HC Deb 01 March 1926 vol 192 cc1171-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That at a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,200, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for Public Education in Scotland, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a Grant-in-Aid.


I should hesitate to say anything which might be uncomplimentary to you, Mr. Hope, but I think you might have noticed that the Secretary of State for Scotland was anxious to rise in his place and explain this Vote. May we have his explanation before we proceed?


I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) would have had some con- sideration for the patience of the Committee. Day by day we have had continual complaints on behalf of himself and his hon. Friends that there is not enough money spent on education. When a little more money was wanted on the last Vote, he raised a difficulty, and now he tries to raise a difficulty about a matter of which he knows nothing. This is purely an automatic Vote in regard to teachers' superannuation. Certain sums have to be paid to teachers in Scotland who have contributed to the superannuation fund and have now with drawn. It is not a question of policy, but a matter of pure book-keeping. If the right hon. Gentleman had had a little more consideration he would not have interfered in a matter which he does not understand.


This Vote is due to our having slightly underestimated the number of those, particularly of ladies in the teaching profession, who on getting married have withdrawn their money from the Fund. I do not know whether it is a matter that this Committee can congratulate them upon or not, but it is a very simple matter, and I hope the Committee will accept it without further question.


I gather that this is in respect of an additional sum of £3,800 for refund of teachers' superannuation contributions. How is it that the Department was so far out in its anticipation of the number of Scottish lady teachers who would be married during the year? Usually in that particular walk of life long engagements are the rule, and it would have been easy to make a much better estimate than is shown by this big difference. Is the whole of the additional money required, as stated in the footnote to D2, due to the withdrawal of teachers from service on marriage? Is it not also the case that male teachers who withdraw from the teaching profession to enter some other walk of life are also entitled to withdraw their superannuation payment? Have there been any withdrawals for that reason by male teachers, as distinct from lady teachers? How many teachers have withdrawn from the Fund, seeing that the revised Estimate of the refund is £15,100, and what was the average sum each drew in the way of repayment of superannuation? The reason I am asking is this. I am anxious to know what is the average term of service of these young ladies who are now leaving the teaching profession to be married. It is of considerable importance, because if we spend a large sum of money in training these lady teachers and only get one year or two years' service from them it is not good economy. Then again, if no men are leaving, only women, it would be a sound policy on the part of the Secretary for Scotland to encourage the employment of men teachers rather than women teachers in our public elementary schools.

Lieut. -Commander BURNEY

On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that this is merely a matter of account and bookkeeping, and not a matter of policy at all?


The hon. Member is arguing to the effect that the Scottish Education Department ought to have been better able to estimate the number of women teachers who would get married during the year.

Lieut.-Commander BURNEY

Is it not merely foolish obstruction.


Withdraw, withdraw!


Is it in order for an hon. Member of this House to accuse anyone taking part in the Debate of "foolish obstruction"?


If it were not in order, then many Chairmen and many Speakers have been guilty of a dereliction of duty. I have often heard that phrase used.


And I should be the last person to resent it. There appears to be a tendency when a Scottish Member gets up in order to ask for information as to the affairs of his own country to consider that a wrong use is being made of the time of the Committee. If I am mistaken, if this is merely a bookkeeping entry and not a really genuine payment out of the Scottish Education Fund, then it is merely obstruction on my part. But I understand that it is definite money which is being taken out of the exchequer because the Estimate at the beginning of the year was an under estimate.


Does not the hon. Member know that this is merely a book- keeping entry? Is he not aware that by legislation of this House the system of superannuation was changed, and payments have had to be made merely as a consequence of that change?


I am very glad to hear the right hon. Member, but I would not like to suggest that his interpolation is "foolish obstruction." The Statute he has quoted is well known to me and it was well known to the Department at the beginning of the year. The Department estimated that on this item they would have to pay out so much money, and it has been found that their estimate is not sufficient. They are now asking for more money. I have one or two specific questions which I think are perfectly legitimate. One is: why they could not estimate the number of lady teachers who were likely to be married? I should imagine that is a fairly stable quantity in Scotland; I know the lady teachers in Scotland very well. I know that they are much sought after as the wives of sensible young men in Scotland, but that desire on the part of Scotsmen to have Scottish lady teachers as their wives is not greatly variable from year to year. I want to know what has been the cause of this undue exuberance on the part of Scottish teachers.

Lieut.-Commander BURNEY

I think I could explain that. The hon. Member will find, if he studies the statistics, that it follows very closely the cost of living.


But during the last year Scottish young men were not in the position to know that the right hon. Gentleman's houses would have been so near completion. That ought to have done something to retard matters rather than the reverse. That is one question—why last year was a peak year in the demands made on the Scottish Superannuation Fund? Secondly, and very seriously—it is awfully difficult in this House, for unless you are as dull as ditch water people do not think you want any information—secondly, I want to ask whether it is entirely due to women leaving the profession or whether there are not also a number of men leaving the profession and wanting their money back? Thirdly, I would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman can give us some idea of the total number of persons who left the teaching profession in Scotland last year for matrimonial or other reasons, and roughly what was—I do not expect him to have these figures in his head, for he seldom has any figures that we want in his head—the average length of service of the persons who have left and asked for a return-of their superannuation payments?


Of course these are moneys which have been contributed, in the first place, by the teachers. They contribute 5 per cent. towards superannuation. It is true that an error was made in estimating the numbers who would leave the service, either for the main reason of marriage or for other reasons. The original Estimate was framed after consultation with the education authorities, but it was found that they had miscalculated from previous experiences, and that something like 500 left the service last year when we had estimated that only 400 would do so. It is difficult to explain why there was this sudden rise, mainly accountable for by marriage. While the individual may leave the service for marriage or other reasons, it does not follow that he will immediately withdraw the contribution due at that time. Indeed, in many cases these contributions are withdrawn subsequently only when the circumstances of the individual appear to place pressure upon him. It may be that some of it is due to that fact. Be that as it may, we have quite frankly under-estimated the number by something like 100, and that is the reason for the Estimate to which I ask the Committee now to agree. I am afraid I cannot commit myself on the subject of the average number of years' service which these people give before leaving the Service. I think it varies considerably, and I would not like to state a definite figure now. But, if the hon. Member wishes, I will make inquiries.

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