HL Deb 29 March 1900 vol 81 cc618-21

My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name is not conceived in any feeling of hostility towards the Education (Scotland) Bill. On the contrary, I believe that if the Secretary for Scotland can give the Return for which I ask in a sufficiently detailed form it will provide further data for argument in support of the Bill, and may also have the effect of providing even further funds to be devoted to the purposes of the Bill. The history of the last fifteen years has been rich in instances of grants-in-aid, equivalent grants, and the like. Indeed, I think that those who have not followed the subject closely may well be bewildered with regard to their number and the purposes for which they have been used, and, while I do not for a moment question the good intent of those grants or the way in which they have been applied by the various local bodies, yet I cannot but feel that the utmost benefit has not been got out of them, that in many instances they have been frittered away without conferring as much advantage as they might upon the localities to which they were given, and that even in the cases where they have been applied to the relief of rates, or nominally to the relief of rates, the relief has been infinitesimal, and they have been used rather as funds for extra expenditure which might not properly be charged on the rates. Three of these funds are taken hold of, consolidated, and applied for the purposes of the Bill, but in the speech which my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland made in introducing the Bill* he adumbrated an intention or the possibility of laying some charge on the £100,000 Equivalent Grant. It is with regard to each of the three funds which are named within the four corners of the Bill that I ask this Return, and also with regard to the £100,000 Equivalent Grant which is not specially named in the Bill, but which, I hope, may be charged to some extent for the purposes of the Bill.

*See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxx., page 1031 (16th March, 1900).

Moved, that there be laid before the House a Return of all the funds available in whole or in part under the Education (Scotland) Bill [H.L.], and the purposes for which they have hitherto been used by the various county and burgh authorities in Scotland. (The Lord Tweedmouth.)


I know perfectly well, without the disclaimer of the noble Lord, that his motion is not conceived in any hostile spirit to the Bill. I do not think it will be desirable to assent to the Return in the form in which he asks it, for the reason that in the form in which the motion is on the Paper it would be a duplication of information which is already before the House. The first of the three funds which are taken hold of by the Bill is the technical education money, provided under the Act of 1890. The expenditure of that fund is already given in a voluminous Report which is made year by year to Parliament. The technical name of that Return is the Technical Education Return, and it extends over something like seventy or eighty pages, and is brought down to date each year. I am sure that the noble Lord would be the first to acknowledge that it would be inexpedient to duplicate a Return of that magnitude and detail. The next of the three funds dealt with in the Bill is the secondary education money under the Act of 1892. Equally detailed information as to the expenditure of that fund will be found each year in the Report of the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland. That information extends over something like thirty-five or forty pages, and it is of such a detailed kind that it would not be possible to put it usefully into the form of a Report, or, in fact, to alter the form of the information which is now given to Parliament. The third sum dealt with in the Bill is the £35,000 set apart two years ago for higher education. The first distribution of that money is now being made, and as it is not complete it would not be, at the moment, possible to give the information with regard to that fund which the noble Lord desires; but it is our intention, at as early a date as possible, probably in the next report of the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland, to give the information asked for. If I find it possible to give the informa- tion at an earlier date than the publication of that Report, I will gladly do so. The equivalent grant under the Act of 1892 is not dealt with in the Bill. I think the noble Lord went rather further than I did in saying that I intended to lay hands on a part of this grant. What I said, so far as I remember, was that if I did not ask Parliament to devote it exclusively to secondary education and take it away from the local authorities, I hoped the local authorities would remember that they at present had it if they were asked to make a rate for the purpose of the Bill. The objects to which the money may be devoted are, either to the relief of local rates, in aid of expenses incurred under any statutory powervested in the local authorities in such a manner as they may determine, or to any scheme of public utility framed by them with the approval of the Secretary for Scotland. The amount in 1895 was £132,000; in 1896, £125,000; in 1897, £145,000: and last year £161,000. The sum will not be quite so great this year. Nearly the whole of that money goes at present in relief of rates; a very small portion of it indeed goes to what are I called schemes of utility, and a still smaller proportion to education in any form. I am not quite sure that at the Scottish Office we know exactly how much goes in schemes of public utility, because I have reason to suspect that we are not always consulted, and that our consent is sometimes assumed and not asked for. So far as that fund is concerned, I will endeavour to give the noble Lord what information I have. I am as anxious as he is that full information should be given to the public of the destination of that money, and if he will not press the motion at the present time I will try to agree with him upon a form of Return with regard to that money which will give the information he seeks.


My motion was aimed more at the last fund to which the noble Lord has alluded than the three previous ones, which are to be applied fully to the purposes of the Bill. I am grateful to him for his promise of information with regard to the equivalent grant, and I hope he will be able to give it to the House before the Education (Scotland) Bill is disposed of. I withdraw my motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.