HL Deb 20 June 1892 vol 5 cc1514-9


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I will ask your Lordships to allow me to explain in a very few words the necessity that has arisen for the introduction and passage of this Bill. Those of your Lordships who are connected with Scotland will be aware that, under the Local Government Act, 1889, the residue of the Probate and Excise Duties, amounting to about £250,000, was assigned for the payment of fees in the public elementary schools. That sum was to be distributed as a capitation grant, but the amount was not a fixed one, because it depended upon the amount of the probate grant for the United Kingdom. For the first year the sum distributed was sufficient to pay a capitation grant of about eleven shillings for every child in average attendance at the public schools in Scotland; for the next year the amount had rather increased, and it was further supplemented by an additional sum of £40,000 paid out of the Local Taxation, the Customs and Excise Act Fund of 1890; so that the whole amount available in that year was sufficient to pay a grant, not of eleven shillings as in the previous year, but of twelve shillings, for every child in average attendance in Scotland. Last year, as your Lordships know, a grant was made of public funds for relieving fees in elementary schools in England. That however, could not be done out of the same fund as was devoted to that purpose in Scotland, because that fund in England had been already devoted to various purposes under the provisions that had been arranged in the previous year. Therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer provided for the payment of fees in English schools out of a Parliamentary Vote, the amount being calculated at ten shillings a head. It is obvious when that was done for England, that Scotland had a claim to an equivalent sum. Scotland, as I have said to your Lordships, had provided for the relief of the payment of the fees of schools out of the Probate and Excise Grant, which had gone in England to the relief of the rates. Therefore, my Lords, when England got the fees paid out of public funds it was obvious that Scotland had a right to have a proportionate sum paid out of the public funds for Scottish purposes. Now the proportion, established by careful inquiry, out of one hundred would be eleven for Scotland, eighty for England, and nine for Ireland. On this calculation the sum which is to be paid to put Scotland on an equality with England in this matter amounts to about £265,000; but it is also obvious that an increased amount will have to be paid to Scotland if the amount paid in future years for England at the rate of ten shillings a head fails to be increased. Now it might, no doubt, have been possible simply to assign this sum of £265,000 a year to the various purposes for which it was thought proper to employ it in England; but I am assured that this would lead to very grave inconvenience, and it would for all time to come have prevented the proper comparison between the local taxation relief granted in England and that granted in Scotland. It has accordingly been thought better to transfer the payment of the fees in Scotland, as in England, to the Imperial Exchequer, and to set free an equivalent sum from the Probate and Licence Duties to be employed for miscellaneous purposes; but, on the other hand, it was not thought right to make the fee grant in Scotland, as it is in England, a mere fixed capitation grant of ten shillings, because the fee in public elementary schools in Scotland averages more nearly twelve shillings than ten shillings. It has, therefore, been necessary to introduce this Bill; and the way in which this Bill regulates the matter is as follows: The Scotch Education Department will receive from the Exchequer a sum equal to eleven-eightieths of the grant for the payment of fees in England year by year. This year that sum will be £265,000; but it will be eleven-hundredths of the sum which is paid to England, whatever that sum may be. To this amount the sum of £40,000, which I have already mentioned as being given under the Customs and Excise Act, 1890, will be added, and in return that fund will surrender £250,000 out of the Probate and Licence residue, and will receive what is left of that residue. This year what is left will amount altogether, as I have said, to £265,000, and with the £40,000 and the remnant of the Probate and Licence residue the sum available for fees in Scotland is expected to amount to £307,000. Now it has been thought better to deal with the distribution of the £265,000, now paid to Scotland for the first time, in a comprehensive manner, and in terms of an Act of Parliament, rather than to leave it to be distributed year by year either at the discretion of the Secretary for Scotland, or by a Minute of any Public Department; and it has been thought better to place in the Act of Parliament, within certain limits, the objects to which it is to be attributed, rather than to leave the matter to local option. It is thought that, if there is a fund so large as this to be struggled for year by year, it would lead in future to a great deal of dispute and very likely jealousy and heartburning; and therefore that it is much better to settle it, so far as it can be settled, within the terms of an Act of Parliament. My Lords, in suggesting to Parliament the allocation of this sum, the Secretary for Scotland has considered carefully the various claims that were made upon him for attention and consideration. Of course there was a party who urged that the whole sum should be given in relief of the rates, and anybody who had a special subject which he thought more specially worthy of attention put in a claim for a share of the fund. My Lords, I am bound to say that in the abstract I think the Scottish ratepayer would have a very strong claim to a very large portion of this fund, perhaps to the whole of it, because he had not for three years got the relief which his English brother had got. At the same time I think the incidence of local rating is not, perhaps, so severely felt in Scotland as it is in England, because new rates, as your Lordships are aware, are in that country, for most purposes, divided between occupiers and owners. I must say I think those who are more particularly concerned in the management of the affairs of the Scottish ratepayer are entitled to have it said publicly on this occasion that they have shown a very considerable amount of generosity in this matter, because so far as we could gather, they are quite content with the allocation which is made in this Bill. The whole sum, as I have indicated, has not been given to the relief of the rates; but, on the contrary, £30,000 a year has been assigned to the Universities, and that sum will be distributed according to an Ordinance which is to be issued hereafter by the Universities Commission which is now sitting. Next, your Lordships will find a provision in the Bill for allocating £60,000 to the purposes of secondary education; £3,000 out of that sum will be required to carry out the inspection of secondary schools provided for under a recent Act of Parliament, but which has only been carried on up to the present time with considerable difficulty for want of funds; and out of that £3,000 also will be paid the expenses of the examinations conducted in most of the higher class schools of Scotland for granting leaving certificates. The balance of the sum that I have mentioned—£50,000—will, I think, be a substantial assistance to the higher education schools. I can assure your Lordships, from my own knowledge, that there is no object to which assistance can be better devoted, or for which assistance is more urgently required, than for the promotion of higher education schools. I had the honour of serving upon a Commission, of which I was appointed Chairman by the noble Lord (Earl Spencer)—who is not in the House now—some ten years ago, and the result of that work, which was to reorganise the educational endowments of Scotland, convinced me that in many districts higher education was suffering from the educational policy of past years—I do not say suffering in any way which might not have been expected, or was not perhaps the inevitable consequence of what had been done for primary education in 1872; but there can be no doubt that, with the exception of a few of the larger centres of population and some districts of the country that were well off for endowments, the provision made from public funds and other sources for secondary education was lamentably deficient, not only for the wants of the population in the abstract, but in proportion to the provision which had been made for primary education; and also in comparison with the attention which has for many years been devoted to University education in Scotland. My Lords, I sincerely hope and believe that this sum of £57,000 will be a really substantial assistance to secondary education in Scotland. A great deal of discussion has taken place as to the terms upon which it should be distributed. That matter is not contained in this Bill; but it has been remitted to a Committee over which Lord Elgin presides, and he has to assist him persons skilled in education, not only as regards the special circumstances of Scotland, but as regards what has been done in Wales, and also with some English experience; and I have no doubt whatever that the outcome of their deliberations will be such that the Secretary for Scotland's Department and the Scotch Education Department will find great assist- ance in specifying the conditions upon which this money is to be distributed. The remainder of this sum of £265,000 which is dealt with under this Act is devoted in the following proportions: £25,000 goes to the Parochial Boards in addition to the grant they now receive for pauper lunatics under the Local Government Act; £50,000 will go to the same Public Bodies for the relief of local rates; and the remaining sum of £100,000 will be given to the County Councils and to the Town Councils, partly in the relief of the rates which they administer, and partly, as the words of the Bill express it, for any scheme of public utility framed by those bodies respectively, but which shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland. You have therefore, in the apportionment of that large sum, the initiation of the Local Authority, controlled and regulated by the wider experience of those at headquarters. I believe, my Lords, that although there has been considerable discussion about the terms of this Bill in another place, so far as I can now gather from the ordinary channels of information and from communications that reach me, there is no general dissatisfaction, but, on the contrary, a considerable amount of satisfaction at the settlement which has been reached, and to which, by passing this Bill, I ask your Lordships to give your sanction. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time; and I propose to put it down for Committee on Thursday next, if your Lordships are good enough to give it a Second Reading to-day.

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

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