HL Deb 20 May 1884 vol 288 cc799-812

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a" —(The Earl of Dalhousie.)


said, he did not rise to offer any objection to the second reading of the Bill, because he believed, on the whole, its effect on the country would be very good; but the objections he had to the measure were rather in respect of sins of omission than of sins of commission. He intended, if the Bill passed the second rending, and he should vote for its doing so, to move certain Amendments when it got into Committee for the purpose of extending its scope, and he now wished to say a few words as to what the effect of those Amendments would be. Their effect would be in the direction of placing the elementary education of Scotland in the hands of the new Secretary. Most of their Lordships were aware that the system of education in Scotland had been, for more than 300 years, a universal and successful one. They had boasted frequently of that system of education, and he thought justly; but it had lately been changed, and for the last 12 years there had been in operation a measure under which school boards had been universally established, the object generally of the Act being levelling up, so as to bring primary education to every child in Scotland. It was generally felt throughout Scotland that there was now great need to supplement that measure, so as to give au improved system of secondary education, and there was also a very strong opinion throughout Scotland that they should never get a satisfactory system of secondary education except through the means of a Scottish Department, specially exercising the control of Scottish education. It was, therefore, with that object that he should move to bring the whole system of Scottish education under the control of the Office of the Secretary for Scotland. He did not wish to say a word against those who in London managed the Scottish Education Department. He believed that Department was managed by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, and those who with him were responsible for Scottish education, as well as it was possible for them to manage it, with the limited knowledge they had of the system of Scottish, education. The chief objection, however, he had to the London administration was this—that those who had to administer the Education Acts in England wore not really acquainted with the system which had been practised in Scotland for so many centuries, and which was still being practised; and, also, that they wore not aware of the necessities that existed for the further extension of that system. Their Lordships would notice that the Bill proposed to transfer to the new Secretary the powers and duties vested in one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State in reference to Universities in Scotland, and also the powers of the Privy Council in reference to educational endowments. It, therefore, gave the Secretary for Scotland entire control over the higher branches of education; and if they gave him the control over higher education, why did they not also give him control over the system of primary or elementary education? It might be said that the expense which the change would incur would be excessive; but when they came to Committee, he hoped to be able to show that, instead of creating additional expense, the change would tend to increased economy. It might also be said that if Scottish education was entirely administered by a Secretary for Scotland, why did they not propose also that the police, industrial schools, reformatories, factories and workshops, the Agricultural Holdings Act, and the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, should be placed under his control? His answer was, that each one of those Acts was bound up with Imperial interests, and ought to be administered by a Central Authority as pertaining to the community as a whole. But that argument did not hold good in regard to primary education in Scotland. He had just touched briefly upon the main points, which he should go more largely into in Committee. He consented to the second reading of the Bill; but he thought it would be of advantage to Scotland that the entire system of education should be placed in the hands of the new Secretary.


, said, he did not rise to object to the policy of the Bill. He regarded that matter as practically settled, and as settled in accordance with what he believed to be the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Scotland; but he should like to take that opportunity of saying that he had been requested by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lothian) to express to the House his great regret on account of his not being able to be present on this occasion in order to commend this Bill to their Lordships' notice. His noble Friend had presided over a large meeting held in Edinburgh in support of this proposal, and he (Lord Balfour) knew from himself that he was most anxious to be present there that day, but he was unavoidably absent. His noble Friend, however, hoped to be there when the Bill reached Committee, and in the meantime he had asked him (Lord Balfour) to make that apology to their Lordships for his absence. There were one or two points in regard to the Bill which he (Lord Balfour) hoped Her Majesty's Government would consider before that time arrived. For example, he should like to have some explanation as to why the salary to be paid to the new Secretary was to be paid out of the moneys provided by Parliament. It might be that that was the regular form, but as to that he had not been able to thoroughly inform himself whether it was so or not; but if the Bill were to stand in that form, would it not give the power to one House to abolish the Office which the passing of a Bill through both Houses of Parliament was necessary to create? He felt that there might be more to be said in favour of the clause as it stood than he was aware of, and he should therefore be glad if the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dalhousie), who was in charge of the Bill that day, would give some explanation as to the precise position in which the matter stood. He should also like to know why a large and important Department like the Register House in Edinburgh had been excluded from the scope of the Bill? He ventured to think that if there was one Department more than another which required to be thoroughly looked into, and placed under a responsible head, it was that Department, and although he was not, as at present informed, prepared to move that it be placed under the control of the new Secretary, he should be glad if the noble Earl could give the House some explanation on that point also. Again, he should like to know whether it was possible for any Return to be given to the House of the rights of patronage which were to be transferred to the new Secretary under the Bill? The powers and the duties which he would have to perform wore very fully set forth in the Schedule; but no list was given of the patronage, or offices and appointments which the new Secretary would have under his control; and he did not know of any source from which it was possible to inform oneself as to what those were. Therefore, he hoped they should have some explanation from the noble Earl on the point. Before he sat down he found it necessary to say a word also as to the proposal of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Huntly). The noble Marquess had correctly stated the result of this Bill if it passed in its present shape—namely, that the responsibility of the Home Secretary in reference to Scottish Universities would be transferred to the new Secretary, and also that the administration of the Educational Endowments Act would be vested in him. Now, he (Lord Balfour) thought it was quite right that the powers and duties and privileges of the Home Secretary in regard to the Universities should be so transferred; but he had very grave doubts as to the propriety of transferring the administration of the Educational Endowments Act, especially at the present time, to the new Secretary. There were three ways in which Parliament could deal with education in Scotland in regard to the new Office. In the first place, the administration of the whole system of primary education might be transferred to the new Office, as well as the administration of the Educational Endowments Act; or, in the second place, the administration of the Educational Endowments Act alone could be transferred, as was now proposed; or, in the third place, as he ventured to think would be the better course, at any rate for the present, the administration of none of those Acts might be transferred. He could quite conceive something being said—in fact, the noble Marquess opposite had very well put the arguments on his side of the question, and he (Lord Balfour) could imagine their having some weight in favour of inducing Parliament to transfer the administration of both the Educational Endowments Act and the Elementary Education Act to the new Office. But there was also, as he thought, a great deal to be said in favour of retaining the administration of education, as at present, in the Education Department in London. What he did not think was advisable was to transfer the administration of the Educational Endowments Act alone, and leave the administration of the Elementary Education Act to be done from London. With regard to a very large number of the schools in Scotland with which the Commission appointed under the Educational Endowments Act had to deal, they were very little removed, if anything, from being elementary schools; and he thought it would lead to dual government of the worst form and of the most disadvantageous character if the administration of the public schools—which was the Scottish expression for schools coming under the Elementary Education Act — should be retained under the Privy Council, while the administration of the Educational Endowments Act was transferred to Edinburgh. That, he thought, would be indefensible, and he sincerely hoped that proposal would not be persevered in. But he would deal with it in exactly the opposite way from the noble Marquess opposite, and, if no one else did so, he should certainly propose an Amendment in Committee in the direction he had indicated—not that the administration of the public schools in Scotland, the whole educational system of Scotland, should be transferred to the new Office, but that the work of the Privy Council in regard to the administration of the Educational Endowments Act should not be transferred. His reasons for that were briefly these. There was no provision whatsoever in this Bill for any staff that would be required for the administration of the Elementary Education Act under the new Secretary, and he thought it would add very greatly to the expense of such administration if they were to have an Education Office in Whitehall and another in Edinburgh. Besides, he had very great doubts whether it was desirable for the Government to allow such a large spending Department, such as the Education Department was becoming — indeed, had become — to have an Office away from London. He did not see how that could ever be seriously proposed. That was one reason why, in his opinion, the administration of the Elementary Education Act should not be transferred; and, further, he thought the present time would be a singularly ill-chosen one for making that transfer. He therefore hoped—indeed, he thought he might be sure—that their Lordships would not consent to it without full consideration, because there was, at the present moment, a most influential Committee of the House of Commons considering what should be the future administration of Education as a whole. The Reference to that Committee was in the following words:— That a Select Committee should be appointed to consider how the Ministerial responsibility under which the Votes for Education, Science, and Art are administered can be best secured. He thought it would be a most unusual proceeding if, when one House of Parliament was considering what was best to be done, the other House of Parliament should make a proposal which might, or might not, be in accordance with the Report of that Committee when it was presented. There was not much use in appointing a Committee, if they were going to deal with the very subject which it was appointed to inquire into before the Committee had presented its Report. The noble Marquess opposite had said the whole system of elementary education in Scotland was different from that which, obtained in England. There was, no doubt, a great deal of truth in that statement; but he (Lord Balfour) doubted whether that fact, properly considered, was a reason for the separation of the administration, because he ventured to think that, in the matter of education, England might learn something from Scotland, and Scotland from England, and each country might profit from the experience of the other. Upon that ground, also, he should be sorry to see the administration of the two systems separated. He did not wish to conceal from the House the fact that opinion in Scotland was divided on the subject; but he sincerely hoped that full time for consideration of the matter would be given; and he ventured to think that if full time for consideration was given, it would be found to be by no means certain that the majority of those interested in educated would desire to see the administration of it transferred from London to Edinburgh. Therefore, his advice, if he might venture to offer it, would be that, at any rate in the meantime, education should not be one of the matters transferred to the new Department. It might be that opinion would mature in the direction indicated by the noble Marquess opposite, and it might be that they should ultimately have to transfer education, at any rate in part, to the new Office; but he sincerely hoped that in this matter nothing would be clone in a hurry, and that full consideration would be given to the arguments on both sides. He should, therefore, when they reached the Committee stage, propose that the part of the Schedule which dealt with the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Act should be omitted from the Bill. Meantime, he sincerely hoped their Lordships would give a second reading to the measure.


said, he also intended to support the second reading of the Bill; but, at the same time, it would require amendment, for he did not think it was altogether satisfactory, because it seemed to him that it either did too much, or did not do enough. Now, there were two ways in which they might deal with the administration of the affairs of Scotland as regarded education. Either they might consider the Home Secretary Minister for Scotland, in which case it would be sufficient to appoint an Under Secretary of State to act in co-operation with the Lord Advocate; or else they might abandon that theory, as he believed had now generally been done, in which case it would be better, and indeed almost necessary, if anew Minister were created, to appoint an Officer very much in the position of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He supposed this measure did all that was possible at the present time; but, at the same time, he thought if they were dealing with the question in a thorough and final manner, they should now be proposing the suggestion he had made to establish an Officer somewhat in the nature of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He did not know how Ministers ranked; but he understood one mode of ranking them was according to their salaries. He should be very anxious indeed to see the Minister for Scotland, whoever he might be, in the Cabinet; and in that view he should also prefer to see a Minister created holding a higher salary than £2,000 a-year. He wished entirely to endorse the remarks just made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Balfour) in regard to that portion of the Schedule which related to educational matters; but he differed entirely from his noble Friend on that side of the House (the Marquess of Huntly). He thought it would be a most unfortunate thing if the Secretary for Scotland were to become an Educational Minister. They had just heard that the whole question of administering the Votes for Education, Science, and Art was at present under the consideration of a Select Committee of the House of Commons; and for that reason, if for no other, he thought it would be most unfortunate if they were to place the administration of one Educational Act under the Privy Council, and another, and one only, under the Secretary for Scotland. At the same time, he wished to gay that he would be very sorry to see an Educational Scotch Board which would meet in Edinburgh. He thought that the Educational Committee of the Privy Council was specially well fitted to deal with all questions affecting education, whether in England or Wales or in Scotland, and therefore that it would be able to deal, from a much broader point of view, with all the questions that would arise under these Acts than would a merely National Board; and for that, if for no other reason, he would be very sorry to see the Privy Council resign any portion of its authority. Consequently, when the noble Lord opposite (Lord Balfour) brought forward his Amendment in Committee to omit this portion of the duties of the Secretary for Scotland from the Bill, he should vote in its support.


said, he should be very sorry to disturb the general harmony which had prevailed so far upon both sides of the House with regard to the Bill; but, after what he had said last year, he hoped he might be pardoned if he simply expressed his regret that the Government had thought it necessary to bring it in. Reference had been made to Ireland; but Britain and Ireland were by no means at one, and, however that might be, he had always thought that Great Britain, at all events, was a United Kingdom, although it seemed that Ireland was in a great degree alienated from this country. Although he knew that he had not the support of his compatriots, remembering what he had said last year, he wished to express his regret that the Bill had been thought necessary. Of course, he should not go farther than that; he did not wish to oppose it, but rather to ask one or two questions with regard to points in the Bill on which the intentions of the Government did not seem to him to be very clearly expressed. In the first place, the question of expenses had been alluded to. Then there was the question where was this Office to be located? for, practically, the proposition contained in the Bill was to take away powers of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and to give them over, to a large extent, to another Officer to be appointed; but they had been told by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill (the Earl of Dalhousie) that the now Secretary was to be looked upon as an inferior Officer. Of course, there were two or three subjects that were excepted, and one exemption of an important nature—namely, that in regard to law and justice. He must say he was very glad of that, especially in this respect—that he thought it most essential that the powers of the Crown in regard to the Prerogative of mercy as regarded criminals should still remain in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. There was another minor point. He observed that a Permanent Assistant Secretary was to be appointed by the Secretary for Scotland. By the way the Bill was drawn, he should infer that it was intended rather to be an appointment of a political nature, so that whenever the Secretary for Scotland was changed it would be open to him to change the appointment of the gentleman who was termed in the Bill the Permanent Secretary. He hoped that that was not intended in the Bill, as he could not imagine anything more mischievous than that. If the office were to be a permanent one, as it surely ought, he thought it ought to be entirely free from everything like political bias. He did not think it was the intention of the Government to give it that character, but that was the effect of the Bill as it stood. There were other points to which he took exception. One was with regard to the Lord Advocate. There was no doubt that the position of the Lord Advocate would be greatly changed by the Bill. It was quite true that the Bill nominally provided against that, for the last clause said that— Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or interfere with any right, powers, privileges, or duties vested in or imposed on the Lord Advocate by virtue of any Aet of Parliament or custom. He was not going through the whole clause; it was to the last two words, "or custom," he wished to draw their Lordships' attention. Their Lordships were well aware that, at the time of the Treaty of Union, the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland was reserved to that country, and that it was not until 40 years afterwards, for reasons into which he would not go, that the Office was abolished. From that time, popularly known as the "'45," there was no doubt that the Lord Advocate had practically had the whole of the functions of the Secretary of State for Scotland in his hands. ["No, no!"] He heard that was objected to. He should have said, perhaps, until within recent years—it would be more correct in that way. However, he must say that, as a Scotchman, he had some little jealousy in regard to the status of the Lord Advocate. He was not the Lord Advocate of Scotland; he was the Lord Advocate; there was no other Lord Advocate; and it was, he confessed, with some regret he saw that this ancient Office was becoming rather minimized with, regard to its importance. He could not help thinking that some little difficulty would arise in connection with this matter, and the manner in which it had been dealt with; and this seemed evidently to have been foreseen by the draftsman who had drawn the Bill, because—under orders, no doubt, from the Government—he had appreciated the proposition he had referred to. That was shown by the insertion of the words "or custom" in the Bill. It was rather an interference with what had always until very recent years been acknowledged to be the privilege of the Lord Advocate. With regard to Acts of Parliament, there would probably be no difficulty; but in regard to custom, it would not be easy to say what had always until recent years been acknowledged to be the powers, prerogatives, and privileges of the Lord Advocate as regarded patronage and other matters. He did not wish, as he had said at the outset, to offer the slightest opposition to the second reading of the Bill; but he did hope that the position of the Lord Advocate would still be maintained as one of a proper dignity, as it had been hitherto. He congratulated the Government, notwithstanding his objection, on having brought in a very much better Bill this year than the measure of last year.


said, he was afraid he was almost alone in feeling that the Bill was unnecessary, and that, at all events, if they were to have a Secretary for Scotland, he ought to be a first-class, and not a second-class, Secretary. To make this Bill a truthful representation of what it was, the words "second class" ought to be introduced before the word "Secretary." His main purpose, however, in rising was to ask the noble Earl in charge of the Bill not to ask the House to go into Committee upon it until after the Whitsuntide Holidays, for there had been questions raised in the debate which ought to be fully considered in Scotland and by their Lordships.


My Lords, I think that Her Majesty's Go- vernment may be congratulated on the manner in which the Bill has been received by your Lordships. In so far as criticisms have been made which are not altogether in approval of the Bill, they relate to its details, and not to its principle; and I think, with your permission, I should like to say a few words upon them. I am myself, perhaps, partly answerable for the misunderstanding of the position of the Secretary for Scotland, that seems to have taken place on the part of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Galloway) and the noble Earl who has just spoken from the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss). They both object to having what the noble Earl calls a second-class Secretary for Scotland; and my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Camperdown), no doubt, expressed very much the same feeling, when he said it was hardly likely that a man with £2,000 a-year would find his way into the Cabinet. But when I look around me, I see several noble Lords who receive two and a-half times as much as my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, and yet who are not in the Cabinet. The noble Earl may think the Lord President a second-class President, and if so I can offer him no consolation; but he must reconcile himself as best he can with having only a second-class Secretary for Scotland. When I recollect that the salary not merely of the Lord President, but of the President of the Local Government Board and of the Board of Trade is not more than £2,000 a-year, I can see no possible reason why the Secretary for Scotland, if he is a strong and able man—as strong and as able as these other great Officers of State—should not also find his way into the Cabinet. My noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Galloway) objected to the manner in which the Permanent Secretary was appointed, and asked whether it was to be a political appointment. If it is a permanent appointment, I fail to see how it can be a political appointment. The appointment of a Permanent Secretary is, I believe, generally made by the Parliamentary Chief of the Department in question. As to the position of the Local Advocate, and the manner in which it will be affected by this Bill, I must say the observations of the noble Earl would have had greater weight, if he had expressed, some years ago, when his Party were in power, some such views as he has now expressed, to the then Secretary of State for the Home Department. In that case, the position of the Lord Advocate at this moment would be somewhat different from what it is. I think, therefore, that the regret of my noble Friend comes somewhat too late. The judicial functions the Lord Advocate now exercises will still remain with him, and it is only the administrative functions that will be transferred to the Secretary for Scotland. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Balfour) was anxious to know how the salary was to be paid, and why the clause awarding a certain salary to the Secretary for Scotland and to the Assistant Secretary was inserted in the Bill. Well, I believe that the plan adopted is the manner in which salaries are awarded to Officers of State. I believe that, with the exception, perhaps, of the Secretary of State for India, all the great Officers of State are paid by money voted to the Treasury for the purpose. With reference to a further remark of the noble Lord, the Register House is at this moment under a great Officer of State, and is specially regulated by a Statute passed in 1879, and the Government see no reason why that particular Department should be transferred with the rest to the Department of the Secretary for Scotland. In regard to one question which justly appears to be considered the most important of all, Her Majesty's Government incline to the view expressed by the noble Lord opposite rather than to that of the noble Marquess behind me (the Marquess of Huntly). So far as regards the question of educational endowments, which the noble Lord says ought not to be transferred to the new Department, unless the whole educational machinery is transferred to that Department, that, no doubt, is a point which the Government will take into their very serious consideration; but when the noble Marquess says that he will, in Committee, move that the whole education of Scotland shall be placed under the new Officer, I have to say that, as at present advised, Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to make that change. The Government have carefully considered the question, and have come to this conclusion, to a very large degree, on the grounds put forward by the noble Lord opposite, and I cannot hold out any hope to my noble Friend that Her Majesty's Government will give way in this matter. That question, no doubt, will be discussed again when the House gets into Committee, and I will say nothing more at this moment. I will merely thank your Lordships for the reception you have given to the Bill, and say that, Her Majesty's Government's proposals having received your approval, they are sanguine that the Bill will shortly become an Act of Parliament, and that it will go a long way to meet the wishes of the people of Scotland.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.