HL Deb 01 April 1878 vol 239 cc274-80

(The Lord President.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord President.)


said, he desired to make a few observations with respect to the possible operation of the Bill as regarded Scotland. As their Lordships were aware, there was an important difference between the circumstances of England and Scotland with regard to education. The Act of 1872 established throughout Scotland a system of direct compulsion, whereas that system was not generally introduced into England even directly until the Act of 1876. By the present Bill, his noble Friend proposed to introduce into Scotland another system of compulsion similar to that introduced into England by the Act of 1876; and on that point, he need only say that he supposed the Lord President was satisfied that there would be no inconvenience in the simultaneous existence of those two systems. But it seemed to him (the Marquess of Ripon) that some inconvenience and interference might arise between the two systems—the one with the other; and, therefore, he desired to ask his noble Friend if he had carefully considered that point, and had satisfied himself that a person could not be prosecuted twice for the same offence—that was to say, both under the Act of 1872 and under the proposed Statute? As his noble Friend would admit, such a proceeding would be totally unjust. One of the provisions of the Bill required attention. Several of the clauses contained the words "inspected school;" but he did not find in the Bill any definition of those words, and he wished to know whether he was right in supposing that under this Bill an "inspected school" in Scotland meant the same thing as a certified efficient school in England under the Act of 1876. He thought that, when introducing a stringent measure of the kind before the House, it was essentially necessary that the privileges to parents should be as wide in Scotland as in England. With respect to another portion of the measure, he was afraid he should receive little support from either side of the House in the views which he held. Clause 20 provided that Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools might, under certain regulations, be employed, by the appointment of the Scotch Education Department, to inspect any school in which the education given was not purely elementary, with reference to the higher branches of knowledge taught therein. Now, that was a step in the direction of placing those schools more under the control of Her Majesty's Government, which would ultimately end in their obtaining a large grant of public money. He seriously doubted the propriety of that step, and against it he desired to enter his protest. Again, Clauses 17 and 18 provided that under certain contingencies vacancies in school boards should be filled up on the nomination of the Education Department. That was a very considerable power—a power unnecessary in many instances; and, that being so, he ventured to suggest to his noble Friend, that it would in this Bill be far better to follow the precedent of the English Act. In the Act of 1872, and also in the Act of 1876, there were provisions under which children of poor parents, not paupers, were entitled to have their school fees paid for them by the Boards of Guardians. Now, there was reason to believe that in some parts of Scotland those provisions had not been fairly worked—that the parochial Boards had not recognized the duty absolutely imposed upon them in respect to the payment of the fees of such children, and therefore he should be glad to learn from the noble Duke whether he would have the goodness carefully to direct his attention to that point, so that the just rights of poor parents might not be set aside by the want of action on the part of local authorities. He made these remarks in no spirit of unfriendliness, for he had no intention of opposing the second reading of the Bill.


said, that certain defects had been discovered in the operation of existing Acts which had not been dealt with in the present Bill. Some of those very defects were alluded to two or three years ago in "another place" by the late Sir William Stirling Maxwell, who was one of the Scotch Education Board. The first Question he wished to ask was, whether it was intended that in the future there should be any central audit of the accounts of school boards? Under the Act of 1872, an accountant was appointed by the Scotch Education Board, who sent in an annual report of the accounts of the school boards; but that official had no power to disallow any expenditure he thought to be improper, and, as a consequence, his reports had no practical effect. Now, from that he concluded that the accountant would be abolished also. He wished to know, then, whether, in future, an auditor would be appointed by the Education Department to discharge the duty which had hitherto been discharged by the accountant; and, if so, whether some provision would be made that his audit should be effectual? Another point he desired to raise was this—under the Act of 1872, school boards had the power to take over the schools of religious and other bodies upon certain conditions; but no power was given to defray any debt existing upon such schools so transferred, and the consequence was that frequently great inconvenience was occasioned, amounting in some cases to the necessity of the actual building of a new school. There was only one other point to which he would refer. By the 45th section of the Act of 1872, power was given to borrow money for the enlargement of schools, but no such power was given in respect to other equally important alterations and improvements. There were such improvements as enclosing playgrounds, bringing water into the schools, and providing furniture. These he took to be of equal importance with any question of enlargement. He should be glad if his noble Friend could see his way, when the Bill went before the other House, to introduce clauses for carrying all or any of the suggestions he had made.


was understood to call attention to the system of voting directed. under the present law, the consequence of which often was that the most eligible candidate was often defeated because people made sure that he must be elected.


said, he desired, in the first place, to thank his noble Friend opposite (the Marquess of Ripon) for the kind manner in which he had spoken of the Bill, and also for affording the opportunity of explaining some of the provisions to which he had referred, and the way in which, in his opinion, they would affect Scotland. His noble Friend compared the powers of compulsion which existed under the present law with those which it was proposed to enforce under this Bill, and pointed out how impolitic it was, in his opinion, that a parent should, under the operation of two separate Acts, be fined twice for the same offence. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) agreed with the objection of the noble Marquess, and could say that the Government had not, at all events, intended that the objectionable feature which he had pointed out should be found in the Bill. He would, therefore, look into the Bill again, and if he found that anything in it justified the remarks of his noble Friend, he would see whether some alteration could not be devised. Then, the noble Marquess alluded to the 11th clause, and, comparing the words "inspected school" in the Bill to the words "certified efficient school" in the English Act, inquired what was the reason for the distinction? He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had no hesitation in saying that the intention of the Education Department was that the "inspected school" referred to in the clause should be practically equivalent to the "certified efficient school" in the English Act. Then, his noble Friend adverted to Clause 20—though he said he was afraid his objections would not be generally shared by the House. He was happy to think that on this point the expectation of his noble Friend had been realized. By the Act of 1872, they wished as much as possible to improve education generally throughout the country. There were some who considered that elementary education had been promoted at the expense of secondary education in Scotland. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) could not admit that he shared in that view; but they had endeavoured to deal fairly and properly with secondary education, and they had thought that the whole education of the country would be benefited rather than injured by the operation of the clause. His noble Friend also spoke as to the payment by the parochial boards of the school fees of the children of parents who were unable themselves to pay; but that was a point which did not, as he thought, come within the scope of the Bill, though he concurred in deeming the matter worthy of consideration. So far as his experience enabled him to judge, the amount involved was not large; but, as attention had been called to the subject, he would look further into it, and see whether it was of sufficient importance to warrant its being dealt with in the Bill. His noble Friend next referred to Clauses 17 and 18— clauses which give the Department power to add members to a school board for the purpose of there being a quorum. His noble Friend thought that this was rather an extensive power, and that either it might be modified or there might be an alternative power of ordering a bye-election. He confessed he was far from saying that such an alteration might not properly be introduced, and now that it had been suggested he would see whether it could be adopted. He did not think either power would be acted upon very often; but in Committee he would either accept words of his noble Friend, or propose words himself, to enable the Department as an alternative to order a bye-election. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Camperdown) touched upon several points, among them the question of audit. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) was quite ready to admit that it was most important there should be a proper audit; but he was not at all clear that this was the proper measure to deal with the question. He rather thought the matter would more appropriately come within the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board, and he hoped that it would be found possible to introduce a provision to meet the case in some Bill that might come before Parliament. In regard to the other point raised by the noble Earl, he considered that when a school was transferred it ought to be transferred without debt. Then, his noble Friend asserted that the 45th section of the Act of 1872 had not worked satisfactorily. The 19th clause of the present Bill was intended to meet the difficulties which had arisen under that section. The only other subject that he need touch upon was the Schedule. That Schedule was inserted in the Bill, in order, if possible, to put an end to the unsatisfactory manner in which elections in various school board districts had been carried out in Scotland. Before the last election the Department issued a circular for the purpose of remedying a state of things which was generally admitted to be unsatisfactory. The circular was acted upon, and had produced satisfactory results. Some people, however, thought that in taking such a step the Department acted ultra vires. What they did they did from the best possible motives; but a doubt having arisen as to their power to issue the rules and regulations they had issued, it was thought better to make the matter perfectly clear, and get it perfectly settled, and therefore it was that they had inserted the Schedule in the Bill. The mode of conducting elections in Scotland would henceforth be the same as in England, and he was not prepared to say that that would be a bad mode of procedure.


suggested that boards should be elected for five years instead of three. It was desirable because the expense of elections would be reduced by quinquennial elections.


believed that by the assimilation of the system in the two countries, the expense of elections would be reduced; but he did not think it would be wise to extend the existence of the boards.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday the 9th instant.

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