Educational Endowments (Scotland) Bill.

– in the House of Commons at on 23 November 1931.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill is small and, I think, non-controversial, but it is very important for the future of Scotland. Scotland is rich in educational endowments. Education has long been planted in the soil of Scotland. Pious donors have given money for, perhaps, the benefit of some area or some class of children. Only the other day the endowments on which the Royal High School at Edinburgh is founded came under consideration. The benefactor in that case was her late Majesty Mary Queen of Scots, who made a gift to the magistrates of Edinburgh of all the patronages and endowments in the city which had belonged to the Franciscan and Dominican Priories. Surely the very antiquity of that endowment suggests to us the reflection that these endowments should be from time to time subject to comprehensive review. No donor could foresee what Parliament was going to do for the enrichment of our conception of the functions of education. The activities of popularly-elected bodies became wider and the contributions from the rates became ever more generous, and thus the original purpose of the founders failed, or became redundant.

There are a great many of those endowments in different parts of Scotland split up under the control of a number of different managing boards of trustees, and, obviously, economy of administration and consistency in the application of the benefits are secured by grouping a number of these funds. After all, under the Education Act, 1918, the 947 school boards were reduced in number to 35 education authorities. It is only natural that some similar process of rationalisation should be undertaken in regard to endowments. In a great many cases the services which those endowments were providing for the children of Scotland are now provided from the rates, and, obviously, the purpose of educational endowment is to confer upon the recipients an educational benefit which they would not otherwise receive. Therefore, for that reason, too, it is necessary, if the spirit and intention of the founders of those endowments are to be carried out, from time to time that the purposes for which those moneys are spent should be reviewed.

An ad hoc commission set up in 1882 sat for seven years and did very valuable work. In those 50 years a great many things have happened. A new corn-mission was set up in 1928 with powers which lasted for three years. Those powers will be exhausted at, the end of this year but the work which the commission undertook will not be completed. Those ladies and gentlemen have laboured with zeal and devotion under the chairmanship of Lord Elgin, and I am sure that we in Scotland are all grateful for the services those members have rendered to the people of Scotland. They have received information of 1,400 separate endowments. It is a great work. They have to ascertain the facts about the management, the trust deeds, the state of funds, the application of the benefits of all those trusts, and they have to formulate principles for imposing those endowments, and, above all, approach the difficult and complicated task of applying those principles to each individual case with proper judgment. They have reviewed endowments in 16 out of the 35 education areas in Scotland. They have conducted preliminary inquiries into 412 endowments, and they have prepared 50 draft schemes amalgamating 450 endowments. They report annually to the House, and have published two reports. Members who are interested in the work which they are doing will find the particulars in those two reports, and the third report is very nearly due. In those circumstances, I feel that I can commend the Bill to Members in all parts of the House, and ask for its speedy pas- sage into law.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I understand that everyone connected with Scotland is in favour of the Bill. [An HON. MENEBER: "No!"] Well, if that be so, the hon. Member will probably object to it. I want to say that being a mere English- man I dare not attempt to interfere even between Scotsmen if they disagree. The only thing we have to do is to pay our share of the money and we shall willingly do so, especially after the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman.

Qustion put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Sir A. Sinclair.]