HC Deb 29 October 1956 vol 558 cc1142-67

For Section two of the principal Act (which relates to the provision of free education) there shall be substituted the following section :— Primary, secondary and compulsory further education provided in public schools and junior colleges under the management of an education authority shall be without the payment of fees".—[Mr. G. M. Thomson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Clause seeks to amend an important point of principle in the 1946 Act. I think we are justified in placing such, an Amendment on the Order Paper for a Bill like this. The history of Scottish educational legislation during the last 15 or 20 years has been very unsatisfactory. The great educational landmark in the United Kingdom was the Education Act, 1944, which applied only to England. When the Scottish version came along in 1945, it was interrupted by a General Election. In order to prevent the Scottish version from being held up or lost, it was passed through its final stages very hastily by general agreement, and in 1946 it was incorporated in the 1946 Act. Being a consolidation Measure, the 1946 Act was passed very quickly without any discussion of issues of principle relating to Scottish education.

Consequently, the situation is that many important points about education in Scotland have not received any thorough legislative treatment for very many years. That is one of the reasons why we felt very dissatisfied with the amount of time given to the Bill. We felt dissatisfied that it should be treated as a miscellaneous Measure rather than a Measure providing an opportunity for consideration of important points relating to Scottish education. It is because of this that we have tabled a number of new Clauses which raise important matters of principle.

Earlier today, I was speaking to an English colleague, and she expressed astonishment that we should have tabled a new Clause seeking to abolish fees in Scottish local authority schools. She said she had always understood that Scotland had a great and progressive educational tradition and that England's general practice was to follow ten or twenty years behind Scotland. She had assumed that Scotland, with its great traditions of giving every lad and lass a full opportunity for education according to ability, had provided free education for a long time. She was surprised to find that in this sense England was about eleven years ahead of Scotland. Under the 1944 Act, fees in respect of maintained grammar schools were completely abolished, but we have allowed that very anomalous and anachronistic habit to continue in Scotland. It is for that reason that we have tabled the new Clause.

It is impossible for us to claim that we have full equality of opportunity for Scottish children so long as local authorities are allowed, within their school system, to charge fees to parents so that they may buy a certain kind of education for their children. We in Scotland are proud of our national traditions. I think we can legitimately claim that one of our traditions is that we are, in general, a more democratic community, historically, than England. We do not have the great educational problem that England has, that of the great "private public schools", if I may so describe them, but we have in Scotland the equally serious problem of the fee-paying element within the State school system. The English habit produces massive problems of privilege and selection for jobs, but the Scottish perpetuation of fee paying within the State school system creates its own very important problems. It perpetuates the most pettifogging of snobbery. It is the kind of thing that prevents a fully democratic community growing up locally. It is for those reasons that we are pressing for the establishment once and for all of the principle of completely free State education in Scotland.

The fact that in the case of a number of Scottish local authorities it is still possible for parents to pay fees to decide the kind of school to which their children shall go leads to snobbery and misapprehension. Parents confidently claim that they are sacrificing in order to buy their children an education. That is not remotely true. The element of fees in respect of local authority schools is, generally, a very small part of the total cost of a child's education. The parent is not really buying an education for his child ; he is merely paying a small premium in order to be allowed to segregate his child with the children of parents of roughly the same income group. We have a strong objection to this in principle.

Existing legislation leaves the abolition of fees to the discretion of local authorities. The Secretary of State is always arguing that this is properly a matter for the discretion of local authorities. I am well aware that members of a Conservative Government feel instinctively on the side of paying for education, just as hon. Members on this side of the Committee feel instinctively against it.

The Secretary of State has justified his claims that he stands for discretion on the part of local authorities. My own local authority in Dundee recently decided that it wished to abolish fee paying in the city's primary schools, having already abolished them in the secondary schools. This became the subject of very great local controversy, and there was considerable pressure from Dundee upon the Secretary of State. At the end of the day, the Secretary of State upheld the decision of the Dundee Corporation to abolish fees in primary schools on the ground that it was properly a matter for local discretion.

I fully accept the sincerity of the argument put forward by the Government, but I want to say, equally sincerely, that it seems to me that this is the kind of important point of principle in the field of education which ought not to be left to the discretion of local authorities. It is just as logical to say that local authorities have a right to decide the school-leaving age of their pupils as it is to say that local authorities should have the right to decide whether in their schools, paid for predominantly out of public funds children should or should not pay fees. These are issues of overriding educational principle which ought to be treated as national decisions.

There is the further point that if one agrees that the payment of fees is an obstacle to full equality of educational opportunity that is a political decision which it is easier to take at the national political level than at the local political level. Inevitably when a local authority tries to exercise the discretion granted under the present legislation it finds itself the centre of very acute local controversy. This is the kind of decision which it is easier for the Government to take, and I think that it is altogether more proper for it to be taken at Governmental level.

I hope, not very optimistically, I must confess, that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this new Clause. It is a very suitable new Clause for this kind of Bill. We may be having to rush this Bill through at the tail end of a Session, but we have made good progress tonight and there is no reason why the Government should not feel able to accept this and other new Clauses on the Motion Paper. We could easily do so in the time available to us. I ask the Government to reconsider this issue of the whole principle of fee paying in local authority schools and to give sympathetic consideration to the new Clause.

Mr. Willis

I beg to second the Motion.

I have always felt that the biggest single thing that could be done to make equality of opportunity a reality would be to abolish fee paying in all schools and not only those mentioned in the new Clause.

It has always struck me as being quite wrong that in Edinburgh, for instance, children should be segregated into separate streams at an early period in their life. It is quite wrong that because parents of certain children happen to be able to afford to pay fees they should be able to send their children to those schools, knowing that having once been to those schools they will never go down the mines, be on the railway footplate and in the engineering sheds, or serve behind a shop counter. These children know that because their parents are in possession of the means to send them to certain schools they will never perform any of those jobs but will be channelled into other activities, white collared professional activities of one kind or another.

Whether we like it or not, we are creating class distinction when we do this. To take children at the age of five and segregate them into separate streams, one of which will occupy one position in life and another will occupy a lower position in life, separates children and creates a" class outlook ". I know that that is a phrase which is not very popular. People say that we must not talk about classes ; but we must face up to the reality that we are creating classes through our educational system at the present time, and that is why I have always felt very strongly that fee paying should be abolished. Not only have I seen this going on and been very seriously concerned, but I have never been able to understand the arguments concerning it.

Sometimes people say, "Why should not certain students have a slightly better education if their parents are able to pay for it?" I do not think that is a good argument. I do not think there should be better and worse education, if I may use that phrase. There should not be separate kinds of education, one better than another, particularly if it is being paid for from public funds. Other people say, "Oh, but it is not really that one kind of education is better than another but that some people like to pay for their children being educated." Why do parents pay for their children to be educated? They do so believing that the child is getting a better opportunity in life because they happen to be in a position to afford to send it to a fee-paying school.

7.45 p.m.

If that is true, I think that it is wrong where the education is mainly being paid for from public funds. If it is not true, then thousands of parents in this country, through their own finer instincts to promote the wellbeing of their children, about which no one can complain, are being defrauded, if the education in the non-fee-paying schools is as good as the education which can be obtained outside. That also seems to me to be wrong.

Therefore, for these reasons I hope that the Secretary of State will consider this Clause very kindly. I have not much hope that he will do so, but I would ask him to consider it. It is an important matter which can make a fundamental change in our social structure and in the attitude of one set of persons to another and one set of children to another set of children. It is quite wrong for us to try to create separate classes of children. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), I believe that this is something which ought to be done by the Government for the whole of Scotland and not left to the local authority. I think that is quite wrong. It leaves a different condition in different localities and creates intense controversy about things which would better be decided by the Government.

I do not want to cover all the arguments made by my hon. Friend, but I agree with him wholeheartedly about that and I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, to give us some really good reason why he should not accept this new Clause. They will have to be very good reasons because the whole of our feeling today is towards greater equality of opportunity and greater democracy, which we talk about as one of the things which we have to teach the rest of the world. Let us first make it a reality in our own country. This is one of the most important ways of doing that, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will consider this new Clause very carefully.

Mr. Hannan

I should like to add my support for the new Clause which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson). I also support the point which has just been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) when he said that what is happening here is that the public purse is being used by people who pay fees in order to send their children to schools from which they believe quite sincerely they will receive something better than is provided at the local authority schools.

It is precisely those same people who protest about subsidies in other ways. They protest about subsidies for bread, milk and health. But, in the field of education, they never bat an eyelid when some financial help is afforded them, because otherwise many of them could not afford to keep their children at those schools if they were asked to pay the full economic cost of maintaining them there.

This is an attitude which we all, even on these benches—and I say even on these benches—can understand. What is most difficult to comprehend is the individual who, while objecting on the one hand to subsidies in one direction, is nevertheless willing to take them in another. I believe that this has helped to pander to an instinct which is undesirable in these days of progress towards democratic feeling and attainment. I believe that fee-paying schools provide comprehensive education and, as the Joint Under-Secretary of State knows, we, at least, believe comprehensive education to be a very desirable thing. Generally speaking, it does not take place in the ordinary local authority school, but most of the fee-paying schools provide comprehensive education.

The result of the present system is to create a spirit of superiority amongst some people who ought to realise that in fact they are not paying the full economic cost of maintaining their children at those schools.

It is for the two or three reasons which I have adduced that I support the new Clause and hope that the Government will at least advance some good arguments to meet the case which has been put to them. There are aspects of this matter which are related to other Clauses on the Order Paper, which it would be out of order for me to mention at the moment. We should like to know what is the Government's attitude to this matter so that we may be able to make up our minds on our attitude towards the other new Clauses.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

If the progress of the Bill can be defined into two phases, we are now entering the phase of opportunity as distinct from the phase of administrative tidying up and legal niceties with which we have dealt up to the present.

I do not think the Joint Under-Secretary of State can complain that the Opposition have been unduly harrying in their attitude to the Bill. In this stage of moving new Clauses there are, however, a number of major items which could make this a worthwhile Bill. I am not denying that the other aspects of the Bill are important and useful, but, as I said on Second Reading, we want not just a useful little Bill but a Bill which represents a milestone in Scottish education history.

There are numerous new Clauses, and the acceptance of any one of them would be a magnificent step forward. This particular new Clause is, to my mind, probably the greatest of all, and I believe that it represents one of the challenges which the Conservative Party has to face in the country. What is the justification for retaining fee paying in Scottish schools? Does it give some advantage to Scottish education over English education? Not at all. On the contrary, many English educationists laugh when they hear the claims which are made on behalf of Scottish education—claims that we are so far ahead in so many fields. I do not believe that to be the case at all.

This point was made by Dr. Highet in a speech at the weekend—that Scotland suffers from a series of myths and legends about education and that she is so fond of uttering national shibboleths about education that she has become mesmerised into believing that Scottish education is better than English education. If we, as Scotsmen, on both sides of the Committee, will turn for a moment, leave the complacency which Scottish education seems to create in many of us and examine the charges about Scottish education made by people south of the Border, what is the first thing we come up against? It is this allegation that we still maintain fee paying in schools which are maintained by the public purse.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

The so-called public schools of England are fee-paying schools.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

There seems to be a matter of doubt. I will make my observations, and no doubt my hon. Friend will rise in a few moments and enlighten us on that aspect of my understanding.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I hope not. We are not concerned with England at the moment.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I can invite my hon. Friend to do so, but she may not be allowed to do so.

I was trying to say that this was one aspect at least at which we should look. In my own constituency, a school—a fee-paying school—is being replanned. It has a long and distinguished record in education in Renfrewshire. A controversy is now taking place in the local newspapers, with the arguments going one way and the other, as to why we should have fee paying in this new academy when it is constructed. People are taking sides and arguing whether they think it is wise that the children of Greenock should be put into two classes—those who go to a public school normally and those who go to this public school and pay fees. I should like to hear the argument.

We understand that the Conservatives have entered a new phase of opportunity. They say that they are the opportunity party, and they are claiming that they represent equality of opportunity in many fields. I am glad that we have converted them to that path, and I should like the Minister to tell us why this is not the appropriate moment to introduce this new Clause. Alternatively, if he cannot do that, he should at least tell us when the Government intend to introduce a provision of this kind. Or will the Minister tell us that neither this Government nor any Conservative Government, have any intention whatever of abolishing fee paying in Scottish schools?

In my view it is wrong that this system should be carried on at the present time. Bearing in mind the whole emphasis in scientific education and in the new technological revolution which is taking place in the educational system of the country, it is wrong that we should have this outmoded approach to the administration in our schools. The Joint Under-Secretary of State tonight issued a very firm, and I think very admirable, pronouncement against the professions in their payment of apprentices. Surely this is just the time when a clarion call like that could be reinforced by adopting such a Clause as this, which would in itself be a minor revolution within the educational system in Scotland.

Mr. Hector Hughes

The debate on the Clause has been constructive and informed. I wish to add a few words in favour of the Clause. I hope the Government will accept it, because in my opinion it is right economically, socially and politically, and it accords with the march of history. It is a step towards that classless society which is one of the foundations of real democracy. It is wrong that the nation's children should be divided at an early age, or indeed at any age, into two diverging streams so that they build up into two different sets of citizens, some with a superiority complex and some with an inferiority complex, some who are destined for high rank in our society and some who are destined to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water.

I submit that this conception is bad for the nation and for the individuals who compose the nation. This new Clause is a step away from that and away from the old feudal ideas of dividing the nation into master and man, into knight and vassal. Happily, we have moved some distance from that conception of the Dark Ages, but we still have the vestiges of it in the fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools. To me it is a matter of great surprise that this conflict, this difference between different sets of people in our community, has not long been abolished. On the face of it, in this modern age, with our modern philosophy, our idea of treating humanity as one and breaking down the cultural and political barriers between nations and between human beings, it is strange that this contrast between the fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools has not been abolished long ago.

8.0 p.m.

To reject this new Clause would be to take a step backwards towards the Dark Ages. I am not putting it too high, I am not putting it in an extreme way, when I say that this would be a step backwards, a step in the wrong direction. To abolish fee-paying schools is a step which accords, as I said earlier, with history, and is a step in the right direction.

I hope that the enlightened Joint Under-Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate, or whoever answers this debate, will look back into his reading of history, both legal and otherwise, and realise the march of progress, realise the march away from those divergencies which are represented on the one hand by the fee-paying schools and on the other by the non-fee-paying schools. I hope that whoever replies for the Government to this debate will say, "This is a very good new Clause, and we are glad that the Opposition have been so enlightened as to move it, and we accept it."

Mrs. Mann

I rise to oppose this new Clause because it just does not do what its authors are claiming it does. It just does not abolish fee paying in schools. It singles out certain schools for the abolition of fees. It singles out those under local authorities.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

My hon. Friend is saying that I misled the Committee. I was most careful to explain that this new Clause dealt, as it can only deal, with local authority schools. Because of the Bill it can deal with local authority schools only.

Mrs. Mann

Perhaps I should make myself clear. I thought I had done so. I oppose the new Clause because it does not do what some of the speakers have been claiming for it, namely, abolish class distinction in education.

This new Clause singles out certain schools and leaves the hard core still untouched. It fails to distinguish, for example, between rate-aided and State-aided schools. We are going to find that all the State-aided schools are still exempt. It raises anomalies in Glasgow, for example, whereby St. Aloysius, which is State-aided but may or may not be rate-aided, is completely exempt, while Glasgow High School will have abolition of fees directed to it.

I think that the abolition of fees is a very good thing, and I agree with the policy statement of the Labour Party "Towards Equality," the statement in which we lay down that the hard core of inequality lies in our educational system. However, this hastily conceived new Clause is an attempt to dragoon the party into a declaration of policy tonight, although the party in Scotland has stated time and again to Scotland that its policy will not be declared until it is declared for the entire educational system in both England and Scotland. I think it is an attempt to dragoon the party beforehand, and to direct it into the wrong channel, because it still leaves the so-called public schools, which, we know, are private schools, in both Scotland and England, apart, and it dictates to local authority representatives what they ought to do.

I have mentioned the anomaly between Glasgow High and St. Aloysius. Have the authors of this new Clause considered Heriot's of Edinburgh, the Royal High, Burghmuir, Gillespie's, Leith Academy, Trinity Academy and Holy Cross? Do they know which of those are State-aided and which are rate-aided?

I have heard the utmost nonsense tonight about how the children of well-to-do parents can slip into Glasgow High School just because their parents are wealthy, in spite of advertisements which have appeared time and again in the Glasgow Herald showing the examination to which a child must submit before getting into the school. Those dishonest statements continue to confuse working-class people who think that there is some privilege, that some escape of obligation can take one into some schools of that sort. I have known of three examinations to get into that school. I, therefore, think it wrong that so many people should have been, because of the process of elimination, misled by others with the statement that one can slip in if one's parents happen to have money. It is absolutely untrue, and I think it is untrue of most of the education authority schools. I believe that the education authority members look after their schools exceedingly well and would not allow such a state of affairs to continue.

We are not by this new Clause moving towards equality. We shall move towards equality only when we deal with all schools wherein privileges exist, and not merely single out one or two which, by reason of their territory, particularly in Glasgow, have remained as they are. I was a member of Glasgow Corporation when we freed most of the secondary schools in Glasgow—fourteen of them—from fee paying. There was a particular reason for keeping the remaining five as they were.

I think we must wait until such time as the Labour Party as a whole decides its policy and moves towards equality—not in this way, but by tackling the whole of education in England and in Scotland, not in only the one country or the other.

In a debate in the B.B.C.'s programme, "Matter of Opinion," about eighteen months ago, a member of the Executive of the Labour Party was misrepresented. Participants in the debate were allowed to say that she had made a statement to the effect that all schools would be placed on an equal basis and that the Labour Party would oppose all fee paying. She wrote to Sir Ian Jacob to take exception to that misrepresentation of her statement. She had been correctly reported in the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, and it seems inconceivable that the B.B.C. should allow her to be misrepresented as saying that the Labour Party policy was to abolish all fee paying. She had said nothing of the kind. She got an apology from Sir Ian Jacob.

Until we get a decision as to which schools shall be deprived of fees and which shall be allowed to charge fees, do not let us talk about doing away with these inequalities in education. We shall have a worse class system than ever if we deal with this problem in a niggling way brought in through the back door by means of a little Bill when no one else is looking. It would be wrong to use this means tonight and to vote on it. I do not intend to let my opinion be expressed in the Lobby until we have some clarity on this side of the House and from my party as a whole on our entire attitude towards public and private schools throughout Britain.

Mr. Ross

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), who is a very close friend of mine, will think again on this subject. If she will only recollect what was done by Glasgow she may find some reason for supporting us in moving the New Clause. If I understand her argument, it is "Do not do it now. Wait until you can do the whole lot at once." Yet my hon. Friend tells us with a certain justifiable pride that Glasgow did not deal with the whole question but with about 11 schools out of 15.

My hon. Friend asked for clarity. I do not think that anything could be clearer than the proposed new Clause. We suggest the abolition of fee paying in primary, secondary and compulsory education provided in public schools and junior colleges under the management of an education authority, that is to say where the money for the maintenance and support of the school and the payment for the teachers is provided by the education authority, part of which is reimbursed by the State so that the school is both State-aided and rate-aided. We suggest that in that case there shall be no fee paying.

I have heard all sorts of arguments about this kind of thing, and I have had experience of both cases because I have lived through a time when there was fee paying at Ayr Academy. When I was a boy there was fee paying at the primary department of that school and pupils came to that department from miles around. They came not because the education there was better than at any other school—the teachers there were appointed by the education authority and paid by the authority—but because payment of a fee gave two seeming advantages to the parents.

Let us face it. The first advantage was a class advantage, the fact that the children were mixing with other children whose parents could also afford to pay that fee. The children were therefore all kept nicely together. It was the first school in Ayr where the pupils wore a uniform, as I can remember. The children were not only segregated by finance but by uniform from the rest of the town. That was the first and prized advantage.

Scottish people are interested in education. We hear a great deal of talk about the comprehensive school. We have had comprehensive schools in Scotland for generations, and the second advantage which these parents secured by payment of fees in the primary school—and they are still getting it in certain parts of Scotland today—was that the child entered at the age of five and left at the age of 17 to go to a university. It was a comprehensive education bought with the ability to pay fees from the age of five. At the age of 11 these children were joined by other children from other parts of Ayr and other outlying areas, but even then in the secondary department there was segregation of the people who were known and had belonged and had been fee paying from people like myself who had come in after having won a bursary.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Clever boy.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Ross

No, not so very clever. At the end of the day, all the children were receiving the same education in that comprehensive school, but a child who started fee paying at the age of five did not have to sit any examination to get to the secondary department. I know that in 1946 or 1947 fee paying was wiped out and now the children who go into the primary department of Ayr Academy are those who live in the neighbourhood of the school. It means that the sons and daughters of Regular soldiers, good enough to fight the battles of the old Empire—

Mrs. Mann

Will my hon. Friend allow me to intervene? I know that he does not want to misrepresent the situation, but I think he will admit that in all the schools in Edinburgh which I quoted, and in Glasgow High, these conditions about not having to sit 11-plus examination do not apply.

Mr. Ross

I will come to that in a moment. When the change was made, children from round about the area were zoned into that school, just as my children are zoned at the moment into Alloway public school, the school nearest to the door. If that is a good enough slogan for the Co-operative, it might be good enough for education too.

The point about the entrance examination is this. These people, of course, have to sit a qualifying examination for a 11-plus test, but if they happen to be already in a comprehensive school it does not mean that they go out of that school. It means that they go into a particular stream in that school, where other streams are flowing, and if any mistake has been made at the age of 12 or 13 they can be switched over to another stream in the school. That is an advantage.

The only thing maintained by the present situation in respect of these schools—which are completely under the control of and financed entirely by the State and the ratepayers—is that initial advantage that children buy their way into a type of education. It may well be that that snag still remains and will remain until we have full comprehensive education for everyone, but the fact that we cannot do everything at once does not mean that we should not take a step in that direction. If we had not acted in this way in the past we should not have raised the school leaving age to 15. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie would like to raise the age to 16.

Mrs. Mann

To 21.

Mr. Ross

I suggest seriously that from the point of view of the organisation of education the method suggested in the new Clause is the only fair way of doing what we propose. We in Scotland have prided ourselves that our education is free from the blemishes of the public school education in England. Comparatively speaking, we feel that the historical aspect and part of the independence and the freer relationship and lack of feudalism in Scotland sprung from the fact that everyone went to the school in the village or town, be it the laird's son or the son of the farmer. It was when we started to break away from this practice, and when certain sections started to send their children out of Scotland, that class distinction started there.

I cannot see anything other than a disadvantage continuing. Do not let us exaggerate it. We in Scotland have nothing like the amount of fee paying there is in England ; but where it exists it is a blemish, where it exists it is resented. In this age we should not allow people to buy an educational advantage of that kind, especially one that leads to a certain amount of social snobbery, which is a reflection not so much on the children but on the parents and is soon bred into the children. Where we can do something about it, and we are taking a step in the right direction here, we should take that step fearlessly.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

It is apparent that in this matter the Opposition are not all of one mind and that we have had a peep into the backroom of high Labour policy which has been fascinating to some of us. Apart from the arguments we have heard, for and against, there are some practical reasons why this suggested Clause cannot be accepted, as the Opposition know well. I am sure that they would not apply it if they were in my position tonight, and I will try to explain why.

This new Clause would leave the Act more or less as it is but would exclude the present vital proviso which reads as follows : Provided that if the authority think it expedient they may charge fees in some or all of the classes in a limited number of primary and secondary schools, so, however "— This is the essence of it— that the power to do so may be exercised only where it can be exercised without prejudice to the adequate provision of free primary and secondary education in public schools in which no fees are charged, or in other schools the managers of which agree, in respect of such payment by the education authority as may be agreed, to admit and educate pupils free of charge on the nomination of the education authority. That proviso was inserted after much reflection by very distinguished Members of the Labour Party in 1945. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) could not understand the argument. I invite him to read the arguments used by his own leaders in 1945. They are all in the interesting Second Reading debate in the volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT which I am holding.

Mr. Willis

I have heard the arguments but cannot understand why they seem to carry much weight, because they do not carry much weight with me.

Mr. Stewart

Well they are all here in this volume. May I repeat them quickly so that we do not lose too much time? It is true that a change was made in England so that there was to be no more fee paying in public authority schools in England under the Act of 1944. It was thought that since that was done in England it should also be done in Scotland. However, it was decided to continue to allow Scottish education authorities the discretion to charge fees which had been allowed by the Act of 1918 so long as it did not prejudice the adequate provision of free education.

What are the reasons why we cannot accept this proposal? The first is that to which I referred earlier. The issue is clear enough. Either we trust our Scottish local authorities or we do not. If it is the view of the Opposition that they do not trust them, let us hear it. We trust them. Parliament has given them wide discretion throughout the years. I trust them in the exercise of that discretion, and I see no reason for interfering with that trust now. It is in accordance with democratic principles and, therefore, it should be maintained.

I think that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) had in mind the fact that the authorities have exercised sparingly their authority in the way of fees or no fees. As the proviso requires, without prejudice to the adequate provision of free … education", some authorities have elected to retain their fee-paying schools while others have decided to abolish them. Over the country generally the number of education authority schools in which fees are being charged has fallen from fifty-four in 1945 to thirty-five today. The latter figure includes three schools in which fee-paying departments are working out, as they are in Dundee, and will eventually disappear.

I was grateful to the hon. Member for Dundee, East for giving us the credit of putting into practice our faith in the local authorities. Dundee local authority came to me and said that it wanted to abolish fees. There was great agitation. I consulted my right hon. Friend and I took the view that we had no grounds upon which to interfere with the exercise of the discretion of the authority. That is our policy, and I hope it will always be so. That is one reason.

Mr. Woodburn

The Minister has given us a satisfactory picture of what has been happening generally. Is he aware that there are suggestions that in Edinburgh reverse processes are likely to take place, and that there will probably be great pressure on Edinburgh? Is the Minister prepared to allow the local education authority, in its discretion, to expand fee-paying schools if that pressure arises? It would seem to me that it would breach the principle of the Bill by encroaching on the provision that should be made for non-fee-paying pupils.

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman knows the operations of the Edinburgh education authority better than I do, for personal reasons which I respect. I do not know of the matter to which he has referred, but I do not see why I should alter my attitude if I believe that the local authorities have a discretion and are entitled to use it. I cannot go further than that, and I am inclined always to back the authority.

Secondly, one hon. Member asked why, as England has it, should not Scotland have it? The situation in England was, and is, very different from that in Scotland. In 1944 pupils of ability in England were denied a grammar school education because the places which they might have occupied were already taken. The trouble is that there are not enough places in the English grammar schools. There are not enough places today.

That is not so with us. I think that hon. Members opposite will agree with me that there are very few of what the English call grammar school type schools where there are not places for capable children. Therefore, our problem has never been the same as that in England.

I come to the biggest and most powerful reason which I think the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) had in her mind, apart from the ethics of all this. To introduce this considerable change in places like Glasgow and Edinburgh would bring about very difficult administrative problems. It was the same situation which existed in 1945 and to which Mr. Tom Johnston referred. It was exactly the administrative problem which would be the result of a change like this in 1945. Mr. Johnston explained the trouble that would arise in Glasgow. He said : … all I am concerned about this afternoon is to explain why, on educational grounds … Those are the grounds I stand on here— … it has been considered inadvisable in this Bill to give a central prohibitory direction to local authorities. They will continue, as now, to exercise an option on these matters. 8.30 p.m.

Later, in the same debate, Mr. West-wood was saying the same thing in the same kind of words, and nobody could say that he was not a stalwart Scot, a stalwart democrat and Socialist. He said that the third point upon which reservation was made was the abolition of fees. At that time he was the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Ede

He was not a Scot.

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman did not say that to him when he was alive.

Mr. Ede

I did.

Mr. Stewart

He said : … I believe in absolutely free education, but what we are doing under our proposals is to leave it in the hands of the education authorities. There is no change in the law …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1945; Vol. 410, cols. 1272 and 1359.] Taking all these matters into account and recognising the practical difficulties that would arise when introducing a Measure of this kind at this time, when there is this flood of pupils in our schools and this shortage of teachers, it would be madness to do what is suggested. Therefore, I ask the Committee to reject the new Clause.

Miss Herbison

The Joint Under-Secretary obviously has no intention of accepting the new Clause. He concluded by quoting the debate on the 1945 Act. Throughout the whole of our proceedings the Joint Under-Secretary, when it suits him, almost treats the 1945 Act as his bible; but if the 1945 Act were all that good, I do not know why we have been wasting all day on this Measure which is amending the 1945 Act or the consolidating 1946 Act.

It is simply not good enough for the Minister to call in aid the 1945 debates each time and never to give us any adequate reason for rejecting our proposals. He quoted Tom Johnston and Joseph Westwood, but all we were given were sentences from each of the speeches saying that, on educational grounds, it would not be good for the central Department to take this decision.

Mr. Willis

That was in 1945.

Miss Herbison

Exactly. Even if it were not right in 1945, the Minister has an onus on him to tell us today what those educational grounds and those practical difficulties are. He has not referred to one educational ground for rejecting this proposal, nor has he given us one practical reason.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) was worried in case, in her own words, Scotland was "left on one particular shelf, and England on another." By this modest new Clause we are going a step further towards equality. The new Clause does not go as far as some of us would like, but we made it modest in the hope that we might persuade the Government to accept it. If we look at Section 61 of the 1944 Act which applies to England and Wales, we find that in subsection (1) it states : No fees shall be charged in respect of admission to any school maintained by a local education authority, or to any county college, or in respect of the education provided in such school or college. I hope that I have allayed one fear expressed by my hon. Friend. All we are asking in this Amendment is to bring Scotland into line with England.

Mr. Willis

On the same shelf.

Miss Herbison

Yes, on the same shelf, if we wish to use that figure of speech.

The Minister tried to say that there were special reasons for England doing it. Since 1944 England has been increasing the places in grammar and secondary schools of all kinds. There is not so much difference today, and we feel that we have a right today to ask that this should be done. I am sure that if the Joint Under-Secretary would have a talk with the convener of the education committee of Glasgow Corporation, he would find exactly what the Labour group on the Glasgow Corporation think about this matter. I ask that he should go and have a talk with them and find out their point of view about those schools under their control.

My hon. Friends who have supported this new Clause have put forward valid reasons on educational grounds, and also on social grounds, why all schools under the control of education authorities should be non-fee-paying. But I want to return to the reason given why England differs from Scotland. In 1944 there may have been some reason so far as grammar school places were concerned. But what about the primary schools? We in Scotland are still in what I would call a disgraceful condition in that in some instances there are fees for primary schools. I do not think that that could be supported by anybody.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie was dealing with an argument, which I had not heard from any of my hon. Friends, that people, it is said, slip in by the back door of these fee-paying schools in Glasgow. She told us that in one school the children sometimes had as many as three examinations before they were allowed in.

Mr. Hannan

Is not my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie did not take part in this argument? She only came in when my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Mabon) sat down.

Miss Herbison

I wish to answer the argument. As a teacher, I think it a dreadful thing that children of 16 years of age, because their parents want them to go into fee-paying schools in Glasgow, are asked to undergo three eliminating examinations. As legislators I think that we should try to protect the children.

Mrs. Mann

I think that my hon. Friend is out of touch now with conditions in Glasgow. Much water has flowed under the bridge since she herself left a non-fee-paying school to go to teach in a fee-paying school. But the position today is such that in the housing scheme in Glasgow, in order to avoid outbreaks of dysentery which occur in some districts and to avoid the infection which arises in these schools and because of the terrible housing conditions in Glasgow, we actually have the spectacle of subsidised housing scheme tenants sending their children to private schools.

Miss Herbison

I do not see what that interjection has to do with the point with which I was dealing. I was dealing only with the point put forward by the hon. Member, that in one fee-paying school in Glasgow children are asked to undergo three examinations—

Mrs. Mann


Miss Herbison

I am sorry ; I cannot give way again. I am dealing only with one point and I am saying that I, as a person interested in education, would be completely opposed to that, and would want to protect these children. My hon. Friend has said that since I left the fee-paying school in which I taught much water may have gone under the bridge. The fee-paying school in which I taught was under the control of Glasgow education authority and, as a teacher employed by that authority, I went where it asked me to go. It may be that things are now different in that school, but when I was there—and I was there until 1945—boys certainly got in by the back door. That was known all over Glasgow.

The arguments which have been put forward today show quite clearly that the time has now come when the Government ought to tell our local education authorities that there shall be no more fee paying in schools, either primary or secondary, which come under the control of those education authorities. I live in Lanarkshire, which is the biggest county in Scotland, and whose education authority caters for the second largest number of children. We have no fee-paying schools in Lanarkshire, yet I would say that our children are as well educated as one will find anywhere in Scotland.

I urge the Joint Under-Secretary to take into account all the arguments which have been put forward and not hide himself behind an Act that he and his Government have found, in certain instances, required to be changed, and for those reasons have brought forward this Bill.

Mr. Ede

I rise only because the Joint Under-Secretary alluded to me in the course of his attempt to defend his position by quoting what he said were the reasons why the English system differed from the Scottish. During the passing of the 1944 Act, I was in a position similar to that now occupied by the hon. Gentleman. If he will examine Section 61 (1), which was read by my hon. Friend, he will see that that was a decision taken upon a question of principle, for it included not merely primary and secondary schools but also county colleges. The whole of the English system, where it was supported by rates was, from that time onwards, to be free.

I cannot believe that the Scottish system of education, for which I have no great respect, is so bad that the number of Scottish children suitable for what we call a grammar school education in England is less than the number of English children. This is a conflict of principle. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann); I want to see all fees abolished throughout the English education service—and I speak not merely as a representative governor of county schools but as a governor of two public schools and a direct grant school. I am quite sure that the country would be better served if the admission to those schools were by educational merit alone and not by educational merit qualified by the financial resources of the parents.

8.45 p.m.

I go back to the time when I first attended a school in England, in 1886, which was before most hon. Members here were even born. Fees were then charged. In fact, when I moved up to the boys' school from the infants' school, there was a system of fees which were graded on a class basis. My father, being a tradesman,

was expected to pay 9d. a week for me whereas some children got in for 2d. But when my father discovered that I was being taught by a boy only six years my senior, the son of another tradesman in Epsom, he said, "Ninepence for him! Not on your life." He paid nothing more for a year and then paid 6d. a week back money.

We in England abolished that system in 1891, and it is a sad thought for one who in his early days was brought up to believe that educational ideals in Scotland, inaugurated by John Knox, were so much better than those in England inaugurated by successive Archbishops of Canterbury to find, sixty-five years later, that Scotland has not yet caught up with England.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time :—

The Committee divided : Ayes 93, Noes 153.

Division No. 293.] AYES [8.46 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Holmes, Horace Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Probert, A. R.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Proctor, W. T.
Awbery, S. S. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Randall, H. E.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hunter, A. E. Redhead, E. C.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Irving, S. (Dartford) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Ross, William
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Royle, C.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Johnson, James (Rugby) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Champion, A. J. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Skeffington, A. M.
Chapman, W. D. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Coldrick, W. Kenyon, C. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Lawson, G. M. Stones, W. (Consett)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lee, Frederick (Newton) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lindgren, G. S. Sylvester, G. O.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Deer, G. McGhee, H. G. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Delargy, H. J. McInnes, J. Weitzman, D.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) McKay, John (Wallsend) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mikardo, Ian Wheeldon, W. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mitchison, G. R. Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Monslow, W. Willey, Frederick
Gibson, C. W. Mort, D. L. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Orbach, M. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, C. F. Owen, W. J. Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Palmer, A. M. F. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hannan, W. Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Parker, J. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hayman, F. H. Peart, T. F.
Herbison, Miss M. Pentland, N. TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Holman, P. Popplewell, E. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Aitken, W. T. Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Bidgood, J. C. Campbell, Sir David
Arbuthnot, John Biggs-Davison, J. A. Chichester-Clark, R.
Armstrong, C. W. Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Cole, Norman
Atkins, H. E. Bishop, F. P. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Balniel, Lord Black, C. W. Corfield, Capt. F. V.
Barber, Anthony Body, R. F. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Barlow, Sir John Boothby, Sir Robert Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.
Barter, John Boyle, Sir Edward Crouch, R. F.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Cunningham, Knox
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Bryan, P. Currie, G. B. H.
Dance, J. C. G. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Price, David (Eastleigh)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. L.
Deedes, W. F. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Ramsden, J, E.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Redmayne, M.
Drayson, G. B. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Ridsdale, J. E.
du Cann, E. D. L. Kershaw, J. A. Rippon, A. G. F.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Kirk, P. M. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lambton, Viscount Russell, R. S.
Errington, Sir Eric Lancaster, Col. C. G. Shepherd, William
Farey-Jones, F. W. Leather, E. H. C. Simon, J. E, S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Fell, A. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Fisher, Nigel Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Freeth, D. K. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Longden, Gilbert Studholme, Sir Henry
Gibson-Watt, D. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Summers, Sir Spencer
Gower, H. R. McKibbin, A. J. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Grant, W. (Woodside) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Teeling, W.
Green, A. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maddan, Martin Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Gurden, Harold Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Markham, Major Sir Frank Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Marlowe, A. A. H. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Marples, A. E. Touche, Sir Gordon
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Marshall, Douglas Vane, W. M. F.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Vaughan-Morgan. J. K.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Vosper, D. F.
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nabarro, G. D. N. Wall, Major Patrick
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nairn, D. L. S. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hirst, Geoffrey Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Holt, A. F. Oakshott, H. D. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Hope, Lord John O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hornby, R. P. Page, R. G. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Partridge, E. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Paton, John Wood, Hon. R.
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Woollam, John Victor
Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pott, H. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES :
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Powell, J. Enoch Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Mr. Hughes-Young.