficult and substantial. In the case of Donaldson's Hospital we have been involved in very anxious questions on the merits. Where serious and substantial criticism is applied to a draft scheme it is the duty of the Department to consider suggestions fully and if necessary to put the draft scheme right.
Finally there is a third class of scheme, namely, draft schemes which have been put before the public by the Commission but have not yet reached the Department. There are the Moray and Nairn and Banff schemes. It is clearly premature, however, for persons interested in those endowments to feel great anxiety before the scheme has even left the Commission.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Would my hon. Friend given the number of schemes that fall within each of those categories, those finally approved, those now before the Department, and those which are being investigated?
§ Mr. SKELTON
I can give the first category, but I am not sure that I can give the second and third. I think there are 59 schemes which have received final approval. They cover 410 endowments. As I said, there has been anxiety and some of it is natural and very justifiable. You cannot get a body of men, however zealous and thoughtful, who do not occasionally take views that are not acceptable to other educationists. I do not think it is right that in my place here I should make a prolonged defence of the Commission's work. It is not because I think they are doing badly, but because it is obvious that in my relation to them when I am reviewing their work we necessarily take different views. Therefore, it does not seem to me to be a proper constitutional action to go into an elaborate defence. What I do say is that if you take the schemes which have been approved and which are in operation few of them raise any controversial points which have not been settled. The 1167 House and country may rely on our considering the schemes with the greatest closeness.
It is true that endowments which have been ear-marked for special purposes under the Commission have been used for alternative purposes, but I should add that where a scheme gives the power of using an endowment for alternative purposes there has to be a plan proposed by the education authority, and it is that plan which really decides how the money is going to be used. I do not want to go into this matter in detail now, because I may have the opportunity of dealing with it later in Committee, but the House will find that in all these plans—only 12 have been started—the money in fact is being applied to wise and useful purposes. Then it has been said in regard to bursaries that sums of money have been diverted to other purposes. In dealing with that point, I will take the schemes which have either been passed into law or are before the Department—that is where definite proposals have been made to the Department. The total amount of bursary money dealt with by the Commission either in regard to schemes passed or schemes under consideration is £109,323. That money is divided into three categories—school bursaries, post-school bursaries and bursaries that may be used for any purpose. School bursaries at present total £20,986, post-school bursaries, £40,633, and bursaries of any type £47,704. What has the Commission done with that money, or what does it propose to do? In the case of school bursaries £20,900 is the sum that they have to work upon. Under the schemes submitted, £19,000 of that must be used for bursaries, £1,866 may be used for bursaries, and only £180 out of that £20,000 has been diverted to other purposes. With regard to the post-school bursaries, the sum available was £40,600, but a sum has been added to that and the amount which must be used for such bursaries is now £46,668.
§ Sir MURDOCH McKENZIE WOOD
Does that refer to school bursaries or may it be used for other institutions?
§ Mr. SKELTON
No, I do not think it all relates to school bursaries. Secondary education is now a very definite function of education, and it may be far more useful to use money previously used for 1168 school bursaries for the purpose of erecting hostels for secondary schools. As I have said, the total sum for post-school bursaries was £40,000, to which the Commissioners have added a sum which makes the money compulsorily to be used for bursaries £46,000. I agree that all these bursaries may be used for other forms of higher education. Now I take the bursaries of any type for which there was available £47,000. Of that amount, £29,000 must be used for bursaries, another £10,000 can be used for bursaries, and only £1,800 may be used for other purposes. Of the total sum of £109,333, £94,807 must still be used for bursaries and only £1,980 must be diverted to other purposes in connection with schemes which are either law or are still being considered. Therefore, the House will see how very careful the Commissioners have been with regard to bursaries. I was obliged to the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) for raising the point whether the money must be used for school bursaries. I am informed that the sum I mentioned is still earmarked for that purpose, but I may say that it is a policy which if I were Commissioner I am not sure that I should follow. I have dealt fully with the subject of bursaries, and I have put before the House considerations which I have not had the opportunity of putting previously.
The general principle of making schemes for the use of endowments is to give elasticity and to allow those responsible to use money which pious donors have given for alternative purposes. That I believe is a principle of vast importance. Parliament does not want to be doing this work over and over again. It is only by giving elasticity that you can make any provision for the future development of education. A hundred years ago people would have been called faddists if they had said that class rooms should be properly ventilated. To-day, we think that the proper ventilation of places where people go to try to learn unpleasant subjects is an essential. How, therefore, can we tell whether something which to-day is regarded as something rather distant from education may not in 50 years or 100 years become a mere commonplace? Therefore, I say that it is of great importance, if you have a Commission to review endowments, or if you adopt any other method of dealing with endowments, that you 1169 should make provision for the use of those endowments in an elastic manner and not lay down hard and fast rules which may hamper the future development of education. We must act so that the best use shall be made of the money which pious benefactors have given for education.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The House is indebted to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for the very able review which he has given of the work of the Commission and of the attempt made to rearrange the endowment system. I think he has conferred a benefit on the Scottish Members in view of future discussions which may take place when the Bill goes to Committee. I am certain that his speech will be very carefully read by hon. Members, because it will be of great assistance to them in determining any action which they may desire to take to amend the Bill. I understand from the hon. Gentleman's speech, as well as from the contents of the Bill itself, that it will be within the power of Members of the House when the Bill goes before the Standing Committee to make suitable Amendments to the wording of it. The Bill is really for the purpose of extending the period during which the Commission shall operate, but at the same time, as was stated by the Under-Secretary of State parts of the Bill deal with methods which affect the previous powers of the Commission in the sense of limiting them. Hon. Members who may wish still further to contract the powers of the Commission will have the opportunity of putting down Amendments to that effect. This has been the first time that we have had in this House what can be looked upon as a report by the responsible Minister on the operation of the Endowments Commission in Scotland, and consequently we are indebted to the Under-Secretary of State and do not grudge him a moment of the time that he has thought it necessary to take in giving us that account. I do not, however, intend to follow the usual fashion set at these boxes, that if one Members speaks for an hour, another Member must criticise him for another hour.
I have no real criticism to offer at this stage, but the Scottish Standing Committee affords great facilities for criticising each other and the Government, and 1170 I am certain that we shall avail curselves of that opportunity when the time comes. There are one or two points dealt with by the Minister, however, on which I wish to say a word or two. He said that some of the money which had originally been left for educational purposes could be diverted to the provision of hostels, and he seemed to believe that the provision of hostels might be better for the individuals concerned than the application of the money to the extension of secondary education. I am not one of those who think that way. I believe that if hostels are to be provided, they ought to be considered as part of the educational buildings and maintained either by the education authority or by whomsoever it is that provides the ordinary classroom accommodation in the school. I believe that no money that has been left for the express purpose of providing the expenses of a young child or a young person receiving education should be diverted to assist an education authority in providing a hostel to afford accommodation for its scholars. That is, at least, my view, and I think it will be held by a number of educationists as well. There is a point with regard to the amounts that have been diverted. I understand that only £1,980 can be diverted from the original purpose.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Bill brings the affairs of this Commision directly before the House and the Minister, and I think we shall have, through the Minister, sufficient pressure brought to bear upon the Commission with regard to the drafting of schemes for their consideration as to enable the Commissioners to know exactly how the Members of this House wish Scottish money to be applied in regard to education. The Minister said there had not been extraordinary criticism with regard to the schemes.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That may be so, but there has been considerable feeling, and almost resentment, in certain parts of Scotland with regard to proposals already made by the Commissioners as to the application of funds left for educational purposes. I will not go into that matter now, but every hon. Member 1171 knows of a number of these schemes in Scotland. We have the Marr Trust, we have this trust and that trust, and we have had many statements from the governors and others interested in the management of these endowments. We have received letters from them and from individuals residing in the localities who have themselves at one time or other benefited by these educational endowments and who feel that the endowments should be continued in the same manner as that in which they themselves have been benefited. Therefore, they do not want the Commission to alter the intentions of an individual who made a bequest. These are all matters that we know about, and it is doubtful whether even deeper resentment would not be aroused were the conditions of the Commission not brought more closely within the purview of the House of Commons itself. There, I think, the Bill will be of advantage, in that it will give us the power to criticise and to bring our views before the necessary authorities.
Turning to another matter, I believe in the provision of playing fields. I assisted Captain Weyman in Scotland in doing all that is possible to provide playing fields, not merely at schools, but for those who have left school and who cannot find any place in which to play cricket, football, or other games of that sort. The result of this lack of playing fields has been that some of these lads have found themselves taken before a magistrate and fined because they have had no other place in which to play than the streets. I am not against the provision of playing fields—I am all in favour of it—but here again I believe the education authority ought to be the main body responsible for seeing that when we erect a school it is provided with suitable playing-field accommodation for the scholars. I say the same thing with regard to the older schools. We have several schools in Glasgow where secondary education is given, and, unfortunately, some of them have playing fields which are at some distance from the location of the schools themselves. The unfortunate position of most schools in very congested working-class areas, however, is that they have no playing-field accommodation at all, and these are the very schools that ought to have it, because, owing to the congested nature of the 1172 area in which they are situated, there is nothing but the streets for the scholars to play in.
Therefore, I think the education authorities ought to have the duty placed upon them, either by powers taken by the Education Department of Scotland, or in some other manner to provide playing-field accommodation for their scholars. It might not be necessary to provide playing-fields for every school. There are in my locality three schools almost within a strong man's stone's throw of each other, and a playing-field for those schools might easily accommodate those who require facilities for athletics. Therefore, it will not be necessary to find ground for each school. The Minister at the conclusion of his review said that part of the purposes for which the money that was to be diverted was to be used was for nursing. I take it that he meant it was for the training of girls to become nurses—
§ Mr. SKELTON
I was reviewing the suggestions of the Mackenzie Commission. I am not sure that in Scotland any money has actually been diverted for the training of nurses.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I may have misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, but I took it that he was in favour of money left for educational purposes being used for the training of young women who might be leaving school. I would like to see girls receiving all the education in nursing they can, but I would strongly object to money which was left for educational purposes being diverted for that purpose. If it is something that ought to be in the curriculum, the cost should be borne in the main by the education authorities. I do not think I should say more as we want every Scottish Member possible to join in the Debate. I notice that they are here almost in force, and that the Leader of the Opposition has come in to hear how Scotland conducts its debate—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
—and he ought to have brought in one of Harry Lauder's sticks for the occasion. We have gone into the Library for the Act of 1928 and found that every volume containing it has been taken by hon. Members who 1173 wish to join in the Debate. I want to ask the Minister to do what is usually done on these occasions and to have copies of the Act made available for the Committee stage. If we put Amendments down I hope that the Government will accept them. They will not be put down with any desire to be critical, but in order to help to carry out the best purposes of education in Scotland and to provide the best method of acquiring that education so that in order our young people may be fitted when they, have to fight for their existence to face the world with all the weapons that the educational system of Scotland can give them so that they will be able to stand their own and not be inferior to any individual.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Sir M. WOOD
The speech of the Under-Secretary will go a considerable way to allay apprehensions in Scotland with regard to this matter. There is no domestic question which has been the subject of greater controversy in Scotland during the last year or so. The concern grew into alarm and, indeed, if the Secretary of State will permit the word, it approached even dismay. I hope that in future the Education Department will be able more and more to assure public opinion and that the country will feel as it has not felt for the last year or so, that the educational endowments of Scotland will be carried out in the way in which the country would like and that Parliament would desire. A good deal of the criticism that has been made in Scotland during the last year or so has been directed against the Commissioners, as the Under-Secretary mentioned, but I have a great deal of sympathy with the Commissioners because I thought the criticism was very often not fully informed. If the Commissioners were carrying out the instructions that were given them and the public did not like what had been done, the criticism should have been directed, not against the Commissioners who were doing their duty, but against Parliament, which had been responsible for the instructions they were carrying out.
I am bound to say that I do not think Parliament realised what it was doing when it passed the Act in 1928. I have looked up the Debates, and I find that the Bill was introduced in another place. It was passed there with practically no 1174 discussion, and in the House of Commons there was no discussion on Report and Third Reading. On Second Reading there were only three short speeches, and the Committee stage did not last one normal morning's sitting in the Scottish Standing Committee. Anyone looking through the reports of the discussions will at once come to the conclusion that Parliament had not its attention directed to what it was doing at the time. I hope that that mistake will not be made on this occasion and that the House of Commons will go carefully into this matter and see exactly what it is doing. I do not say that as one who has any objection to the periodic review of educational endowments. It is highly necessary that that should be done, and the time has come when Scottish educational endowments are due for another review. I was prepared for considerable changes being made as the result of that review, but I am bound to say I was not prepared for the interpretation which has been put upon the instructions given to the Commissioners. I think that most people would take the same view to-day.
Most of the points that should be raised are Committee points, but I want to deal with two questions which seem to me of major importance. The first question is that of the spirit of the intention of the donor of an endowment which is mentioned in Section 3 of the Act of 1928. That Section directed the Commissioners to have special regard to the spirit and intention of the donor. I am sure that no one could have believed—at any rate, it would have taken a very acute lawyer at that time, while the Bill was going hurriedly through Parliament, to realise—that the Commissioners were complying with that Act if they merely read the deed of foundation and then acted, in flat contradiction of it, because that is really, as far as I gather, the result of the Court of Session interpretation of the meaning of that Section in the Act. It is obvious that the House of Commons at that time did not realise this was the meaning, because I see that in discussion of that particular Clause in Committee upstairs, when an Amendment was moved to make some slight changes, Mr. Westwood, who was then a Member of the House, and is at present one of the Commissioners, gave his interpretation of the Measure as "laying down that effect must be given to the spirit and the intention 1175 of the donor in the original deed of foundation." That was said in Committee upstairs, and the Lord Advocate of the day did not in any way question it; but it is clear, from what transpired subsequently, that that was a wrong interpretation of the meaning of the Clause, and that the House of Commons, in fact, were doing something very different.
This question of the spirit and intention of the donor of an endowment is one which has aroused great anxiety in different parts of the country, some parts, of course, very much more than others. My own constituency happens to be the one where it has been discussed more than anywhere else, and I feel, in spite of what the Under-Secretary said, that I must refer to the particular facts of the Banffshire scheme. The Under-Secretary suggested that where schemes had not yet come before the Department, it would be better not to refer to them. I quite agree that there is something to be said for that, because a scheme which has not yet been approved is, to some extent, sub judice. But the Banffshire scheme is somewhat different in that there has been a scheme put forward and withdrawn, and nothing can illustrate the way in which the Act of 1928 may operate than what the Commissioners proposed under this scheme, which largely dealt with the status and the endowments of Fordyce Academy. I may be excused for feeling strongly about this particular school. Not only is it a very important school in my constituency, but it happens to be my own school, to which I am much attached. It is some hundreds of years old, and has been a valuable feeder of Aberdeen University for many years. Its endowments at the present time leave £800 a year available for the purpose of giving bursaries. This £800 is divided equally between Aberdeen University and Fordyce Academy. The original scheme which was proposed by the Commissioners was to take this £800, and use £350 of it for any University in Scotland or any central institution in Scotland, and use the other £450 for more or less general educational or quasi-educational objects in the county. The result of that was that not one penny of the £800 a year need have gone to Fordyce Academy, and this school would have fallen immediately to the level of a small country school.
1176 Need there be any surprise that many people in that part of the country felt very strongly about what the Commissioners would have perpetrated had they been allowed to do this? I feel that, in view of what has happened, in view of the fact that the scheme has been withdrawn, and in view of the statements which the Under-Secretary has made to-day, it will be improbable that anything of that kind will be done in the new scheme. But I fear that it is quite possible under the Bill if it be passed in its present form, and I think we should try to do something to prevent anything like that being possible. I hope that, when the time comes, the whole question will be carefully studied by the Department, and that they will see justice is done to this famous school. No one, surely, can say that a scheme of that kind pays special regard to the interests of the locality.
The other point with which I would specially desire to deal is the question which was dealt with by the Under-Secretary to some large extent, namely, the question of school bursaries. In several cases of school bursaries the money has been diverted from ordinary competitive bursaries, to schemes which which have been proposed by the Commissioners. The argument in defence of that has been—I quite understand it—that many of the objects for which these bursaries existed have been transferred as a duty to the education authorities. But the Under-Secretary did not draw a distinction between a permissive and a mandatory clause, and, although it is quite true that education authorities now have power to give bursaries for secondary education, and to give the necessary allowances to enable the benefit of those bursaries to be fully enjoyed, they are not bound to do it.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I invited them to use the money for bursaries under the scheme. I did make the distinction, and, if the hon. Gentleman has got the figures, he will see it.
§ Sir M. WOOD
I am not quite sure that I follow my hon. Friend. I do not think that he quite dealt with this. I understand it has been argued that certain bursaries, if they were continued as in the past, would really be used in relief of rates. Although it may be so in certain cases, it is not so in all cases, 1177 and if you take an education authority of a county which is very much depressed at the present time, and they are not absolutely bound to provide as much as they would like to provide, and as outsiders would probably say was necessary, it would be almost certain that they would cut down the allowance for secondary education which otherwise they would have been prepared to give. In a constituency like mine, where money has been set apart for bursaries for secondary education, if they are not continued as they have been in the past, the result will be that we shall not have the same provision for secondary education in the future. There are many districts in which the rating burden is almost overwhelming, and in such cases the authorities are likely to cut down the provision they make for secondary education. I hope that distinction will be borne in mind by the Department of Education when they come to consider the schemes submitted to them. A change is being made in this matter of bursaries, and it is now provided by Clause 2 that special regard should be had:to the need for continuing the provision from endowments of competitive bursaries at universities, central institutions, training colleges or other educational institutions of a similar character.The Under-Secretary defended that by saying that it was necessary to keep alive the spirit of competition, and said, very rightly, that one who has gained a bursary by competition feels in a better position than if he had got it merely by application as the result of a qualification standard. But does not the same consideration apply to school bursaries? I hope the Government will consider an Amendment which I hope to be able to move in Committee to put secondary schools into this Clause, so that they may be treated in exactly the same way in the matter of competitive bursaries as universities and similar institutions.
A point which struck me when I was reading the report of the Commissioners for last year was that one continually came across sentences in which they defended something they had done by saying that it had been recommended by the Mackenzie Committee. It seems to me that the Commissioners have no right to go to the Mackenzie Committee for a justification of their actions. Their 1178 instructions are contained in an Act of Parliament, and anything in a previous Commission's report appears to me to have no more validity than anything which is in a speech delivered by the Minister who introduced that Act of Parliament, and it would be as well if that were made clear to them. The Under-Secretary, in introducing this Bill, spoke about the power which was being given to the Department to disapprove of schemes. Am I right in understanding that if they were to disapprove of schemes they would take to themselves the power, in certain cases, to frame schemes of their own?
§ Sir M. WOOD
I quite understand that the Government are entitled to prevent these schemes going backwards and forwards indefinitely between the Department and the Commission, and I understand that they are taking power now, if they had not got it before, to stop that eventually by putting forward a scheme more or less on their own responsibility.
§ Mr. SKELTON
No, it takes the form of amending an existing scheme. Technically one could not describe that as submitting a new scheme, because the principle is that every scheme should at some stage come under the purview of the Commission, though the Commission's view will not be the final one.
§ Sir M. WOOD
If a scheme is put forward by the Department, and it has not received the full approval of the Commission, would it not be fair to say that the scheme ought be put before this House for positive approval, instead of taking effect after a certain time unless the House disapproves?
§ Sir M. WOOD
The question of playing fields was also raised in the hon. Gentleman's speech. I have no objection to money being used for playing fields in certain cases, but I am sure the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary will realise that the question of playing fields is different in the country, from what it is in towns. If there is a 1179 secondary school attended by pupils most of whom have a walk of four or five miles in the morning to get to school, and will have to walk the same distance home at night, it is obvious there is not the same necessity for expending money on the provision of playing fields as in the case of a school in town where the facilities for exercise are not the same. In spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I feel that the administration of these endowments by the Commission has, for the moment, had a very considerable effect in drying up the springs of charity, but I believe that that phase will in time pass away—I hope it will—and if it does pass away it will be as the result of public opinion being reassured by the Department's attitude towards schemes put before it in the future. I can only conclude by saying that I hope we shall not make the mistake, which I think was made in 1928, of failing to give this matter the fullest consideration. I hope that upstairs we shall go into the matter very thoroughly, and that the Secretary of State will treat all the Amendments put before him with the greatest sympathy, and with the idea of trying to allay the public anxiety which has been so rife in Scotland.
§ 12.35 p.m.
I desire to join with those who have thanked the hon. Gentleman for the very clear outline he has given of the proposals of this Bill. The Bill proposes to extend the powers of the Commissioners for a further period of two years. Every one realises that the task of the Commission is a vast one, and there is no doubt that the Commission have made very rapid progress in their work. I realise fully the complexity and difficulty of the problems with which they have had to deal, and it would be ungenerous not to recognise the large amount of sound work that they have done. In one area of which I have some knowledge the person who more than anybody else is entitled to give an opinion on the Commissioners' work said to me that they had accomplished a wonderful piece of work considering that the details could not have been known to them beforehand.
They have nevertheless succeeded in arousing much bitter opposition and 1180 provoking controversy—not that controvery is always in itself a bad thing; it is sometimes a sign of life. I have heard apologists for the Commission attempting to make light of the opposition by saying that the previous Commission aroused similar storms. Even that is not conclusive proof that the Commission have been right in everything that they have proposed. It has been said that there has been no more litigation following the work of the Commission than there was after the Commission of 1882, but there are various explanations of that. The decision of the Court of Session is one, and the period of financial stringency after 1931 is another. Bodies which hold trusts for educational purposes are not usually so well off that they can lightly undertake expensive litigation. It is said that the proposals of the Commission have been criticised from imperfect knowledge. There may have been some ignorant criticism, but certainly not all of it has been of that nature. To say that that is so would be to pay a very poor compliment to the very distinguished educationists who have felt it incumbent upon them to criticise the Commission's work. The Commission said in one of their reports that there had been an outcry from established interests, but it is my firm belief that many of those who have criticised the proposals of the Commission have done so from purely disinterested motives, and from no other interest but the best interest of education. The Commissioners have, in my opinion, proposed to do some wrongheaded and unwise things, and they have themselves to blame if their proposals have been the subject of criticism.
Some of the objects to which the Commissioners are permitted to divert educational endowments are admirable, and for some I have in my time worked very hard, notably for the establishment of hostels in the Highland area, and for the provision of playing fields. I agree with the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) that some of those objects might be better provided for in another way. Many of the difficulties that have arisen are on questions not of principle but of degree. Section 4 (1) of the 1918 Act is not a mandatory Clause. It says that it shall be lawful for an education authority to assist those who require 1181 financial assistance to prosecute their education. It is very difficult to hold the balance between the use of specifically provided endowments for education, and the help that can be given from a public authority, and that has not always been properly appreciated. I have seen statistics which show a very rapid growth in the amount of money that is now given annually by public authorities for education,. When I see those statistics I always have an uneasy feeling that the most deserving cases have not been helped because they will not always apply for public assistance. There was room for infinite reasonableness and patience in meeting local doubts and objections, but I doubt if the Commission recognised the necessity for a tender handling of the entirely admirable Scottish sentiment which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood), who, like myself, is a native of that county.
When a boy competes for a bursary—we do not like the term "maintenance allowance"—and wins it, he feels that he has earned it, in the way that he has the right to feel when earning a salary. That is a very different thing from putting in an application to a public authority for a maintenance allowance. Again, families who might be regarded as beyond the income limit for an educational grant are often subject to necessities which are none the less great. Think of the manses of Scotland, where the income is often at the most £300. It is a very serious problem to bring up a family in those circumstances, and to give them the benefit of the education that the parents have had. No one insists that in cases where a previous endowment has been rendered unnecessary it should be continued. Overlapping is wasteful, and should be checked. But, as someone has said, the Commission should be very careful, when cutting away dead wood, not to pull up living roots.
The hon. Gentleman has proposed a readjustment in the powers of the Commission, and there will be no disposition to quarrel with that proposal. I see no objection to the constitutional proposal which he made. In regard to the proposal of Clause 2, I may find it necessary in Committee stage to move a very small Amendment which will have the effect of stiffening it slightly. I hope also to be allowed to move in the matter of Section 1182 3 of the 1928 Act which enjoins special regard to the intentions of the founder or of the effective instrument if it has been altered since his time. It is rather unfortunate that it seems to have been decided that the phrase "to have special regard" is compatible with reading through the original document and then doing something else.
Now a word or two on the position of the universities as they are affected by this Measure. All stages of educational work are important, but the universities are the crown of the system. They are expensive to provide and maintain and to develop in order to meet adequately new needs, knowledge and discoveries. In no case are the Scottish universities lavishly endowed, and in recent years they have had to face serious losses from a diminishing investment revenue. It is small wonder that they have had serious cause of anxiety over the apparently light-hearted way in which the Commissioners have proposed to cut away some of their long-established sources of revenue. I need not refer to the question of the Redhyth bursaries that were referred to by the hon. Member for Banff. I am emphatically of the opinion that that proposal should never have been made. It was withdrawn, but not before it had aroused very deep resentment. Another point is as to the question of endowments "vested in" universities. I was looking at the Debate in the Standing Committee in 1928, when it was not generally foreseen what was going to be the effect on university endowments, using that term in a fairly wide sense; and I noticed that my predecessor, the late Mr. Cowan, apparently had some inkling of what might happen, and put a question, to which he received a reply from the then Lord Advocate which seemed to reassure him. It was stated that the matter had been discussed with representatives of Edinburgh University, who had accepted the position of the Government as perfectly sound. But now, as regards the Amendments of which I have spoken, I should like to say that the four University Courts of Scotland are unanimous. There are one or two other matters which I think might well be left until the Committee stage. One is the very short period specified in the Act of 1928 for the time beyond which the Commission cannot interfere with 1183 endowments. It worked out at eight years from 1920 to the passing of the Act. That seems to be one of the factors which make for uneasiness about what my hon. Friend called the drying up of the springs of benevolence. I should prefer to leave it, however, as a matter of detail until the Committee stage.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Mr. ALBERT RUSSELL
I am sure we all agree as to the pleasure that we have felt in hearing, and the enlightenment which we hope our countrymen in Scotland will gain when they read, the speech of the Under-Secretary in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. Expressed with his usual clearness and lucidity, I think it will do much to concentrate and focus the attention of the people who are interested in the Endowments Commission upon many of the crucial points which perhaps may not have received the attention that they merited. There is no doubt that the duty which has been devolved upon the Commissioners is a most important one, and one welcomes the light of publicity which has been thrown upon their proceedings since they were appointed in 1928. I think the Under-Secretary was right in reminding the House that, if we have any points of criticism to make with regard to a scheme when it has assumed its final form, we must not forget that the target is the Department of Education, and not the Commissioners.
Speaking as one who supports the Government, I think it should be recognised that we realise that these Commissioners are doing and have done a work of great value. They ave given ungrudging public service; they have done, with the powers committed to them, what they must have believed to be best; and, in determining whether we will give the Bill a Second Reading, the question really is: Is it expedient in the public interest that the life of the Commission should be determined and brought to an end, or ought it to be allowed to go on and finish its duties? I do not think there will be any doubt in any part of the House that we ought to extend the life of the Commission and give it the opportunity of finishing the work which it has begun. But, when one says that, one must have regard to the controversy which the action of the Commissioners in 1184 some cases has raised in Scotland, and in particular one must have regard to the powers with which Parliament must now be taken to have armed them.
When the Bill of 1928 was introduced and passed, there can be no doubt that it was the intention of the Legislature that certain restrictions should be placed upon the powers given to these Commissioners. One of the restrictions which it was thought right to insert—reference has already been made to it—was that, in whatever they did in reorganising an endowment for educational purposes, they must pay special regard to the spirit of the intention of the founder. It is noteworthy that, whereas the Act of 1882, upon which the Act of 1928 was really founded, had the same direction to the then appointed Commissioners to have regard to the spirit of the intention of the founder, the Act of 1928 included the word "special", and directed them to have regard to the spirit of the intention of the founder. The question of the interpretation and meaning of that direction has, in the course of the events that have happened, been referred to the courts, and the final court of appeal in which any appeal against a scheme is competent felt that these words are practically valueless. While, therefore, Parliament has directed these Commissioners to have special regard to the spirit of the intention of the founder, the courts have said that it is not necessary for the Commissioners to give effect in any way to the spirit or to the intention of the founder. The language which we have used in trying to restrict the powers which we intended to give to the Commissioners has proved to be inadequate.
Therefore, if to-day, by giving a Second Reading to this Bill, we affirm the principle that the life of the Commission is to go on, as far as I am concerned I wish to safeguard that by saying that we must consider and remodel the direction so as to restrict the power in the future operations of the Commissioners in the way that Parliament intended in 1928. Anyone reading the proceedings of the Scottish Grand Committee when the Bill of 1928 was going through can have no doubt that everyone in the Committee believed that this was a definite instruction to the Commissioners, which would have to be regarded. The courts have held that the language used is nugatory and of no 1185 effect for that purpose, and when the Bill goes upstairs I intend to support an Amendment which will be moved to put language into the Measure which will make it perfectly clear to the Commissioners, to endowment trustees, and to the public in Scotland, that, the intention of Parliament in 1928 having failed owing to the language then used, Parliament is going to put in proper language to ensure that the restriction upon the Commissioners' powers shall be a living, enforceable restriction which ought to receive consideration.
There is one other matter to which I think reference ought to be made. Section 9 of the Act of 1928 provides for what can only be described as endowments for charitable purposes, that is to say, for providing for the maintenance of children, for the payment of the fees of apprentices and the like—strictly charitable purposes. Section 9 of the Act of 1928 provides that the Commission can consider, in dealing with such an endowment, that that endowment shall be deemed to be and treated as an educational endowment. Prima facie, an endowment or benefaction which is left for the maintenance and support of, or for the provision of clothing for, poor children or destitute children, is not an educational endowment; that seems to be common sense; and, when Section 9 was inserted in the Act of 1928, Members of the Committee asked for an assurance that this Clause would not have the effect of giving the Commission power to divert endowments for charitable purposes to educational purposes. When the Bill was going through in 1928 the Law Officer of the day explained that the provisions of Section 6 would still apply to prevent the Commissioners diverting part of a mixed endowment away from charitable to educational purposes. Again, that Section has come up for interpretation before the Court of Session, which has said that, so far as the matter is one of interpretation and construction, Section 8 cannot apply to part of an endowment which is earmarked for charitable purposes because Section 9 provides that that charitable endowment shall be deemed to be and shall be treated as an educational endowment.
It is obvious that it would not be in the public interest to let it be known that we are arming this Commission again, in giving it a further life of two 1186 years, with the power to divert charitable endowments to purposes of education. That was not the intention of the 1928 Act, but the language used in the Act proved inefficient to fulfil its purpose. When the Bill goes upstairs I shall hope that that matter will be dealt with, and the best way to do it is to repeal Section 9 of the 1928 Act in order to obviate and remove this anomaly which has crept in. I have no doubt that the Committee will be moved to do that. At this stage, therefore, while I regret that the Government have omitted to give further directions on the lines that I have suggested, in the belief that when the Bill goes upstairs those further directions will be inserted I support the Second Reading because it is never a good thing to swop horses when you are crossing the stream. This Commission is in the middle of its duties. There are people in Scotland who would like to see its activities brought to an end here and now. We must bear in mind that after the Commission's life expires precisely the same powers as are now enjoyed are to be vested in the Department of Education, and I am sure the people of Scotland do not wish, and I personally do not wish, either the Commissioners or the Department to be indefinitely equipped with this power to ignore the intention and the spirit of the founder and to divert charitable endowments to educational purposes. In the belief that these matters will be put right upstairs, I shall support the Second Reading.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Mr. MILNE
This Bill will give a new lease of life to the Educational Commission, and I suppose at present there is no more unpopular body in Scotland. But I think the Bill deserves support, because I believe the comparative failure of the Commissioners, their unpopularity and their lack of success is in large measure due to a defect in the Act of 1928, and this Bill is designed to remedy that effect. In my judgment, it is a well conceived and statesmanlike measure. Of course, it will not please everyone. The extremists will not be satisfied. There are those who would like to see the Commission brought to an end forthwith, but I think there is a good deal of confused thinking on the subject. I believe that a great deal of the prejudice against the Commission is due to failure to realise the fundamental distinction 1187 between a private testamentary trust and a public charitable trust, such as one of these educational endowments. In the case of a private testimentary trust the testator nominates his heir, and the right to nominate an heir is inherent in the right of private property. It is far otherwise in the case of a charitable trust. The legal right to create a perpetuity—because a public charitable trust is a perpetuity—rests upon no principle of law or of equity or anything else. It is merely an indulgence granted by the law to donors on grounds of expediency for one reason alone, in order to encourage public benefaction, and in dealing with public benefactions the predominant consideration must always be, not the intentions of the testator, but rather the public interest.
I know that there will be Amendments to the Bill at a later stage—I heard one adumbrated by the last speaker—but I would respectively counsel the House to beware of the lawyers. I do not mean it should think harshly of them. They do not mean to mislead. They cannot help it. They breathe the atmosphere of the law courts, but this is not a law court. We are in the more bracing atmosphere of the House of Commons. We are not dealing with testimentary trusts, but with public charitable trusts. I would not have it supposed that even in the case of a public trust we should altogether disregard the intentions of the donor. All I mean is that we ought to try to preserve our sense of proportion. I should like to lodge a caveat against any undue emphasis that may be thrown upon the intentions of the donor. It seems to me that the real question for us is whom are we to entrust with the duty of revising these public trusts. From generation to generation they inevitably require periodically to be overhauled. Who is to have the duty of revision? That is where the Act in my view made a vital mistake. It established this body of Commissioners and gave them absolute power, because they alone have the power of framing a scheme.
Any criticism that I have to offer is not directed against the Commissioners as individuals. They are all men of wide experience of public life. They have devoted their time and their talents in an unpaid capacity to this public service. 1188 I have no doubt that much of the work has been laborious and often irksome, and in return for their public-spirited action, all they have received is a degree of abuse and criticism. The Bill provides that in future the Commissioners will still function. The Commissioners will still prepare the schemes, if I understand it aright, but if any scheme prepared by the Commissioners is not satisfactory to the Department, the Department can scrap it and place it aside, and itself initiate a satisfactory scheme. We have heard a great many criticisms here and elsewhere of the Commissioners. Harsh things have been said about them. Some people tell us that they are inflexible, inexorable and impervious to criticism.
§ Mr. SKELTON
My hon. Friend states that he thinks that the new Bill gives power of initiating schemes in the Department, and with his legal knowledge he will know, if he reads Clauses 3 and 4, that that is not the case.
§ Mr. SKELTON
My hon. Friend was not talking about the end of two years, but about the functions of the Commission.
§ Mr. MILNE
I stand to the correction. But the House may say: "Why this implicit faith in the Education Department I welcome the Bill, because it is a restoration of the control which the House ought never to have surrendered. It may simply be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, but I think not, for this reason. The acting head of the Education Department is its Vice-President, and the 1189 Vice-President is none other than the Secretary of State for Scotland himself, whom we see every day at Question Time in the House of Commons. Every lawful day at the appointed hour, along with the other Ministers, he takes his seat there in the public pillory. But it is not merely the privilege of interrogation which we value. The present Secretary of State has gained the good will and confidence of every one in Scotland, but, if we should find our confidence is misplaced, or if at some future time he were followed by a less worthy successor, we are still secure, because the Department of Education, the Secretary of State himself, and indeed the Government, are ultimately subject to the control of the House of Commons. Accordingly, I welcome this Bill, and I think that it deserves support, if only for the reason that it restores to this House the power it ought never to have surrendered.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. BURNETT
I should like to acknowledge what has been said about the Commission. I realise the large amount of public work which they have done and would like to endorse the tribute which has been paid to them. At the same time I must confess that I regard this Measure with a certain amount of misgiving. We have, I know, crumbs of comfort in it. One of these is the additional power which is given to the Department. We know that in the Under-Secretary, who has been in charge of educational matters in particular, we have one who knows the needs of the Universities. We have had a very clear and reasoned statement from him to-day as to the whole question. We welcome the fact that this Bill enables the Department to reject a scheme put forward by the Commissioners or to amend such a scheme, and that after two years the Department will have increased powers. That is one of the comforts we have. Another is the addition of paragraph (d) to Clause 2:the need for continuing the provision from endowments of competitive bursaries.We have had statements from all sides from Professors in our Scottish Universities, including Professor Grierson, on competitive bursaries. We have been informed that the material which is sent to Edinburgh University, and to our other 1190 Universities as the result of these competitive bursaries is considerably better than the material which is got as the result of any of the qualifying bursaries which are awarded by local authorities. These are all points to the good.
Then we have the provision that the appointment of the Endowment Commissioners is only to be made for two years instead of three. Certainly, that is to the good. Under the original Act of 1928 it was contemplated that the Commissioners would be able to finish their work within the three years given to them as their term of office. At the end of that time the work was not finished, and at the beginning of this Parliament the Educational Endowment Bill came before this House for consideration. Many hon. Members did not know very much about that Bill—I have to confess to very considerable ignorance at the time—and the Measure was passed. Afterwards we received from our constituents many communications, and we have read also in the Press severe criticisms of the acting of the Commissioners under the Educational Endowments Acts. We ought to consider these when we are dealing with the continuation of the Commissioners for a longer period. If we were to fit out a vessel for a cruise of three years, and we were to nail the Jolly Roger to the mast and go off on a piratical expedition, it would indeed be a serious matter. I know, as has been said by a number of hon. Members, that it is the Endowments Act which was originally passed in 1928 that is principally to blame, because Parliament did not then define the powers of the Commissioners as clearly as it might have defined them.
Complaints have been made that the Commissioners have exceeded the limits which were imposed upon them and that their interpretation has been different from the interpretation which the Members of this House put upon the Bill when it was discussed before. The Commissioners under the Act of 1928 were not permitted to touch the endowments which were specially vested in, or in the gift of, or under the administration of a University, but that has been interpreted very largely to mean that they were entitled to touch other bursaries and we have had them diverted, very much in the spirit of the Report of the Mackenzie 1191 Commission, to other objects. We agree that those objects are very salutary objects in themselves. No one would object to the provision of playing fields, to hostels for University students, to hostels for school children, to assisting social organisations, such as the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides, but these are not the objects for which the money was left, and we feel that in diverting some of these bursaries to such objects as these the Commissioners are going away from what was the spirit of the Act.
Then again, because bursaries can now be given by local authorities, the Commissioners have considered that there was no need for many of the bursaries which have been provided out of public benefactions. While undoubtedly the local authorities have very wide powers to make educational grants, they have powers also to make many other grants. They can make grants, for instance, to endow beds in hospitals, but there is no argument from that point of view that there is less need for the endowments which hospitals have at present and that those endowments should be replaced by grants from the public rates. The same thing applies educationally. It is important to observe that we cannot compel local authorities to substitute other grants for the educational endowments which have been given. Their power to make the grants is merely a permissive one, which may not be exercised.
The point which has been raised already is an important one, namely, that we should more closely define the words: "pay special regard to the spirit of the intention of the founder and the interests of the locality." When the Bill is being considered in Committee the wording here should be changed and something stronger should be put in, because "pay regard" is defined in law as a glance—a glance over the deed in question. Commissioners may look at the map and glance at the village which has the endowment, and then pay no further attention to the deed whatsoever. Such an interpretation is apt to alter the whole object of the donors. In any Amendments which we make to the Bill in Committee we ought certainly to take this point into consideration. It is no defence for the Commissioners to say that when opposition was raised and arguments put 1192 forward and the arguments proved not to be sound, they have withdrawn the scheme. They have withdrawn a number of schemes which have involved very great expense in many cases and a great deal of trouble and labour, which might have been averted if these draft schemes had not been put forward.
One draft scheme relating to the constituency that I represent is the William Guild Fund, which has belonged to the Incorporated Trades, a very ancient body. William Guild left a, sum of money for the benefit of the sons of poor craftsmen belonging to the Incorporated Trades, so that those craftsmen who could not be sent to the University otherwise could get bursaries which would enable them to go there. This Fund was managed most excellently. There were no administration expenses, apart from the expenses of printing and advertising, but a revised draft scheme was drawn up by which the control was to be taken away from the Incorporated Trades and given to a composite body consisting of two members of the Incorporated Trades, two members of the University, two members of the Town Council, two members of the Trades and Labour Council, and two members of the Association of County Councils. One can well imagine that under such a scheme the expenses of carrying on the trust would have been considerably increased, there would doubtless have been travelling expenses, provision for remunerative time, and probably a paid clerk and factor, towards which expenses money which would have gone in bursaries would have been diverted. The benefits were to be diverted to the children of manual workers. This scheme was finally withdrawn in consequence of the very strong opposition to it.
Mention has been made of a number of university bursaries, and we have had a statement on the subject by my hon. Friend who represents the Scottish Universities and also by the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood). Certain of these schemes have been withdrawn or modified, but still Aberdeen University stands to lose a considerable number of bursaries. Those which were awarded for certain purposes are to be transferred to other purposes and bursaries which went to particular localities are now to be changed. The University is by no means satisfied with 1193 the changes that have been made, although some of the worst features have been withdrawn. I have been reading the Report which was published this year as to the Commissioners doings, and I noticed that their remarks with regard to objectors are very strong. They speak of some of the administrators of funds who simply object and take a parochial standpoint.
I think the parochial standpoint is one which has to be considered. When the donor was giving the money he very often had had his first start in the particular village which was the object of his benefaction and he wanted to help the village which had enabled him to do well in the world and to reach the point at which he had arrived. Therefore, he left the money for the benefit of the locality. There ought to be a definition which would prevent such money being taken away from the locality for which it was reserved. it seems to me that the governors who have to a certain extent what the Commissioners have called the parochial point of view are wise in trying to keep these benefits for the localities for which they were intended. These governors who have managed the funds have, as a rule, local knowledge, which is not merely a tag, as the Commissioners have said, in their Report, but may often be very valuable to give an indication as to the lads to whom the bursaries-will be most useful. The Report speaks also of many governors being afraid to lose office and patronagewhich they have enjoyed so long.I think these last words betray animus against these men who have been doing valuable public work and who have an excellent record in the past in regard to the bursars who have come from their district. It seems to me a pity that we should belittle the work which they have done. We all admit that times in education have changed, but surely these administrators who have done such good work in the past ought to receive more consideration. A good record is a certain advantage and when we have the record of a bursary like that of the Milne bursary, which has enabled bursars to go to the University and has also sent them out into professions and enabled them to rise high in the Civil Service, such a good record should be considered when the Commissioners are dealing with the governors in question. Other administra- 1194 tors we are told have a bad record. The list of classification is indeed a wide one. It is such that almost any governor would be comprehended in at least two of the classes, and in consequence would be disqualified from continuing to act.
I press for an amendment of the Bill on the lines I have stated—to give effect to the wishes of the testator. There are moribund bursaries, where the object has faded away; where they cannot be usefully used in accordance with the terms of the benefactor, but at the same time where the object still exists we must see that effect is given to it. We are not legislating for two years. At the end of two years the Commissioners will cease and the Department will then come into office. We can trust the Department today not to do anything which will possibly injure these bursaries. We have in the Under-Secretary a representative of the universities, and one whose interest in education we all realise, but we do not know who will hold the office in the future. Governments change. In another two years another government may come in, and at the end of 20 years we might have quite a different view on this matter. We want to make the Bill so that we shall have confidence that in the future these bursaries and endowments will be used for the purposes for which they were intended by those who left them where the object remain possible. When these safeguards are put in we shall be able to support the Bill.
§ Mr. SKELTON
May I by the leave of the House make an explanation with regard to Clause 4. Where the Department is dealing with a feature introducing an amendment which has not been the subject of discussion between the Department and the Commission, the new feature of the amending scheme has to go before the Commission for their consideration, although their view is not final. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) seemed to suggest that Clause 4 gives the right of initiation. It only gives the right to initiate a scheme of endowment which has already been submitted to the Commission.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I should like to join in the tribute paid by hon. Members in all quarters of the House to the Under-Secretary of State for his most admirable and informing speech. He gave the debate a splendid start and I am sure that everyone in the House, and, indeed, throughout the country, will be grateful to him for his wide review of the problem we are discussing. The Under-Secretary of State did not, of course, defend the actions of the Educational Endowments Commissioners. He truly said that he occupies a position in which he could not possibly engage in an attack upon or defence of the actions of the Commissioners. Instead he offered himself as a target for the bullets of those who wished to criticise the schemes of the Commissioners. I have protested before against the view that the Commissioners have absolute power. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) has suggested this morning that they have absolute power, although he qualified his remarks, but other hon. Members have made the same statement without any qualification. So far from that being true the Commissioners have no power whatever to alter one single endowment in Scotland. Their proposals have to be approved by the Department, and by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and if necessary hon. Members can raise a discussion on any scheme in this House; and an opportunity is thus given to this House to review the decisions of the Commissioners before the Secretary of State may give his approval to any scheme. Therefore, they are far from having anything in the nature of absolute power, and therefore the Under-Secretary of State ought to make it clear that the Government itself is responsible for approved Schemes.
I should like to associate myself with the tribute paid by the hon. and learned Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. A. Russell) to the admirable work of the able men and women who constitute the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Commission. They are engaged upon a complex and, indeed, a thankless task. They are bound to tread on a great many corns if they do ther duty faithfully. They have, of course, raised the opposition of powerful local vested interests, some of which in extreme cases are performing no useful public service at all. The hon. 1196 Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) says that the Commissioners in their last report have shown animus against the valuable public work of the administrators of some of these trusts. I think it was their duty to call attention to a number of eases in which the administrators of these trusts are not performing any public duties required now in the public interest. I know of one trust in which the only duty performed by the administrators is to collect the revenue and hand it over to the county council; and in my view the Commissioners were quite right to draw attention to the fact that there are cases where these Trusts are performing no useful public service. They were, in fact, bound to incur the criticism and opposition of those concerned with these unnecessary trusts.
They were also bound to have criticism from the vigilant guardians of such great interests as the Universities of Scotland, and schools with honourable traditions like the Fordyce Academy. They were bound to incur the vigilant criticism of those who are responsible for the protection of such admirable interests. I say that they have acted with courage and fidelity, and that they have often faced obloquy and criticism rather than make feeble and, as they would think, unjustifiable concessions to the clamour of sectional interests. Nevertheless, we must agree that there has been this morning more criticism than appreciation of their work.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. Morrison) said in his interesting speech that he was not satisfied that the Commission had been right in everything that they had put forward. That is surely to say that the Commission is only human. I do not think its most enthusiastic supporter would claim that the Commission had been right in everything it put forward. Indeed, I have more than once drawn attention to that passage in the Mackenzie Committee's Report in which it is said:The position of each endowment must be judged on its merits and everything will depend upon the discrimination with which the Commissioners exercise the powers that are committed to them.Those who give general support to the work of the Commission deeply appreciate the courage they have shown, but I think that the Government are well justified in 1197 bringing in a Measure which will obviate deadlocks and will give the Government—when they think that the Commissioners have not shown full appreciation of the criticisms which have been directed against their schemes—will give the Government greater powers in persuading them to adopt necessary Amendments. But far more important criticisms than that have been made on the work of the Commission to-day; more important for this reason: Although the Government have not hitherto been armed with the power of effectively inducing the Members of the Commission to accept Amendments, they have been armed with the power of veto, which is very important. I am sure that they have not approved of any scheme put forward by the Commissioners in which they thought that proper consideration had not been given to the views of objectors. Nor have they approved any scheme which they thought undesirable in principle or in detail. Therefore, there has been an effective safeguard against the operation of schemes in which the Commissioners may not have shown full Appreciation of criticisms and objections.
But the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities and other hon. Members have made other important criticisms. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities drew attention to the good faith of many of the critics. I agree with him. I think he said that controversy was a good thing. There I entirely agree. It is a very good thing that critics should have come forward to stand up for very powerful and very worthy interests, such, for example, as those of the Scottish Universities. But of course we have to consider these criticisms on their merits. I have never said that all the criticisms are unfounded or that they should be dismissed as unworthy of attention.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities and others have raised the very important principle of the necessity of paying attention to the spirit and intention of the founders of a trust. I should be no faithful representative of the opinion of my constituents in the Highlands of Scotland if I did not say that I attach the greatest importance to reverent attention being paid to the spirit and intentions of the founders. The Commissioners have repeatedly assured us on this point. I am a little sorry that these who criticised the Commission on this 1198 point have not appreciated the assurance which the Commissioners have given us in their reports that they do take into very serious consideration this important factor in making their proposals. I do not think that the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities was fair to the Commissioners when he said that they just read the deed of trust through and then did something else.
What I said was that the phrase "to have special regard" was compatible with reading through the original deed and then doing something else.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That may be, but that is not what they do. I gathered the impression that the hon. Member thought that that was what they did.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Then we are agreed that the Commissioners do not in fact do this, although they might do it if they took advantage of the decision of the Court of Session. No reasonable man who has read the Report of the Commission could possibly say that that is their practice. The Commissioners are honourable men and women of all parties in the State, and in view of their assurances I cannot believe that they merely read these things through and then go and do something else. But there is a difficulty, and it is explained in their fifth Report. The difficulty is not that we are faced with a body of men who have disregarded unscrupulously the spirit and intention of the founders of endowments. That is not the position with which this House is confronted. The criticism which is made of them under this heading is put fairly in the fifth Report which says:The contention is that we should find it"—that is the spirit and intention of the founders—within the four corners of the deed or scheme which is -the governing instrument. In our view our duty does not end there. We feel that we must examine the deed or scheme in the light of the circumstances under which it was made. 1199 Where the provisions of the deed or scheme appear to have been made with a view of supplying something which the public educational provision of the time did not supply, we feel entitled to draw the inference that the spirit of the founder's intention was to provide something over and above the public provision. Where we find that the purpose for which a founder gave his money is now fulfilled Try public provision, we feel that to continue the existing application of the endowment would mean that the spirit and the intention of the founder would not be given effect to but would indeed be frustrated. The testator wished to provide something which would not otherwise be available to the beneficiaries, and his money should be applied in accordance with this broad view of his wishes.
§ That is really the position.
§ Sir ROBERT SMITH
Does the Report also deal with cases where these moneys are given to a locality especially?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That is part of the spirit of the intention of the founder. It may have been to benefit a particular locality, or boys and girls with particular characteristics, or to provide for certain educational advances in particular directions. It may be one or other of these or a great many other purposes, but whatever the spirit and intention of the founder, that is the criterion which the Commission apply to each and all of these cases. That is a criterion which the Commissioners apply in ascertaining the spirit and intention of the founder. It must be judged not merely by saying that he wished to do this, that, or the other, to give free education, for example, to children, or free books, or even, as in the case of some of the older trusts, to provide a school at which attendance would be free. All these things have now been provided by the State. They can only say that the intention obviously was to give certain children some advantage over and above what was otherwise available. The object must be to discover a purpose for the endowment in accordance with the spirit and intention of the founder. In doing that, I think they are carrying out the desire of Parliament when the Commission was first set up, and I believe their work will be justified to Scottish public opinion in future years just as the work of the 1882 Commission has been justified by the passage of time. Indeed, I think the Report of the Mackenzie Committee makes abundantly 1200 clear how necessary these wide powers are for dealing with this very difficult and important question. After all, as the Mackenzie Committee point out, it was as long ago as 1878 that the Colebrooke Commission stated in the most emphatic manner that their inquiries had led them to believe thatit would be difficult to find a single case. of any endowment of any importance in Scotland, except perhaps the Dick bequest, in the administration of which there has not been more or less departure from the conditions imposed by the founder.When the Act of 1882 was drafted the Commissioners were given a perfectly free hand so far as the wishes of the donors were concerned, except that they were instructed to keep in view the wishes of the inhabitants of the locality, just as the present Commission is doing. Then the Mackenzie Committee also point out what is admitted, and I think must be admitted, by everybody who brings an unprejudiced mind to the problem, that the Education Act of 1918 affected changes so far-reaching that a pious benefactor might have rearranged his testamentary dispositions if he had had time to appreciate the changes in the law. Indeed, the Mackenzie Committee say that it was explained to them that the founder of one large benefaction had expressly indicated that his money was not to be applied to purposes which could be paid for out of public funds. They say it may be taken for granted that donors of similar mind would have shared the same feeling. I say that far from being so slipshod as my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) suggested in its consideration of this vital question the Parliament of 1928 had all these considerations before it. It had the Report of the Mackenzie Committee before it, it approved those principles, and it was because it was satisfied that the Bill of 1928 gave effect to the principles laid down in the Mackenzie Committee's Report that it allowed that Bill to go through without very much discussion.
Nor can I agree that the Commissioners are not entitled to quote the Mackenzie Committee's Report as justification for their proceedings. It may be true from the narrow legal standpoint that if their action were contested in the courts of law it would be no good pleading that it was in accordance with the Committee's 1201 Report. It would have to be shown that it was in accordance with the Act of Parliament. But from the wider standpoint the Mackenzie Committee must be regarded as having laid down the main principles on which the Act of 1928 was based, principles which Parliament approved when it passed the Act and set up the Educational Endowments Commission. Therefore, it is obviously relevant to consider whether their proceedings are in accordance with the terms of that Report.
One other important subject of controversy is the subject of bursaries, but I feel that to-day I am dispensed from dealing with that subject. I have dealt with it before, and I am not afraid of dealing with it, but I feel that I am dispensed from dealing with it because hardly anybody else has mentioned it to-day and because the Under-Secretary of State has already blown that criticism out of the water by the figures which he has given us. Then there is one other important criticism which has been directed against the work of the Commission, and that is that it will dry up the springs of benevolence. I think the Commissioners dealt very effectively with that argument in their Fifth Report when they pointed out that exactly the same criticism was made and made repeatedly against the 1882 Commission, and that since the time when that Commission was operating no less than £3,000,000 has been left in 22. educational endowments alone—that is taking the 22 biggest endowments—and in addition to a whole range of smaller endowments. Indeed, as the Earl of Elgin mentioned in another place there have been substantial endowments offered for educational purposes since this Commission started its work.
I cannot believe that those who wish to leave money for educational purposes will be deterred by the fact that if it should turn out in the course of years that the money is no longer required for the particular purpose which they have in view it will be devoted to some other purpose. I believe, on the contrary, that it will be a reassurance to those who intend to make bequests for particular educational purposes if they know that if their money can no longer be usefully applied to those purposes it will not be applied merely to relieve the ratepayers 1202 in a particular part of the country from a burden which falls upon their fellow ratepayers in all other parts of the country. I do not believe that any testator wants to run the risk of his benefaction being used for that purpose, but unless the Commissioners have powers for dealing with the deed in which the spirit and intention of the pious founder is expressed then benefactors will run the risk that their benefactions will be used for objects that are useless or merely to give relief to the ratepayers.
§ Mr. A. RUSSELL
Would the right hon. Gentleman say that it would not deter a benefactor from leaving his money to the benefit of destitute children if he know that the Commission were entitled to divert that money to the benefit, say, of deaf children? Is that not a factor which would deter one who was about to make a benefaction?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
We have to look at this principle as a whole. It may be that in the particular case which the hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind some person might be so intent upon a particular form of benefaction to a particular class of children that he would not wish to run any risk of that benefaction being diverted to any other purpose. But you have to take the principle as a whole, and the principle is that the Educational Endowments Commissioners will not interfere and are not interfering with benefactions which are still being devoted to a useful purpose or to a purpose which would not otherwise be served by obtaining funds from the rates. If that be true, it means that the benefactor will know that, if his benefaction runs the risk of either becoming useless, or of merely alleviating the burden on the ratepayers in a particular district, or of rendering it unnecessary for them to take upon themselves the cost of services which are borne by ratepayers in all other districts, the benefaction will be diverted to giving advantages to people additional to those which they could obtain from State or local authority sources. Indeed, the Oxford Colleges, for example—I know it is true of one, and I believe it is true of all—have a rule that benefactions may only be given for a particular purpose for 30 years, and at the end of that time they are revised and may be used for any purpose which seems good to the bodies which are administering them.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The intentions of the donor may be for the benefit of a particular parish or class of persons, or to promote a particular type of education, but all those things come under the general heading of the intentions of the benefactor, and I do not believe it will deter them—as a matter of fact, I say that the experience of the 1882 Commission shows it has not deterred them—to know that if the purposes for which they have left their money are no longer useful, it will be applied to more useful purposes.
I now come to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State and ask him if he will let us have those figures for which I asked in the course of his speech, that is to say, the figures of the number of endowments covered by schemes—in the first place, those schemes which have been approved by the Department; in the second place, those schemes which have not yet been approved by, but have been submitted to, the Department; and, in the third place, those schemes which are under examination, but have not yet been submitted to the Department. The Under-Secretary of State has referred to the important objects to which money can be diverted by the Educational Endowments Commissioners under the Act of 1925 and under this Bill. I agree with what he said about the importance of hostels in the Highland counties, but I would put this to him, that educational endowments in the Highland counties are, unfortunately, so small that I am afraid there will be little money left over for the endowment of hostels, and there are other resources, to some extent within his control, to which we must look for help in attaining that very important objective.
Then he referred to playing fields, and I warmly concur in all that he said on the importance of that question. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff said that playing fields were not so important in rural districts as in the big cities, and he said that was quite obvious. In so far as it is obvious, I am sure it will not escape the attention of the Commissioners or of those who will be administering schemes in the various counties of Scotland, but, as a matter of fact, I know that in my own part of the world there 1204 is a number of villages, which most people would certainly call rural districts, where there really is difficulty in obtaining playing fields. I think the difficulties are gradually being overcome—I see an improvement almost every few years in my own part of the world—but it is difficult sometimes to get playing fields even in those rural districts, and there is a great and increasing demand for them. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) said that there ought to be resources other than the endowments to which we should look for playing fields, that we ought to look to the county and city education authorities to provide them. Yes, but there are many occasions on which it is possible that an opportunity may arise for obtaining a playing field, perhaps of a far better kind than a county or city educational authority would be prepared to provide, and it may well be that it would be in the interests of the children that the body administering the trust should have just that amount of power, just that elasticity, to go outside the general scheme of the local authority for the provision of playing fields and to take advantage of a particular opportunity which might suddenly present itself of making adequate provision for playing fields.
I think the Under-Secretary of State has made out to-day the case for this Measure. He said it would be a mistake to hand over the work of this Commission to the Department of Education when the Commission was in the middle of its work and also, I would add, when the Commission has accumulated knowledge and experience of these problems which are not and cannot be possessed by the Department. Nobody can say it is an inefficient Commission. They are certainly not idle, they are certainly not lacking in courage, and even to those Members who would like to see the principle upon which their work is based altered, I would say, Is it now timely to alter these principles, when two-thirds of all the endowments of Scotland have already come under the purview of the Commission? Would it be timely, in the middle of their work, suddenly to apply totally different principles to the remaining endowments of Scotland from those upon which the endowments have been reorganised during recent months? I am sure that it would be most untimely to make such a change. On the other 1205 hand, I think, as I have already said, there is a case for taking more powers to the Department for preventing deadlocks, and for that reason I shall support the Bill; but I would appeal to the Government not to allow it to be whittled down, not to allow a great many more Amendments to be inserted in it, because I feel that if that is done, the Commission will become a far less satisfactory instrument for the purpose of educational endowment reform in Scotland. I would ask those who wish to see their powers whittled down to consider carefully the weighty recommendations made by the Mackenzie Committee, to consider the experience of past Committees and Commissions, and to accept this Bill as a reasonable solution of the problems which have been raised by the proceedings of the Commission during recent years.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Sir R. SMITH
The speech to which we have just listened seems to suggest that there is no necesisty for this Bill, but that all that need be done is to extend the life of the Commissioners for at least two years. According to the right hon. Gentleman the amendments made by this Bill are unnecessary. I put it to him that if he will go to Scotland and ask whether the people would rather have the life of the Commissioners extended for two years or more under the present principles, or let them stop now, the general opinion would be to let the life of the Commissioners come to an end at once. There is a distinction between the Act of 1882 and the Acts of 1928. In the former the words are that. in examining endowments the Commissioners shouldhave regard to the spirit of the intention.In the 1928 Act the words werehave special regard to.That shows that in 1928 the feeling was that it was necessary to put further restrictions on the Commissioners and their aims. If you ask the people of Scotland now whether they approve of the principles on which the Commissioners hive acted, they will be unanimous in saying that some change is necessary. The very fact that we have amendments in this Bill shows that the Government do rot feel that the principles on which the Commissioners have acted were entirely satis- 1206 factory or conformed with the desire of the people of Scotland.
The questions with which we are dealing will best be thrashed out in the Scottish Standing Committee, but there is one point which I feel I must raise to-day and I think I ought to address my remarks to Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It is with regard to Section 4 of the Act of 1928, which lays down that certain endowments are specially excluded and among them are university endowments. It has been held by the Commissioners that if an endowment is in the hands of trustees for a university it is not one of the endowments which is beyond their power. If the funds are in the hands of a trust within the court of a university, it cannot be considered as a university endowment. If it were a university endowment, I think it is clear that the Commissioners would not be able to examine it, for it would be outwith their power. Will it be permissible to put down and amendment to provide that an endowment held for a university, if in the hands of trustees within the court of a university, is taken away from the power of the Commissioners? is the Preamble of the Bill wide enough to allow such an Amendment to be put down? If not, it is a question whether one can approve of the Second Reading of the Bill. The Preamble states clearly that it isto empower the Scottish Education Department to disapprove schemes submitted to them under the said Act"—That is the Acts of 1928 and 1931—and to frame amended schemes, and for purposes connected therewith.That seems to me to be the only point in regard to which we can move Amendments. A university trust would not be an amended scheme, and I want to know whether if the Preamble stands, it will be possible to move an Amendment.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
The hon. Member asks whether his specific Amendment would be in Order. I fear it would be wrong for a Minister of the Crown to express an opinion whether an Amendment is in Order or not.
§ Sir R. SMITH
May I then put my-point to Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and ask whether the Preamble is wide enough to enable Amendments to be put down with 1207 regard to the disapproval of schemes by the Department or the framing of amended schemes?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I am afraid I did not hear the hon. Member in the first place, but I rather gather that he is seeking to get an answer from the Chair or from the Government as to whether or what Amendments he can move on the Committee stage.
§ Sir R. SMITH
May I put it this way. The Preamble of the Bill says that it is for the purpose of extending for a further two years the period during which the powers of the Commissioners—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
What I stated just now is apparently the case, namely, that the hon. Member is seeking information as to what he can do in regard to Amendments on the Committee Stage. He must wait until we come to the Committee stage and raise that point in Committee. It cannot be dealt with by the House.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
The House has had a Debate ranging over a wide ground and I would like to say how helpful the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has been. I can endorse his testimony as to the work of the Commissioners. These Commissioners, going as they have done round Scotland and touching interests which closely affect Scotsmen in all parts of the world in regard to educational endowments, have by the very nature of their work stirred deep feelings. In their work they could have avoided doing this by leaving things alone, but I wish to say here that the Government appreciate to the full their arduous work, their painstaking labour, and their desire to do their work as they conceive it in the best interests of Scotland.
Several hon. Members have referred to their fears that, as the work of the Commission proceeds, one result may be that the springs of charity will be dried up in future so far as education is concerned. I cannot help thinking that that will not be the case. I am convinced myself that when men and women come to look at the matter afresh they will say that Parliament has rightly interpreted their mind 1208 by giving to bodies of independent men and women power to divert money which was set aside for one purpose for which, in the course of time, it is found not to be necessary. If these sums of money were going to relieve rates, I very much doubt whether those people who have given sums in the past would have been so generous in their benefactions, but be that as it may, those things have been said in the past, and I hope and believe that when all these endowments have been reviewed, those who influence men and women in their wills in the days to come will not be influenced by any such thought, but will be solely guided by what they consider to be in the best interests of education in Scotland.
One very striking feature in our Debate to-day has been that every hon. Member has thought it necessary that in the case of these endowments, two-thirds of which have been reviewed, the other third should continue to be reviewed, and the result submitted to Parliament by the Commissioners. We have been pressed to-day in various quarters to accept Amendments, and the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness appealed to us to resist those Amendments. It would be quite wrong if I were to express any opinion as to those Amendments. They must be judged on their merits, but every one of the points mentioned by hon. Members to-day was anxiously considered by us before the introduction of the Bill. But we shall give every consideration to any Amendment and every argument which may be advanced in the Committee stage.
I might say, however, that before we introduced this Bill we gave all these matters very careful thought, and in submitting this Bill to the House of Commons we have endeavoured to interpret the mind of Scotland on this subject, by continuing the Commissioners, and by placing in the forefront what was always there, that is, the responsibility of Parliament in these matters, so that during the next two years, if any hon. Member thinks that the interests of any endowment in any part of Scotland are adversely affected, the place to which they can come for the consideration of their grievance is the time-honoured place, the House of Commons. Where the word "Department" is printed in this Bill for technical, and, I believe, legal reasons the word is 1209 necessary, and hon. Members know, although it is not so well known outside the House, that whenever the word "Department" is mentioned, it means the responsible Ministers of the Crown. So that when in the future those interests think that the Department are overruling their wishes, it is not the Department which is doing so. It is the Ministers of the Crown responsible to the House of Commons. With these few words, and in view of the very general desire of the House that the Bill should receive its Second Reading, I hope that the House may now come to a, decision.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.