HL Deb 02 June 1899 vol 72 cc164-6

Order of the day for the second reading read.


My Lords, it will be within the recollection of your Lordships that two years ago an Act was passed which constituted a Congested Districts Board for Scotland, and under which certain powers were given to the Board for expending a sum of money which Parliament had set apart for the purposes of the Act. Those powers, of course, are the only ones under which the Board can work, and the experience of the year and a-half's working which we have had has shown us that in some respects they do not confer all the powers which we would like to be able to exercise. It is obviously inexpedient for us to enter upon any enterprise which we are not sure we have the right to carry through in all its developments, and the object of this small Bill, which I now ask your Lordships to read a second time, is in some respects to extend the powers which are given to the Board by the principal Act. The chief object of the Bill is to enable the Board to give grants-in-aid to various localities within the congested districts in aid of practical education. As your Lordships are probably aware, a new Code of Education in Scotland has been promulgated this year, part of the policy of which has been to give large grants from the Imperial funds for this class of work. We do not aim at definite trade teaching, but, on the other hand, we recognise that if the children in these districts are to be made useful citizens, we cannot confine their education wholly to book-work. What we desire to aim at is to develop all their faculties, and by means of practical work to cultivate their faculties of observation and of manual dexterity. Under the Code which I have just mentioned liberal grants are offered to localities which meet the conditions laid down. I am sure your Lordships will consider that it is a sound principle upon which to work that Imperial funds should not be given as a rule except in response to corresponding activity and expenditure on the part of the localities, and there is certainly no intention on my part to in any way cast discredit upon what I have described as a sound principle. I will further say that so far as much the larger portion of the districts in Scotland are concerned, there will, I believe, be no sort of difficulty in their coming forward and meeting the conditions upon which these grants are offered. They know the value of practical education, and they have therefore every inducement to put their hands into their pockets, and to do their part; but in those Highland and poor districts to which the work of the Congested Districts Board is confined the conditions are different. They have the fewest openings for practical education, and yet they are precisely the very districts which cannot contribute out of their own resources to gain the advantages which are offered from the Imperial funds, and one of the chief objects we want to serve by this Bill is to help those poor districts to meet the conditions laid down, and, where we find it necessary, to give them funds which will enable them to obtain the Code grant. We trust that in this way we shall be able to elicit a real, practical interest in these matters, and to get the local authorities to start and manage these schools. The Board are absolutely unanimous that this policy is a right one. Since it has been indicated publicly we have had many representations in favour of it; I believe I may say that all those who have communicated with me have expressed themselves in favour of this policy. I have every hope, if your Lordships will pass this Bill, that it will not encounter opposition in another place, and I ask your Lordships now to give it a second reading.

Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Monday next