§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question—[17th July]—"That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Questions again proposed.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. F. C. Thomson)
I made an explanation when moving the Second Reading last week. I went through all the Clauses.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I beg to move to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
In the absence of any explanation I am under the necessity of moving the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper. There are, no doubt, useful points in the Bill which was introduced by the Government in another place. Several Amendments were put forward which were accepted by the Government on the understanding that, if they were opposed in this House, the Government would reconsider the matter. I am sorry to say that there is a very important Clause which makes a fundamental alteration in the administration of schools in Scotland. That Clause is one which practically takes away any powers from the school management committees. That is a very important point of educational administration. Only a few years ago we had in Scotland 984 school boards. That meant that the administration was spread over small localities and that the educational administration was a matter which interested the localities deeply. The influence of the locality was brought to bear upon the schools and the parents and those living in the district found themselves closely in contact with the schools. They had a personal influence in the management. The management were persons known to them, persons to whom they might make their wishes known.
That is an essential point and always has been an essential point in Scottish education. The old parochial school was 910 rooted in the soil. It had excellent qualities. It had one use and that use, I am sure all my colleagues in the representation of Scotland will agree, is a marked feature in the whole history of our country. That use was largely owing to the fact that the school was closely connected with the locality and that the locality felt that the school was its own. The teacher felt that he was dealing with parents whom he knew and that the people who managed the school, the clergyman and any other body of men, were his own friends, to whom he could look and through whom the public in the locality could make their wishes known to him. That was due in a very large measure to the enthusiasm and interest felt by the Scottish people in their schools. Kill out that enthusiasm, and however you may improve your schools by new building or equipment and by a most highly wrought and developed curriculum, you will no longer have that living force in Scottish education which has been its glory and its strength. When we think that only a few years ago there were close upon 984 of these local boards, independently managing the schools, under the supervision of the Board of Education, it was a tremendous change when we cut them down to something like 37 local authorities all over Scotland.
That was a tremendous change, and it did restrict the local power, influence, interest and enthusiasm in the schools. These 37 large authorities exercised their influence over a wide area, and dealt with a population amounting to hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions. They are not the bodies to get into close touch with the localities and with the parents and those who dwell in the districts. What is certain to result from such a system is an enormous increase of power to the officials acting under these great centralised authorities. The authorities cannot look after them. The authorities are spread over a wide area of country, sometimes involving a journey of nearly one hundred miles from the centre, under difficult conditions, and this leaves all the more authority and power in the hands of the local officials. Officials of all sorts are people whom this House does well to be on its guard against—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—I have been an official myself long enough to know the danger. Having turned poacher from gamekeeper, I can 911 speak as to that. I was an official under the Central Government, and those officials are very quickly brought to order if they are guilty of any wrong-doing or injustice. We were responsible to our political chief, who acted severely if we made mistakes or exercised authority in a wrong way.
This House still keeps a watchful eye on the officials of the central Government, who are not likely to escape long if they commit crimes, but these local officials have no critics. It is not likely that these people will know anything about it, for they are not subjected to any useful and wholesome discipline by any political chief. They are very often their own masters, and I do not think they are always the most sympathetic of masters, many of them—excellent as they are—to the schoolmasters in the outlying districts. These officials number amongst their body many who have the high-sounding titles of directors of education. I am old-fashioned enough to think that the best director of education is the schoolmaster himself, and he is not likely to learn very much from these officialised directors, who come new to the business, and who, from their very ignorance, are ready to tell the teacher all that he ought to do, and to persuade themselves that they know very much better than the teacher what the teacher's duties are.
When we made that great change by lessening the number of those authorities, and centralising the administration under these 37 great authorities, a guard was taken against the undue exercise of their powers by these centralised authorities. What was that? It was the establishment of school management committees throughout the various parts of the country. These school management committees have done excellent work, and I would point out that Lord Haldane, who was one of the supporters of the new Clause which was introduced without the previous sanction of the Government, him self thought there was much to be said for these local bodies—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—912
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I was referring to the views expressed by Lord Haldane. The Noble Lord said:The Education Act, as it stood, embodied a Section which was intended to make easy the transition from the old Scottish system of local parish school boards managing the education of Scotland to the new system of larger authorities with large areas but still directly representative of the electors. This system has now been working for four years and has worked very well.Why change that? Here is the Noble Lord, who supported the Amendment, saying that this system has worked very well. I am quite aware that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland may point to the next sentence, in which Lord Haldane says that some difficulties have cropped up. It is rather a curious thing, when the Clause came up in another place, that the Government had not themselves thought that such a drastic change was necessary as to sweep away the last remnant of local and independent management. Why did they make no such proposal? It was not a small matter, and it was not a matter which they did not know would occur when they introduced the Bill. Without any discussion, except by the Mover and Seconder, and after a few words by the Noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland, the Amendment was agreed to only on the understanding that it should be accepted as an agreed Clause. That is perfectly plain and cannot be denied. I have had numerous communications from Scotland strongly objecting to this. I am quite aware that the 37 centralised authorities have passed a unanimous resolution in favour of it. Is it likely that they would say, "we, who wish to see the thing done well, and desire to have an absolute and complete authority, are not fit to exercise it, and want a local check upon us"?
I want to know what is the opinion, not of those 37 centralised bodies, which are now and hereafter to have a tyrannical power over everybody, but what are the wishes of the localities themselves, and what is the opinion of the teaching profession on this subject? What are the feelings of the teaching profession on the subject? I do not think there can be much doubt about the fact that there are very grave misgivings in Scotland with regard to this Clause, and I think my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland would do well to consider that. I understand from the 913 Prime Minister, from my hon. and learned Friend, and from others, that this Clause being as they admit a disputed one, it could not be pressed, and of course if that be the case I am quite ready to allow the Bill to receive its Second Reading.
There is one other Clause of which I am not much enamoured and that is the Clause which increases the number of children who have to travel by rail to the schools. I am not fond of that system; I do not think it does good to the children, and I think they are much better if they can get their education nearer home and many other share that opinion. However high the type of education and however advanced the curriculum at the schools to which they have to travel, it is not a wholesome thing for young children to spend an hour or two each morning and evening in trains, and I am not at all in favour of the Clause which encourages the school authorities to build big central schools and to compel the children to travel to and from these schools. Whether there is any necessity or not and whether their fares require to be paid or not, the school authorities under the Clause are to pay the travelling expenses of all children to these central schools, and that is a very dangerous precedent to introduce. I am quite willing that those who require this should have it done for them—those who cannot attend other schools and those for whom it is necessary that they should attend these schools—I am quite ready to agree that we should be generous in paying their fares. It is a new thing, however, that independent of the desire of the parents the travelling expenses can be paid under this Clause merely because it is more convenient, more administratively comfortable to the central authority, to have big central schools and to draw all the children to those schools. Let us beware how we encourage that system, and how we drag children from their homes, from the surroundings of their homes, from the care of those who are best able to look after them, and make them travel in trains to central schools however good those Central schools may be.
However high class their equipment, however highly developed their culture, I doubt if the education afforded at central schools will make up for the loss of home influence which comes from attendance 914 at a school nearer home. That is another Clause to which I object, and though my objection would not lead me to move the rejection of the Bill altogether, it is a Clause which to my mind opens up a new phase and touches upon a very sacred and essential feature of Scottish education in the past, and which has linked that education closely to the people. I think it will be fatal if we kill out that local initiative, that local interest, that local enthusiasm which comes from local management of our schools. If we carry out this centralisation it will mean that the inhabitants of some of the smaller towns and villages can never hope to attend, and the localities can never hope to exercise, that control and interest which they ought to exercise.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I listened with a certain amount of interest to the last speaker, and it is more than obvious to one who knows something about modern education conditions in Scotland that the right hon. Gentleman is still living in the past. He has informed this House of the traditions of Scottish education and he has outlined what was the position in Scotland up to 1918. May I suggest to the House, without in any way meaning to be offensive, that the education of the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself evidently ceased as from the year 1918.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
That may explain the right hon. Gentleman's lack of knowledge of the subject. The traditions of Scottish education are as sacred to Members on this side of the House as they are to Members on the other side, and I am sure the House will feel great satisfaction at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman when he suggests that he may allow this Bill to pass. The Labour Members in particular are extremely grateful for that promise on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I desire however to bring the House back to the actual Bill which we are discussing. It is supported by the whole of the authorities in Scotland who are the elected representatives of the Scottish people in connection with Scottish administration and I hope, despite what has taken place up to the present time in regard to this particular contentious Clause, that the 915 Government will see that Clause placed upon the Statute Book. The Government only gave a promise in another place that it would be withdrawn if serious opposition were raised to it. Not a single iota of evidence has been produced to show that there is serious opposition to the Clause. We have had some informal statements but we have not had the name of one organisation which is in opposition to it.
What is the attitude of the teaching profession in Scotland? Surely the right hon. Gentleman, like other Members for Scottish constituencies, has received a communication informing him that the Education Institute of Scotland is unanimously in favour of this Clause. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If hon. Members will read the journal of the Education Institute of Scotland they will find a passage pointing out that to give dual control in connection with Scottish education would be disastrous to administration. The Labour party are dissatisfied with this Bill. We feel, as a result of experience gained in connection with Scottish administration, that it should have been a far better Bill. There should have been Clauses dealing with the anomalies in connection with rating, restoring the right of dealing with necessitous and starving schoolchildren, giving more power to school management committees, and definitely stating what those powers were to be. Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to limit the number of statutory meetings which are to be held by education authorities in Scotland. Under the 1918 Act they were compelled to hold ten meetings per year; now they are only to be compelled to hold four meetings per year, which means more officialdom. I, at least, am going to protest when this Bill goes into Scottish Grand Committee, against the idea that the authority should be allowed to limit its meetings to four meetings per year. That, however, will be a question for the Committee. Clause 3, which has caused trouble, seeks to deal with the powers of school management committees having secondary schools under their control, which is an entirely different proposition from the one suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the rejection of the Bill. The 1918 Education Act was placed upon the Statute Book with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman and against the 916 express desire of the Labour party, and, whilst in favour of a larger area, we are opposed to the county area as at present given effect to by the 1918 Act. We have to deal now with things as they are. We have to deal with the 1918 Education Act, and under that Act it is definitely laid down that certain powers must be retained by education authorities and cannot be delegated to school management committees, irrespective of whether those committees have a secondary school under their control or not. The questions of the raising of money, of rating, of the acquiring of land, of the appointment and control of teachers, of the recognition, setting up, or discontinuance of intermediate or secondary schools—these things must be retained by the education authorities irrespective of whether the school management committees have a secondary school under their control or not.
But there is a very ambiguous paragraph in the 1918 Act which suggests that, if a school management committee has a secondary school under its control, certain regulations and conditions under which certain powers may be relegated by the education authority to school management committees shall not apply to that school management committee, and one of the things which evidently some school management committees consider they have power to deal with is the question of attendance. Will the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that, where there is the possibility, through bad attendance, of the education authority losing the grant which the Education Department pays if certain conditions are fulfilled, that power should be given to school management committees without any supervision by the education authority? To suggest that these powers shall be given only to the school management committees that have a secondary school under their control appears to be an anomaly, and it certainly is an unfair position in which to place the education authorities. It gives the power to deal with attendance, and it gives the power to prosecute parents if school management committees so desire, and it gives that power only to a school management committee that has a school under its control where the children are beyond the compulsory age for attending school, but a school management committee with all the pupils under its control at the 917 compulsory age for attending school has not the power to deal with attendance, unless the education authority delegates that power to it. That seems to me to be an absurdity, so far as local administration is concerned.
The education authorities in Scotland have had difficulties thrown in their way by certain school management committees that have a secondary school under their control, imagining that they have powers which in reality they have not. In Ayrshire one school management committee, because it has a secondary school under its control, is seeking to deal with the details of expenditure, because it says the 1918 Act gives educational authorities control only over the general expenditure in connection with education authorities. In Linlithgowshire, a school management committee has created trouble with the education authority by demanding the right to carry out prosecutions against parents "whose children have not been attending regularly at school. Troubles have been created in many parts of Scotland by school management committees, that are not elected bodies, and I want to emphasise that point. I know the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will certainly support me when I say that the elected representatives of the people, whether it be in local or in national administration should have control over the purse and so far as the school management committees are concerned, they are not elected bodies. Surely this House is not going to give additional powers to deal with the expenditure of what is ratepayers' money to bodies that are not elected. Surely they are going to retain that power in the hands of the elected representatives of the people. That is the only way in which the people will have a real opportunity of dealing, say, with extravagance in expenditure, and that is bound to appeal to the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Surely they should have the right to deal with appointment of teacher without any interference on the part of non elected bodies. For these reason, I sincerely hope the Government will not stick by that merely informal promise that if serous objec- 918 tions were lodged to this particular Clause, they would not press it when it reached this House.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
The promise was perfectly definite, if there were serious objections raised to the Clause.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Certainly, if serious objections were raised, but no evidence has been produced by the mover of the rejection of the Bill that there is serious objection. I can certainly believe that if it be possible for the Seconder of the rejection of the Bill to lodge serious objection, it may be lodged, but I am confident that no one representing Scottish elected opinion can lodge serious objection, and surely that is the opinion that ought to count. Surely we are not going to take cognizance of anything in support of the objection in the nature of a letter to the Press which has been replied to. Surely we are not going to give definite statutory power to an authority that is not elected to deal with Scottish education; and for these reasons I sincerely hope that in the Scottish Grand Committee this Clause will be retained in the Bill. I want to deal very briefly with some other Clauses, because I know that very many Members desire to take part in this debate, but I want to emphasise the point that the whole of Scottish elected public opinion is in favour of retaining to the education authorities, the elected representatives of the people, so far as administration in Scotland is concerned, the right to deal with the questions of expenditure and administration.
Clause 4 seeks to deal with the right, with the approval of the Department, in the interests of economy and above all of efficiency in Scottish education, to pay the travelling expenses, if necessary, of the children who may be sent to another school through the closing of a small school or through the closing of a department of a school for the purpose of carrying out the principles contained in Circular 44, seeking to give effect to centralization, without inquiring into the individual earnings and so on of the 919 parents. Surely that is a wise provision. Very little has been said by the right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection to the Bill in connection with that. He is not quite sure whether to oppose it or not, but he can rest assured that, so far as school management committees' opinions are concerned, and so far as the opinions of the education authorities are concerned, there is absolute unanimity in regard to this Clause. Not a single objection has been lodged to it, and under these circumstances I hope this House will unanimously agree to the Second Reading of this Bill, giving the Scottish Members in the Scottish Grand Committee an opportunity to give us something of real value in Scottish education by means of amending this Bill by the new Clauses, which the Labour party are going to move, for the purpose of securing some of the rights which we believed we had for dealing with children in Scotland, and for amending some of the Clauses of the 1918 Act that administration during the last four or five years has proved to require Amendment. I sincerely hope that the Government will he supported in this Bill, and so far as the Labour party are concerned, they are not going to divide on the Second Reading.
§ Major DUDGEON
Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Midlothian (Mr. Westwood), I happen to be a member of one of those tyrannical education authorities to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred. But I must say, I heartily support this Bill, and especially the Clause which is being, in some quarters, rather adversely criticised, namely, Clause 3. I do believe, in regard to rural education authorities, particularly in Scotland, it is essential that they should have the most complete and absolute control over Secondary Education because in these scattered areas there are often one or two secondary schools, and the type of secondary education that may be suitable to the small area administered by the school management committee, may not be suitable for a large and scattered County area, and I do believe it is essential that a central authority should have control over the secondary education in these areas at least. I am not speaking about industrial areas or semi-industrial areas, because I know there may be a 920 case, in a large area having a secondary school only drawing pupils from that particular district, for giving school management committees greater powers, but I believe in rural areas the school management committee should never have the same powers as the general body charged with the control of education. I know that a certain amount of criticism was levelled when we were discussing this Bill the other evening with regard to school management committees in general, and I think it is a little unfortunate that hon. Members mixed up the question dealt with here in Clause 3 with the general question of extending the powers to all school management committees. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get representative persons to serve on school management committees, and I believe this question of giving powers to school management committees as a whole will have to be seriously tackled in the near future. I am inclined to think there are only two courses in that respect—either they will have to get extended powers, or they will have to be abolished altogether.
I would also like to refer to Clause 2. I happen to have been connected with educational bodies in Scotland for a long time, and up to a few months ago I was Chairman of an Education Authority. I do believe that monthly meetings militate against getting the largest and most suitable representation on those bodies. They are also very expensive, and in some Highland counties, I believe, it costs a very large sum to hold a meeting of an education authority. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for South Midlothian that quarterly meetings would not altogether be advisable, but I think bi-monthly meetings would certainly meet the case, and I hope an adjustment on those lines may be made when this measure goes to the Scottish Grand Committee. But I do hope the hon. and learned Member will not take too seriously the criticism that is being levelled against this Bill in regard to Clause 3, because I am in substantial agreement with the hon. Member for South Midlothian in that the duly elected representatives of the Scottish people are absolutely unanimous, that it is highly desirable that the powers of these school management Committees dealing with secondary schools should be brought into line with those powers that are in the hands of school management committees dealing with elementary 921 education, and that we should leave them in the meantime, and, in the comparatively near future, deal with the wider question of either extending the powers of school management committees as a whole or abolishing them altogether. I have much pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I do not suppose my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) means to persist in his Amendment, but I wish to say now quite clearly that I cannot support any proposition for giving free travel to pupils. I am referring to the end of Clause 4 and the last words of Clause 5, and, if this provision is allowed to remain, I shall certainly offer opposition.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I rather think we have been raising a large and general discussion on what is, after all, a very small point. I am not disposed to follow my right hon. Friend the Senior Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) into his excursus in the realm of Scottish Education. I might, however, say I very largely disagree with the view he holds as to the value of the system displaced in 1918. It is quite true that Scotland has had a glorious history in the matter of education, but it is equally true, I think, that that glory had been considerably diminished by the year 1918. The Act of 1918, if put into full operation, would be the greatest advance in Scottish Education that has been made since the Reformation. It is true I put down my name for the rejection of this Measure, and I will give my reasons for doing so. My reasons are not at all those given by my right hon. Friend. I do not stand here as a supporter of the present system with regard to secondary education committees or the ordinary school committees, but I would take exception to what was said by my hon. Friend that there was no opposition whatever to the proposal in the Bill. He said that the Educational Institute of Scotland, which represents something like 24,000 or 25,000 teachers, were in favour of this. That is not so. I think every Scottish Member got from the representatives of the Educational Institute a resolution asking them at least to try to leave the introduction of this Clause until full opportunity for consideration had been given to it.
922 It is on that ground alone that I put down my name to move the rejection of this Bill. The Section of the Act of 1918 as it now stands was introduced, presumably, after very careful consideration of all the facts and necessities of the case, and I think it is about time now that equally careful consideration should be given to any proposal to withdraw it. This is not a matter in which the Government made up their mind after full and careful consideration, and a survey of the facts of the case. They brought in a Bill to accomplish two definite things, upon which, I think, there is almost universal agreement in Scotland; but by the time the Measure was in the House of Lords, there was a new proposal put forward with regard to which, apparently, the Government had not taken any care to satisfy themselves. The Education Department, so far as I know, had made no special inquiry as to the necessity for any change. It was introduced by a private Member of the House of Lords, the Duke of Atholl, at the request, it is true, he stated, of education authorities. But there are other interests. The very fact that the Section stands as it does has had the effect of setting up very valuable interests as regards the attention paid to those who are members of school management committees. It has also given certain rights to teachers in secondary schools, and those rights having been given, presumably, after very careful consideration, there ought to be equally careful consideration, given before they are changed. I am not arguing the merits of the present system, but I do hold very strongly that a matter of such importance as this ought not to be rushed at in the fashion in which it has been done in this case.
It was, therefore, with very great pleasure that I welcomed the statement which the Solicitor-General for Scotland made, and which was reaffirmed by the Prime Minister, that in view of the opposition that had been aroused and existed at the present time they would hold over this part of the Bill, and the Bill after getting a Second Reading, will, I presume, be held over till the autumn. That will fulfil the purpose of delay which I was seeking. I am quite sure, at any rate, that I welcome this holding over, because I believe it will be to the interest of all concerned, and allow the 923 different aspects of the case to be put forward. I therefore hope that not only will the Government but those who have spoken here this morning in favour of this Clause as it is in the Bill will suspend judgment till they hear what the other side has to say. I rather agree with the further suggestion of my hon. Friend below me not to introduce into the Bill this Clause as it now stands, but to give very, very careful consideration to the whole matter of the powers of the School Management Committee, secondary or otherwise, so that we may not set up another abnormal state of affairs, but finally determine what the powers and rights of the school management committees ought to be. I therefore repeat that my objection just now to the scheme of this Bill is simply as to the manner in which it has been done. I do not commit myself one way or another to a definite opinion on the merits of the Clause as it stands, but I do think, in fairness to all concerned, that there should be the time suggested allowed during which each case can be met.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
May I first of all thank the Solicitor-General for Scotland for fulfilling so admirably the promise he made in Committee the other night, to give us a further opportunity of discussing this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman shows the greatest courtesy to members of this House in matters of this sort, and we much do appreciate his obvious desire to meet the wishes expressed by hon. Members. It seems to me, as the last speaker said, that this is a matter which is in a fair way of being settled satisfactorily; the delay will enable the Scottish Members and the Scottish Office more thoroughly to canvas opinion in Scotland, which is obviously divided on the question. Secondly there is the reference of this Bill to the Scottish Committee. I remember very well the Scottish Committee being set up The intention was not only to expedite business by referring all Scottish matters to such Committee, but to give Scottish affairs a definite weight and bias over the other opinion in the House. Therefore I would suggest to the Solicitor-General that in the Committee he should give a perfectly free hand to the Members to 924 make their decisions, unaffected by any pressure of any kind, and the decision will then be more in accord with Scottish opinion, inasmuch as the Members will have had a longer and a better opportunity and time in which to ascertain exactly public opinion in the matter.
§ 12.0 N.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Midlothian has very clearly stated our case in this Bill, so that I do not propose to say more than a word or two regarding some part of the controversy which has arisen in Scotland. I listened with the very greatest attention to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik). I think it was perfectly clear that he, in part at least, devoted most of the speech to that which, strictly speaking, is not before the House on this Bill. He contrasted the old conditions in Scotland and the very large number of small local authorities with the condition which now obtains, under which 37 larger authorities have been established. But I think he will agree that the old conditions had very largely broken down. For the purposes of this Bill this perhaps is an academic controversy, but I do agree with some part of the criticism of measures of this kind in that they are endeavouring to am the Education Act of 1918, and that leads us to what is really the fundamental difficulty at the present time in Scottish education
I do not think it is a difficulty of education at all. It is very largely a difficulty of local finance. It has been urged in other places that we ought to have accompanied the Act of 1918 with very definite financial arrangements which made a financial unit for the purpose of Scottish education corresponding to the new education area which we were setting up, and I personally rather regret, when we are getting Bills of this kind, that the fundamental difficulty remains untouched. I want to emphasise that this morning, because there is not the slightest doubt that it goes very near the heart of many of the difficulties which have arisen under the existing system. The present Bill is rendered necessary to some extent by the difficulty to which I have referred.
925 There is undeniably a certain confusion of thought in regard to the school management committees. It is plain that some of these authorities, and some of the people interested in education in Scotland, who have opposed this new Clause in the Bill have opposed it because they understand, or think—quite wrongly—that school management committees are to be abolished. In a considerable letter which, I understand, has also been sent to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities by one who is keenly interested in Scottish education, it is plain that the disappearance of the local associations is considered very undesirable in view of the larger areas which have been established. That letter quite clearly is representative of a good deal of opinion in Scotland regarding this Clause, but also unfortunately it represents a great deal of misconception which exists.
As I understand the proposal of Clause 3 of the Bill, it is perfectly plain that it does not abolish school management committees at all, but it very definitely says that they are no longer to be in an anomalous position. Now, on that point, the case which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Midlothian is, I think, beyond dispute. He made it perfectly plain that serious difficulties had arisen in Scotland between these school management committees and the education authorities. There is not the slightest doubt that they have to a material extent, in some cases, invaded what is in the power and the authority of the education authority itself. So far as I have been able to find out, they come very near to dealing with questions of expenditure, if not of capital expenditure, at all events of other expenditure, which quite clearly should be definitely in the hands of elected representatives who are responsible to the electors who have sent them on to the different representative bodies. That can hardly be denied by anyone who has studied the recent controversy in Scotland. I think there must be a perfectly clear course of action on the part of this House in a matter of this kind.
I am obliged to recognise at the same time that we cannot leave the school management committees in their present position. Assuming that we pass this Bill now and regularise the position between 926 the secondary school and the ordinary school management committees, it does remain for us to ask what powers will lie in the hands of the school management committees, and whether we have left them sufficient to do to make it worth their while to supply that immediate and local interest in educational affairs which I agree is necessary under the wider areas established by the Act of 1918.
To that extent, I agree with a certain amount of the criticism which has been advanced, but I submit that it falls very short of justifying any action on our part which would delay the passage of this Bill. I believe we shall take the opportunity offered to us in the Scottish Grand Committee—one of the rare occasions we have of meeting together at all—of putting forward some amendments which we have in mind, but there is certainly no case for carrying this measure over the Summer Recess because the objection to it has been very largely one of misconception or misunderstanding, and the whole trend of educational opinion in Scotland appears to be on the side of the proposal included in this Bill.
§ Mr. HARDIE
With regard to the speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), I remember a good deal of the work which he did in the past. The right hon. Gentleman has always been looked upon as a specialist in education. He was looked upon in Scotland for many years as a leading light in educational matters, but the strange thing about those who get the title of being great educationists is, that while they are academical none of them seem to be successful on the practical side. This Bill is really quite a parsimonious affair and it is what I will venture to call a silly attempt to do something. The right hon. Gentleman began by pointing out what had taken place during the change over from small boards to large boards, but he took very good care not to go into the details or the forces which were at work to bring about that change.
We know that Scotland has always had great educational traditions, but they belong to a period before some of the men who get great titles to-day for being educationists. What was the reason for the change? There were 24,000 927 or 25,000 teachers under small boards in the past. You have used the one argument that under your old board system in Scotland in your small towns your teachers were at the mercy of the local tradesmen who sat upon these boards. Not a single argument was developed on the educational side that the change should take place from the teachers' point of view. There is never anything suggested for the real benefit of the child, but it has been simply a question of getting rid of a certain tyranny which did exist in small towns where the small tradesman gets at loggerheads with one or two teachers, and then sets about doing them all the harm he possibly can.
The opener of the Debate used some arguments in regard to the conduct of the central schools, and spoke about the benefits and the importance of getting educational benefits for the poor. As a matter of fact you find that in every vote given by that hon. Member in this House he has voted against the possibility of more money being given to put those schools into the position in which they ought to be. If the hon. Member really believes that it was detrimental to a child's education to have to travel a certain distance in the train, surely he would have shown that spirit better by voting for certain moneys being granted to build more schools where they are so much required.
I believe that up to a certain age travelling about to school gives the children a certain amount of educational experience, and as a matter of fact the older boys and girls gain a good deal by intermixing with the different children from other towns, and I believe in that way they learn almost as much as they learn from school from an educational point of view. With regard to the question of attendances at school it is very closely related to the question of the distance of the schools from the homes of the children. As for the education policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, never once in his life, as an educationist, has he ever sought to put Scottish education on a basis where the grant would be paid purely for education. The grant is not really paid for education, but for a certain number of attendances at the 928 schools, and the only way in which you can get the grant is by putting in a certain number of attendances.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The right hon. Gentle man is now only attenuating the subject and wasting time. The facts are as I have already stated. Never once in his educational career has the right hon. Gentleman sought to put Scottish education on the basis where the grant would be paid for purely education. I come to the question of the committees and their elected representatives. The hon. Member who sits for the Scottish Universities (Mr. D. Cowan) may be designated, not as the representative of the Universities at all, but as the teachers' Member, the representative of the Teachers' Trade Union.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I still hold to my statement. He may cover it up as he likes, but that is really the position so far as he is concerned. The hon. Member was going to oppose the Clause, but now we find that he is not. He wants delay. If the thing be right, why should there be any delay? If it be good for Scotland to have this, the quicker the better.
§ Mr. HARDIE
That is my point The hon. Member does not know whether it is a good or a bad thing. We have people claiming to be educationists making statements that they do not know where they are. The Bill is printed, and yet they cannot tell whether they are in favour of it or not. That is an unusual position for great educationists in Scotland to take up. They speak of the merits of the present system and ask for time for consideration in the Scottish Standing Committee. As a previous speaker has mentioned, we are going to fight this out and put in new Clauses, but we want to point out, before 929 we get to the Standing Committee, that we are out for something real in education. This is only trifling with the subject. Evidently we cannot depend upon men who get the reputation of being educationists to raise still further the standard of education in Scotland. The educationists have not made a fight to give equal opportunity to the children of Scotland. They have not made a fight to place the children on a common level. Why should a lad born of poor parents be denied the education which is his by right of birth? Why all this trifling and tinkering? Our fight for education is going to be to secure to every child the divine right to that accumulated knowledge called education.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I should like, in a few sentences, to deal with the points that have been raised in the Debate on this Bill. In the first place, let me deal with the point which has been raised with regard to Clause 3. It has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Midlothian (Mr. Westwood) that the opposition to this Clause is not of a serious character. As he knows, the Government accepted this Clause in the House of Lords when it was introduced by the Duke of Atholl at the unanimous request of the education authorities in Scotland. The Government, in view of the fact that it had the backing of thirty seven education authorities, the elected representatives of the people in Scotland, and being convinced of its utility, thought it right to accept the Clause. But, as the Bill was introduced somewhat late in the Session as a non-contentious Measure, the Secretary for Scotland stated that, if serious opposition developed, it would be impossible to proceed with the Clause. I am told when the Bill came down here that the opposition was not of a serious character. In the first place, my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) put down a Motion for its rejection and he has a great deal of support. If my hon. Friend had been here at Question Time when I was subjected to a volley of supplementary questions, all put on the footing that this Clause is being thrust down the throats of people who do not wish to have it, he would realise that there is very substantial opposition. There is the 930 opposition of the Junior Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. D. Cowan), who wants delay in the matter, and there was strong opposition from Members of the Labour party, one of whom signed the Motion for rejection, and another of whom expressed himself to me as very strongly opposed to the Clause, indicating that he would support its deletion in Committee and defeat us. It is true that at a later date he modified his views and came to see the merits of the Clause. I mention this as illustrating the wide opposition from every quarter of the House to the Clause. There is opposition from certain Highland Members, who are afraid of the effect on secondary schools in distant areas.
It therefore seemed obvious to me, from the opposition which has manifested itself so widely, that it was impossible to describe the Clause as non-contentious, and, in these circumstances, I said that I would in Committee move to delete the Clause. Personally, I am a supporter of the Clause, but I think it right to say that it will be a matter for the judgment of the Committee. As my right hon. Friend the Senior Member for the Scottish Universities will realise, we took up this attitude, because it seemed to us there was a great deal of opposition to the Clause and a great deal of support for it. I shall, as I have promised, move the deletion of the Clause in Committee, but I think my right hon. Friend will agree that it is fair and right, seeing that there is a great deal of opinion on both sides, that the matter should be left to the judgment of the Committee. I wish to make that perfectly plain.
I agree with what my right hon. Friend said as to the desirability of local interest in education, but I do not think that is really in question in this matter. It is most desirable to encourage local interest in education in every way, but this Clause really attempts to deal with something in the nature of a conflict of authority, where you have a secondary school committee not subject to the restrictions and regulations to which all other school management committees are subject. That view was pressed on us by the Association of Education Authorities, and it has been pointed out in a number of speeches, There have been conflicts in no less than eleven counties. In one case a school manage- 931 ment committee claimed authority to deal with questions of finance. Authority is claimed to deal with such matters as attendance and curriculum. There can be little doubt that it is undesirable that this conflict of authority should continue, and it was with that aim that the Clause was introduced, and that the Government made up their minds in the House of Lords to accept it. But I have made it perfectly clear, as the Secretary for Scotland did, that we introduced this Bill as a non-contentious measure late in the Session and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to proceed if serious opposition manifested itself. As we now know, the Committee stage cannot be taken until the autumn, and there will be more time for the consideration of the question.
As regards Clause 2, there is a certain amount of feeling in the Highlands with regard to the holding of meetings. A great expenditure is involved in bringing people long distances. Their expenses have to be paid, and they have to have a subsistence allowance, and also in certain cases payment for loss of time. The matter was dealt with by Lord Haldane in his speech in another place. He pointed out the real burden which the Highland councils have to bear by holding meetings which are not necessary. Of course there is nothing in this Clause which impairs the power of the education authorities to meet as often as they like, but we simply say that if there is no business to bring them together every month there is no necessity for calling the meeting. It has been made easier for people of small means to serve on these bodies than it ever was before. As regards Clause 4, I think myself that where, in the interests of economy and educational efficiency, it is desirable to close small schools, it should be done, although the parents have a vested interest in having the means of giving their children education at their very doors. If, as a consequence, the children are called upon to travel some distance in order, it may be, to obtain better opportunities of education, it is only fair, I think, that the travelling expenses of the children should be provided, whatever may be the means of the parents. There are many points in the Bill which may be 932 dealt with fully in Committee, and I would ask the House to give it a Second Reading without further discussion.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
All over Scotland, and in every portion of it, there are men and women who devote their lives to the cause of education. I think it is very advisable that this Bill should be carried over to the autumn, so that in the interval of three of four months its provisions can be discussed by these educational experts. There are many directions in which the Bill could be not only modified, but enlarged, and made more useful, and I think it would be a tactical mistake to hurry it through now. If it is understood in Scotland that it may be considerably modified and enlarged, it will give an impetus to people interested to study the Bill, and that would, I think, be advantageous to education in Scotland, while it would ensure having a more perfect and more satisfactory Bill. It was thought at first that there was practical unanimity in regard to the Bill, but that has proved not to be the case, and many points require much more close consideration than it has been possible to give them up to the present time.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
With regard to the undertaking given by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General and by the Prime Minister, and with respect to the declaration of the former hon. Gentleman that he will formally move the omission of the Clause to which reference has been made and be prepared to accept the decision of the Committee, I do not think it quite carries out the undertaking which I understood we had obtained. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look back to what occurred he will find that the undertaking was very much stronger. I shall be quite ready to agree to the Second Reading of the Bill, but I do so only on the understanding that the undertaking which we understood we had got from the Prime Minister and from the hon. and learned Gentleman will be given effect to. If it is not, then I shall have to renew my opposition at a later stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.