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Navy Supplementary Estimate, 1919–20.

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Services and Revenue Departments and Navy Supplementary Estimates, 1919–1920. – in the House of Commons on 17th March 1920.

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Photo of Mr Robert Munro Mr Robert Munro , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) asked me who devised this scheme. The scheme of assistance was initiated in December, 1918, under the Director-General of Civil Demobilisation and the Ministry of Labour, and the Scottish Education Department accepts the administration of the scheme only in so far as it is concerned with the attendance of ex-Service students at courses of higher education at the Scottish University, at central institutions, theological colleges, medical and dental institutions, and so forth. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) asked how such a bad Estimate came to be framed. For the financial year 1919–20 a sum of £68,750 was voted in the first instance. That was a purely provisional arrangement in the absence of any data which would enable one to form any sort of clear or definite idea as to the number of applicants who would come upon the fund. The sum I have mentioned was selected on the familiar basis of being eleven-eightieths of the amount which was voted for the same purpose in England and Wales, that amount being £500,000. The number of applicants for State grants from this fund turned out to be very largely in excess of our highest expectations. The Board of Education for England and Wales took an initial Vote of £500,000, and their Vote was increased on the 14th December, 1919, by a supplemental Vote of £1,500,000, making a total Vote of £2,000,000 for the current financial year. A supplemental Vote is now asked for the Scottish Board for Scotland, bringing the total Vote for the financial year to £318,750. An increase, however, will probably be sought in the financial year 1919–20, and in so far as it is possible to look ahead to the completion of operations under the scheme, it is estimated that the total cost to the Scottish Education Department will amount to something like £1,400,000.

The reason for the great excess in the total number of applicants above that which was originally contemplated was explained by the President of the Board of Education when he presented his Supplementary Estimates for this year, and his statement applies, so far as it goes, to the case of Scotland as well as of England and Wales. There is, however, another reason for the large amount of the Supplemental Estimate which is now asked for Scotland, representing relatively a larger excess above the original estimate than the excess above the original estimate presented by the President of the Board of Education. The amount of the original Vote in Scotland was, as I have pointed out, based upon the Vote for England on the familiar basis of eleven-eightieths, being the proportion of the population of Scotland to the population of England. But I must point out that the number of students who normally pursue a course of higher education in Scotland is far higher relatively to population than is the case in England. Consequently, we find that the number of applicants for grants from the Scottish Education Department under this scheme, instead of being eleven-eightieths, as was contemplated, has been more than twenty-one-eightieths, or nearly double the population ratio. The number of applicants for England and Wales and for Scotland, up to the end of January, was 23,850 and 6,460 respectively. The number of students approved for grants up to that date per 10,000 of the population was in England and Wales, 5.9, and in Scotland, 10.2. The House will agree with me that that explains, if it does not justify, the disparity between my original Estimate and the Supplemental Estimates which I now present.

The House may be interested to hear the latest figures relative to the operation of this scheme in Scotland. The number of applications received was 6,649, the number of condidates approved for grants 4,995, and the number in training under the Scottish Education Department at the present time 4,347. The adminstration of the scheme rests very largely with the authorities of the universities and colleges which are attended by the students, and grants are awarded by the Department on the recommendation of a committee which considers the application and assesses the amount of grant with reference to the financial circumstances of those who apply. I should like to pay a tribute to the work of that committee. The reliance of the Department upon it has justified their trust in the most admirable way, and the committee deserves the thanks of the country as well as the thanks of the Department. I have dealt incidentally with several of the questions put to me, but I should like now to deal with one or two other questions which I have not answered. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) put a very important question to me with regard to the qualifications for these grants, and he and other hon. Members expressed the hope that there was no social distinction drawn between the applicants for the grants. I can assure my hon. Friends and the House that no such distinction is attempted to be drawn, or has been drawn, or will be drawn. The qualification for these grants is a purely educational one, and, subject to the eligibility of those who have served in the military forces of the Crown, the grants are awarded on a certificate from the authorities of the university or the central institution, that the applicant's scholastic attainments are sufficient to justify his admission to a university course. Social status is not considered at all. Certain objection has been taken to the phrase "other ranks." Therefore it may be interesting to give the proportion of grants made to officers and to those of other ranks. The figures are as follows:—Approved for grants: other ranks, 3,018; officers, 1,977. On that particular matter I think the House need have no apprehension that considerations other than those which ought to obtain, namely, purely educational ones, do obtain. I have very great sympathy with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Major Mackenzie Wood) with regard to men who have served from the outset or nearly from the outset of the War. I agree with him that special consideration ought to be given, and I think will be given to all cases of that kind. The House will be disposed to agree that those men should not only not be prejudiced, but, if possible, should be advantaged by their patriotic service extending over a long term of years. I was also asked by another hon. Member (Sir H. Cowan) whether there was sufficient money to meet all applications, or whether a fixed sum had been set apart for the purpose. According to my information, there is no sum fixed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, so far as I am aware, there is sufficient money to meet all the applications which have been made, or are likely to be made in the future. I hope I am not too optimistic in my last statement. At any rate, no grant has up to now been refused on the ground of lack of funds. I was also asked what was meant by the words "men of like standing." I think I have inferentially answered that in dealing with the educational qualification. If I have omitted to answer any questions, I apologise. I have endeavoured to reply to all of them to the best of my ability.