§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Henderson Stewart)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is not a major Measure. Its purpose, as the Explanatory Memorandum indicates, is to remove some of the difficulties that have been experienced in the administration and development of education in Scotland since the passing of the 1946 Act. It achieves this, as the House will note, by making a number of amendments to existing law, amendments which have long been sought by the education authorities and the Central Department. The difficulties, as I shall show, have been various, and, although no one of them can be called fundamental, taken together they have throughout the years hampered activities in many directions where we should all like to make progress. So far as I know, none of the proposals is controversial : they have the support of the local authority associations; they were universally welcomed in another place. I hope, therefore, that the Bill may be given a speedy passage through the House.
Its main Clauses deal in a limited way with the safety of pupils, school attendance, bursaries, school transport, and teachers' training. The remaining Clauses are of less importance, and there is a 526 Schedule of minor amendments. As hon. Members will have gathered, it is, in effect, a miscellaneous provisions Bill. I am sure the House will not expect me to go into all the details or to go over all the provisions at this stage, but it may be helpful if I run over the Clauses dealing with the five subjects which I have mentioned and indicate the kinds of problems which have confronted us and the way we think they should be overcome.
§ Clause 1 deals with the safety of pupils going to and from school and while actually present at school. Private roads, paths and bridges used by pupils on their daily journeys are sometimes dangerous—no doubt, we can all think of examples—and safety barriers at school entrances leading on to busy highways are often very desirable, but because the land over which the roads pass or on which the barriers should be erected does not belong to the education authority, the authority has no power to do the necessary work. My noble Friend the Minister of State for Scotland, when moving the Second Reading in another place, gave one or two examples. I give just three.
§ First, the example of a school on a dangerous bend on a main road. A barrier outside the school gates is urgently required. The education authority is willing to share the cost of erecting a barrier with the roads department of the county council, but, as the law now stands, it has no power to do so. That is a difficulty which has emerged. Another example is this, that, in several cases, the lorry bringing the school meals has to cross the school playground and is a danger to the children. That is because the private road leading to the side entrance of the school has become too bad to use, but the education authority is unable to repair it.
§ Here is another example. A bridge which children cross in going to school from a country area was dangerous and the education authority actually repaired it, but it did so without statutory power, and the accountant took objection. Another bridge on the only road from a village to a school has become dangerous and has been closed to traffic. The school car would normally cross the bridge, but the children are now required to alight, and cross on foot. The education authority wants to put the bridge in good order, but it cannot.527
§ The effect of Clause 1 is to give the authorities, subject to certain conditions, statutory power to undertake repairs and improvements of the kind I have been describing. I am confident that, armed with these new powers, education authorities will undertake many useful and urgent safety operations.
§ Clause 3 is another example of the need for adjustment in the light of experience. The present law says that the parent of every child between five and fifteen years of age must provide suitable and efficient education for that child either by regular attendance at school or by other means, and, of course, as we all know, that is one of the best observed laws in the land. Truancy, which at times, has been a perplexing problem, is today no longer a serious matter. The great majority of parents are scrupulous about sending their children to school, but there are a few parents, and, no doubt, there always will be, who, for one reason or another, either neglect their duties or prove themselves unable to carry them out and for the sake of the children we must furnish the authorities with effective sanctions. The 1946 Act deals with this matter, but loopholes have appeared which we now want to close.
§ Clause 3 makes three main changes. First, it enables an education authority, at the same time as it postpones a decision whether to prosecute a parent, to pronounce an attendance order requiring the child to attend a particular school, and it gives the same power to a court dealing with such a prosecution where it does not direct the child to be brought before a juvenile court.
§ Secondly, the Clause provides that where a child moves from one education area to another and an attendance order is in force, the order may be amended and remain in force. This cuts out the somewhat elaborate procedure, which as many of us know, has now to be followed before a new attendance order can be made. This is just an example of how we are bringing legislation up to date.
§ The third change enables an education authority to direct a child to be brought before a juvenile court where the authority is satisfied that such a step is 528 necessary to secure the regular attendance of the child at school. This is irrespective of whether or not the parent is prosecuted.
§ Clause 4, as hon. Members will have seen, is short and simple, Its object is to make it possible for education authorities to take into account the needs of dependants when assessing bursaries for married men attending courses at universities, central institutions and further education centres. There probably will not be a great many cases of this kind, but we want to encourage all who are desirous and qualified to take advantage of these opportunities.
§ Clause 5 deals with the transport and travelling expenses for pupils attending schools and other educational establishments. This Clause makes three changes. It enables education authorities to offer any pupil more than one of the three types of travelling facilities described in the Clause, that is to say, conveyance by buses, provision of bicycles, payment of travelling expenses. It may well be that a certain child needs the benefit of two of these provisions.
§ Secondly, the Clause requires the authorities to allow vacant places in vehicles to be used without charge by pupils for whom in the normal way the authority would not provide transport. This is a matter upon which hon. Members have put Questions to me once or twice. Thirdly, it empowers authorities to meet expenses necessarily incurred by persons—that is, not only pupils, but teachers, for example—required to attend an educational institution for, say, an examination, or an interview before admission. Experience has shown that all these changes are desirable.
§ Clause 9, dealing with the training of teachers, consolidates and amends Section 77 of the 1946 Act and the amendments already made to it in 1949.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman say a few words about Clause 7?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am coming to that, if the hon. Lady will allow me. I was not taking the Clauses strictly in order but taking the important ones first.
§ Clause 9 is important not so much for what it does immediately as for the possibilities it opens for the future. I think 529 that hon. and right hon. Members from Scotland know that it is our intention, with I believe general approval, to make new regulations about teacher-training. The existing regulations were framed 25 years ago and I think that it is generally agreed that they no longer quite meet the needs of the times. A memorandum, prepared by the Department on the main points for decision, is now being examined by the interested parties in Scotland, and we shall have a series of conferences on the matter starting in December. The Clause is designed to clear the way for any new regulations which may emerge from these discussions. We shall have ample opportunity in the House to examine such matters when the new regulations are laid.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Am I to take it that this Clause is definitely bound up with future legislation, of which at the moment we have no knowledge, and that that legislation will be contained in regulations which we can only accept or reject and cannot modify or amend?
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The Secretary of State makes regulations but, as far as I can gather, with reference to everything after Clause 9 (2), the awarding of certificates of competency does not seem subject to any future regulations.
§ Mr. Stewart
The difficulty is that to deal with this matter effectively I should have to take the Bill subsection by subsection, and I was trying not to take up too much time. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate can deal with the points raised when he replies to the debate and, of course, we have the Committee stage to come. I was trying to offer the House the main reasons for the Clause.
To put the matter in another way, the present regulations dealing with teachers' training are not entirely suitable, as I think everybody agrees. It is in the minds of most people that there should be some changes. What changes? We are now in the process of discussing with various bodies what the changes might be. In due course, no doubt, we shall all arrive at conclusions, by agreement I hope, and then I suppose we shall perhaps have to issue new regulations.
530 All that the Clause does is to tidy up the present situation, consolidate and clarify the regulation-making power of the Secretary of State and, as the House will see, give the Secretary of State certain powers to make some different or wider regulations. I give the House one example. At present the training colleges are not allowed themselves to issue certificates of competency. It is suggested in the Bill that the Secretary of State should have power—not that he shall do it, but should have the power—to include in any new regulations authority to be given to the training authorities themselves to issue certificates. It is not said that it must be done. The Bill merely gives power to the Secretary of State to do that, and the regulations would come before the House. Does that meet the point?
§ Mr. Rankin
It seemed to me, listening to the hon. Gentleman skating so nicely through the Bill, that there were one or two subsections which might have borne a moment or two's reference. For instance, there is Clause 9 (2). I feel that in fairness to the House the hon. Gentleman might have said a word or two about the very comprehensive powers that are contained in Clause 9 (2).
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The Joint Under-Secretary of State has made heavy weather of this business of a change, but if my reading of the position is correct the power provided in Clause 9 (2) already exists. Therefore, would the hon. Gentleman explain just exactly what the differences are and not give us just an example, as he has been giving quite helpfully, but tell us what the Clause does and just how it changes the powers of the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am at the service of the House gladly to do that. Clause 9 (1) distinguishes the two types of awards which the Secretary of State can make. He may award
Subsection (2) empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations constituting the training authorities and conferring powers upon them.
- (a) certificates of competency to teach in schools or other educational establishments, and
- (b) documents recognising persons as competent to fulfil the duties of leaders in service in connection with organised cultural, social and physical training and other leisure-time occupation.
§ Mr. Stewart
If the House wants this, we shall have to go back to the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, and read Sections from it. I am quite willing to do that if the House wants me to do so, but I should have thought, with respect, that that was a Committee point. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is quite right. Roughly speaking, Clause 9 (2) is in the 1946 Act, but he will see that we are asking that for Section 77 of the principal Act there shall be substituted the Section embodied in the Bill. This does not abolish what was in the previous Act. It brings it up to date. It simplifies the procedure and gives the Secretary of State rather wider regulation-making powers. If hon. Members have individual points we shall, of course, be most ready to answer them.
§ Miss Herbison
It does not seem to me that the hon. Gentleman's explanation is good enough for the House. I have gone very carefully over Section 77 of the 1946 Act and over Clause 9 of the present Bill. The note I made after my comparison was, "What differences are there, if any, in the powers which the Secretary of State will have under Clause 9?" If there are to be important differences in the powers which the right hon. Gentleman will have in issuing certificates, it is incumbent upon the Joint Under-Secretary of State to tell the House at this stage exactly what Clause 9 gives to the Secretary of State which he does not already possess under Section 77 of the 1946 Act.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Lady is making a fair point, and, as I said, one would have to go through the Act line by line. If I may try to answer the House in the following way it may, I think, give the answer that is wanted.
The purpose of this Clause is to consolidate Section 77 of the 1946 Act and the amendments made to it. It also makes some further Amendments to that Act which I will give to the House. First there are the Amendments to improve the form of the Section of the principal Act and to clarify the scope of the regulation-making power of the Secretary of State. Secondly, these amendments are intended to enable the 532 regulations to be brought up to date as regards, first, the provision of education courses for students as well as courses of professional training, next the provision of short courses and conferences for teachers and others, and, finally, cooperation with education authorities and others providing or organising such courses.
The third group of amendments is intended to enable the Secretary of State to delegate to the training authorities power to award teachers' certificates.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
That means that there is an additional power. We are trying to find out what additional powers the Government are asking for, and I gather that they are contained in this series of amendments?
§ Mr. Stewart
They are. The three sets of amendments to which I have referred improve the form and also enable regulations to be brought up to date. They are changes for the better. I am not saying that they are important changes but they are necessary administratively. Then there is the third change which may enable the Secretary of State, if it is thought wise, to give the training colleges power to issue their own certificates.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I apologise for interrupting again but I am trying to follow this Bill in comparison with the existing Act of Parliament. It is true that subsection (2) of Section 77 of the existing Act has been brought forward as subsection (1) of Clause 9 of this Bill, but what the House would like to know is why that wording is being altered. The explanation given by the hon. Gentleman does not seem to fit in with the change in wording as between the two Measures. The hon. Gentleman might clear this up for those who have not been able to study the Bill with the assistance at his disposal. We understand the authorisation to give certificates, but what are the other differences?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am anxious to meet the wishes of the House, and especially of the right hon. Gentleman, but short of giving the House a word by word comparison of the old subsection and the new, I cannot do more than I have done. I have told 533 the House that this Clause consolidates Section 77 of the 1946 Act with subsequent amendments, and it makes three sets of further amendments which I have described. If hon. Members still feel that a detailed explanation is required that will be provided but, with respect, I suggest that it is a Committee point. In any case my right hon. and learned Friend will do his best to answer any points raised by hon. Members when he replies to the debate.
I was about to say that in due course we shall have ample opportunity to examine all these matters, whatever new regulations may arise from the conferences. In the meantime, all that my right hon. Friend seeks to do is to make it possible for him to break new ground as and when a clear picture has been formed of the changes that ought to be made.
These are the main provisions of the Bill. Now I will deal with the minor provisions, beginning with Clause 2. Section 7 of the 1946 Act requires the education authorities to exercise their function of providing further education in accordance with schemes submitted to, and approved by, the Secretary of State. By "scheme," I mean a document setting out in detail what the authorities undertake to do in discharge of their duties.
As I am sure the hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, for ten years attempts have been made, with the co-operation of the authorities, to devise a satisfactory form of scheme for this branch of further education which would have some degree of stability and permanence. We have all tried hard, but without much success. The difficulty is that there is no compulsion on anybody to undertake further education, and the situation—for example, in relation to evening classes and to social and recreational work—has always been so fluid that schemes have become out of date almost as soon as they have been approved.
§ Clause 2 recognises these facts and removes the requirement of formal—I stress the word "formal"—schemes for the provision of voluntary further education. This does not mean that the Secretary of State will not know what is going on. On the contrary, he will get all he requires by less formal methods, and a great deal of time and labour will be saved, particularly in the offices of the education 534 authorities. That is always worth doing. Clause 8—
§ Mr. Stewart
That is a fair point but, with respect, it is a Committee point. It has not been easy to draft this Bill. The draftsmen have had to take account of the various incidents and developments which have occurred in the last ten years or so, and they have had to find words which will bring the Measures up to date and which will short-circuit procedure. Some of the provisions of the earlier Act. have been repealed and new provisions have been introduced. Short of going through the Bill item by item, I am bound to meet the criticism of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) when he asks, what does subsection so and so mean? I can only ask him to be so kind as to let us deal with these detailed matters during the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Rankin
Will the hon. Gentleman remember that, so far as we know at the moment, there is to be only one day for the Committee stage?
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is proposng to leave Clause 2. He has attempted to give us some indication of what paragraph (b) means, but there is another paragraph which we believe to be of considerable importance and yet we have no idea what the provision means. The provision is :(c) special educational treatment other than in special schools.Where is the special educational treatment taking place if it is not in special schools? We must know this in order to discuss the subject.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am very glad to answer the hon. Lady on that point. Section 1 (4) of the Act provides that children 535 suffering from disability of mind or body are to be given special educational treatment. This treatment is to be given in "special schools," an expression which includes special classes in ordinary schools, child guidance clinics and occupational centres approved by the Secretary of State for the purpose, and by other means so approved. I believe that meets the hon. Lady's point.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
Order. So far as I am able to judge, the debate so far sounds not like the Second Reading of a Bill, but more like a Committee stage.
§ Mr. Stewart
It might clear the point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I added that, with regard to special educational treatment, it is not possible to define in advance the type of treatment to be given in a few unusual cases which are not suitable for treatment in special schools. As the hon. Lady again has a detailed question, the Committee stage would probably be the appropriate occasion to deal with it.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We have listened to the Minister expounding a Bill and continually referring to the fact that this, that and the other thing may be raised during the Committee stage, although the Committee stage will last one day and not a week. In face of that, what defence has the Opposition on Second Reading? It has obviously been assumed that this is a minor Bill which went through on the nod in another place and that that will happen here, and in that situation we are placed at a disadvantage by the fact that the Minister is not at the moment dealing adequately with the Measure.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Opposition are resourceful enough to look after their own interests. My only concern is that a Second Reading debate does not develop into a Committee stage.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely the House is entitled to have a general Second Reading exposition of the Bill not going into intricate details and not being subjected to interruption?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I accept what you say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Might I finish my intervention by adding that there will, will there not, be a reply to the Second Reading debate and that will provide an opportunity for the Government to give an answer to many of the points which are now being raised? Ought not the Minister to be allowed to start this debate in the normal fashion?
§ Mr. Woodburn
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I support the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) that we should have an exposition of what is in the Bill. That is exactly the point that my hon. Friends have been trying to convey to the Minister. In view of its references to the Act, it is a complicated Bill. Obviously, the Minister is the expert who can tell us exactly what is meant by the Bill. It cannot be a very intelligible debate later on if the Minister has not explained what the Bill does. A great deal of time may be wasted later on by irrelevant discussion if the Minister does not make points clear now. It will save time if we can be told now exactly what the Bill will do.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is not for me to deal with the mysteries of the Bill, but it is a matter for me to ensure, so far as I can, with the assistance of the House, that the Second Reading debate does not develop into a Committee stage.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Might I draw your attention to the fact that the Bill enjoys the peculiarity of not having an interpretation or definition Clause, and that the points which have been raised—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must know that that cannot be a point of order for me.
§ Mr. Hughes
Might I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the Bill enjoys the peculiarity of not having an interpretation or definition Clause? With the greatest respect, I suggest that I am entitled very briefly to address you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, upon 537 this matter and to draw your attention to the fact that this is a peculiar Bill and that the points which have been raised relate to the definition of terms of art in the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Member is now repeating what I have said is not a point of order. Mr. Henderson Stewart.
§ Mr. Hughes
Might I draw the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary to the fact that he has the Lord Advocate beside him to advise him on this matter? The Bill enjoys the peculiarity of not having—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman must resume his seat when I rise. He is now repeating by way of an intervention what he has just put to me as a point of order. It really has nothing to do with the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
Is it not likely, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the matter which my hon. and learned Friend has raised with you, while not a point of order for you, is a point which he could properly put to the Minister in his Second Reading speech? I thought he was endeavouring to do that.
§ Mr. Hughes
As the Minister courteously gave way, perhaps I might put the point to him. I would draw his attention to the fact that the questions which have been addressed to him relate to the definition of two terms of art in Clause 2, "special educational treatment" and "special schools." Inasmuch as there is no interpretation Clause in the Bill—this is an appeal to the Minister ; I am not trying to obstruct—does not the Minister think it is his duty to explain to the House on Second Reading what the terms mean?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is a fair point. I am not able to answer that technical, legal point at the moment, but we will try to give the hon. and learned Member an answer later this evening.
538 Clause 6, dealing with dental treatment, makes no change in the law. All it does is to bring into the Scottish Education Acts a Scottish Clause similar to the Clause included in the English Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1953. It was agreed that this should be done at the first suitable opportunity, and we now do it because this is the first opportunity.
Clause 7 discontinues the right of managers of schools to apply for inspection on payment of the expenses involved. There is a little interesting history here. It is, like Clause 2, a recognition of modern facts. Under the Education (Scotland) Act, 1878, school boards could apply for inspection of "higher class schools," as they were called, and they were inspected free of charge. Other managers of such schools could also apply, but they had to pay for the privilege.
The Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, makes all schools subject to inspection without charge, and, in fact, all schools are now periodically inspected. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult, as I am sure hon. Members will appreciate, to arrange for special inspections at the request of managers without taking Her Majesty's inspectors of schools from other and even more important work. Accordingly, it is now proposed to discontinue the practice. That does not mean that no special inspections will be made in the future, but only that they will no longer take place automatically at the request of managers.
I now come to Clause 8. Under the 1946 Act the Secretary of State appoints an Accountant to examine and report on the accounts of educational authorities and other educational bodies. The office of Accountant was created by the Education (Scotland) Act, 1872. Again we are going back into history. Clause 8 brings up to date the requirements about the bodies whose accounts are to be examined and the information to be included in the Accountant's reports. These reports will be laid before Parliament.
Clause 10 is designed to simplify procedure by enabling the Secretary of State to amend or revoke the Teachers Superannuation Scheme by means of regulations rather than, as now, by new or amended schemes which require approval by Order in Council. We can all agree 539 that the present procedure is not in accordance with modern Parliamentary practice. The change will not, of course, in any way effect the present or future content of the schemes. The regulations, like the present schemes, will be laid before Parliament and will be subject to annulment.
The only other Clauses to which I need refer are two dealing with educational endowments. Here, as hon. Members have no doubt observed, the changes proposed are purely administrative. Clause 11 is designed to bring the system of keeping audit and publication of accounts up to date. It also abolishes the charging of fees for the examination of endowment accounts by the Accountant. These fees are small, but the governing bodies have for long felt that it was unjust that endowment funds should have to bear this charge. The Clause also defines the powers of the Accountant where in his opinion the governing body has been in default, or done something which it has no power to do. The House will be glad to know that there are very few cases of such default. The Accountant will no longer have to report defaults of a minor character to the Secretary of State.
Clause 12 is purely procedural and is intended to modernise the machinery of appeal to the Court of Session on questions of law where a governing body or a person with a vested interest thinks that a scheme for an endowment does not conform to the requirements of the 1946 Act. The proposed change in no way affects the right to appeal, or the grounds upon which an appeal may be taken.
As I indicated at the beginning, we are here concerned not with any large or single new policy, but rather with a series of small amendments to the present law which the march of time has shown to be necessary. Indeed, the Bill is concerned in so many respects with legal difficulties that we thought it proper for the convenience of the House that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate should reply to the debate. I hope that will be for the convenience of the House. Meanwhile, I conclude by saying that if the amendments are accepted, they will substantially improve and speed up the administration of what may well be regarded as the nation's most 540 important social service, and I therefore claim for these amendments the ready support of the House.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire North)
This evening we are debating the Second Reading of a Bill which has been on the Order Paper for almost the whole Session. At present we have seven Ministers at the Scottish Office, with the Secretary of State a member of the Cabinet. We on this side of the House are entitled to ask at this stage what the Secretary of State and indeed the seven Ministers have been doing during the whole of the Session to safeguard the educational interests of Scotland.
Not so very long ago these Ministers made the most fulsome promises to the Scottish people. We all remember, "More time for Scottish affairs ; Scottish affairs to be more fully in the hands of Scottish Members." Scottish Ministers have been so weak during the whole Session that they have been unable to get adequate time from their English colleagues to discuss what at least we on this side of the House consider to be an important educational Measure.
There was almost a gentlemen's agreement that since the Scottish Ministers were unable to get adequate time for the discussion of the Bill, it should not be taken this Session. Instead of that obtaining, at this preposterously late date in the Session we have the Bill thrown to the Opposition. That is shocking treatment of an Opposition which in educational matters has tried to be responsible. We have not far to seek for the reason. For a considerable time we have known that Scottish Members have been proving a headache to the Secretary of State.
There has been a revolt among Scottish Tory Members. They have rebelled against spending so many mornings in the Scottish Grand Committee. This was a Bill admirably suited to the Scottish Grand Committee, admirably suited to have its Second Reading there, admirably suited to have its Committee stage taken there. Had that happened Scottish Members would have had a chance adequately and thoroughly to examine the provisions of the Bill, but because Scottish Tory Members are in revolt, because they have so many business interests outside the House, we find ourselves asked to discuss the Bill only 541 a few days before the end of the Session. I know that the Scottish people will see this as another clear example of Scottish Tory Members putting the affairs of Scotland a poor second to their own private business interests.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker seemed to think that there were too many interruptions from this side of the House. All that was being asked was an explanation of what we considered might be important provisions. We did not know whether they were important, and it was also evident that the Joint Under-Secretary had not been properly briefed on the Bill's provisions. If the Joint Under-Secretary is not properly briefed, how can we, without the help of the Civil Service, really know what are the new provisions of the Bill, what they mean and how they compare with those of the Act of 1946? If we wish to subscribe to educational interests in Scotland, it is the duty of the Joint Under-Secretary at least to know where the differences are in this Bill, and to have ready an explanation. They are not Committee points : they are the sole reason for this Bill. I consider that many of us are as wise now as when the Joint Under-Secretary commenced to speak.
I wish to refer to some of the provisions in the Bill and to ask some questions about them. I consider that the provisions in Clause 1 are good. Anything which contributes to increasing the safety of children is something which should command support from all the country, but I wish to ask the Secretary of State about one provision, and I hope I shall not be told that it is a Committee point.
Clause 1 (2) states :Any work for the purpose of the last foregoing subsection may be undertaken by the education authority in co-operation with any other person.That does not mean "any other body," it is "any other person." Does that mean that if at this moment there is what we call in Scotland a private road going past houses which are owner-occupied, there will have to be discussions with the owners of that property? Will there be no such road made unless the owner-occupiers are willing to pay their share of the cost? I know of some cases where owner-occupiers would not be able to pay any part of the cost of such a road. Will the provision of a road of this kind be 542 held up, if that be the case? I should like an answer from the Lord Advocate, and I hope that we shall be given an assurance that there will not be long discussions and squabbling about who is to pay for such a road and what share may have to be borne by such owner-occupiers.
The Joint Under-Secretary explained that three amendments were introduced in Clause 3 (5). We would all wish to see truancy eliminated, if that be possible. Indeed, the Joint Under-Secretary said that truancy is no longer a serious matter. I consider that the first two amendments go to indicate the objection to the third amendment which is proposed in this Clause. My objection to it is strengthened by what was said by the Joint Under-Secretary—that truancy is no longer a serious matter. What does that amendment mean?
From Clause 3 (5) we have to refer to Section 38 of the Principal Act of 1946. Under that Act, before a child can be forced to appear at a juvenile court, the parents must have had to appear before a court. Then, whether or not a conviction had been registered, it can be ordered that the child should appear before a juvenile court. Under the amendment contained in this Bill, a parent can be asked to bring his child to a juvenile court before the parent himself has had to appear before a court, and I think that is a bad thing. Wherever possible children should be kept out of court. I know that juvenile courts are much better than other courts, but it is a bad thing to bring a child before a court, if the fault can be remedied in any other way. From what the Joint Under-Secretary has said, it seems to me that there is no need whatever for the extra provision asked for in this Bill by the Secretary of State. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."] I note that my hon. Friends agree with me, and I expect that we shall put down an Amendment to do away with that provision.
I now turn to Clause 4. The Joint Under-Secretary suggested that this was not a very important Bill ; that it has been brought forward to amend the principal Act, because certain anomalies had arisen and certain bodies wished certain things to be done. But this House has two sides ; there is the Government side and the Opposition side. We who are 543 Members of the Opposition are very interested in education, and when a Bill like this is brought before us, it gives us an opportunity to try to get changes made and to introduce Amendments which it is apparent have become necessary during the years following the passing of the principal Act. Because of the scurvy treatment to which we have been subjected regarding the time allocated for discussing this Bill, it will be almost impossible for the Members of the Opposition to do their duty in that respect. Clause 4 provides an example of that.
I welcome the new provision contained in that Clause. It seems to me to be in line with the schemes which were applied to ex-Service men and women to give them a chance to benefit from the very highest forms of learning, and also to be in line with the scheme for bursaries and grants given to those attracted under the special recruitment scheme for teaching. Anything which helps to increase the educated and trained manpower of our country is a good thing. It was suggested that this provision might not touch many people, but I hope that it will bring many people into the spheres of learning into which we hope to lead them. I hope that in this instance the Secretary of State and the local authorities will find it necessary to spend a far greater sum of money than the Joint Under-Secretary seemed to imagine would be the case.
But this is a Clause in which I feel that we should like to make some Amendments. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) wishes that these or similar provisions should cover other people. There is there one set of children who I feel should come under any new grant provisions, namely, children who are in special schools because of physical or of mental disability. By statutory provision such children must stay at school until they are 16 years of age, whereas other children stay until they are 15. A child taking secondary education after the age of 15 may get a maintenance grant. So far as I am aware, a child forced to stay at a special school until the age of 16 gets no maintenance grant. The provisions for such children under National Assistance legislation operate only when the child has reached the age of 16, so that there is a gap of a year—from 15 to 16—for those 544 children. That is something about which we hope as an Opposition to be able to do something.
In Clause 5 we have, in the main, the provisions of the principal Act. It has always seemed to me foolish that a local authority, should, for example, provide a bus for children and that there should be vacant seats in the vehicle, when children in rural areas are having to walk to school. I think it a good provision that every seat in such a bus shall be taken, if there are children to fill them. I am not sure about subsection (3), by which it is proposed to pay the expenses of those who have to travel to a centre to attend an examination. That provision about pupils going from one school to another should not be permissive but compulsory. Any pupil travelling for an examination should have travelling expenses covered.
Clause 6 gives us nothing new but merely transfers a Section from one Measure to another. Here was a chance for the Opposition. Many of us on this side of the House are far from satisfied with the provisions relating to the examination of eyes in our schools. Putting in a Clause dealing with dental care of children was an opportunity to ensure also that eyes are taken much more care of than is the case at present. That is another example of the right of the Opposition to demand much more time for the Bill, either by having had it considered earlier in the Session, or by postponing the Bill until the next Session.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State did not give us a proper explanation of Clause 7. He said it merely deleted a Section from the principal Act, but it does something more, something which is important. The provisions of the 1946 Act relating to private schools—as we call them in Scotland—have not been fully operated. We had to wait for an appointed day. In 1951, the decision was taken by the then Labour Secretary of State for Scotland that those provisions should come into effect, and that, without waiting for the managers of private schools to ask for the schools to be inspected, the inspectorate in Scotland should have the right to go into those schools, as they have the right to go into local authority schools. That was a most important provision. When the Tory 545 Secretary of State for Scotland came to power in 1951, he reversed that decision. We have had to wait all these years to get a proper examination of Scottish private schools. If that is not the case, I should like to know when the provision actually came into operation.
When he made his opening speech the Joint Under-Secretary of State was in a most difficult position, because he knew how short the time will be for discussing the Bill. Yet time and time again he said, "This is a Committee point which we shall have time to discuss in Committee". How can we possibly have time to discuss in Committee all the points that have been raised in this one-day debate? I ask the Joint Under-Secretary to discuss this point with the Secretary of State, and then let the Secretary of State be bold enough to go to the Cabinet and say, "We are not continuing with the Bill this Session". Let him keep it for next Session, so that it can be discussed adequately in the Scottish Standing Committee, although I know that he will have to obtain the sanction of his business friends on the Government back benches.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) would appear to be intent upon delaying the passage of the Bill. If the Bill were referred to the Scottish Standing Committee it could not become law before the end of the Session. [An HON. MEMBER : "Hear, hear."] This is a useful little Measure and I want to see it on the Statute Book without delay. I do not go further than the Joint Under-Secretary of State went in drawing attention to the purpose of the Bill, which is stated in the first two lines of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum in these words :The purpose of this Bill is to remove some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the administration and development of public education in Scotland.I am prepared to admit that a large proportion of the population of Scotland is unaware that these difficulties exist, but it is true that those who are in close touch with the administration of education are aware of the difficulties, are frustrated by them and are anxious to see them removed as soon as possible.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that we, too, were so anxious to get on with the Bill that we wanted it to go to the Scottish Standing Committee many months ago and that it was he and his hon. Friends who stood in the way?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I very frequently find myself attending the Scottish Standing Committee in one capacity or another.
It is within my recollection that we spent a great many days discussing at great length a number of Scottish Bills. For that reason a limit has to be put to the number of Bills that can be considered there. Provided that we can get this Measure on the Statute Book there is not much cause for Scottish Members to complain. [HON. MEMBERS : "Oh."] The suggestion that Scottish affairs are not receiving sufficient attention from the House of Commons is falsified by the fact that so much of today is occupied with Scottish business, that a whole day, as I understand, is to be occupied next week on the Committee stage, and after that there will be a portion of another day for the Third Reading of the Bill. If we have all that out of the very small remaining period at the end of the Session we are not doing badly at all.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am sure that the House would like to get on with discussion of the provisions of the Bill. Although these have been made light of in some quarters, they are very good.
§ Clause 1 is designed to help children who are travelling to and from school and to obviate the dangers of children running into vehicles which drive on to the playground delivering meals because the road at the side entrance to the school has not been repaired sufficiently to carry the vehicle. The law has not allowed an education authority to incur such an expense. It seems well worth while making it possible for an education authority to do so. I listened to the Joint Under Secretary of State's explanation about bridges, side roads and pathways that require a small repair. That must be very necessary.
§ I would ask my hon. Friend to clear up one point. It is evident that private roads and pathways can be maintained under the Bill, but is there provision for making 547 a new path or footbridge? There are cases where a new housing estate has grown up and where there may be a short cut across a field or two to the school. This would allow children to reach the school without running the hazard of the public roads. I would ask my hon. Friend or the Lord Advocate to make it clear that the Bill covers the construction of a new path or footbridge in such a case.
§ Before I leave the question of safety I wish to refer to the provision of railings outside exits from schools. Hitherto, the education authorities have not been able to bear any expense for that provision, but now they are to be made eligible and to have the onus of initiating the installation of such barriers where they are required. Experience of traffic accidents in the last few years has shown, I think, that railings are a very considerable advantage in preventing children from being run over when they run out into the road unawares.
§ I turn to another Clause which I think is helpful. That is Clause 4 which makes it clear that scholarships and bursaries won by people over school age may carry with them a certain increment towards the maintenance of the dependants of those people. I imagine that "dependants" include not only the wife and, possibly, family of a grown working man who wants to avail himself of such a bursary, but also the aged dependants—widowed or otherwise—of such a man who may have been dependent for their smaller comforts on that man continuing in gainful occupation.
§ I am sure that that is something we are all glad to see introduced, the more so as I believe I am correct in saying that a similar provision has already been made in England. In this small respect we have been lagging behind England and should remedy that without delay.
§ On the question of transport, in particular, I like the subsection which requires local authorities to select children to fill vacant places in school buses. At present, that is permissive and it is to be made a requirement.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member asks how local authorities will make the selection. I will give a simple case in which an authority would be in 548 no doubt about how to make a selection. If two children from the same family were going to school and one was older than the other it would seem nonsense that the older one should not be able to accompany the younger all the way to the school. Now an opportunity will be provided for that to be done.
§ Mr. Rankin
On the morning that the older child is told he may accompany the younger one every seat in the bus may be already taken. What is he to do? Is he to have standing room in the bus?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member puts administrative points from a background of considerable knowledge. I agree that such decisions will require to be taken by local authorities. It is a fact that a number of local authorities have already accepted the onus of taking those decisions. I have no doubt whatever that other local authorities in Scotland will find that this provision will enable them to do likewise.
The last point to which I refer was touched on by the hon. Lady the present Member for Lanarkshire, North. She referred to dental treatment and said she would like added to that some provision to help in testing eyesight. It may well be that the hon. Lady has made a good point there. The reference in the present Bill to dental treatment is little more than a formality, because it is already the law that free dental treatment may be provided. That is good sense. If one wants to use the proverbA stitch in time saves ninethere is nowhere where a stitch in time saves nine more effectively than in the treatment of young persons' teeth. The same may easily apply to the care of the eyes and I am happy that that point has been made. I am sure that the Government will give it the consideration it deserves.
With those words, I welcome this small Bill.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
When I first read this Bill and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, I felt that here was a really world-shaking event in the matter of legislation. It states :The purpose of this Bill is to remove some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the administration and development of public education in Scotland,549 I noticed that everyone who has referred to the Explanatory Memorandum, including the Joint Under-Secretary in his scintillating performance this afternoon, omitted :This Bill is to remove some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the administration and development of public education in Scotland.I thought it quite wise to make omission of that reference because in the Bill—certainly in the Bill as explained by the hon. Gentleman—I cannot see how the development of public education is going to be assisted in any way.
I had hoped that here we would get something really worth while, because anyone who has been paying any attention at all to the administration of education and the worries of administrators through our sad failure properly to develop education following the high hopes and bold plans laid down during and after the war would be very much concerned about how they were to be helped. All that is left to us to hope for is that the winding-up speech might be made by the latest acquisition to education, the Rector of Glasgow University. We might get a little more clarity from him than from anyone who so far has tried to speak from the benches opposite.
I have been very disappointed indeed even in the explanation of what good there is in the Bill. Administrators in Scotland are terribly worried. They just do not know what to do next in the way of getting on with the administration and development of education. There is the question of the shortage of teachers and of keeping them once they are obtained, and also of putting them in the right places. There is nothing in this Bill which will help in that problem.
We have been talking about safety of children coming from the schools. In my constituency, when a new school was built provision was made in the foundations for the building of a gymnasium, but it still has no gymnasium, because of the credit squeeze. The children there have to cross a public road to go to a hall for physical training. They may breathe again for they get the consolation in this Bill. They should remember that when hon. Members opposite took their place in St. Andrew's House, we were told that new breezes would be blowing there, but every month there is a credit squeeze—I call it 550 a discreditable squeeze when it affects the children of Scotland. I sometimes wonder whether it is worth while, because we are told that all this important stuff which we have been told about today will not cost anything. What is going to be done if it is going to cost nothing?
The final Clause in the Bill is the clearest one of the lot. It says :Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or application of any money raised by any such charge.It is not going to cost anything. So the Government are going to build these safety barriers and make other changes—and there are some considerable changes which have not been referred to which will cost somebody some money—but they will not cost the Government anything.
§ Mr. Ross
We have been told that this will cost us very little, and we have also been told that the appropriation in aid will suffer by the loss of £1,000 from the fees which come from the inspection of schools. The actual fact is that, in terms of financing, Scottish education does not amount to very much any way, because Scottish education often is determined as a proportion of what the English and Welsh get, and what we get we have to spend on whatever purposes are laid down. So we get nothing exceptional for having passed this legislation.
Let us look at the first point—the question of the safety of children going to and from school. I was really appalled when the Joint Under-Secretary of State told us today that there was a school in a dangerous area where the education authorities could not put up a barrier because the ground was owned by the local authority and not by the local education authority. I am really appalled that that is happening at all in Scotland—that authorities which are tantamount to the same authority, different departments of the one authority, should be told that they connot build a school barrier. I hope that he can give us a better example than that. I have not the slightest doubt that it is regrettable that the Government have never found it in their power to prevent 551 something like that happening in Scotland hitherto. I think it is desirable that this work should be done.
§ The question of improving private roads we had under another Bill in the Scottish Grand Committee, and we spent a little time on it. I thought that Bill might be used to get round this difficulty. Perhaps we might know who is to bear the cost of this. Is 100 per cent. cost to be borne by the local education authority or has it to be shared? Obviously, according to the Clause, there has to be the consent of someone whose ground has to be obtained before the work can be carried out for the improvement of a road. The question which arises is how the cost is to be shared if this is a private road. The words "whole or part" which we come across in other parts of the Bill are quite important here, but they are not included in Clause 2. I was surprised that the Joint Under-Secretary should have omitted the discussion of it in the five important Clauses which he singled out. When he eventually came back to it he obviously did not know anything about it.
§ Mr. Ross
I thought that the Joint Under-Secretary might have learned after six years. His performance today was appalling. I am certain that he had a very good brief and that he had not taken the trouble to read it. This might have considerable implications.
What has happened under Clause 2? Hitherto certain duties have been placed on local authorities. That has been followed up by a further provision as to how they are to carry out those duties, and it has generally been in respect of different aspects of education by the preparation of a scheme which has to be prepared by the education authority and submitted for approval by the Department. Now we have specific instructions to every local authority in Scotland that they do not require to prepare and submit schemes in respect of certain things, and the first one is in respect of part-time and full-time voluntary education.
The excuse given by the Joint Under-Secretary was that local authorities had always found it difficult to prepare such schemes. There never has been any 552 difficulty about that hitherto ; that has never impeded the development of Scottish education. What is done here is that he has removed from them the duty to prepare schemes and, by removing the duty to prepare schemes, he lowers or reduces the emphasis placed upon this particular aspect of education.
§ Mr. Ross
It is a pity that the Joint Under-Secretary has not been able to stand at that Box and tell us something about this Clause instead of listening to someone else explaining it and then saying "No, No." That is exactly what this Clause does. It removes the duty of preparing—does the Joint Under-Secretary deny that this is the effect of the Clause?
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I do not know why the hon. Member should deliberately get this thing muddled up. It is as clear as can be. For this particular branch of education, for the reasons which I have given, it has not in practice been found possible either for the authorities or ourselves acting together with the authorities to draw up a normal, formal scheme, such as we have with the primary and secondary, because people come and go and are not obliged to take further education. So we have removed from the authorities that formal duty ; but they have to go on with the job, and we are pressing them as hard as it is within our power to do to advance this work. It is merely the removal of the duty of producing a formal written document ; that is all.
§ Mr. Ross
It took the Joint Under-Secretary about two and a half minutes to say that the answer to my question was "Yes," and that I was right. In his answer, he referred to the question of a grant to further education—that it cannot be done in the same way as it is possible to do in primary and secondary education. This does not refer only to further education. I asked the Joint Under-Secretary during his speech to explain what subsections (b) and (c) meant, and 553 he could not. Subsection (b) refers to social, physical and recreational facilities organised in primary and in junior secondary and senior secondary schools. Surely there is no difficulty to produce these formal schemes in respect of activities which many people consider of considerable importance, so his answer in respect of adult education cannot be the same as in this case.
§ Mr. Ross
I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman took up so much of the time of the House making clear that he knew nothing about what he was trying to explain. We reluctantly came to the conclusion that he had treated the House with pretty much the feeling, that it did not really matter ; no one would know very much about it ; and he did not see any reason why he should know about it. My feeling is this. The removal of the duty to prepare schemes—because in one case he says it is difficult and in the other two cases he has advanced no reason at all—detracts, to my mind, from the importance of these aspects of education.
We have seen in the past acts of the Secretary of State and orders that he has given to local authorities where he has had this bias against adult education, regarding it as the trimmings of education and something that really does not matter.
§ Mr. Ross
I do not think that we on this side of the House should take up that attitude at all. Many people today have been very concerned about this passive attitude of people even on the question of entertainment and how they spend their time, with the inroads made on reading by television and everything else. I think that when people are prepared voluntarily to give up time in order to educate themselves, whether in recreational pursuits or educational pursuits, the Government should do nothing at all to reduce the importance of that kind of education. My feeling is that this will be the consequence—whether or not the Joint Under-Secretary thinks so, or whether or not he likes it now that he has been told what the Bill is.
I turn to Clause 2 (c)—special educational treatment other than in special schools.554 That has not yet been explained. We do not really know what it means. If it means something that is referred to in Clause 1 (4) of the principal Act, it is a pity that, in a Bill which is so full of cross-references, those words were not put in. It would have made things slightly easier for us and would have given us an idea of what was intended. But it may be that in Committee we shall get fuller information about that.
I should like to refer to a point already made on Clause 3 in respect of truancy. I do not think it is desirable to bring children in front of a juvenile court before an effort has been made to deal with the parents. In many cases the responsibility for truancy does not really lie on the child but on the parents, and it must be kept with the parents. It may well be that we shall have to deal separately with children and parents later on, but always, in the first instance, the parents must be tackled. If it is a declining problem, there is all the more reason why we should deal with it in the way suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison).
Then we have Clause 4. I do not know whether my hearing has gone slightly wrong or whether it was, again, a gloss by the Joint Under-Secretary, but I thought that in referring to this matter he referred to married men and to married men only. Of course, the Clause refers to persons over school age.
§ Mr. Ross
I am sure that there are some who are not married, and I hope that the application is to them all and that the interpretation here will be fairly wide.
I know of some young students who, had they been working, would have been the mainstay of their parents, but whose parents have been prepared to sacrifice beyond any extent to which we might expect parents to sacrifice in order to give those students the opportunity to go to university or to some other form of further education. I should hope that some of their hardships may be reduced by a proper interpretation of this new Clause.
Another word in the Clause which I do not like is the word "may"—The said regulations may include a provision requiring an education authority. …555 It should be obligatory on education authorities in Scotland to ensure that the matter of dependants is taken into account.
§ Clause 5, which deals with the provision of transport and travelling expenses, is indeed important—very important in the light of what is happening in Scotland where, because of the failure of the Government, we are unable to get the schools we need and children are travelling literally across cities and across towns. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) will probably tell us what it costs the Glasgow Corporation for transport alone.
§ Mr. Ross
Over £300,000 a year spent by one of the largest education authorities on transport alone—and, if anything, this Clause enables them to spend a little more ; but it is not to cost anybody anything—or, at one time, so it seemed.
There is this addition ; that—… where there are any vacant places in any vehicle used for such conveyance …the local authority is to be allowed to use them up.
An hon. Member opposite spoke as though no one in Scotland knew about these difficulties at all. I do not know whether he has been reading the Scottish Press, but there has been very much in the news the case of a girl and her sisters denied the right to travel on such a bus which passed their door. Now, at long last, the local authority has decided to allow her to travel on that bus although, in actual fact, she is now about to leave school.
The difficulties have been there, and the people of Scotland have been aware of them. Naturally, we welcome the fact that they are now being dealt with in this fashion and in this Clause—but I do not know why there have been put into subsection (c) the words :… the whole or any part. …All the other additions seem to be worth while but, if my interpretation is right, this is rather introducing an element whereby instead of paying the full expenses the local authority is enabled to cut the expense by paying part only.
556 I should also like a fuller definition of "person" in subsection (3) of Clause 5. This question of travelling expenses is not fully covered here—and I should like my hon. Friends to realise that. There is something buried away as a minor Amendment in Clause 13—Minor and consequential amendments and repeals.That was never touched upon at all by the Joint Under-Secretary. It may well be that I have misinterpreted it, but it is certainly something that demands some explanation.
We are told in line 45 of the First Schedule that an Amendment is made to Section 88 of the principal Act which enables a local authority in future to payexpenses of removal and of the temporary accommodation of any such teacher or officer ordinarily resident in the area of another education authority who has been appointed to the service of the authority concerned.In other words, as it seems to me, it would appear that local authorities are to be able to pay for the removal and temporary accommodation of teachers transferred from one area to another. I think that that is important. In these days of shortage of teachers, it could have considerable repercussions—but we have not been given any explanation at all of that Amendment to Section 88. I really regret that the Joint Under-Secretary has not taken the sort of trouble that the Bill merited and that the House expected.
The subject of new regulations for the training of teachers and the issue of certificates is one of the really important matters in the Bill, but we just do not know what additional powers have been given or what changes have been made in this respect. This is a matter of considerable importance. I am perfectly sure that the Scottish Grand Committee could spend two days debating this subject alone—and I think that I heard someone say under his breath "or any other subject."
This matter merits considerable attention—but I shall not endeavour to do the job of the Secretary of State and explain what I think the Clause does. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State—if he is to reply in the absence of the Lord Rector—will explain fully what changes have been made, and what new powers taken by the Secretary of State are delegated to the training-of-teacher committees in Scotland.
557 I believe that this could be a very important Bill if we liked to make it so ; if we liked properly to interpret the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum and remove some of the difficulties which have been experienced not only in the administration but in the development of education in Scotland. I am perfectly sure that we are not to get the answer, so I think that all we can suggest for the removal of the difficulties in the way of the development in education in Scotland just now is to invite the present incumbents of St. Andrew's House to hand in their notice. That would get rid of a considerable amount of difficulty.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
It is, of course, very easy to sneer at a Bill like this and to say that because it does not deal with such large subjects as the recruitment of teachers and the building of new schools it is not worthy of our attention. But this little Bill does some useful things, and if we were honest I think we would give it a welcome in all quarters of the House.
There is, for example, the question of the payment for school transport. I myself welcome, as other hon. Members have done, the provisions of Clause 5, and, in particular, subsection (2), which enable education authorities to fill up school buses. I myself have had some experience of this in my constituency where, in one area about which I wrote to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, there was a taxi hired daily to take a few schoolchildren a fairly considerable distance to a village school. Then there became too many children for the taxi, so a bus was hired instead, and the smallest bus that could be provided was a 29-seater.
That bus used daily to pass school children who lived within the permitted walking distance—that is to say, who were not three miles from the village school in the case of children of eight years of age and over, and not two miles from the school in the case of children of under eight. The bus would pass them and would even splash them with mud, and would be unable to take them aboard. I asked my hon. Friend that it should be possible to take these children on the bus upon payment, but now, as I understand, it is to be possible to take 558 children without payment, irrespective of their age and of the distance which they have to walk to school.
If I am right about that, it will give rise to one rather curious anomaly. At the moment, children over 14 years of age, if they travel by public transport, nearly always have to pay the full fare. As I understand, most of the larger bus companies in Scotland charge the full fare to school children over 14 years of age. That gives rise to hardship in certain cases—not a great many I daresay, but in certain cases it does. I understand that local authorities, where they run their own public bus services as they do, no doubt, in some urban areas, have power under the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act, which the House passed last year, to charge half the fare.
But in other cases it is entirely a matter for the licensing and fare-fixing authorities. In such cases the licensing authorities are required to take into consideration any representations which may be made to them by the local authorities concerned, but in cases which have come to my notice in rural areas, the licensing authorities have been unwilling to make this concession to school children 15 years of age and over a condition of granting licences.
I think I am right in saying that the Association of County Councils in Scotland has made certain representations to the bus companies, and that some of the smaller bus companies, to their credit, have agreed to make this concession, and on some routes operated by the smaller bus companies children of 15 years of age and who are still at school are allowed to travel at half fare. But in the case of the major bus companies, and in most areas in Scotland, the full fare is exacted from children 15 years old.
It seems to me that if the local education authority is to be empowered under the terms of Clause 5 (2) to allow children over 14 years of age to travel free for less than three months—perhaps for a mile, or a mile and a half only—if places are available a very strong case could be made out to enable those same local authorities to subsidise the difference between the full fare and the half fare in respect of schoolchildren 14 years of age and over travelling by public transport to their schools.
559 I am delighted by Clause 1. I am sure that throughout the House a general welcome has been given to it, as indeed the House always welcomes any Measure which is designed to prevent accidents and to promote the safety of children. There is a point that I would like to draw to the attention of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, and it is this. It seems that under the provisions of Clause 1 it will be possible for education authorities to contribute to the cost of making good the surface of private streets.
I feel inclined to apologise for talking, as I have so often during the earlier part of this session, about private streets. Under this Bill, if a private street has fallen into such a state of disrepair as to constitute a danger to children—and the form that the danger is likely to take is that the street will be so bad in the winter that the children will be unable to cross it dry-shod in order to get to the public transport—the education authority will be empowered, with the consent of the owners of the road, to resurface it or to contribute towards its resurfacing.
That mght be a fairly considerable expense ; I do not complain about that, but if I am right about the idea that is behind this Clause—namely, the desire to enable a child who has to cross an unmade-up, wet, muddy private street to get to the school bus and to reach it dry-shod—then I think one can make out a strong case for something else that I would very much like to see—namely, the contribution by the education authorities towards the provision of bus shelters in rural areas.
Where children go long distances, as they often do, to pick up a public bus service, when they have season tickets given to them, they have to get to the bus stop in good time to catch the bus. They often have ten minutes or more to wait on the side of the road. When such a bus stop is fairly extensively used by children from surrounding farms, and so on, I think a strong case could be made out for the use of public funds, through the instrumentality of this Bill and through the administration of the education authority, to erect bus shelters if there is no other way in which they could be erected.
There are other points which, no doubt, we shall want to talk about in Committee. There is, however, one thing which is not 560 covered by the Bill, and as it is a matter concerning the administration of education in Scotland I should like to mention it. Many of us pressed for a long time that retirement pensions to teachers in Scotland should be paid on a monthly instead of a quarterly basis and we were delighted when that concession was made. At the same time, unfortunately, it was necessary for the House to be told that for administrative reasons it could not be done for a long time, and that, while it was hopend to do it by a certain date, it might well take longer.
I should like my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, when replying to the debate, to give the latest news about this and to let us know how these arrangements are progressing. I am sure that we all want the payment of retirement pensions to school teachers to be put on to a monthly instead of a quarterly basis as soon as possible.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
We are discussing an educational Measure of some importance and I feel that it is rather a pity that the Leader of the House, who has just been returned as Rector at one of our great seats of learning in Scotland —Glasgow University—has not seen fit to grace our proceedings by his presence. If he had come, we might have been able to console him on the fact that he has attained this high office on a minority vote.
I congratulate the Government on the speed with which they are now catching up with the local authorities. If they continue on the course on which they are now embarked, perhaps in due time they will catch up with the rest of the population and become quite progressive in their outlook. I say that the Government are catching up with the local authorities because part of the Bill will now make legal the illegal things which some local authorities, in the interests of the pupils, have been forced to carry out because of the inaction of the Government.
Had any ratepayer in the City of Glasgow or other areas chosen to take the proper steps, he could have prevented the carrying out of the work to which we are now giving our blessing in the Bill. That is a condemnation of the speed at which the Government have progressed in bringing in the Bill, which was printed 561 and submitted to the House almost a year ago. In the intervening time, they have not found it possible to proceed with this necessary Measure.
As we on this side have said, there is a good deal in the Bill that is desirable and necessary. In presenting the Bill, however, by the way in which he did so, the Joint Under-Secretary somewhat confused the situation. By his attitude to the Bill in his opening speech, the hon. Gentleman prevented it from getting the kind of reception which we were prepared to give it. We recognise that much that the Bill contains meets the requirements of the local authorities and, so far as I have been able to gather from my own local authority, is largely welcomed by them.
As has been pointed out, however, there are certain Clauses which deserve our close attention. I do not want to say anything about Clause 5, because the points which arise on it can be discussed with greater ease in Committee. I want, however, to consider Clause 7. The Joint Under-Secretary pointed out that inspection of the independent schools would cease only in respect of that type of inspection which was carried out at the request of the private or independent schools. Inspection in the normal way is to continue.
I do not know how many independent schools there are in Scotland, but I should reckon that there is a great number of them. Perhaps we could have this information when the Lord Advocate replies to the debate.
§ Mr. Rankin
So far as I understand, the Lord Advocate will reply. I am told that he has all the qualifications necessary for a reply from the Government side on this debate. Therefore, we shall await with interest what he has to say on many of the points which have been raised.
The point concerning Clause 7 is that the Government have missed the boat. Why did they not lay it down in this little Bill that independent schools should be registered? We have all seen independent schools. I see some of them in the area where I live. A house of a certain size can be obtained and turned into a school, but nobody seems to have any 562 power of decision at the beginning about the creation of such a school.
So far as I know, nobody decides about playground facilities at these schools or about the accommodation for washing, for lavatories, or for any of the amenities that we insist upon in our public schools. A person simply decides that he or she will have an independent school and charges the type of fee which may give to the neighbourhood the feeling that it is a different school, on a higher level than anything around it, so that the people decide to send their children to it.
That is possible because at the moment, so far as my information goes, no independent school in Scotland is subject to registration. If this were to be done, and every school in Scotland of an independent or a private nature had to be registered, the local authority would know all about it and would have the responsibility for seeing that all the amenities, facilities and safeguards were present in the school. The education of the children might be conducted in circumstances approaching those which we stipulate as being essential in what we call the public schools in Scotland.
Now let us look at Clause 3. I am not going to say it is the most important Clause in the Bill, but it is very nearly the most important, particularly because of subsection (3). I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) referred to that subsection when opening the debate from this side of the House. We all, of course, accept the need for compulsory education. There is no argument about that. From compulsory education, compulsory attendance must follow. There is no argument about that either. If attendance is not regular, the irregularity must be dealt with. That is essential.
At present, such irregularities are dealt with, and it is the parents who are punished for them. It is proper that they should be, because the parents, in my view, in all cases are the people who are primarily responsible for the irregular attendance of children at school. Under the law as it stands today we deal with the parents. Now, however, if my interpretation of subsection (3) is correct, we are to reverse the practice. That subsection says :Where a child in respect of whom an attendance order is in force moves his residence, the education authority of the area to which 563 the child has moved may amend that order by substituting for the name of the school appearing in the order the name of a school attended by children residing in the same neighbourhood as the child, and the provisions of subsection (5) of the said section thirty-six shall apply in the making of any amendment to such an order under this subsection.If I interpret that subsection (3) aright, it means that a child's attendance order is now to follow the child wherever it goes. It is tagged on to him so long as he remains at school in any part of Scotland. I wonder when it would follow him into England? I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate will have something to say on that.
At present, if a child leaves an area and goes to another, it starts with a clean record. Now the Government propose that we should take its record with him. We are to make a child's attendance record, known wherever the child goes. Thus we are not now to punish the parents but are to punish the child. That is what that subsection (3) means if my interpretation of it is correct, and the Government thus propose to do something which ought to be regarded as intolerable. It is indefensible in the new type of society, and irreconcilable with the new attitude we want to see adopted towards education.
The child is to carry a stigma wherever he goes. For ten years I was a member of a parish council in Scotland. It was common for persons accommodated at the combination hospital, to stay there all winter, then to move out in the summer. They were tagged wherever they went. One would go to Stirling, then to Perth, to Inverness, but every move was reported back. That is how the Government propose we should now treat children in Scotland's educational system.
They propose to do this at a time when there is to be great development of industry, when industry is expanding into areas where it did not before exist. As it expands it will draw men and women and their children with it. The Government make this proposal at a time when, because of overcrowding in our cities, people will be moving away from them. Glasgow, for instance, has 300,000 people whom it must spill over into adjacent areas if the City of Glasgow is to be properly developed. At this time, when 564 great movements of people are pending, we are to say to every little child in the City of Glasgow who has been up before the school management committee, "If you leave the city, if your people move out from the city, then you will carry with you your attendance record, which will be known immediately wherever you may go." For there is no secret about it. It is nonsense to say that the attendance record is kept locked within a headmaster's room. There are innumerable instances showing how slender that type of protection is.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will think again about this Clause between now and Monday next. I wonder if he would apply it to the potato diggers? Just now there are between 800 and 900 children in Scotland absenting themselves from school by permission of the Department. They are at the moment irregular attenders under the patronage of the Secretary of State. He will not hold their irregular attendance against them.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will hold irregular attendance against, say, the children of such people as gypsies, who assist in the harvest in Scotland, in Perthshire, and along the West Coast. At this time of the year they move about frequently, and it is easy for their children to be stigmatised as irregular attenders even when they are doing exactly the same work that is just now being done by the potato pickers who are licensed to be absent to lift potatoes by the Secretary of State, who presents us with this Bill.
I suggest to the Joint Under-Secretary of State that he withdraws Clause 3 (3). I do not think that its deletion would weaken the Bill in any way. If it is not removed I am sure that from this side an Amendment will be moved to delete it, and that we shall not allow that subsection to pass without a vote. However, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will render a vote unnecessary.
§ This Clause cannot be defended because it reverses the practice which I think most of us would accept—the holding of the parents responsible for an irregular attender and the infliction of the fine or warning on the child's parents. Now we are changing all that. We are to punish the child and make him a 565 marked person, in whatever school he may be taken to at a time when movements of population on a wide scale are almost inevitable. I hope that, viewing the matter in that light, the Joint Under-Secretary will have second thoughts about subsection (3), that he will agree with me that it ought to be deleted.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
This is an occasion which should be made a landmark in Scottish educational history. It should be seized as an opportunity to introduce that really useful Bill that Scottish education requires. It is not made such an occasion. The opportunity has been lost. That is proved by the very unusual circumstances attending this Second Reading. I shall mention four of these circumstances.
First, this very important little Bill is brought forward at the tail-end of a Session when the House has no adequate opportunity of considering it or amending it, or of having a proper Committee stage or Third Reading of it. That is so notwithstanding the fact that it first reached the House from another place as far back as 7th February, that it was ordered by the House to be printed on 8th February and has lain dormant in a pigeon-hole ever since. The Government show their opinion of its unimportance by treating it in that very wrong way.
The opportunity has been wasted by the Government, and if the House in its wisdom thought fit to propose and pass Amendments to the Bill it would not have the time to do so. The analysis to which certain Clauses have been subjected here today shows that those Clauses need amendment. The opportunity for making the Bill the useful Bill it ought to be will therefore now be lost.
The second reason why this is an unusual Second Reading is that the Minister did not take the opportunity to explain the Bill fully to the House. My experience of the House as a Member goes back only about ten or eleven years, but I have never known an occasion of a Bill coming before the House for Second Reading when it was not adequately explained to the House by the Minister responsible for it. I say in all seriousness that what has happened today is inconsistent with the traditions of the House. It treats the House as if it were to consider Bills in blinkers without giving them 566 adequate consideration and amendment to make them the useful and constructive instruments which they ought to be.
The Bill, small as it is, is a difficult Bill. As the debate has shown, it is full of cross-references. It is of that undesirable kind of legislation which is called legislation by reference and delegation. It refers to other Acts of Parliament, and when questions are asked as to what this or that Clause means or this or that phrase means it would be right for the Bill to be fully and clearly and logically explained to the House. But what happened today? When this Clause and that phrase were put to the Minister, although he had at his hand the Lord Advocate to advise him with his learning, he was unable to explain the terms of art which occur in the Bill and to which I referred earlier in this debate. The Minister did not, and apparently could not, explain these although the Lord Advocate was beside him.
I then pointed out that another unusual feature of the Bill is that there is not in it any definition or interpretation Clause. If there were such a Clause it might have been fair enough for the Minister to refer to them and to say, "I will not explain them in the House", but in the absence of such a definition or interpretation Clause it was the bounden duty of the Minister to be armed with the full and clear meaning of every phrase in the Bill so that he could explain it fully to the House.
I do not propose to engage in Committee points. This is a Second Reading, and I do not propose to refer in detail to the construction of many Clauses. But in order to make clear the argument which I have just presented, it is right that I should refer to Clause 1. We are all agreed with the aim and purpose of the Clause. It is very desirable that little children should be protected on their way to school. Every effort should be made to provide legislation which will empower the relevant authority so to protect them. Between the two sides of the House there is no difference on the aim or purpose of that Clause, but there are grave differences about the manner in which the Clause is drafted.
Before a child can be protected under the Clause the poor little thing has to leap over several hurdles. The approval of the Secretary of State has to be obtained, and 567 the Clause is not mandatory. If the Government were in earnest about protecting these little children they would make the Clause mandatory and clear and coherent so that the relevant authorities would not only have no doubt what the Clause meant but also no doubt of their own powers and would know that under the Clause they were bound to take certain definite steps to protect these children.
The Clause states :Subject to the provisions of this section and with the approval of the Secretary of State an education authority shall have power …Surely the approval of the Secretary of State is enough precaution to have to take, without making this merely an enabling Clause? I am sure that the Lord Advocate will agree with my construction of this Clause. It is not a mandatory Clause. It does not say that the relevant authority must or shall take certain steps to protect little children from danger and injury. No, it is an enabling Clause, enabling the local authority to do something after having obtained the approval of the Secretary of State.
The Clause reads : "The education authority shall have power". Not is bound but shall have power after the approval of the Secretary of State to take certain steps to do work to improve the safety of any private road. There, again, we have the same verbosity and the same ambiguity and the same vagueness :… shall have power … to do work to improve the safety of any private road. …Why in the name of commonsense, why in the name of the protection of these little children, can the Clause not definitely say that the relevant authority shall be bound to take all the steps necessary to ensure the protection of the children?
The Clause does not indicate what kind of work. Again subsections (2) and (3) are optional, and the proviso to subsection (4) presents another difficulty to this little school child seeking safety. It states :Provided that where an education authority propose to carry out any such work on land which is in possession of another person, the authority shall obtain the consent of the owner and of the occupier of such land. …How is the little child or the relevant authority to obtain the consent of the 568 owner or occupier of such land? There is an alternative, however, for the Proviso continues :…or shall satisfy the Secretary of State that the owner or the occupier cannot be found.It is obvious that this vague, verbose and ambiguous Clause presents great difficulty to the relevant authorities. It does not give any indication as to what kind of evidence is to satisfy the Secretary of State or what kind of evidence is to support any of the applications which are to be made under this Clause for his consent or for his approval.
I could go through the other Clauses and criticise them upon the same principles, but I forbear from doing so because this is not a Committee stage. However, the comments and the criticisms I have directed against the Clause apply to the principle of the Clause, and similar criticisms could be directed against the principle of other Clauses too. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) and also my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in the criticism which they both levelled at Clause 3, dealing with bringing a child to court. I am sure that every hon. Member of the House will deprecate the psychological and other ill effects which may ensue from bringing a child of tender years to court. Therefore, I say that Clause 3 ought to be carefully considered in Committee, a thing which is manifestly impossible having regard to the fact that this Bill is brought before the House at so late a stage in the Session.
It is right that I should say that the last Labour Government did much in 1946 for the development of education in Scotland. This little Bill merely tinkers with it. The history of education under former Tory and Liberal Governments shows the lack of any co-ordinating plan for dealing with the great topic of education. From 1872 until 1945 there was a series of Acts barely tinkering with the details of the Scottish educational system, as this little Bill does today. Looking back at that series of Statutes, they look not like a clear path leading to a summit, but like a mosaic of ill-fitting pieces or, indeed, like a crazy pavement. This series of Acts in Victorian and Edwardian periods indicated the faltering and unplanned steps of former Tory and Liberal Governments which failed to 569 solve the educational problems of the nation. They tinkered with those problems, as does this Bill today.
There is a great deal more I should like to say in criticism of this little Bill, but the greatest criticism I can level against what ought to be a good Bill, what ought to be a landmark, what ought to be a great occasion, is that it is brought at so late a stage in the Session that it cannot be converted from the paltry and wretched little measure that it is into something really useful. I hope the House will tell the Government to take back this wretched little offspring and, after this long Recess, seek another period of gestation in order to bring forth a better, a nobler and a more useful Bill, one more appropriate to the educational problems which it is attempting, but vainly attempting to solve.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
While I sympathise with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) in his last point, that the Government should withdraw this Bill and bring forward its original conception in some other form, we must try to make this a reasonable and sensible Bill, not, as it was patronisingly referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), a useful little Bill, but one worthy of this House and of the Statute Book.
There are a number of useful measures in it and I have no doubt that attempts will be made to remedy its defects during the Committee stage. There is one Clause that I find very attractive, Clause 4, which concerns itself with the permissive provision concerning the maintenance of dependants of a person engaged in full-time study. It is the only gesture in the Bill towards the rather unfortunate position of grants in Scotland but it is, nevertheless, very welcome to me.
When I came to this House, just before Christmas last year, I looked forward to a miscellaneous provisions Bill of this kind which would allow us to modify the existing principles, not necessarily the detailed regulations, of the award of grants in Scotland, as distinct from the award of grants in England and Wales where they are more generous, more realistic and, to my mind, more sensible in their 570 attitude towards students. When 7th February came, I remember going through the Bill thoroughly and I have been in correspondence with a number of people in Scotland during all these months in the hope that we could draft some reasonable additions to the Bill.
The Bill is essentially one of opportunity. It is a coat-hanger which can carry many kinds of "coats" which could not otherwise be fitted into a full-form Act of Parliament. There are a number of useful garments waiting for us to hang on something, and I want to mention three, not because they are the only three, but because I believe they are three useful ones which it is possible to put into the Bill at this late stage.
The first is a matter which the Lord Advocate must have very close to his own heart. I quote from the January, 1956, issue of the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. The article is headed :The legal profession in Scotland—A survey of the position.The shortage of staff also affects qualified assistants. The following table shows the number of entrance certificates issued by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland to persons commencing legal apprenticeship during the years indicated.Then follows a table showing that for the year ended 31st December, 1950, there were 174 ; for 1951 there were 174 ; for 1952 there were 155 ; for 1953 there were 146 ; for 1954 there were 108 ; and for 1955 there were an estimated 75. In other words, there is a crisis—I do not think that is an exaggeration—in recruitment for the legal profession in Scotland. There is a great deal of worry on the part of many responsible men of law in Scotland about the staffing of the profession in future.
One of the main contentions of many people in Scotland has been that the reason for the falling off in recuitment is not unconnected with the immense economic difficulties presented to young men who try to enter law today. At present, law students get a very small grant because they are classified as part-time students. A first-year law student in a good firm will get £50 a year, a second-year student £70, and a third-year student £90. The first years are the most difficult of all 571 At the very best, a Scottish student will get £47 if the income of his parents is not in excess of £400 a year, and from that grant he is expected to pay all his living expenses and his fees and meet the cost of his books, and so on. There is no doubt that of all the students in Scotland the law apprentice is in a very bad position. Since he is in part employment, he has his £50 a year and is then penalised under the regulations because he is recognised by the Scottish Education Department as being a part-time and not a full-time student.
I will not argue the legalities of it, for that is difficult at this juncture, but I suggest to the Lord Advocate that the Government ought to consider bringing forward a permissive Clause so that in cases of hardship local education authorities and the Secretary of State should be empowered to award grants to law students and apprentices and so that students should not always be treated as part-time students for the purpose of the regulations. That last part is probably very tricky. In legal terms, it might not be possible for them to be treated sometimes as on a part-time basis and others not, but surely it is possible for them to be treated as other than part-time students for the purpose of the regulations.
We must try to get the position in Scotland rectified at the earliest opportunity. Such a Bill as this presents us with a splendid opportunity to enable the Scottish Education Department and the local education authorities to make awards in deserving cases. I have a number of signed statements from law students declaring their incomes, the income of their parents, and their expenses. I know some of these students personally. It is fair to say that a number of young Scottish men have been deterred from entering the law because of the absence of a provision of this kind.
I now turn to a second provision under the heading of grants which it would be desirable and possible to bring into such a Bill as this. During the debate on the Education Estimates in the Scottish Standing Committee on 19th June I mentioned the desirability of there being a Departmental advisory committee on bursaries for not only university awards but college and senior secondary school awards. I suggested that the committee 572 might consist of persons enjoying the respect of most of the Scottish educational bodies.
The committee should conduct an annual review of the awards in the different categories and should receive representations from the national student body, the Scottish Union of Students, faculty student organisations such as the British Medical Students' Association and the British Dental Students' Association and from parent-teachers associations, local education authorities and university staff associations, and so on.
I received an otherwise very full and courteous letter from the Joint Under-Secretary in which he devoted only four lines to this subject. He said that I had suggested the services of an advisory body to conduct an annual review of awards and stated that the Government had the bursary position under regular review and that he doubted whether a useful purpose would be served by having a committee of that kind.
After receiving that reply on 5th July, I inquired of the various bodies concerned whether they had been asked at any time to submit evidence of an economic or sociological nature to any Departmental committee dealing with bursaries in the Scottish Office, and not one could confirm that it had been asked to contribute information for the purposes of a so-called annual review. I do not believe that an annual review is carried out. I hope the Minister will be able to contradict me and tell me what the machinery is. Many people in Scotland will be glad to know that such machinery exists and that they can make representations. I am referring not to the students themselves, but to the many others who are anxious that there should be fair and equitable awards to the different categories of the student body.
I have left my third point to the end because I should like to make the Bill not the "useful little Bill" referred to by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns but a really first-class Bill, a landmark in Scottish education history. It does not seem long ago in terms of human society that student government was founded in Scotland. It was a Scottish student, Robert Fitzroy Bell, who went on a tour of the Continent and discovered the first students' society in council at Strasbourg. He returned to 573 Edinburgh in 1883 and founded the Edinburgh University Students' Representative Council. In quick succession, the four Scottish universities had students' representative councils established.
These bodies have done wonderful work. Many Members of Parliament served in them in their earlier years. Today, student government is a well-recognised and well-established form of university administration within the four Scottish universities. Also, it is enshrined in a famous Act of Parliament, the Universities Act, 1889, which established the S.R.C.s in Scotland.
Unfortunately, the S.R.C.s in the colleges—I have in mind, for example, the Royal Technical College, Glasgow—were founded shortly after the Universities Act was passed. In 1893, the S.R.C. of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, was set up, but without the statutory recognition afforded by the Universities Act. There are now 21 S.R.C.s in Scotland without statutory recognition. Some of them are well-established, have good funds, and do excellent work. Others are very strictly limited in the scope of their work by, to put it mildly, rather unsympathetic boards of governors. Indeed, one S.R.C. was abolished by the principal because it dared to question his authority, conviction and opinion in a certain matter concerning the actual government of the college itself.
In Scotland, as the Lord Advocate knows, we are proud of the fact that, unlike England, we are the champions of student participation in university government. We do not believe that the student is completely devoid of rights in his contribution to university government, whether in terms of the conditions of the student, or of the curricula of the university. That is why we elect a lord rector. It testifies to the English students that we have a semblance of the past, an office of the past which reminds us of the two different influences from the Continent, one affecting England and one affecting ourselves. We are anxious to see that the ideal of student government in Scotland is pursued.
In this Bill we had an opportunity statutorily to recognise the college S.R.C.s as they are in Scotland today. That would not have been unreasonable and I do not see another Measure in 574 which we could have introduced a matter of this kind. I have received much correspondence on this topic and I have not found any college authority opposed to statutory recognition of the student council. Some college authorities are a little uncertain about what the full powers of student government should be, but I can assure the House that every one of the existing student councils is very much in favour of securing statutory recognition for itself. That would mean a formal recognition in some cases and a practical recognition in others of the participation of the student body in the administration of the college.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, when he was a student at Edinburgh University, is on record in the S.R.C. minutes for 1920 or thereabouts as having supported provisions for the first grants in Scotland. It is often thought that the only function of student councils is to deal with grants. In fact, the students provide a great deal in their student representative councils. Not only do they secure evidence to show that grants should be amended, improved, modified and so on, and demonstrate where there are anomalies, but they also provide services to many students through employment agencies, in health and in securing mass miniature radiography campaigns and the provision of facilities of different kinds. That provides an excellent training in responsibility and gives students with high spirits an opportunity for directing their energies into a channel of constructive administration.
In other words, a Bill such as this should not merely by-pass the recognition of student councils. To that end I address my closing remarks. Such a provision dealing with student councils could have been incorporated in a Bill like this. The matter of law apprentices can be tackled and if there is not an annual review in process we should, in a Bill of this kind, recognise a committee to review the annual awards to students, whether full-time or part-time, university, college or senior secondary scholars.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
It has been the experience of most hon. Members that the longer a debate continues the less necessary does one's speech become. However, in today's 575 debate I am glad to have the opportunity at least of reinforcing some of the points which have been made by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) has made a powerful case for some additions to the Bill, and I hope that when the Government consider the matter further they will pay close attention to his words.
When the Joint Under-Secretary opened the debate today—if that is the proper description—he was not his usual ebullient self. He was uneasy and seemed to be skating over or evading some of the very pointed questions put to him by my hon. Friends. It is to those points that I should like to return. We have already heard that Clause 1 deals with the provision of safety measures for pupils going to and from school. There is a phrase in the Clause to which I should like to call attention. It is :… for the purpose of reducing the risk of accident to pupils going to or returning from schools or other educational establishments in their area and under their management, or while actually present at such schools or establishments …Therefore, the Clause deals with children not merely when they are going to or from school, but while they are on the premises.
I should like to see the scope of the Clause widened to bring in safety measures other than road safety and so on. These measures are extremely important and would include health and better buildings and so on. Let none be under any illusion about some school buildings in Scotland. Some of them are extremely dangerous. While most of us—and the local authorities—have great respect for the assurances of local officials that buildings are safe, there is always the human element. We have known before of serious collapses of school buildings in Glasgow. Such incidents can be extremely serious, and the safety of the children may thus be imperilled.
I referred to some of these matters in a recent debate in the House when we discussed not education, but health. I have had a letter from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replying to my statement that dysentery among children in Glasgow has been caused by insanitary conditions in the lavatories of 576 the schools. Many of us know of such conditions. The Clause should cover not merely road safety, but conditions such as those. Had it done so, it would have received a warmer welcome.
I want to return to the very important case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) about Clause 2. I am not satisfied that the replies of the Joint Under-Secretary to my hon. Friend on this issue could give rise to confidence. Clause 2 says that for Section 7 (1) of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, shall be substituted the words which follow. But at line 19 come the ominous and significant words :… except where such functions relate to …further education. Local authorities, it appears, will not be required to submit formal schemes in respect of voluntary part-time and full-time students over school age. Nor will it be necessary to support schemes in respect of the voluntary leisure-time occupations in such organised cultural training and recreational activities as are suited to their requirements for persons over school age.
Some of us are suspicious that, under cover of these words and exceptions, an attempt may be made to cut down on the activities and pursuits which local authorities can offer to their citizens. Many of these activities are the very kernel of education itself. But this matter goes further. If hon. Members will look at Clause 2 (1, b) they will see that it states—such facilities as are mentioned in section three of this Act …Under that Section of the 1946 Act, education authorities, with the approval of the Secretary of State, may "establish, maintain and manage" camps, holiday classes, playing fields, playgrounds, gymnasia or swimming baths, not merely for adults, but for pupils at junior, secondary and primary schools. This is a very dangerous situation, and I should not be prepared to give my assent to this Bill unless assurances about these matters are forthcoming.
Now I wish to refer briefly to Clause 4 and suggest that its provisions should be widened, not merely in respect of students, for whom my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock spoke, but for another important section of the school community. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that in the secondary 577 schools there is a grave wastage caused by pupils who leave school at the age of fifteen before they have completed their full course. At that age young people are attracted from school life to take jobs which, even for children of that age, provide wages of £3 and £4 a week.
While there are many parents who economically are in a position to resist the temptation, there are many—I will not go into the reasons in order to make a political point about the behaviour of the Government in this matter—to whom the earning of an extra £3 or £4 by their children is an attraction ; and so children capable of making good in the educational world are being taken away from school. A strong case may be made out for increasing the grants given at that age in respect of these children in order to persuade the parents to encourage their children to stay at school and make the best of their talents.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have regard to the points I have tried to make. I hope that in the matter of grants for students and for children aged fifteen, and in regard to safety measures, both when the children are in the school buildings and when they are travelling to and from school, the Government will produce some Amendments to be discussed during the Committee stage : or if not. that they will accept the Amendments which undoubtedly will be moved by hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian)
We can all agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) that the longer a debate in this House continues the less necessary it becomes for Labour Members to spend much time in discussing points. But there are one or two aspects which we must emphasise, and I wish to pay particular attention to Clauses 1, 3 and 4.
The safety of children takes prior place. One thing about the Labour Party which has always impressed me is that it has always argued that the most valuable asset in this world is human life. While I cannot especially blame the Government for the situation of our schools today, I can certainly blame them for the conditions of some of our schools. 578 But we must be fair and attribute some of the dangers connected with our present schools to bad planning. Many of our schools are very badly sited. I am glad to say that the Joint Under-Secretary took the initiative in my part of the country in trying to counteract that very dangerous position.
For the condition of some of our schools I must attribute a great measure of blame to the Government. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent, I regret to say that we have schools which are still without modern sanitary conveniences. I warn the Joint Under-Secretary and the Lord Advocate that the people of Midlothian are on the point of making it perfectly clear to everyone that they will not stand for that any longer. Only a fortnight ago I had to go to one district, Whitecriag, and assure the people there that the Midlothian education authority was doing its best to try to safeguard the welfare of the children in this respect. But I suggest that when one hears about epidemics of poliomyelitis, etc., and one thinks about schools without modern sanitary conveniences, there is good ground for fear among parents.
I put it to the Government that something more could be done regarding the transport of children. When children have to travel two miles or so to school on wet days, it stands to reason that they must have to sit all day in wet garments. It is time that we took a more up-to-date view of such matters and saw to it that our children are transported direct to school. I doubt if there is one person associated with the promotion of this Bill who sends his child to a council school. But we have to send our children to council schools, and we are demanding that our children shall get the same treatment as the children of the rich.
This morning as I entered this building I had drawn to my attention the case of one of my constituents who had gone to England to take an examination and qualify, but he had to give up the course because he was not getting sufficient to keep his wife and family. That is not the only case which I could mention. I had to deal with the case of a very talented young Pole who came to this country, of course, as a displaced person. Because of his marital responsibilities he could not take a qualifying course at 579 Edinburgh ; and I think we should welcome that part of the Bill which relates to such matters, even though, as was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) it is small and pettifogging.
In Scotland there has been a tendency to boast of our standard of education, but I doubt if the standard in Scotland is as high as in England. Make no mistake, the people in Scotland will not stand for it. We believe that our childdren are entitled to and must get a standard of education comparable with the scientific age in which we live. The children of Scotland must fit a world in which science plays a major part. Scotland always has done so, and we do not for a moment intend to accept something less.
§ Clause 3 will stamp our children with a stigma that this House should reject. I ask the Government to rephrase Clause 3, because the juvenile court was never intended to punish the delinquent child who has played truant. It is terrible for a child to have a criminal record. The juvenile court was never intended to attach a stigma to school children. Most healthy boys have at one time or another played truant from school, but Clause 3 will stamp it as something out of the ordinary. That is the type of treatment that a boy will resent and fight against, and he will never be fit for anything. I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State to take the Clause back and phrase it in a more acceptable way.
§ Clause 4 deals with grants. The Treasury must hold itself responsible for the shortage of cash in grants. We used to quibble about the Goschen formula, but if the Government expect Scotland to keep pace with England and other nations they will understand that we must have equal educational chances and facilities.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I understand that the Lord Advocate is to wind up the debate ; if that is so, I hope that he will make good what the Joint Under-Secretary of State described as deficiencies in his explanation of the purpose of the Bill. The House is not quite clear about the differences that the Bill will bring about.
580 I felt really sorry for the Press, who had to explain what the Bill was all about. The Joint Under-Secretary did not make the matter clear to me, but that may be my fault. I hope that the Lord Advocate will reduce the explanation to such language as the ordinary person can understand. Bills are necessarily drawn in legal language, but all the "whereases" have to be intelligibly explained to Members of Parliament. After all, it is no use our pretending that we can interpret every Clause of every Bill.
I would add my support to what my hon. Friends have said in protest about the Bill coming on at the tail end of the Session. We are often accused of being at the tail end of England, but we are now at the tail end of Parliament. It is a little unfair that the first Education Bill of a comprehensive character, and which might have permitted a debate on the educational system of Scotland, is introduced in circumstances which make impossible the fulfilment of our function of discussion.
The 1918 Education Act for Scotland was a tremendous achievement in legislative power. The 1945 Act was passed under the pressure of an interregnum after the war, before the coming into power of the Labour Government. The Bill that we are discussing was partly a consolidation Measure and was not discussed at all. As a matter of fact, there has not for many years been a proper, comprehensive discussion of our educational system and of the degree to which we have implemented the legislation that this House has passed.
There is nothing wrong with the law of education. The 1919 Act empowered us to do things that we never did until the next world war. The Education Act passed during the latter war was to the credit of the new Lord Rector of Glasgow University because of the part he played in the passing of the Act for England and Wales, and of the Act for Scotland. These laws give such powers to any Government that almost anything that is good can be done.
We may now hear from the Lord Advocate that the Labour Government did not do these things after 1945. The reason was very simple : people were desperate for houses. If we had built junior colleges we should have sacrificed 581 150 or 180 houses. The building of nursery schools would have meant the sacrifice of houses. We were not in a position to sacrifice housing and the building of schools to accommodate pupils from the new houses and resulting from the growth of population. That does not mean that junior colleges and nursery schools are not a very vital part of the education system.
The nursery school makes a greater impression on the child mind than any other part of the educational system. One great advantage of the nursery school is that it educates not only the child but, very often, the mother. It is interesting to find that in many ways the nursery school has the most advanced educational methods. I wish that primary education had some of the same advantages and improvements as the nursery schools and the secondary schools. The primary school is still the Cinderella of the Scottish educational system.
We had an education advisory committee, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland were members. The committee has been changed in personnel from time to time, but has done an immense amount of work in trying to show the road for Scottish education. Several reports were submitted to me when T was Secretary of State and I did my best to carry out their recommendations with such modifications as I thought were necessary, and to impress them on education authorities.
This would have been a suitable opportunity for us to have discussed the progress we have made in Scottish education. We have rested on our laurels and it is the opinion of some educationists that instead of being ahead of England we have now to consider whether we are keeping pace with England in educational standards. It is the education which is important in Scotland, not all the little legal frills which have to be adjusted. Somehow or other the House ought to examine where we stand in relation to the legislation which is being passed. In Committee, we shall try, by Amendments, to bring out some of the points that we think need pressing. There, it may be that some of these matters can be raised in greater detail.
582 We all recognise that this Bill is tidying up and doing useful work here and there. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) raised some very important points about transport and getting co-operation between bus authorities and local authorities. I propose to raise specific instances on that matter at a later stage if I find myself in order.
There are some things about this Bill which I think could be very considerably improved. For instance, if we turn to page 12 of the Bill we find a repetition of what has gone on in many Bills. We keep making lists of bodies and organisations which continually have to be changed. In the Second Schedule words are to be omitted and others added. What is the use of employing an Act of Parliament for things of that kind? Those are things which should be done by the Secretary of State by regulations. The whole convenience of Orders in Council is that, instead of Acts of Parliament having to be passed every time punctuation or some words have to be altered, power can be given to the Secretary of State to submit the alteration to Parliament by regulation. If we are to tidy up Acts of Parliament we ought not to find it necessary to obtain a place in the queue of legislation for items which can be put right quite simply by regulations submitted to the House.
My hon. Friends have raised many valuable questions which I hope the Government will think about between now and Committee stage. One of the troubles about a Bill of this kind is that it is not so much the law which is at fault but the will of the Government. For instance, there is nothing which prevents the Government doing these things. The Government have all the power necessary to do all the things which my hon. Friends have been asking should be done. The Government have not the will in some cases, and in other cases they may be able to justify themselves by saying that they have not the power; but the general impression in educational circles today is that the Government are niggling away, picking bits off here and introducing little economies there with the result that often the very things necessary to make education work smoothly are being frittered away and people are discouraged and disheartened.
583 My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Pryde) referred to sanitation in schools. That is a disgrace, not of this Government but of the educational system. It should have been improved long before the war, when plenty of labour was available. The fact that today children are washing in cold water and have not proper facilities for drying their hands, and are made miserable in cold winters, is really a disgrace, when we are spending millions of pounds on things which, in the long run, are not nearly so important.
We passed an Act of Parliament dealing with food and drugs with a view to preventing the spread of disease. As my hon. Friend pointed out, we are not allowing that spread to be prevented by the first essential in the schools—that we should allow children to be clean. There is no point in making children clean when their hands are blue with the cold. My memory goes back to the days when my hands were blue and I was shivering. Everyone knows how uncomfortable it was when we were youngsters, but surely we have got beyond that stage now.
There are other things which should be discussed in this House some day, including the question of the school feeding system. I really cannot understand those in charge of education who think that school feeding is simply a matter of pushing so many calories down a child's throat. Food is an essential part of living and if the French can teach us anything it is that they enjoy eating. In this country it is not an enjoyment at all, but a matter of getting so many calories in before rushing back to work.
People who are well-to-do, and who develop what we call culture, like to have things artistically, neatly and cleanly provided. They like to eat with good manners and like people about them to eat with good manners. Why people do not think that is a part of education is something beyond me. The idea in our schools that soup is to be splashed into plates and eaten as quickly as possible, no matter how, is a disgrace. We have domestic science teachers, cookery teachers and other people who have taste, so why is taste not a part of the art of the school?
If anyone can convince me that children drawing elephants and all sorts 584 of things on bits of paper are making a contribution to art which is more important than decorating a table with flowers and making it suitable for a civilised family, then there is something wrong with my brain. Art is not a matter merely of putting things on paper. Anyone who goes through this House of Commons sees art in stone. The very House itself is a piece of art.
Those who see the master's and the apprentice's pillars in Rosslyn Chapel are looking at art done by masons, and the masons who built those buildings were artists. Mothers and daughters in homes who decorate a beautiful table and lay it out so that everyone comes to it with a great deal of pleasure are as great artists as anybody who ever put anything on canvas.
It is more important than painting pictures which go into the vaults of the National Gallery that our children should be brought up to appreciate good taste and good manners. That can be taught in schools as much as the height of Mount Everest and other things which children forget almost as soon as they have learned them. Housewifery is an essential part of education. It is a great pity that this House does not have the opportunity of making clear what its views are on education, in the hope that it will reach the people actually carrying on the job.
What has been done with all that has been sent out by the Secretary of State's Department about primary and secondary education? Have these reports been implemented? Is it within the power of the Secretary of State to ask that some of these reports be implemented? Should the House not have a record of what is being done in regard to the power which has been given the Government of the day to carry them out. We were subject to the limitations of building trades and many other limitations after the war, and I admit that the Government are still subject to many limitations, but not nearly so many. I hope that the Lord Advocate will assure us that the Government will stop all these little finicky economies which, in terms of cash, are a mere bagatelle when compared with what we are spending on war and other things, and that the education of the children will be taken in hand as something which is a vital part of the future of this nation.
585 The nation, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out, requires that the best brains be given the best opportunity. There are still many children by-passing the results which they could give to the nation because they are attracted away by higher or immediate pay and education is made a risk. There are parents who go to headmasters and say, "I would like my boy to go through university, but he may not get through. He has been offered a job now and the opportunity of earning his living and progress if he develops." The parent has to weigh up the chances of a boy going to a university and losing an offer which has been made to him—and every parent is, naturally, tempted to allow a boy to earn money immediately.
We are in this way missing many children who might do well and serve the nation. We cannot afford to lose brains merely because the parents happen to be poor. There are hon. Members in this House who were born in relatively poor homes, but who, because of energy and brains, have overcome all obstacles. It is not all such hardy warriors who have brains. Some of the brains are in more delicate bodies, and we have to see that where there is a good brain it is not lost to the nation.
One of the essential features today of universities and higher education is to see that the children who have the possibility of serving the nation in those higher flights get the opportunity and are not handicapped because they take it, otherwise we shall not hold our own with America, Russia and other nations. I inquired very carefully whether the number of Russian graduates was inflated by low standards of education. It is easy to increase the number of graduates by lowering the standards and I thought that perhaps the number of people who graduated in Russia and America was merely because our standards were so high that it made the hoop more difficult to jump through.
I am assured that that is not the case, and that these countries are devoting energy and money in order to bring up the best of their brains to the highest possible level. I therefore hope that in our educational system we shall provide the bursaries, and the powers required for the Government to do that.
586 I hope that there is to be no restriction in this Bill such as is suggested in Clause 14 (5). To me there is a bit of a contradiction. Clause 14 (5) reads :Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds. …On the other hand, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says :The provisions of the Bill which are most likely to cause some increase in expenditure…However, from what the right hon. Gentleman says, I gather that that is coming out.
As I say, this Bill makes some little alterations in the law, but, in the main, it is not the law that is at fault in relation to our education but the fact that we do not seem to have either the will or the power to do more.
Of all countries, Scotland depends on her brains. She has only coal, and not too much of that, and it is at very great depth. Even that coal is harder to win that it is in other parts of the kingdom. We have nothing but our brains, and if Scotland is to maintain her tradition and her standard of living then education is our first base on which to raise that standard of life, and it is by our efforts in education that the future of our country will be measured.
I hope, therefore, that, in the passing of this Bill, to any suggestions that come from my hon. Friends to improve education—either by improving the facilities for the children, or by making it possible for the children to get the best out of education and for education authorities to do all they wish to do without unnecessary little restrictions—the Government will lend a willing hand to get those suggestions put into effect.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. W. R. Milligan)
The first note that I had among the notes I have prepared was that Scotland is always noted for its interest in education. Not unnaturally, that was the theme which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) developed, and I respectfully entirely agree with him. Through all these centuries we have probably led the world in education. The great endowments which we find in our cities are a tribute to that. It is, accordingly, not surprising that this evening's debate has been full of interest 587 and full of new ideas. Some particularly interesting ideas were put forward by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), and all the other suggestions that have been put forward, both of a general kind and in particular reference to this Bill, will, of course, be anxiously considered by the Government.
Today we have had the advantage—and from the Government's point of view it is an advantage—of a canter over the course before we pass on to the Committee stage. We have had many helpful suggestions from both sides, and we are now in a position, before that Committee stage, to consider them in greater detail, knowing what particular points are interesting hon. Members.
This Bill has been described today in several ways. It was described first as a Bill to remove difficulties. At a later stage it was described as a Bill of miscellaneous provisions. Later, the hon. Member for Greenock, I think, described it as a Bill of opportunity. I agree with all these definitions. So far as the Bill of opportunity is concerned, the only challenge is that the Government have not taken sufficient opportunity to put more into the Bill. We are all Oliver Twists in our way, and it is only natural that everybody should want to put in some extra provisions dealing with something in which they are particularly interested. But we cannot necessarily always put in everything. We will certainly consider the additional suggestions which have been made, tempting as many of them are, but at this stage I certainly cannot give any guarantee that we will necessarily be able to adopt any of them in this Bill.
Everybody knows the difficulty, when legislation is being passed—and I am particularly thinking of 1945 and the consolidating Measure in 1946—of foreseeing all the contingencies which lie ahead. Sooner or later amendments are necessary ; new ideas are put forward, and circumstances change. I note that in this Bill there are certain Clauses which are attributable to various changes of circumstances—the desire for speeding up, clarification and the like.
Take, for example, simplification. The working of this Bill has shown that certain aspects of education could probably be carried on with greater effect and sim- 588 plicity if an alteration were made relating to the requirements of certain schemes in certain cases. Clause 2 is an example of giving effect to that requirement. For reasons which were given at an earlier stage, it is found that certain matters which normally would have required formal schemes to be made could more conveniently be carried out without a formal scheme. That is the purpose of Clause 2.
§ The Lord Advocate
At a later stage I was going to deal with one or two of the Clauses, including Clause 2, in detail.
Expedition is sometimes found to be necessary. Things are working too slowly ; the machinery is not working as fast as it might. Clause 12, to which I do not think any reference has been made in the course of the debate, is designed to expedite the appeal procedure. Under the present appeal procedure an agreement has got to be reached by the interested parties on certain facts. They have got to be adjusted, and that takes time. The new procedure which is suggested will mean that the appeals will get into court more quickly. The grounds of appeal will be the same, but there will not be the delays in trying to get the facts adjusted.
Another reason for a Bill of this kind is that additional powers are required. Clause 1 is an extremely good example of that, and it is a Clause which has interested hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned Clause 1, will he consider my suggestion that it should be changed from an enabling Clause to a mandatory Clause?
§ The Lord Advocate
Not only had I reached Clause 1, but I was just coming to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). He said that the Clause was vague and verbose. In that he was wrong. He said also that the Clause was permissive. In that he was right. The question has been anxiously considered 589 whether or not it would be appropriate that an education authority should be forced—that is what the hon. and learned Member wished—to carry out all the work that it can carry out. I think that, on reconsideration, the House would realise that that would be putting an appalling burden upon an education authority. Think, for example, of the glens up the Highlands, with not too good roads and perhaps potholes and the like. If it was suggested that a local authority must by law repair all these potholes, one would be trying to do an operation which was quite out of keeping with the necessities of the situation. So I do not for one moment think that we can make the Clause obligatory.
Certain other suggestions were made. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) suggested that the Clause might include buildings—in other words, that work should be done on buildings. The education authorities themselves, however, can at present make improvements on the buildings. The real purpose of Clause 1 is to enable an education authority to operate, which it cannot do at present, on property which does not belong to the education authority. What it will do is to get the consent of the owner of the property and, with his consent, carry out the operations which it considers necessary.
Another reason why the 1946 Act has to be amended is that there may be an injustice—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves Clause 1, I was wondering whether he would deal with the question not only of repairing footpaths and bridges, but of making new footpaths or footbridges where these are justified.
§ The Lord Advocate
I was coming later to the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, but perhaps I might deal with it now. The answer to his question—whether a brand new road or footpath could be made under this power—would be "No", if it did not exist at all. Of course, if something which was a path was already in existence—and it is almost certain that there would be a track—it could be improved or repaired. If a road was to be made, it might be desirable and possible for the local authorities to take the land by compulsory power. 590 I think the position would be that if there was absolutely no trace of any path or road, the Clause would not enable a path or road to be made.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Would the vaguest semblance of a path running through a field be a private road in accordance with the provisions of the Clause? Surely, it deals with private roads.
§ The Lord Advocate
I think the hon. Member will find that "private road" includes a path. I do not want to delay the House at this hour, but I think it will be found either in the definition Clause—
§ The Lord Advocate
No, there is not. So far as the definition Clause is concerned, there is reference back in Clause 14 of the Bill to the Act of 1946, which contains a long definition Clause, and the two Measures "may be cited together" and construed together.
§ The Lord Advocate
I was rather diverted from subsection (5) and taken up another road by the intervention of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). Perhaps I may restore myself to the main road—Clause 1 (5)—and see exactly how "private road" is defined. It means :any road, street or path other than a public road, and includes any ford or bridge over which a private road passes.The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) can rest assured, therefore, that a path could be dealt with.
The general criticism of the Bill has been that it does not do enough. Various suggestions have been made.
§ Miss Herbison
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman left Clause 1? I raised a question on subsection (2) and asked whether it would mean long discussions and delay in discussing these matters with private people.
§ The Lord Advocate
I had intended to take the various questions which were put to me together at the end. I was merely indicating the general purposes of the Bill. After all, this is a Second Reading debate.
591 The main question in criticism has been, why is there not more in the Bill? Various suggestions have been made by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), for instance, that Clause 5 (3) should be compulsory, and the same suggestion was made that Clause 1 should be compulsory and not permissive. That was suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North, and further suggestions were made by the hon. Member for Greenock. All those were possibilities, but one must stop somewhere, and one must keep one's Bill within reason. The suggestions which have been made will be considered, but I cannot hold out any special hope of the Bill's being taken any further than it is at the moment.
Now I will deal briefly with various matters which have been raised by various Members, and in dealing with them I shall try in general to deal with the intentions of certain of the Clauses. I do not think the House will want me at this stage to go through each and every Clause in full detail to explain what it means, but perhaps I may give the general purpose of each Clause. That may be of help to hon. Members when we are in Committee. I can do it in a nutshell perhaps, though in some cases it will be a rather large nut.
We all understand exactly what Clause 1 is driving at. It is to enable the education authority, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to reduce the risk of accidents to pupils on their way to and from school or while actually present at school. The reason why we say "at school" is that it may be desirable that we should be able to prevent a lorry bringing school meals, from going into the playgrounds, because that would be to prevent accidents from happening to those at school.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North asked whether under subsection (2) there would necessarily be delay and the like, and who was to co-operate with whom. In the past experience has shown that landowners in country districts have been extremely kind and have made no difficulty about children going through their grounds or round their fields. The difficulty we have found, and which education authorities have found, is that though there are 592 certain things which would improve safety—a handrail on a footbridge, for instance, or something of that kind—the proprietor himself has not been prepared to put them up, and the local authority, though willing to put them up, has not been, by the law as it is at present, entitled to do so, because the bridge, for instance, is not the property or on the property of the local authority. I do not think we need anticipate any long argument or wrangling, but, of course, it has to be noticed that before the authority can enter upon anybody's land it must, under the proviso to subsection (3), obtain the consent of the owner and occupier.
Clause 2 is a complicated and rather troublesome Clause and has been referred to by several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. The purpose of this amendment of the law is part of the purpose of simplifying the situation, and it is to dispense with the submission and approval of schemes—formal schemes—by the education authorities under their functions relating to certain things, four things : first, voluntary part-time and full-time courses of instruction; second, voluntary, leisure-time occupation by persons over school age; third, facilities for recreation and social and physical training by persons receiving primary, secondary, and further education; and fourth, special educational treatment of pupils where such treatment is not given in a special school.
Those are the purposes. I could develop this at greater length by going more minutely into the Clause, but if there is any Member whom I can assist in any way between now and the Committee stage in trying to build up the Clause I would much prefer to do that rather than keep the House here interminably in going into the actual make-up of the Clause.
We have heard, naturally, a good deal about Clause 3. It provides for three things in particular. It provides for the possibility of pronouncing an attendance order where the decision whether to prosecute the parents has been postponed. It also makes reference to the new area, that is to say to the fact that the attendance order will follow the child into the new area. It will not cross the Border. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) 593 expressed great horror at the idea that this attendance order, was, as it were, going to follow the child through all its school life. I wonder whether the hon. Member is not being unduly apprehensive, because when a child goes from one school to another the school authorities at once check up on its attendance. There is a record of its progress and attendance which is submitted by the previous authority to its new school. I do not know whether the fact that it takes its attendance order with it in its pocket, as it were, really matters, because the new school learns all about it anyway.
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is introducing a fair comparison, because he is dealing with a scholastic matter which is something different from an Act of Parliament.
§ The Lord Advocate
We are dealing here with the fact that where parents by reason of their occupation periodically have to move and there is an attendance order in respect of one of their children, it is desirable that the attendance order should go on and be effective, instead of a new attendance order perhaps having to be obtained in the new school.
The third point refers to the prosecution of the parents. It enables an education authority to direct that a child be brought before a juvenile court where the authority is satisfied that it is necessary to do so to secure the child's regular attendance at school. That is an alteration in the law, because originally it could not be done by an education authority. The suggestion has been strongly made that, if one can possibly help it, the child should not be taken to court. I respectfully agree with that suggestion, but there may be cases in which, under the Bill, the education authority may now be the judge whether a child should go to a juvenile court or not. I do not for a moment suggest that that power should be frequently used, but in order to get the child there it is necessary for the authority to have that power.
I think that Clause 4 has met with general approval. It is to allow the approving of bursaries to take into consideration the maintenance of dependants. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire asked me for an assurance that we would not be niggling and intro- 594 duce what he called "finicky economies." This is the very opposite of a finicky economy. It is something the other way, and I do not think that in the Bill there are any economies made, finicky or otherwise. I am subject to correction on this, but I believe that in so far as the financial situation alters in any way or other it goes in favour of a child or its parent. I quite agree with the right hon. Member that we should not have finicky economy.
§ Mr. Woodburn
While I am glad to have the assurance of that paragraph, may I ask how the right hon. and learned Gentleman can say that when the Government put a Clause of that kind in a Bill it will not be a cost to the Government or to public funds? What is the Clause doing if it is not costing anything?
§ The Lord Advocate
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman at this stage does not want to enter into a discussion about the equalisation grant. I think I am right in saying that, prior to the recent Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, the provisions of this Bill would have had no effect on public funds, though they might have had on the rates.
§ Clause 5, which deals with transport expenses, has met with general approval, and certain helpful criticisms have been made which will be given special consideration. Although this Clause is easy to understand, one hon. Member rightly suggested that there might be all kinds of technical difficulties, such as when a child was ill or missed the bus. Of course there will be masses of technical difficulties, but sound common sense should be able to overcome them all.
§ We decided that Clause 6 was merely a repetition of the existing law. Clause 7 discontinues the right of managers of schools to apply for inspection on payment of the expenses involved. Such schools may still be inspected, but they will not be entitled to ask for an inspection at any particular time. In this connection, I was asked to give the number of pupils at private schools—
§ Miss Herbison
We are not yet clear about the position of those schools in Scotland known as private schools with managers. Are they now in the same position as ordinary schools provided by the education authority, that they may be examined at any time, or will there still 595 be schools where the conditions for the pupils are awful but which will not be examined at all?
§ The Lord Advocate
I think the hon. Lady will find that Section 61 of the 1946 Act, which is not being touched, authorises the inspection of any school. Accordingly, any establishment purporting to be a school could be inspected. Section 62 of the 1946 Act deals with rather special examinations. One hon. Member raised the question of the registration of independent schools. That is dealt with in Part V of the 1946 Act.
§ Clause 9 is rather a troublesome Clause and, if the House will bear with me for one moment, our worst hurdles will be over. The difficulty about Clause 9 is that not only does it make some slight alteration, but it turns Section 77 of the 1946 Act upside down and inside out. That was done to make the Clause tidier. Once we can understand what happens, however, it is easier, but it is rather difficult to find out at first sight what the Clause does. To help hon. Members I will state shortly what Clause 9 does.
§ Subsection (1) is consolidation of part of former subsection (2) and part of former subsection (3). Subsection (2) of the new Section 77 repeats the former subsection (1) with a minor widening of the regulation-making power. The new words used are "ancillary and incidental". Subsection (3) is a new definition of how the general power to prescribe the duties and powers of the training authorities may be exercised, and various ways are set out. There, a delegation is introduced which was not in the original Section 77.
§ The Lord Advocate
Part of subsection (3, c), particularly the end, is new. Subsection (3, c) was introduced partly because there was some doubt about certain matters which were being carried out, and it was not abundantly clear that they were within the provisions of Section 77.
§ The Lord Advocate
I should prefer not to say here and now that there is no material difference. I would ask the hon. Member to raise the point in Committee. It is probably a narrow point and one of some difficulty in construction. I would not say "yea" or "nay" on that point at this moment.
With regard to Clause 10, there has been reference to the desirability of having regulations rather than a scheme. Clause 11 deals with accounts and audits, and I have already referred to the appeal machinery under Clause 12. We then have Clauses 13 and 14, and the Schedules were only once, and then quite generally, referred to. I hope I have now dealt with the Bill in general and answered—
§ Mr. Ross
The Lord Advocate has just skated over the First Schedule. I asked a question relating to Section 88. I do not think this can be treated as a minor or consequential amendment. I should like an explanation of what it does, why it is there and who asked for it. It appears to me to mean that a local authority can now pay the full expenses of the removal and temporary accommodation of a teacher who goes from one area to another. I should not call that a minor amendment.
§ The Lord Advocate
The purpose of the amendment is to enable the Secretary of State, by regulation, to sanction the payment by local authorities of travelling expenses of teachers and of allowances towards the cost of removal and temporary accommodation where a teacher resident in the area of one local authority is appointed to the service of another authority.
The effect of the amendment is to make Section 88 read in the following manner. We take out subsection (1).
§ The Lord Advocate
Yes. We insert a new subsection (2) :Without prejudice to the generality of the last foregoing subsection the expenses which may be authorised under the said subsection may include"—597 We have paragraph (a) already. Paragraph (b), which is new, reads:travelling and other expenses necessarily incurred by a teacher or other officer of the education authority with the approval of that authority in the performance of, or for the purpose of, his functions as a teacher or officer, as the case may be. …Then there is a further paragraph (c).
The reasons for the amendment are that Section 44 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, already empowers education authorities to provide them with "travelling, board and lodging of teachers" in certain circumstances, where, for example, the pupil's home is remote. This power is not regarded as sufficiently wide to pay travelling expenses in all the circumstances where such expenses should be paid, where the teacher is employed, for example, as an organiser or itinerant teacher in a populous area. It was because there were circumstances in which it was doubtful whether such expenses could be paid that this was introduced. It takes a good many lines to say so, but it does do it.
§ The Lord Advocate
That is concerned with the expenses of removal and of the temporary accommodation of any such teacher or officer ordinarily resident in the area of another education authority who has been appointed to the service of the authority concerned. That would meet the case of one of the teachers whom it was thought were not at present adequately covered owing to the fact that in normal circumstances they were teachers of a rather specialised type.
I hope that directly or indirectly I have dealt with most of the questions which have been put. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked what a person was. The Interpretation Act, 1889, says :In this Act and in every Act passed after the commencement of this Act the expression 'person' shall, unless the contrary intention appears, include any body of persons corporate or unincorporate.I hope that the hon. Member will go home happily with that one, and I invite the House to give this very useful Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.598
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.