HL Deb 16 May 1928 vol 71 cc74-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in June, 1926, the Secretary of State for Scotland gave an undertaking to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills that he would take steps to set up an Executive Commission to inquire into the condition of all the educational trusts in Scotland. In April, 1927, the Secretary of State appointed a Departmental Committee to consider the existing position of these endowments and to suggest the powers that should be given to any Executive Commission that Parliament might set up to deal with them, the principles for their guidance, the scope of their operation and any alternative funds to which endowment funds might usefully be applied. In August, 1927, the Committee submitted a unanimous Report in which it gave an historical account of the endowments and made recommendations as to how they should be dealt with.

The Report makes it quite clear that there is urgent need for change. A large sum of money is involved, amounting to an annual value of £200,000 in 1882 and now to over a quarter of a million, and that money is not being put to the best possible use. It is over forty-five years since the last Endowments Commission was appointed and the legislative and administrative developments that have taken place in the interval—abolition of fees in primary schools, reduction of the number of education authorities and extension of their powers, growth of the bursary system, and the like—have made a new examination of the situation essential. The Inquiry is indeed overdue.

I will summarise very briefly the main provisions of the Bill which closely follows the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. Clause 1 proposes to set up an Executive Commission empowered to review the educational endowment of Scotland and, where necessary, to frame schemes for the better application of their funds. The Commission may, accordingly, alter the purposes to which any endowment is applied and substitute such educational purposes, mental or physical, moral or social, as the Commissioners think fit, having regard to the public interest and existing conditions, social and educational. They may group, amalgamate, combine or divide endowments. Clause 3 says that in reorganising any endowment the Commissioners must take account of the purposes of previous schemes and of the interest of the localities to which they apply. Clause 10 states that they must also save, or make due compensation for, the vested interests of individuals holding any office or emolument under the endowments for which schemes are framed.

Clause 4 states that the powers of the Commissioners do not extend to educational endowments set up after the 31st December, 1920, or to University or theological endowments, or to the Carnegie Trust, without the consent of the governing body. Clause 7 says that in certain circumstances the governing body of an endowment other than an educational endowment may consent to the endowment being dealt with as if it were educational. By Clause 8 the Lord Advocate is empowered in certain circumstances to apply to the Court of Sessions to make schemes for the administration of endowments with which the Commission cannot deal.

In Clause 10 the procedure to be followed in framing and approving schemes is strictly modelled on that prescribed by the Act of 1882 and provides the most ample safeguards. The first stage is the preparation of a draft by the Commissioners, after which opportunity is given to those concerned to lodge objections to its proposals. When the Commissioners have considered any objections that may be made, they frame a scheme and submit it for the approval of the Scottish Education Department. The Department cause it to be published and those interested have a second opportunity of making objections. Thereafter the Department have two alternatives. They may approve the scheme or they may send it back to the Commissioners to prepare an amended scheme—a process which may be repeated "from time to time as often as occasion may require." Any time within two months after a scheme is approved by the Department, interested parties may present a Petition praying that it may be laid before Parliament. If no such Petition is presented, the scheme may be approved by an Order in Council without being laid before Parliament. Provision is also made for the submission of a special case to the Court of Session regarding a scheme on certain questions. The last stage is the approval of His Majesty in Council, which may be given either without the scheme having been laid before Parliament, as we have seen, or, when a Petition has been presented, after it has lain two months and no Address against it by either House has been presented within that period. It is clear from this rapid review that the safeguards provided by the Bill are most adequate at every stage.

There are only two other points to which I need refer. Clause 28 provides simpler machinery for the making of schemes in cases where the annual value of an endowment is less than £50. The powers of the Commission expire on December 31, 1931, and thereafter the Department may, subject to the necessary modifications, exercise the like powers regarding schemes for the future government and management of educational endowments as are conferred on the Commissioners up to the end of 1931. I beg to move that, the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Duke of Sutherland.)


My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships with any observations upon this Bill beyond saying that we on this Bench support it. My noble and learned Leader has been called away, but I am sure there will be general agreement that his opinion upon the matters in question is one of especial value. Had he been present he would have approved the Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.