HL Deb 05 April 1878 vol 239 cc653-61

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

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


said, he had no intention whatever of obstructing the progress of the measure, but he wished to ask the noble Earl opposite how far it was consistent with the English system that in Scotland the power of initiating schemes of reform should be restricted to the Governing Bodies? He had no doubt that a great number of schemes would be submitted to the Commissioners under the Act; but there might be instances in which the Bodies requiring reform would not submit schemes, and there was no power given to any other authority for initiating an inquiry and making a report. In the English Act there was a clause that where a Governing Body of an institution which stood in need of reform did not initiate a scheme of itself, it should be within the power of the Commissioners to take up the matter and propose a scheme of their own. There was no such provision in the present Bill. He had reason to believe that this would give rise to some trouble, and that some of the Governing Bodies in Scotland would avail themselves of the omission, and would not make any application to reform themselves. Thus the Commissioners would really have nothing to do. But what concerned him more was that it was the worst-managed institutions that would escape, as they were not likely to reform themselves. He would suggest that power should be given to the Commissioners to initiate schemes of reform in cases where the Governing Bodies neglected to do so.


said, he quite concurred with the noble Duke in not desiring to offer any obstruction to the progress of the Bill—on the contrary, he desired to assist in passing it in the best and most perfect form. No doubt the first idea suggested by the Bill was that to which the noble Duke had given expression. The Bill enabled the Governing Bodies of these institutions to reform themselves; but if they did not choose to take the initiative in the matter none other could, and the question would stand over, and could not again be considered at the earliest until the year 1881, when the Act would expire. The Commissioners appointed to inquire into these endowments reported as long ago as 1875, and their Report attracted considerable attention in Scotland. In all analogous cases in England power of initiation was given to the Commissioners. He believed that the defective powers of this Bill arose from its being copied from—indeed, almost identical with—the Act of 1869; but there were very good reasons for giving power of initiation and compulsion to the Commissioners in the present case, though it might not have been desirable or possible in 1869. In the year 1869 the Government had not the information which it now possessed; and when it was discovered that there was not sufficient power, under the Act of 1869, to carry out the scheme proposed by the Secretary of State for the Governing Bodies that wished to reform, themselves, the Commission which had just reported was appointed. But now the Government had a long and able Report, in the general conclusions of which, he believed, most people in Scotland, representing all shades of party, would agree; and which, he believed, would afford the country an opportunity of carrying out the contemplated reforms. There was one other point to which he would like to call their Lordships' attention. It was very likely that his doubts proceeded from want of knowledge—but he did not quite understand the position of the Secretary of State in this matter. He seemed placed in a very peculiar position. The Bill provided that the Governing Body which was desirous to reform itself should present a Petition to the Secretary of State; the Secretary of State might remit the Petition to the Commissioners; the Commissioners, after making such inquiries as they thought necessary, were to report to the Secretary of State; and he, if he thought proper, made a Provisional Order, with such alterations of the original scheme as might appear to him requisite. These endowments were connected chiefly with education, and he could hardly understand why the Secretary of State was the person to whom these Petitions were to be presented, that he might deal with an educational matter. He made these remarks more particularly in connection with Clause 11. The Commissioners, under Clause 11, were to report to the Scotch Education Department the conditions according to which, in their opinion, the Parliamentary Grant for public education in Scotland might be most advantageously distributed for the purpose of promoting education in the higher branches of knowledge. In that policy he cordially agreed. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) had said that some persons denied the knowledge and capacity of the Commissioners to deal with the subject; but he (the Earl of Camperdown) was quite persuaded of the competency of the Commissioners to report on the subject. It was right there should be a report to the Scotch Education Department on this matter. But why should they not report these schemes, which would chiefly relate to education, to the Education Department, that they might deal with and settle them in exactly the same manner as the English Education Department had settled all the schemes in regard to Endowed Schools in England? That was the only Question he wished to put to the noble Duke; and he suggested for his consideration that he should give to the Governing Bodies power to follow the analogy of the English Endowed Schools Act to frame schemes to submit to the Commissioners up to 31st December, 1879, and give the power thence to the Commissioners till 31st December, 1880, when the Act expired, in case the Governing Bodies did not before this submit proposals to be approved subsequently by the Education Department, and to be sanctioned by Parliament. This, without making any fundamental change in the Bill, would reform their institutions in a manner analogous to that provided by the English Act. He should be very glad to assist the Bill through the House.


said, the Bill was a great deal too permissive, and he hoped that some additional powers would be vested in the Commissioners. The noble Duke the Lord President in introducing the Bill, referred to the want of power felt by Governing Bodies to reform themselves. Many were, no doubt, anxious to do so, and naturally desired the power to make necessary changes; and the Bill gave them power to present a Petition to the Secretary of State, who might, after proper inquiry, grant a Provisional Order; but it gave no power to the Secretary of State or the Commissioners to institute inquiries and make reforms where the Governing Bodies were unwilling to reform themselves. He hoped the noble Duke would take into consideration the desirableness of making the Bill a little more powerful than it was, for at present it was rather a feeble measure.


said, as the only Member of the Commission to which reference had been made who had a seat in their Lordships' House, he would join in the universal chorus which had proceeded from the Liberal side of the House, that the Bill was in its character altogether too permissive. He did not think it was often found in the experience of the noble Duke that those Bodies who most needed reform came forward asking for it themselves. Bodies needing reform were found very tenacious of their abuses. Take the case of Heriot's Hospital, which had a vast endowment, which was applied to purposes of education—that was to say, it was applied to purposes which were intended to be provided for by the education rate, and saved just so much for the pockets of the ratepayers. This would be the very last institution to petition for reform. Such an instance should be sufficient to induce the noble Duke to give to the Commissioners some additional power.


said, it was a source of great satisfaction to him that Her Majesty's Government had undertaken to deal with this subject. It was one which was beset with much difficulty; but he thought the Bill now under consideration was calculated to do a great deal of good if it was passed into law. No doubt there was a good deal in what had been described as "the universal chorus" from the other side of the House; but he thought there were some other considerations that demanded attention. He thought they would all probably admit that if the Bodies proposed to be dealt with by the Bill could be got to come forward themselves, and profess their willingness to be reformed, a great deal would be gained. He thought, also, that if there was too much appearance of forcing reforms upon these Bodies, they might raise a great deal of opposition which might be prejudicial to the end they had in view, and might result in their losing the good which would be derived from passing this Bill; though, in itself, it might not be all that could be desired. He should like to ask the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council what would happen in this case? Supposing the Bill to be passed, and a Governing Body to come forward and present a Petition for reform—if the Commissioners did not think the scheme a good one, or that it was insufficient, and rejected it, would the Commissioners or the Secretary of State have any power to revise the scheme in accordance with their own views, or would they be obliged to reject it pure and simple, and would have no power to alter or amend it in the slightest degree? Before he sat down, he should like to direct their Lordships' attention to the composition of the Commission. He ventured to think it was slightly too large for the work which it had in hand. He ventured to think that a smaller number, well-paid—say, a Chairman and two Commissioners—would be able to get through a good deal more work, and to devote more attention to the business in hand, than if it were composed of a large number of gentlemen who had other business of various kinds to employ their time. It was not quite clear whether this Commission was meant to be representative. There was no provision in Clause 12 for any election, and the result might be that the gentlemen selected under the qualifications imposed by the Bill might not really represent the opinions of the Bodies from whom they were selected. He should like to ask the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council, whether it was competent to the Bodies named to elect a Member of the Commission?


said, the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), in introducing this Bill, conceded so entirely the principle that they had always maintained, that Scotland had a right to equal treatment with England, that if he could see under this measure that equality was secured to them, he should hesitate to trouble their Lordships on this occasion; but he must add his voice to what had been said in reference to the permissive character of this Bill. Many people maintained that the chief characteristic of Scotch education—of which they had a right to be proud—was that a boy could be qualified for the University course in the parish schools of the country. He would be the last to speak slightingly of the service rendered to the country by the parish school-masters; but he confessed he thought that for many years the old system had been gradually becoming insufficient, and the time had now come when the educational system of Scotland could not be complete until in every centre of population a secondary school was established. Therefore, he trusted that the 11th clause of the Bill would be restricted to those rural districts where no secondary school could be within the reach of the people. The Commissioners reported that scarcely any secondary schools could be said to exist in Scotland. There were only 11 under the Act of 1872, and some 50 burgh and grammar schools, more or less inefficient from various causes, but especially because the endowments were very inadequate, amounting only to some £15,000. On the other hand, it had been calculated by a competent authority—Professor Laurie, who acted as Secretary to the Commission—that there were at least 91 towns or places in Scotland where a secondary school could be established with advantage; and that, in almost all of these, an endowment of some kind existed on which a school might be founded. But he observed that generally the sum total was made up of a variety of small sums, contributed by different trusts; and, though power was given in the 9th clause for several Governing Bodies to combine, their Lordships must see how greatly the difficulty of arriving at a satisfactory scheme would be increased by leaving the initiative entirely to the individual action of those various Bodies. He thought that, in considering this Bill for Scotland, they might point, as had already been done, to the success of the means adopted in England; which had proved beyond dispute that in almost every case where a really well-advised scheme had been brought forward by an impartial authority, opposition was most unlikely to ensue. He should like, also, to call attention to the composition of the Commission. He quite agreed in thinking that a smaller Commission might do the work more satisfactorily than the one now proposed. He could not understand how the Lord Provost of a city, or the Convener of a county, had, ex-officio, any right, or any capacity to be the man who was to deal with the endowments not only of the place with which he was, ex-officio, connected, but with the endowments of the whole Kingdom. He would not pretend to say that no good could come of this Bill; but he should deeply regret if so good an opportunity were lost for effecting a real and comprehensive reform in the educational system of Scotland.


said, he had no right to find fault with the remarks which noble Lords on both sides of the House had made as to the principle of the Bill. Indeed, he believed they had all one and the same object in view, and that was to utilize the endowments now existing in Scotland—and which they all believed and thought could be turned to better and more economical use than was now the case. He would deal as well as he could with the remarks made by several noble Lords—and, first, as to the remarks of the noble Earl who last addressed the House, and of the noble Lord behind him (Lord Balfour of Burleigh), as to the composition of the Commission. The Government had endeavoured to put on the Commission Members who would represent the various interests throughout the whole of Scotland. He believed that the Commission was not excessively large. The number was to consist of eight; and they had selected them from the various Bodies set out in the Bill, believing that, thus selected, they would represent all classes and shades of opinion in different parts of the country. In regard to the proposal made by the noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh), that the Commissioners should be chosen by election, he thought the noble Lord scarcely appreciated the difficulties that would follow. It would be very difficult for four Universities—Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and St. Andrew's, to elect one person to represent them; and there would be a difficulty in the Conveners of Supply of all Scotland electing one of their number to represent them. He thought that in this, as in other Commissions, they might trust that Her Majesty would be well-advised on the responsibility of Her Ministers in selecting the best persons from the various classes that were mentioned in the Bill. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Camperdown) suggested that it was inconvenient that the scheme should be submitted to the Secretary of State, and by him to the Commissioners. He thought, if he mistook not, that the Secretary of State was the authority in the Bill of 1869, and he confessed that he thought the Secretary of State was the proper authority to deal with this question; because it might be, in the end, that Provisional Orders would be issued, and he thought they would be better administered by the Secretary of State than by including them in the duties of the Education Department. The obvious reason for the Education Department being inserted in Clause 11 was to deal with the Parliamentary Grant—for the Education Department was responsible for the Parliamentary Grant given under the Act. He thought he had noticed the main objections to the details of the Bill. No doubt there was no charge whatever of maladministration on the part of any of the Bodies proposed to be dealt with; but in many cases they had declared themselves anxious to be reformed, but had not sufficient power to do so. He now came to what he considered to be the most important part in the suggestions and remarks made, and which were initiated by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll), relative to the Commission initiating schemes where the Governing Bodies failed to initiate them themselves. No doubt, it would be rather an anomaly that there should be a large number of schemes in Scotland, all of which required to be amended, and that a certain portion of these only should come within the jurisdiction of the Commissioners; while others, which required to be reformed quite as much as those that came before the Commissioners, should be left outside to continue the evils they were perfectly willing to remedy. He thought there was great force in the remarks which his noble Friend had made; and he would, between this and the House going into Committee on the Bill, consider whether he could accept the proposal his noble Friend had made, to limit the duration of the permissive character of the Commission to some period—such as a year—and if, in that period, the Governing Bodies had not formed a scheme to reform themselves, he thought it was well worthy of consideration whether powers could not be given to the Commission to step forward and say these institutions should be required to come under their review.


said, it certainly appeared to be an anomaly that education should be handed over to be administered by the Home Department, instead of the Education Department. The case of 1869 was not altogether a precedent; because, in 1869, the Scotch Education Department did not exist. It had been constituted sinee that time, with special Representatives of Scotland in it.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.