HC Deb 16 October 1945 vol 414 cc1097-103

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £568,975, 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, 1946, for public education in Scotland, including certain grants in aid of the Education (Scotland) Fund, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a grant in aid.

Mr. Thomas Fraser

This requirement is consequential, as hon. Members will be aware, upon additional provision required for grants to local education authorities and other bodies in England and Wales. Under Section 21 (1) of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, a sum equal to 11/80ths of the amount of any such provision in England and Wales is payable to the Education (Scotland) Fund. As in England and Wales, our education costs in Scotland are on an ever-increasing scale. I am happy in the thought that I am unlikely to have all the controversy over teachers' salaries that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education had only a short time ago. We have a proposal increase in teachers' salaries coming along very soon. The Regulations have not been made and accepted by the House as yet, so there cannot be any argument about them, but the additional expenditure we estimate we will need to meet in connection with these increased scales will have to be found out of this sum. I do not think it is necessary at this late hour for me to go further into the matters for which we have to provide out of these moneys.

Commander Galbraith

I rise to assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no opposition whatever from this side in regard to this item. We welcome it very sincerely as affording some small measure of relief to the ratepayers of Scotland in regard to the very high costs of education. I would like to say to the hon. Gentleman that I hope he will see to it that the generosity of the Government goes even further in the future.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

Can my hon. Friend give any indication of the date on which the new scales of salary become operative?

Major McCallum (Argyll)

The Joint Under-Secretary of State mentioned that this sum is required to pay for various things in connection with education in Scotland. I am sure he has already had time to learn that in the constituency which I represent there are various educational difficulties on which the assistance of the State is required. I refer particularly to the question of grants-in-aid to local authorities to enable them to get children to school. In the remote areas which form so large a part of the county of Argyll, the question is becoming ever more impossible for the local authorities. Almost daily I receive letters from agricultural constituents explaining that they are unable to get their children to school, and when I approach the local authorities, they say they are very sorry they are unable to do anything, because the money is not available. I hope that as a result of this increased amount, the Scottish Office will be able to increase the grants to local authorities for this purpose.

9.45 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)

My unfamiliarity with the intricacies of the procedure we are going through now may prompt me to put a question which should probably be put to the Under-Secretary at some other time. If so, I apologise in advance, but I want to know whether in the sums for which he is asking there is any provision made for the education of the blind. I am sure that the Under-secretary has received the same report of the committee inquiring into this matter—

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

I am afraid the hon. Member cannot go into that question at the moment.

Mr. McKinlay

I cannot find fault with the sum, but I do not understand the arithmetic of those who make the allocations to the local authorities. I have in front of me figures which show a percentage increase on the previous grants of 135 per cent., and in another county the percentage increase is 162 per cent. There is one with the startling percentage increase of 321 per cent., but for the county that I represent, Dumbartonshire, for some obscure reason, the increased grant amounts to only 44 per cent. As I say, I do not understand the arithmetic or the method adopted in making these allocations. In the county of Dumbartonshire we have an education rate of 5s. in the £, and it would appear that if a county were ahead in paying salary scales before it was compelled by law to do so, and rated its community for the purpose of paying scales which have now become the legal scales, prior, and long prior, to them becoming operative, when it comes to allocating the grant in aid, that county is not only not thanked for what it has done in the past, but suffers a reduction in the amount of money made available. Perhaps the Under-Secretary could give us some information as to how the allocations are made.

For instance, Stirlingshire's old grant amounted to £12,635, and it is to be increased by £17,145. The Dumbartonshire grant was £11,400, and it is to be increased by £5,122. That sort of arithmetic gets us all staggered, and, as I have said on many occasions, I would abolish algebra from the curriculum of Civil Servants because they get people into more trouble with the way they allocate money than enough. I am sure the Under-Secretary will have a complete answer to that. The county I represent wants an answer, and I am quite satisfied that, after to-night, a number of other authorities, having heard of this increase, will want an answer as well. I would suggest to the Under-Secretary that he gives us the fullest possible information as to the methods of allocation so that local authorities may be satisfied that no person is stealing a march on them.

Mr. Gilzean (Edinburgh, Central)

I would like to ask the Under-Secretary if it is the intention of his Department to continue the somewhat invidious practice of paying two different scales to independent schools and to non-fee-paying schools. At the present time a non-fee-paying school is paid on a teacher-pupil basis, £125 for the teacher and £5 for each pupil. That means a grant of £325 in a class of 40 children, whereas in the independent schools the grant is a direct grant per pupil on the basis of £10 per head, which gives the independent school £400 for 40 pupils as against the £325 which the non-fee-paying school receives. Why do these independent schools get grants paid directly to them instead of receiving them through the local authority?

Mr. Gallacher

I want to raise the question further with the Minister, but before doing so I wish to say that it seems to be natural at a very late hour that Estimates affecting Scotland, and particularly affecting education, should come up. The Scottish Education Bill came on at a very late hour and consequently was not discussed. Now at this very late hour we get a Supplementary Scottish Estimate. There was much talk in an earlier discussion about the Burnham Committee and complaints were made by some of those who represent certain classes. The Burnham Committee has always kept an eye on the salaries of teachers, and a standard was laid down for English teachers, but in Scotland there is a very strong feeling amongst all sections of teachers at the lack of consideration and understanding of the position of teachers. We set up machinery to deal with the salaries of teachers in Scotland and we ought to have something more definite from the Minister as to how that machinery is to work and when to expect a decision as to the salaries of teachers. When I am in my constituency or any other part of Scotland I am continually approached by teachers who want to know when they are to get something like proper treatment. In Scotland we have always had a higher standard of education than is general in England, but in England the teachers, for a poorer quality of education, get a higher salary than the teachers in Scotland.

Mr. Thomas Fraser

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for raising the question of teachers' salaries. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) asked about the date of the operation of the Act and said that teachers were getting a bit restive in Scotland. Hon. Members will be aware that the Scottish Education Bill only became an Act on 15th June and since then we have had a general election. I am happy to say that immediately after my right hon. Friend was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland he prepared a scale for teachers and submitted his draft proposals to education authorities. It is provided in the Act that we should do so and we are empowered to give them 40 days in which to make representations to us. That has been done, and we have had many representations, and I am hopeful that, very soon now, the Regulations will be laid before this House and will be accepted. When they are accepted, I am happy to say that it will be possible for us—and this is our intention—to make these scales retrospective to 1st April, 1945.

The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) asked if, out of this sum I was asking for this evening, it would be possible for us to give additional assistance to such areas as Argyllshire. It is because we propose to give some additional assistance to areas such as Argyllshire that I have had other representations made to me by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire. I am sorry that I have not got all the figures which the hon. Member quoted, but the position is that the sum is apportioned, under the Education (Scotland) Grant Regulations, which have been laid and accepted, in accordance with a formula based on the numbers of pupils and teachers and the rateable value of the Education Authority's area. In this formula, we provide for giving adequate assistance to areas where we have a sparse population. It was not meeting their case merely to give them so much per teacher, and it is unfortunately true that, when the Secretary of State took the decision to give added assistance to those parts of the country where we have a sparse population and a very low rateable value, it had to be done at the expense of other areas. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire said his local authority is going to be very interested in this discrepancy, and in the difference in the amounts as apportioned, as compared with what was done under the general grant. The County Council of Dunbarton are as fully aware of the position as we can possibly make them. I myself had occasion the other day to write a very long letter to a Member of Parliament who had raised the matter on behalf of the Dunbartonshire County Council, and there I set out, in the greatest detail, the reasons for the formula that has been adopted under the grant regulations. In the circumstances, I do not think it is necessary for me to go into and explain them in any great detail this evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Gilzean) made what is, I believe, his maiden speech this evening and I have to congratulate him upon it. We listened to it with interest, and, as I know full well that he is by way of being an expert in educational matters, we shall look forward to hearing him very often in future. Unhappily, I cannot give him an explanation such as he sought in his very brief speech. I think he rather took us into the realm of the general grant than raised a matter with which I could appropriately deal in this Debate this evening. I am quite unable to give him the information he requires. I hope, however, that it will meet with his wishes if I forward this to him as soon as possible.

I do not think there were any other points raised this evening with which I could properly deal, and in the circumstances I hope I may now get the Estimate.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £568,975 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, 1946, for public education in Scotland, including certain grants in aid of the Education (Scotland) Fund, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a grant in aid.

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