HL Deb 10 May 1900 vol 82 cc1186-214

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


My Lords, my noble Friend, when he introduced this Bill, described it as a, very complicated one, † and I certainly shall not differ from him on that score. This Bill is, indeed, exceedingly complicated. I do not intend to go into its details, but only to discuss what are, I suppose, its main features and its main principles. The first step taken in the direction of improving the existing situation is the consolidation of the various sources of income at the disposal of the Scottish Education Department Into a central fund. In addition to those mentioned in Clause 1, we must, of course, take the Science and Arts grants, although I quite understand why they are not included. All that I should like to say on that point is, that I hope the Secretary for Scotland will be able to obtain greater freedom with regard to the conditions under which those grants are distributed. The noble Lord has not taken into his central fund the equivalent grant, and I was very glad that he did not, on the introduction of the Bill, repudiate the notion that he might annex that fund, or, at all events, a part of it. Last year I believe it amounted to £160,000. I should be quite satisfied if— at all events—the noble Lord saw his way to take the. excess above £100,000— namely, £60,000—into his central fund. The next step is the formation of a local higher education committee in each district mentioned in Schedule 1. Very wisely, I think, the noble Lord does not propose to place these committees on a uniform basis, but to frame a scheme for each district in accordance with the widely divergent needs of the various † For Lord Balfour's speech introducing the Bill, see The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], vol. lxxx., page 1031. districts. The only question which arises on that point is whether a certain fixed proportion should not be given to the school board representatives, and whether the presence of the inspector at their meetings, of which I heartily approve, does not make it unnecessary to add to the committee nominees of the Department, especially if the Bill, as I hope, will ultimately sanction the establishment of a consultative committee, of which I shall have something to say by-and-by. Those committees will have at their disposal the greater part of the Higher Education Fund, and each committee will have the power to determine what schools or classes in the district shall be admitted to the benefit of the Act, of approving or not approving of the expenditure incurred on behalf of those schools, and of determining the scale of fees for any particular school or class; for the purpose of ascertaining the deficiency arising from the excess of expenditure over income. This deficiency is the corner-stone of the fabric of the Bill. Institutions such as higher schools under school boards which at present have no deficit will have to create a deficit in order to obtain the benefits of the Act. It seems to me that it would have been more opportune to ascertain not the financial deficit of each institution, but the educational need of each district, in order that those districts which stand most in need of relief should obtain the greater share of the fund. Under the Bill a district which can establish a large aggregate of deficiencies of individual institutions obtains a large share of the fund. The Bill further proposes to meet the deficiency, as regards one-fourth, by a district rate. It creates a new rating authority. I wish to ask why a school or class which serves one locality only should receive money from a district rate; and why, in that case, a local rate should not be considered sufficient. Where a school has a purely local character it seems to me that the local rate, as at present supplemented by grants from the central fund, ought to meet all the requirements. The principle which has been adopted in Clause 6 of the Bill seems to be the right one. In Clause 6 you have the rule laid down that in the case of an institution which serves, or is capable of serving, the interests of higher education in several districts, those districts shall contribute towards its provision, maintenance, and equipment. That clause adopts what, in my opinion is a right criterion, and it-might very well be extended so as to provide that where an institution serves the interests of one district only that district should be made to supply the contribution, and that where an institution only serves the interests of one parish that parish should supply the rate. If it serves the interests of more parishes the principle of Clause 42 of the Education Act of 1872 can be applied. It appears to me quite clear that, if we are to have a district rate, such a rate can only be used for the purposes of the central institutions mentioned in Clause 6, and for the institutions which are not mentioned in the Bill, but which ace already in existence, and which, I hope, will become more numerous— namely, central institutions for one district only. Where the district only is served by one institution the district rate should be applied without a local rate, and if the local higher education committee wishes to establish such an institution I think powers of management should be given to it. I do not object in principle to the district rate, but I think it should be carefully limited both in its scope and in its amount. The Secondary Education Royal Commission for England also suggested that rating powers should be given to the local authorities of which they proposed the constitution, but they limited the amount which could be levied to twopence in the £. If the equivalent grant or part of it were used for the purposes of this Bill, the rating power could at first be kept in abeyance and regarded, as it should be, as a power in reserve. The passage of the Bill would undoubtedly be much smoother if that were done. Under the Bill there is power to give one-fourth of the deficiency out of the district rate to Voluntary schools. I believe that is an entirely new principle, and one which I am sure will not be universally approved of in Scotland. I think it would be wiser to limit the grants given to Voluntary schools to a distribution from the central fund. Sub-section 3 of Clause 5 will necessarily give rise to much friction, and I would suggest to the noble Lord whether it would not be better to insert in that sub-section a power of appeal, from the decision of the local higher education committee to the Department in any case in which the managers of a school or the school hoard are not satisfied with the decision of the committee, I would further suggest that local higher education committees should have the power of accepting the transfer of endowments or trusts from the existing governing bodies or trustees for the purposes of the trust in any case where those bodies or the trustees would desire to surrender their administration to the local higher education committees. There is no consultative committee in the Bill. Such a committee has been considered desirable in England, and has been established in Wales, and I have not heard any reason given which makes it superfluous for Scotland. The present Secretary for Scotland, with his intimate knowledge of the education question, may, perhaps, not stand in need of a consultative committee, but Secretaries for Scotland are not selected on the ground of their knowledge of Scottish education, and it is likely that some of his successors will regret that a consultative committee was not introduced in the Bill. It is quite true that the Secretary for Scotland can consult, informally, anyone he chooses, but the advice thus received has not the same value as advice which is given by a body created ad hoc, in which an exchange of opinions takes place and in which the representatives speak under a sense of responsibility. I do not wish to have a consultative committee composed merely of representative educational experts. I suggest the appointment on the consultative committee of practical men representatives of the industries, trade, and agriculture of Scotland. It is of the utmost importance that for the purposes of technical education we should obtain the advice of employers of scientific and skilled labour. The fact that the Bill gives great power to the Department, to which I have taken no objection, is an additional reason why the Department should be in communication with some body of representatives in Scotland who are on the spot and thoroughly acquainted with the educational needs and interests of the country. I cordially approve of the inclusion in Clause 16 of technical instruction in the expression "higher education.'' I think that gives a guarantee that technical education will not be overlooked. Technical education, taken in the wider sense in which it has been de- fined in Clause 16, will require a great deal of additional expenditure in order to place it on a proper footing, and I hope that if funds are reserved in Clause 1 they will be reserved mainly for the purpose of establishing some central technological institute, for which, as the noble Lord is no doubt aware, there is a great opening. I have not spoken in opposition to the Bill. I wish to see it become law as soon as possible. In Scotland the education question has never been a dividing line between the two parties, and I hope it never will. Therefore I trust the noble Lord will give due consideration to the suggestions which I have made, and which, as he knows, I have made, in a friendly spirit.


The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland, when he introduced this Bill to your Lordships' notice, said that — Its chief purpose is to organise in one system the administration of the various funds which are now devoted to the purpose of higher education in its various branches; and also to appoint local representative bodies and give them statutory powers for the management of higher education. Those, my Lords, are objects with which we all have the strongest possible sympathy; and for my own part I repeat, as I said on the introduction of the Bill, that I will give all the support I can to the principle of the Bill. At the same time I am bound to point out that I do not think the measure altogether comes up to the high ideal which the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland has set before him, and I think that in some of its methods and in some of its proposals it will require serious amendment before it can be accepted as. a satisfactory solution of the secondary education question in Scotland, The Bill is, of course, full of detail, and there are many points which invite criticism; but in the few remarks I shall make to your Lordships I shall confine myself to the criticism of two main points, which I think require amendment, leaving the smaller points of criticism for future stages of the Bill when they may more appropriately be brought forward. The two points with regard to which I desire to say a few words are—first, the constitution, powers, and functions of the district committees which are set up under the Bill; and, secondly, the method of dealing with the fund which is accumulated under the provisions of Clause 1. I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the exact constitution of these committees. The committee is to consist, in the first place, of a certain number of representatives of the county council of the district; secondly, of representatives of the town council in the case of burghs that have a population above 10,000; thirdly, of representatives of school boards within the district who give facilities for secondary education; fourthly, of representatives of other schools in the district— for example Voluntary schools—which also give secondary education; and, fifthly, of certain members to be nominated by the Scottish Education Department. Now, what are the powers and functions of the committees which are so to be constituted? They are found very fully set out in Clause 5, which consists of no less than twelve sub-sections. In nine of these subsections it is clearly brought out that these district committees are really to be but the figureheads of the management of secondary education in their various districts, and that the body which is to wield the whole power is the Scottish Education Department. It is perfectly evident that not a finger will any one of these district committees be able to move without the express sanction and authority of the Department. I will take a single instance. The committee will not even be able to put a school on its list or remove one without first consulting the Department. There is another clause which shows what a limited power these local higher education committees are to have. In the seventh sub-section it is laid down that whilst they may employ such teachers as they like, and pay what they like to those teachers for the teaching of special subjects in the various districts, either in the school board classes or outside them, yet they cannot do so without the consent of the individual school boards. I make no objection to that so far as the classes within the School Board schools are concerned, but to prevent the committee from constituting special classes outside the school board unless the consent of the board is obtained seems to me an improper limitation of the powers of the committee. In only two sub-sections of the clause have these local committees unlimited power, and both cases relate to the raising or the payment of money. In Sub-section 4, it is laid down that— A local higher education committee shall have power to pay the deficiency ascertained as aforesaid to the extent hereinafter provided. And the last sub-section provides that— A local higher education committee shall have power to defray all expenses properly incurred by them in connection with the administration of this Act. Of course, it is perfectly proper that the local higher education committees should have power to pay their way; but let us sec from what source they are to obtain the funds with which to pay their way. This Bill constitutes the committees new rating authorities in every district throughout Scotland. I am not one of those who say that it is not right to make any contribution from the rates for the purpose of secondary education, but in this Bill there is no limitation as in the English Act and the intermediate Act for Wales. This new authority is given the power, not of raising a special rate within its own district, but, so to speak, of commandeering it from the local authorities. That may be a proper course, but if so the committee set up under the Bill is not the proper authority to execute that power. I think that, without exception, in the past rating authorities have been drawn from the representatives of the ratepayers. In this case it is true that half the members of the committee are to be drawn from county or burgh councils, and that representatives of the school boards which give secondary education are also to sit upon it; but it is surely an entirely new principle to admit to a rating committee the representatives of Voluntary schools and the nominees of the Scottish Education Department. We are not told what will be the proportion either of representatives of the Voluntary schools or of nominees of the Scottish Department; but I do contend that if under this Bill you are going to give large and unusual powers, you ought to take care that the local education committees are truly and entirely representative of the ratepayers. Leaving that question, I come to the funds which are to provide for secondary education in Scotland under this Bill. We find that three separate funds, amounting in all to about £150,000 a year, are to be handed over to the Department to administer as a Central Secondary Education Fund for Scotland. My noble friend proposes to make, as a first charge on that fund, a charge for the expenses of inspection, for certain "equalising grants" of about £3 3s. per head for the pupils in attendance at certain secondary schools, and also for providing contributions to central institutions which serve more than one district. He in that way lays hold of about £40,000 out of the £150,000 which the fund is now calculated to produce annually. That leaves £110,000 to be dealt with by the Department as may be hereafter provided. The charge on that £110,000 in the first instance is to supply one half of the deficiency between the income and expenditure of those schools which are selected by the Department and the secondary committees. I want your Lordships for a moment to consider what is the origin of the funds, and whether it is fair that they should be given over in this way for distribution under entirely new conditions. While I thoroughly agree that it is desirable that these three funds should be applied to secondary education in Scotland, I take exception to the manner in which they are to be applied. They have been given at different times as aids to the relief of local taxation. I regard the funds as distinctly belonging in equal proportions to every ratepayer in Scotland, and I contend that every district is entitled to have a fair and equal share, and to be told what amount it will have in aid of secondary education within its bounds. In the past we who have been connected with the rural and Highland counties in Scotland—I myself am closely connected with one of each —have always complained that the smaller and more sparsely populated districts have not had their full share of these funds owing to the method that was adopted in their distribution, and my own belief is that the effect of this Bill will be to still further reduce the amount given to rural and Highland districts. There is another fund which is available for education in Scotland—namely, the Equivalent Grant Fund, which is put at £110,000, but which in recent years has risen to a very much larger amount. That is an annual sum which is given in Scotland very much on the same lines as the other funds included in the Bill, and the localities are able to apply it in relief of rates and other purposes. I confess that the local authorities have applied it but little to any other purpose than the relief of rates. They have, perhaps, on an average, given £1,000 a year out of between £140,000 and £160,000 to educational purposes, and another average of about £1,000 a year to other purposes, such as public parks, bandstands, bridges, and the like. I have always held that these grants have been the subject of a great deal of waste of money, and so far as this Bill brings them under one head I welcome it. But I still say that under the Bill each district ought to share equally and should not share according merely to accidental circumstances. I am sorry the noble Lord does not make use of the Equivalent Grant Fund and allow a local authority, when it chooses, to draw from its share of that fund for the purposes of secondary education rather than to place a new charge on the rates. I believe that in the interests of secondary education itself this would be better, and I think local authorities would be willing to give a grant from the Equivalent Grant Fund when they would only impose a rate on the district under pressure. Let me give a little example of the way in which it seems to me the money arrangements of this Bill will act. My own county—Berwick—has decided to petition both Houses of Parliament in favour of the Bill, with amendments to secure that the county shall have its full share of the funds under the Bill and also powers to contribute out of the Equivalent Grant Fund towards secondary education within its limits. In Berwick I think we rather went in advance of most counties in Scotland. From the very beginning we devoted the whole of our share of the residue grant to the purposes of technical education. The result was that we instituted a number of dairy, agricultural, and navigation classes. We paid the expenses of schoolmasters who wished to attend classes in Edinburgh to qualify them to teach special classes in their various schools. These classes were more or less successful, but after the novelty had worn off we found they were less well attended, and we were never able to test the amount of good they did by any examinations. We came to the conclusion that we would do better if we concentrated our efforts. The same sort of thing was going on in connection with our Secondary Education Fund. We tried to spread the money, but came to the conclusion that it would be wiser to establish a central school in the county. One was established, and the technical education committee, out of funds they had saved in the earlier years, were able to contribute between £1,000 and £1,200 to the building fund, and something like £200 a year to the general expenses of the school, both on the condition that technical education was given within the school. Then came the power, two years ago, to combine the two funds. We at once took advantage of that, and consequently the whole of our residue grant and our secondary education money has been brought into one fund already. We have this year obtained £300 under the Local Taxation Act, making altogether between £1,500 and £1,600 which we shall have this year to deal with. From that we give £60 in aid of the secondary department in the Coldstream School, and £40 to the secondary department in the Lander School, the rest of the money being devoted to our central, secondary and technical school in Duns. By this means we give completely free secondary education, and also pay the railway fares of students attending from all parts of the county. More than that, we even make an additional allowance to those who do not live near a railway station to enable them to come by other moans. All that is carried on by the amount we receive from these funds. Now what will be our condition under this Bill? I maintain that we shall be infinitely worse off than we are now. In the first place, out of the £40,000 that the noble Lord takes hold of, we shall ouly receive such share as we may have under the equalising grant. The expenses of inspection in Berwickshire will be very small indeed, and therefore under that head we shall be losers and not gainers. But when I come to the question as to what we shall receive out of the remainder, I have to point out that under the Bill it is laid down that first shall be determined the difference between income and expenditure. The whole of our income will then consist of £3 a head equalising grant, and such grants as we may get from the Science and Art Department. We have no endowments and no fees. The whole of the remainder will be deficit. Of that deficit we can only receive one half from the fund, and we shall have to impose a rate for the other half. It will therefore be seen that we shall have to impose a considerable rate on the county, and at the same time receive a very much smaller sum in aid of secondary education out of these throe funds than we now get by receiving our whole share. I have no doubt that there are many similar cases to be found in Scotland. Let me just repeat the changes which I think are necessary in order to make the Bill satisfactory. In the first place, I say that if you are to retain the district committees as rating bodies, you must get rid of all the members of those bodies except the representatives of the local authorities and the school boards. If you are going to take away the rating power and establish them merely as education committees, then I have little to say as to the constitution of the committees except this, that instead of the Department nominating extra members on those bodies, the proper thing would be for the bodies themselves to co-opt such members as are wanted. The Department is to be well represented on these committees as it is, because the district inspector is to have a seat upon them. He will be able to express the views of the Department, and, in turn, to report to the Department the views of the various committees. The powers of the district committees should be greatly freed from the overburdening hand of the Department. The committees must be given initiative. I believe that if you get good district committees, and give them full power, and thus excite an interest to push education in their particular districts, you will get a much greater advance in the interests of secondary education than would be possible by throwing all the work on the Department. With regard to the distribution of the fund set up in Clause 1, let it be divided equitably amongst the different districts in Scotland; that is to say, amongst the various counties and the six school board districts mentioned in the Bill, if you like, throw the cost of inspection as a first charge on the amount of the fund that is given to each particular district; throw the £3 a head equalising grant as a second charge, and then allow the remainder of the fund to be applied to the purposes of secondary education in the district; and if it should be found sufficient in any district to supply the whole needs of that district, then I say let it do so, and let us avoid any charge on the Equivalent Grant Fund or on the rates. Next I would say, give the local authorities statutory power to enable them to contribute towards secondary education within their district out of the Equivalent Grant Fund; and if it is necessary to retain the rating power, let it be limited to, say, one penny in the £, the same as in the English and Welsh Acts. I thoroughly agree with my noble friend Lord Reay that where assistance is to be given from the rates to a school board the rate should be levied on that particular school board district. As a rule, a school board school only gives means of education to scholars within its own district. It may in some cases give education out of its district, and I would then say, bring in the other parishes who benefit; but I do think it would be far better that any deficiency should be made up from the rates within the district of the school board, and not out of the general rate of the county. But in the case of district schools which serve the whole district, the rate in respect to them should be charged on the district as a whole. Those are some of the points which seemed to me worthy of consideration, and which I desired to bring before the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland. There are many other points. I think the House will have gathered that the Bill bristles with points of detail. It seems to me perfectly impossible to deal with the Bill in Committee of this House. Neither House of Parliament is particularly fond of applying itself to Bills which concern Scotland. They affect to believe that they cannot understand Scottish methods. The only satisfactory way of dealing with the Bill is to refer it to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. That would secure for it a thorough discussion, and would facilitate its progress and secure a far more valuable measure than the one which the noble Lord has introduced.


My Lords, I concur in a good many of the remarks which have been made by the noble Lord who has just sat down, but with his last remark I am afraid I do not agree at all. If I may offer any advice to the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland, it will be not to send the Bill to a Select Committee. This question of higher education does not affect Scotland alone; it affects England and Wales as well, and it seems to me that, approximately, the same principles ought to be adopted in dealing with the question in all parts of the kingdom. I believe the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council intends shortly to introduce a Bill, which I presume will be something similar to this, for England, and I hope that before we get into Committee on this Bill, when there will be considerable discussion as to detail, we shall have an opportunity of seeing the Bill of the noble Duke, and of being able to compare the principles which he proposes to apply to England with the principles which are applied by this Bill to Scotland. Like the other noble Lords who have spoken, I am not at all unfriendly to the Bill; but this is a subject which cannot be disposed of without careful and minute consideration, for the issues of it are very important. I would impress upon the House that this Bill is one of excessive centralisation. I do not think I have ever read a Bill in which the principle of centralisation was so strongly enforced. This Bill, speaking generally, hands over higher education in Scotland —including, indirectly, rating—to the Scottish Education Department. Every Scotsman knows that we are extremely fortunate in the present head of the Scottish Education Department. The noble Lord has made a thorough and careful study of education as applied to Scotland, and has done exceedingly good work in that direction. But while expressing every regard for the present head of the Department, I do not think we can altogether assent to handing everything which is connected with higher education over to the central Department. This proposal will not be approved of in Scotland, nor do I think, if you select your higher education committees entirely on the principles laid down in this Bill, that you will obtain the services of many good men, who would be only too anxious to serve if they had something really in their power to do. In the first place, the existing funds are entirely handed over to the Education Department. Speaking for myself, I do not say I object to that. With limitations I think that is necessary; but when we come to the formation of the committees we find that they are to be constituted entirely by the Department. The Department are to make inquiry and to prepare a scheme, and the only limitation which is imposed upon them is that half of the members are to be nominated by the county councils and the town councils. If the committee were purely an educational committee, it might not be necessary to say so much about it; but, as my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth pointed out, it is a rating authority. As soon as the difference between income and expenditure has been ascertained, and the sum to be paid has been divided between the local higher education committee and the representatives of the particular school or schools interested, the local committee issues a precept, and that precept must be complied with by the county council. That is to say, with regard to higher education, you give to a body which may be nominated up to one half by the Department an absolute power of imposing an unlimited rate.


Not nominated up to one half by the Department. At least one half must be municipal, and the whole of the school board representatives are included in the other half.


It does not follow, so far as the county is concerned, that more than one half of the local committee will be elected by the county representatives. You create, as I have said, a local committee which has absolute power of imposing an unlimited rate; and the purposes for which this rate is levied are not limited to the purposes of higher education. They extend to central institutions and to bursaries, and at the name time you have taken away entirely from the control of the committee the funds out of which the local committees at the present time make disbursements towards higher education. I insist upon that a little, because I think it is necessary to point out what a very large departure in this way you are making. You have never done anything like it anywhere else. In Wales the procedure is the very reverse. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act says— Where a County Council recommends that any annual contribution shall be made out of the county rate a scheme under this Act may direct the contribution so recommended, or any less contribution, to be made accordingly. In that case the initiative rests with the representatives of the ratepayers— namely, with the county council; and the local committee can only propose a contribution of that sort if it has originally been suggested to them by the county council, and then only to the extent to which the county council suggests. The rate, moreover, is limited to one halfpenny in the £. But in this Bill the rate is absolutely unlimited in amount. The bursaries and matters of that sort are suggested and approved by the Department, which has had handed over to it the existing funds. It does not follow that the Department will have a very large amount of money to grant to the county councils for these purposes. It is conceivable that the money may nearly be exhausted, but the deficiency, whatever it may be, must be provided in the first instance by means of a precept from the local committee, which must be complied with by the county council. With regard to the committees themselves, I should be glad if the noble Lord could find some way to make them a little more representative, or a little less nominated by the Department. I believe there will be a good deal of feeling in Scotland when this matter is properly understood.


As the Bill now stands, there cannot be more than two or three on each committee nominated by the Department.


I merely take the wording of the Bill, which says— The Department shall, after due inquiry, prepare a scheme for the constitution of the Local Higher Education Committee in each district, and so on. It provides certain general rules, but the scheme entirely starts from the Department, and does not in any way originate with or depend upon the local authorities. The local authorities have always taken a great interest in this matter, and they would naturally desire to have a little more power in their hands and be allowed a little more to say in the constitution of the local authorities than is provided by the Bill. While the expenditure will be considerably higher than it has hitherto been, so far as the localities are concerned, the amount of public money they will receive to assist to make up the deficiency will be less. I am one of those who do not like the pro- posal that the charges under the Bill are to go on the local rates. I feel quite certain that if the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland could really do what he liked he would prefer to take the money from the taxpayers, for in reality it is not merely the particular ratepayers who derive the benefit from these institutions, but the whole of the country. But I know the noble Lord would be met by the old obstacle—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At any rate the noble Lord would not get anything in the present year out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has therefore to fall back on that unfortunate person, the local ratepayer. That is all the more reason why the interests of the local ratepayer should be thoroughly looked after. Endowments are dealt with in Clause 8 of the Bill, and it is proposed that when the income from endowments is less than or equal to the proportion of the deficiency which the school has to make up it is to be applied for the purpose of meeting such proportion; and when it is greater than the sum required some of it may be handed on to provide the deficiency which is to be borne by the local Higher Education Committee. I have looked in the Bill, but have failed to find any definition of "endowments." I presume public endowments are included as well as private endowments. Is it certain that persons who have left endowments would wish to see them applied for the purpose of relieving rates, for that is what it comes to? It has been pointed out to me that a wholesale use of endowments for this purpose might very likely have a tendency to dry up private benevolence. In this matter considerable regard must be paid to the feelings and intentions of those who have provided these endowments. I quite agree with the noble Lord who spoke last in the suggestion he made as to the desirability of dividing this fund amongst the various counties and districts. There is no such proposition in the Bill, but I believe it would be very acceptable indeed throughout Scotland, where great objection is felt to altogether handing over these funds to be dealt with solely according to the wishes of the Department. No doubt we shall have ample opportunities of discussing the details of the Bill when we get into Committee.


My Lords, the noble Lords who have spoken have all of them professed a desire to promote the passing of this Bill into law, but I think the remarks which they have made have involved a considerable amount of rather trenchant criticism. That criticism, however, as was to be expected, was very much concerned with details, the discussion of which I imagine will be better pursued when we get to the Committee stage. I am desirous of saying a word or two on this occasion, because I was associated with the noble Lord who has introduced the Bill when he was dealing some fifteen years ago with what I may call the first stage of the subject—the reform of the endowments of Scotland. It must be a great satisfaction to the noble Lord, as it is to me, who was his colleague, that it has fallen to his lot to introduce this Bill, which proposes to perfect and complete the work then begun. I think it must also be encouraging to him to find that many of the objections which are taken now echo objections which were even more vehemently stated whet) we had this subject under consideration then. We have heard things said in this House and out of doors which revive the old argument that the benefits of the Bill are intended for the few. It is said that they ought to be left to shift for themselves, that they ought not to receive support from public money, and that if they are to be supported from this source the money should not be taken from the local rates, but from the Imperial Exchequer. I, for my part, protest against this belittling of the question. It is quite true that if we proceed simply on the counting of heads the number of those who pursue education to its higher stages must be much less than those who are benefited by primary education; but if we look beyond the mere statement of the inferiority of numbers to the assumption which I think underlies that assertion—namely, that the benefits of higher education are confined to those who are better able to pay for it, then I think we get on unsafe ground. This is contrary to the whole spirit of Scottish education, for in Scotland it has always been the pride and boast that a poor boy from the parish school could get an education which would qualify him for the university, and to rise to any eminence in life if he had capacity. We all know that the position of the parish school has, under the force of circumstances, very much altered from what it was in former days, and although no doubt there are still schools under the management of school boards from which boys can go to the university as they could from the parish schools of old, yet I think it will not be disputed that more is necessary to put the poor lad in a position of equality with his richer neighbours. At any rate, I think that is one of the main principles which this Bill is brought in to establish, and I imagine that if my noble friend had only wished | to bring in a Bill to regulate the schools of the well-to-do he would have proceeded on very different lines. A good deal has been said about the distribution of powers under this Bill, and I cannot help thinking that there must be some great misunderstanding about them. My noble friend Lord Tweedmouth has spoken very strongly of what he calls the wholesale interference of the Scottish Education Department. I confess that on my first reading the Bill I had some suspicions in that direction myself, but we have seen in the public prints that the Secretary for Scotland has taken an opportunity of declaring publicly that we are mistaken in this matter and that the Bill, as a matter of fact, involves a large devolution of powers to the local authorities, and that all that he desires is to maintain for the Department sufficient power to form the basis of a general system. If that definition can be established I do not suppose that many people would be inclined to take exception to it, for certainly we do require somebody to arbitrate in this matter for us, and the Scottish Education Department is the fit authority to do it. For my own part, I cannot help thinking that the phraseology of the Bill, due no doubt to the great complexity of the subject, is at fault, and means might be taken when we come to the Committee stage to make this matter very much clearer to the general public. My noble friend who spoke last alluded to the excessive centralisation of the Bill. I confess that as I read it I thought it was rather the other way. I understand the intention of the Bill is that wherever possible the management of every school and class should be in the hands of the school board of the district in which the school or class is situated, and, if I am right in this, I am bound to say that I think the Bill as a whole is in the right direction. I am not disposed to undervalue county administration, but, whatever may be possible in smaller and more compact counties, I am confident that in the larger ones, especially those which are split up into several districts, as is the one to which I belong, whore members have to travel a considerable distance, a minute administration of local details on the part of the central body is impossible. When we come to the administration of a school or class where it is essential that the managers should take a close interest and should be able to give adequate supervision, I quite agree that the school board is the proper authority; but there are exceptions. One of those exceptions is that to which, my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth alluded—namely, agricultural classes. We have had dairy classes in our county, and I do not see how it would be possible to organise dairy classes for each separate school board, even if each separate school board contained members who were capable of giving the supervision which is necessary. It is said that there are powers in the Bill for the Local Higher Education Committee to appoint special teachers, but, as Lord Tweedmouth pointed out, it is necessary, even in a case where the school board takes no interest in the class, to obtain the consent of the school board, and I think this is a provision which might well be modified. There is another class of persons interested for whom should like to say a word. Their case gives me some anxiety. As I understand it, the intention of the Bill is to draw a line by the merit certificate. The school board is to undertake the whole of the education up to the merit certificate, including, I suppose, the evening continuation classes, and the Local Higher Education Committee is to pronounce upon all the education above the merit certificate. In the administration of technical classes in our county we have been somewhat more successful than my noble friend seems to have been in Berwickshire in keeping up the interest in those classes. We have found that a very large proportion of those who attended them were young men and young women above school age who had left school before their education had reached a very advanced point, earlier, no doubt, than will be possible under the later provisions of this Bill, but who had found that some technical training would be of use to them, and were anxious to attend classes which would prepare them for usefully undertaking that technical training. I do not quite see how their case is provided for under this Bill. I am not sure that the School Board would have power to provide classes for people of that age, and I am not at all sure that even if they had the power they would be very willing to do it in all cases; and I am more than doubtful, if they did provide it, whether the young persons would quite so readily go to a School Board class as they would to a class established under the county authority. At any rate, it seems to me that here is a class of persons whom we may hope under the provisions of this Bill will diminish in future years, but who at present are in considerable numbers and deserve every encouragement. I should like the noble Lord to consider whether it would be possible to make provision in the Bill for the county authority being enabled to establish preparatory classes, strictly, of course, in connection with subsequent technical training for this particular class of persons who are above school age. I venture to hope that the noble Lord will no., accept the proposal of my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth to send the Bill to a Select Committee, because it is of considerable importance that it should be proceeded with without delay. We have had considerable difficulties in the administration of higher education as it is at present, but the very fact that this Bill has met with so much approval will, I am afraid, possibly lead to oven greater difficulties in the future if it does not pass. For this reason. It is perfectly certain that a Bill on some such lines must pass, and everything in the meantime is left in an unsettled condition. I can illustrate this difficulty by what has happened to us in Fife during the present week. The question arose as to whether, in our schemes for secondary education for the ensuing year, we could offer the same tenure to our bursaries—two or three years—as we were wont to do, seeing that this Bill was in progress. I take it that the authorities established by this Bill will be obliged to undertake the obligations of their predecessors. I mention this only to show that such difficulties may be stated, and I think it might be well if the obligation on the future authorities was clearly expressed in the Bill. I hope my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland will persevere with the Bill and carry it into law this session.


My Lords, before the House proceeds to a decision, I should like to say a few words upon some of the points which have been raised in the course of this discussion. Neither elsewhere nor here have I been at all dissatisfied with the reception which this Bill has met with. I admit that it is a complicated Bill, and that it deals with large and important questions upon which it is quite possible to hold a great variety of opinions. The Bill, as has been evident in the course of this discussion, also to some extent touches upon the difference of circumstances and opinions which prevail in different parts of the country. The conditions which we have to meet in the densely populated centres of Scotland, and in the sparsely populated rural districts of the country, are very different, and it is almost impossible—in fact, I may say it is quite impossible—that any hard and fast conditions, or any cast-iron rules which may be laid down, either in the Bill or by the Department, can apply with equal fairness throughout all the districts of Scotland. A great many of the points raised are more appropriate for Committee than Second Reading, but I frankly express my indebtedness to the noble Lords for having brought before me points which have raised difficulties in their minds, because I shall thus be enabled to consider them before the Bill reaches the Committee stage. There are three main provisions round which criticism has largely centred —(1) the constitution of the local higher education committees and their relationship to the Scottish Education Department; (2) the proposal to have a power of rating for higher education in future; and (3) the method of providing and distributing the central funds which are amalgamated for the purpose of higher education in Scotland. With regard to the constitution of the Committee, it is a distinct provision of the Bill that one-half at least of the Committee are to be appointed from the various municipal authorities, whether county or burgh, while another considerable element will be appointed by the school boards. There will be also, in some cases, and in some cases only, the representatives of the managers of other schools, and there is a provision entitling the Department to appoint some members. There is no idea, either in my mind or, so far as I know, in the mind of anybody else, that the representatives so selected should be in very large numbers. Certainly they would always be in a small minority compared with the other elements composing the Committee. The inclusion of these members has been made use of in more quarters than one to discredit the proposal to give any rating power to the Committee whatever. I do not know what the ultimate decision of Parliament will be. If the infusion of these one or two selected representatives was to be a bar altogether to giving any rating power I would say let these representatives go. If, on the other hand, it is ultimately decided by Parliament that there is to be no rating at all for higher education in Scotland, then I would say that the case for having an infusion of members nominated by the Department is on that account immensely strengthened, because it will be largely central funds which will be dealt with. If we are not to have both Parliament must make the choice between the two. But a much more serious attack has been made on the Bill in regard to the powers to be given to the Local Higher Education Committees. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedmouth, said they would be merely figure-heads, and would have no real power. I am quite certain that in a few minutes I can show him that that is a misapprehension of the provisions of the Bill. I maintain that there is much less centralisation in the Bill than there is in the existing condition of affairs. Under the Minutes which at present govern the administration of these funds it would be to a large extent true to say that these higher education committees are the creatures of the Department. They have no statutory powers, and almost everything they do is subject to the approval of the Department. Yet I can assure your Lordships that during the time I have been at the Scottish Education Department we have had complaints from many parts of Scotland that more authority has not been vested in the Department to give guidance and to prevent waste in districts where local committees have gone wrong. I frankly admit, however, that if real freedom is to be given it must be freedom to do wrong as well as to do right, and there is no intention in this Bill of preventing the committees from learning by experience of going wrong, provided their wrong-doing does not react unduly on other committees not respon- sible for their action. I would ask, however, to which of the powers given in these clauses objection is really seriously to be taken? The first of these powers given to the Department is to submit a scheme to Parliament for the constitution of the local committees. We shall, as a matter of course, do all we can to inform ourselves of local opinion, and the desire of the locality as to how these committees should be constituted, and after we have come to a decision we are obliged to present our scheme to Parliament. The question I ask is, if the Department is not to undertake this work who is to do it? There is really no other authority which is so directly under the control of Parliament, and which can proceed on something like uniform principles for the whole of Scotland. The next power given to the Department is to submit rules to Parliament in accordance with which the money is to be spent. It not proposed that these shall deal with the details of each individual case, but that they shall lay down the general principles. Without such rules there would be absolute chaos, and I venture to say that no other authority than the Department which is responsible to Parliament could lay down those general principles. Then, again, a great has been made of the power which is given to us to decide in cases of the admission or exclusion of schools. All that is really intended in the clause is that if there is a local grievance about the admission or exclusion of a school, it shall be possible to appeal to the Department. However, if it would remove the scruples of noble Lords opposite and others who agree with them, I shall be perfectly willing in Committee to insert words which will make it quite clear that the Department is only to act in cases where complaint is made to it, and is not to alter the arrangements locally made if the locality are unanimously satisfied with them. So far as the financial arrangements are concerned the committee are in each individual case supreme. In the case of their contributing to central institutions all that the Department has to do is, if the committee asks to be represented on the committee of the central institution, to say how much they should contribute in return for that representation. But the initiative of proposing to be represented rests entirely with the locality. There is no power whatever proposed to be given to the Department to force any locality to contribute to a central institution. Another power which we take is to carry on examinations. It is, I think, perfectly clear that the Department is the only body which can do that, if you are to have a uniform standard throughout the country, and I think it is absolutely certain that the schools throughout the country would not have confidence in any authority other than the Department for this purpose. The fact of the matter is, the functions proposed to be taken by the Department are those of co-ordinating, and organising, and preparing general rules rather than of actually exercising authority or direction. That rests with the committees, and I would suggest that, as a means of maintaining economy, and efficiency, of letting one authority know what another is doing, of comparing results, and of giving advice, it is absolutely necessary that some central authority such as the Department should have a considerable amount of power. The noble Earl who spoke last seemed to think that the county councils were being unfairly treated on account of the provision in one of the clauses that they were not to conduct classes or give education in the district of a School Board, unless with the consent of that Board; and he added, if I understood him rightly, that it might not be in the power of the School Board to give that kind of education. The proposal is not that only the School Board should give the education, but that the county committee should not give the education except with the consent of the School Board, the object being to prevent overlapping and waste, and to secure that the statutory authority which is responsible for the education of the district should have a voice in what is being done. If that provision goes too far in the opinion of the House, when we reach the Committee stage I have no doubt we shall be able to find words which will modify and improve it. The next point is as to the power given for rating for higher education. There has been a very considerable amount of misapprehension in regard to this subject, and in my opinion an entirely undue amount of alarm has been caused by the provisions of the Bill. It is perfectly certain that if the scheme of this Bill is to go on, some more funds than are now provided, either locally or by endowments, or from the different grants devoted to education, will be required. As I said on introducing the Bill, there are two sources from which those funds could be secured. One is the imposition of a moderate rate fairly distributed over all the localities interested; the other, the taking of some part of the Equivalent Grant which has been more than once alluded to during the discussion to-night. I deliberately chose the former course in preference to the latter for reasons of economy, and because I thought it would tend to more efficient local control. I venture to think that if this money, which everyone who has discussed this Bill has admitted is required, is to be raised, economy will be more readily studied if the funds are taken out of the rates than if they are paid out of the Equivalent Grant. We do not require a fixed sum. We could not say to each district, "you shall have such and such a portion of the Equivalent Grant for this purpose," because the needs of each district would vary, and such a course would tend to the giving of more money than was required in some districts and perhaps not enough in others. I say again, as I said on introducing the Bill, that if the deliberate judgment of Parliament is that it would be wiser to take a part of the Equivalent Grant which is now in the hands of the local authorities rather than to give a power of rating, I do not know that I shall offer any very strenuous opposition to the proposal. But this I do impress upon the House, that someone provides this money. There is a sort of idea in the locality that when you get money from the Imperial Funds it drops from the skies. I believe the guarantees for economy are better if you have the ratepayers and those they elect looking after the expenditure than if you hand over a portion of the Equivalent Grant Fund. The amount of money to be spent under the provisions of the Bill will depend on the local committee and not on the Department. It is said that these committees are not to be directly representative. I would point out that there are precedents for giving power to issue a precept upon the rates to a body not directly elected. The District Lunacy Boards, for instance, have that power at the present time over a great part of Scotland, but I have said enough to indicate my position in regard to those provisions, and a further and detailed discussion on the point must stand over until the Committee stage. I think it was indicated by my noble friend Lord Camperdown that he thought a rate for higher education was in itself wrong, and ought not to be imposed, but this is no new feature in Scotland, for at this moment burgh school boards which have higher schools do rate for higher education. The School Board of Edinburgh spend £2,000 or.£3,000 in that direction. I have seen it sometimes suggested that by imposing a rate for higher education you are rating the poor for the benefit of those who are better off. A greater fallacy was never suggested. The well-to-do somehow or other will get their children educated, but it is the humbler classes, who are unable to send their clever children away from home to get this education, that are more prejudiced if there is no public provision of which they can avail themselves Whatever noble Lords may say, the present provision is unjust to some localities. Lord Reay seems to think that you can confine the rating for a higher school to the very district which it at present serves, and I think Lord Tweedmouth suggested that you could divide schools into two classes —those which do and those which do not serve any given school district; but you cannot make that distinction. There is hardly a burgh school in Scotland which does not do a great amount of good in educating children beyond the limit of the burgh. I will give the House an example of what I mean. The towns of Stirling and Dumfries are both situated at the edge of the county. Children come to the High School of Stirling from the districts outside, and very often the ratepayers of these burghs feel that it is an injustice that they should be rated for the benefit of other districts; and, so far from its being unjust to rate the county districts for the High school which is in the burgh, it will be putting the burden on the very shoulders of those who have in the past received the benefits. I think there are undue fears felt as to the amount which this rate may reach. More than once the term has been used that it is "unlimited." If it is thought worth while, and if it will take away opposition, I am perfectly willing to impose a limit, though I think experience has shown that a statutory limit is not always successful. Those who have studied the financial provisions of this Bill will see that they afford a very effective limit. The total amount available from the central funds, after the preferential charges are taken off, is about £100,000, and the localities have to provide an equivalent sum, half of which will be obtained by fees and endowments and from other sources of income, so that at the most all that is likely to be asked for locally for the purposes of the Bill is not more than £45,000 or £50,000. I believe it will be found that there is in the financial arrangements of the Bill as effective a check as it is possible to give on the amount that will be drawn from the rates for higher education. Both Lord Reay and Lord Tweedmouth made some comments upon the method of distributing the higher education funds. If I understood Lord Reay rightly, he said we ought to have ascertained in each case the educational needs of each locality, but he did not give us any standard which we were to apply, and I must say it would be very difficult indeed to find one. I myself shrink from undertaking the task, and I do not know what standard I should apply. Am I to take into account endowments, or am I not? If I am, then those localities will no doubt suffer. If I am not to do so, I do not know what is meant by taking into consideration educational needs. My noble friend Lord Tweedmouth suggested that there should be equal distribution of the funds over the various districts. I do not know in what way that is to be done, whether it is to be by population or rateable value. I prefer the method in the Bill, which proportions the grant to the efforts of the locality, and is, so to speak, a payment by results. It is to encourage those who will put their hands into their own pockets. Lord Tweedmouth brought forward the case of sparsely populated and rural districts, and said they would suffer under the Bill. He instanced the case of the school at Duns. I should be very sorry if the county of Berwick should suffer to the extent the noble Lord seems to fear; but I will look carefully into the matter, and, if his fears are well founded, will endeavour to find some means of meeting the difficulty. At the same time, I would point out that in an Education Bill it is not easy to take into account questions of sparse populations and such questions as my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth has raised, which are rather economic than educational. If districts are poor we should endeavour to find some other means of meeting their needs, as we have done under the provisions for elementary education. The noble Lord who spoke first (Lord Reay) mentioned the question of the Consultative Committee. I think he was the only noble Lord who took any interest in that proposal. It has been discussed and debated since the Bill was introduced, and, so far as I am concerned, I can only say that I have had quite as many representations against the idea as I have had in favour of it. I still prefer the view that those who are interested in any particular subject should make their own suggestions to the Department. The noble Lord said that a Consultative Committee could be formed of those who were interested in trade and agriculture, so that the Department might have advice on both those questions. But I venture to suggest, situated as we are, that it is better that those interested in trade and technical education should put forward their own views, pure and undenfiled, straight to the Department. I am, therefore, as at present advised, entirely unconvinced of the necessity for a Consultative Committee in Scotland. The noble Lord opposite will remember that on the introduction of this Bill I made him a promise that before the Second Heading I would endeavour to have made public the principles upon which we propose to divide the grant of £35,000 under the minute of 1898. I had hoped that we might have been able to publish the exact details of the distribution, but we have not been able to do so. We have, however, decided what are the fairest lines to proceed upon, and three elements have entered into our consideration. Firstly, we think that, in accordance with the analogy of other minutes, there should be a fixed payment to each school in recognition of its status as a higher class school. That fixed payment has been given at £150. Secondly, there is to be a capitation grant on the attendance of pupils over twelve years of age. We do not think that attendance should be the deciding element for the whole grant, but we do think that it should be an important element. Thirdly, we thought that the grant should boar a certain relation to the local rate, and that an allowance should be made to cover any rate over 1d. in the £. Lastly, to prevent any undue disproportion between the grants, we have thought it right to fix a minimum of £300 and a maximum of £750. Grants on this basis have been announced to all the various schools concerned, and, so far as is known at present, they have been accepted as reasonable and fair. Certain amounts still remain to meet contingencies, the distribution of which will engage the attention of the Department. I have only to say again, in conclusion, that I have no reason to complain of the reception the Bill has met with. I do hope that the noble Lord opposite will not persevere in his suggestion for a Select Committee. It is clear that the main point of the controversy, the greatest point of difficulty, with regard to the Bill is that of rating, and I would venture to suggest that the provisions with reference to that would be better dealt with in another place than in your Lordships' House, and that it is more advisable that a final decision upon them should be come to elsewhere. I propose to take the Committee stage upon this day week.


I think it would be more convenient if the noble Lord could fix the Committee stage for Monday week instead of Thursday, as that would allow more time in which to propose the Amendments which some of us desire to move.


My reason for pressing on is that I am very anxious that the Bill should, if possible, go to another place before the Whitsuntide recess, but unless the other stages of the Bill are taken with rapidity we may have some difficulty in achieving that object. I will, however, consider the request of the noble Lord that a little longer period should elapse before the Committee stage is taken.

On Question, agreed to.

Bill road 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Monday, the 21st inst.