HL Deb 07 July 1881 vol 263 cc213-20

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, When the five Provisional Orders relating to Endowed Institutions in Scotland, including the new Order for Burnett's Literary Fund, that were presented on the 21st of June, will be circulated: And to move for a Return showing why no Provisional Orders have been issued in the following ten cases in which the Commissioners under the Endowed Institutions (Scotland) Act of 1878 have reported to the Secretary of State: Spier's Trust, Beith; Boys' and Girls' Hospital, Aberdeen; Donaldson's Charity, Stonehaven; Graham Free School, Glasgow; Kellae's Trust, Haddington; Scott or Campbell Trust, Selkirk; Wilson's School, Fauldhouse; Wilson's School, Harthell; Wilson's School, Stane; and Wilson's School, Whitburn? said, he considered this was a Notice of a very important character. He had framed it in rather wide language, and he was not at all prepared to say that he would ask for a Return showing why no Provisional Orders had been issued in the cases named in his Motion; but what he really wanted to know was, what had become of those Orders? With regard to the first part of the Motion, he would like to ask the Government why the Provisional Orders relating to the Endowed Institutions in Scotland, including the new Order of Burnett's Literary Fund, presented on the 21st June, were not circulated? Their Lordships would recollect that in the early part of this Session he called attention to the scheme of Burnett's Literary Fund, and took occasion to speak somewhat strongly of the conduct of the Home Secretary in relation to this scheme; and he thought he was justified in coming to the conclusion that a strong case existed in his favour and against that Department of Her Majesty's Government. Not one word was said in its favour, and the Motion he made disapproving of the scheme of the Home Department was carried without a division. Now, these schemes related to most important subjects, and Parliament was so very careful and jealous with all that sort of property dealt with under the provisions of the Endowed Institutions (Scotland) Act passed in 1878, that all the persons interested in that Act should have every opportunity of being heard upon the subject. A clause was inserted in that Act which provided that the scheme, after being approved by the Secretary of State, should lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for 40 days, and if no action was taken anent the scheme during that period, that it should become law. That being the case, it appeared to him that it was the duty of the Secretary of State to see that the provisions of the Act were carried out strictly and to the letter. Now, what had happened in each of the five Provisional Orders to which he had called attention? The Order lists were presented to the House on the 21st June, and it was now the 7th July—that was 17 days—and up to that moment those schemes had not been delivered for their Lordships' consideration. He was told that they had been presented only yesterday in the other House of Parliament; and, therefore, practically by the conduct of the Secretary of State for the Home Department in this case, the parties who were interested in those schemes had been deprived of 16 days out of 40 in which they might make objections and consider what course they should take. He was quite ready to admit that in these days of rapid communication between this country and the North of Scotland such a loss of time was not so important as it would once have been. But it would be admitted that some considerable time ought to be granted to persons living in the extreme North of the Empire to consult together how the schemes affected their own interests, and whether any action, and if so what action, should be taken about it. He had a great interest in Burnett's Literary Fund, and he should have been very glad before now to have had the opportunity of communicating with those who were also interested, as to whether this scheme would be agreeable to them or the contrary. He was by no means saying—he had no means of knowing—that the Burnett Scheme might not have been altered in a manner satisfactory to the Governing Body; but what he did say was, that by the action of the Secretary of State for the Home Department they were deprived of 16 days out of 40 which they had to consider the situation. Now, it seemed to him there must be some most extraordinary influence—he hardly knew how to describe it—at work in the Home Office with regard to the printing and presenting of Papers to Parliament. He had a knowledge of one of the most important Papers, probably, that their Lordships could have before them—the Report of the Irish Assistant Commissioners. That Report was presented to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, through whom it must necessarily come for presentation to Her Majesty, on the 18th January. Of course, when the Commissioners had sent it to the Home Department their duty with regard to it ceased. Their Lordships would be astonished to hear that, notwithstanding the Secretary of State received the Report from the Irish Assistant Commissioners, in a matter of the very highest importance, on the 18th January, it was only printed and circulated on the 6th of July; therefore, there must be something very irregular in the manner in which the Home Office dealt with this question. With regard to the other schemes, though he did not press for a Return regarding them, he was deeply interested to know what had happened to those schemes. The Reports, according to the Commission, had been presented to the Home Secretary. He should like to know where those schemes were. What had become of them? Had the Commissioners been communicated with by the Secretary of State for the Home Department with regard to the action he had taken, or was taking, with reference to these subjects? The first scheme mentioned in his Motion was partly dealt with by the late Government. He had suggested to Sir R. Assheton Cross, then Home Secretary, certain objections he entertained to that scheme, one of Which was the large outlay—£16,000—proposed to be made for buildings, and the other that a member of the School Board should be a member of the Governing Body. The latter proposition was stated to be ultra vires, and that question still remained unsettled when the late Government left Office. But why had not the Orders presented on the 21st June been circulated? He noticed some of them were circulated yesterday, so that his Motion had done some good. It had induced the Home Secretary to see that these schemes were circulated. He was told one of them was in their Lordships' House, and that the others would be circulated probably in the course of to-morrow; but he pointed out that great injustice had been done to those parties in having the time in which they could petition against the scheme curtailed in the manner he had described. He would be glad to know what had come of the other schemes which he had enumerated; and whether any, and if so what, communication had taken place between the Home Secretary and the Endowed Institution Commissioners in Scotland, if the Secretary of State was not going to agree with the recommendation of the body?


, in reply, said, the noble Duke had really answered the first part of the Question himself when he stated, quite correctly, that one of these Provisional Orders had been circulated that day, and that others would be circulated in a day or two. In the case of the other schemes to which he referred, there had been some difference of opinion—in some cases very considerable difference—between the Scotch Education Department and the Educational Endowment Commissioners. There had not been time to adjust the issue in each of these cases, and the Secretary of State had therefore thought it advisable that they should be postponed, in order to be considered by the new Committee to be appointed by the Bill now before the House of Commons. In the case of two of those schemes there had been strong opposition on the part of certain local bodies.


said, the noble Earl did not appear to have understood the drift of the Question of his noble Friend. The objection was, not as to the time the Secretary of State might have spent over a scheme, but that 16 out of the 40 days given by Government as a security and guarantee against bad administration on the part of the Commissioners had been taken away. The Government must provide some remedy against the recurrence of such delay if the terms of the Act were to be honestly carried out.


wished to say a few words on the matter of the Endowed Schools Commission which had had to do with those schemes. The Chairman of that Commission was detained in Scotland by his judicial duties; and he had requested him, in consequence of this matter being brought forward, to state the facts of a few of the cases mentioned in the Motion. He need hardly say that no Member of the Commission would have thought it consistent with his duty to bring such a matter before the House, because, although they were always glad when the Reports which they had to give in were agreed to and acted upon, still it was a public duty they had been discharging, and it was in no degree a personal question whether any of the recommendations they made were given effect to or not. But there was one point in connection with the way in which these recommendations had been dealt with he should like to bring under their Lordships' notice. They, as a Commission, had never in any single instance received any intimation as to whether their recommendations were to be given effect to or not; and, therefore, they had been wholly unable to give any information to parties promoting those schemes, whether or not those schemes would obtain the sanction of the Government and be laid on the Table of the House. In a matter of this importance, he submitted that the Commission appointed to inquire into these schemes and to make recommendations was not quite fairly treated when they were never informed, either by the Home Office or any other Government Department, whether their recommendations were to be given effect to or not. In the case of Burnett's Trust, for example, their Lordships would remember how a scheme not only not the same as the scheme which the Commission gave their sanction to, but utterly inconsistent with it on many important points, was laid on the Table without one whisper of infor- mation that the Commission had dealt with the matter at all, and not a hint was given that an alternative scheme much more in consonance with the Founder's will had been transmitted by the Commission to the Home Office. With reference to the case of Donaldson's Endowment, Stonehaven, of which the annual revenue was £85, it was his opinion that if a Commission could not be trusted to deal with such small sums, it was very little use indeed appointing the Commission. In this case there was no opposition, and no new remit was made to the Commission; although a whole year had passed since the Commission had reported, yet the order was refused. Now, certainly, in such a case, the Governing Body had not been very fairly used. In the case of the Kellae Trust, Haddington, the net annual revenue of which was £37 6s., their recommendation was to vest the fund in the School Board, for the purpose of founding bursaries for children in Haddington, to be competed for by open competition, to be held within the leading school of the town, the sole surviving trustee, who agreed in the proposal, to be associated with the School Board in the discharge of the trust during his life. That recommendation was made on the 6th of August, 1880; no further communication of any kind had been made to the Commission, and yet this Order had been refused. Now, he had seen it stated in the public prints that effect had been given to certain opposition on the part of the Provost and Magistrates of Haddington, who disapproved because no special provision was made for clothing; but he could hardly believe such a thing possible, and he should be very glad to hear from the Government that that had not been the ground of their refusing this Order. He felt it his duty to himself and his Colleagues on the Commission to press, in accordance with what the noble Duke had said, for a full explanation of the principles which had governed the Home Office in refusing their consent to those schemes.


said, that, as the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had observed, the Education Department had no responsibility for the action finally taken in regard to those schemes. That Department, however, was consulted, as the noble Duke well knew, on the schemes when they were submitted to the Home Office. As to the point which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had pressed on his noble Friend who represented the Home Office, he had to say that Her Majesty's Government regretted exceedingly that the Papers were not circulated immediately after they were presented. They were not presented, as the noble Duke seemed to think, in "dummy," but were presented entire; and he confessed that it was a matter of regret that they had not been circulated sooner. His noble Friend would inquire into the reasons for the delay; for he admitted that it was highly inconvenient that after those Papers had been laid on the Table they should not have been immediately circulated. With respect to the scheme generally, he would point out that out of the 10 to which the noble Duke had called attention, one of them was dealt with completely under the late Government. The noble Duke said he was not aware what the answer was as to the scheme having been ultra vires. No doubt, he was quite right in that. But that scheme was entirely disposed of by the late Government. Of the remaining schemes, as his noble Friend had said, some of them had not been proceeded with because there was a strong local opposition. As to the others, the Education Department held that there were various objections, in some cases of greater, in others of less importance, to them. Those objections were sent to the Home Office, and in one case the scheme was remitted again to the Commission. But when the Home Secretary found that there was a considerable difference between the Education Department and the Commissioners, and that there was not time for the proper consideration of the subject, he thought that the much more prudent course would be not to deal with it this year. It was not fair to say that there were 10 schemes, because in regard to the case of Wilson's Schools there was a desire evinced on the part of some of those concerned to amalgamate those small funds; and as there was no power under the Act which regulated those matters to make that amalgamation, it was thought desirable to defer the consideration of those subjects to another time. He was glad that the noble Duke had stated that he would not press his Motion as it stood on the Paper, because he (Earl Spencer) believed it would be un- paralleled that the reasons why schemes had not been passed should be presented to Parliament.