§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, at the end to insert :(2) Where in cases it may be equally a contribution to the safety of children in circumstances as described in the foregoing subsection, the Secretary of State may make representations to licensing authorities under the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation to embody in licenses of public bus services such conditions as to routes as may obviate the necessity of children having to cross main roads or encounter similar hazards.My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) spoke yesterday to this Amendment. It seemed to me that he made a very good case indeed and that the Lord Advocate appeared to think that there was much in the ideas put forward by my right hon. Friend. We should like to know whether there has been any discussion among the Scottish Ministers and, if so, whether they are now ready to accept this Amendment.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. W. R. Milligan)
I entirely agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) that the question raised by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) is one of great interest, but while we have great sympathy with the Amendment, or with the idea underlying it, we do not think that this is the appropriate way to obtain the results which, I think, the hon. Lady wishes to obtain.
As I see it, the idea behind the Amendment is to bring forcibly before the traffic commissioners the importance of taking into consideration the safety of children on the roads. Representations can always be made to the traffic commissioners when an application is made before them, and one of those who can represent is the local authority. The local authority is the most appropriate body to make the representation, because it 1255 knows the local situation better even than does the Secretary of State himself. Accordingly, we do not think it desirable that the Secretary of State should make the representations, but that they should be made, as at present laid down, by the local authorities.
There is another subsidiary and rather important objection to representations being made by the Secretary of State. As the House knows, there is a form of appeal against the decision of the traffic commissioners, and I think it would be bad practice, and against constitutional principle, that the Secretary of State should, as it were, be a party in an appeal which would be heard by his colleague, the Minister of Transport.
While sympathising therefore, with the idea behind the Amendment, we think that it would be better to leave things in their present position, knowing that the education authority can make representations in any appropriate circumstances.
§ Miss Herbison
I shall certainly ask leave to withdraw the Amendment ; but, in doing so, I would ask again that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues will give a great deal of attention to this point. I ask because of my own personal experience in a case in which, by using his good offices, the traffic commissioner did get one bus in the day to go another way to pick up children. The local authority had already made representations about this and had failed. It seems to me that we cannot just leave it to the local authority. Local authorities feel very strongly in these matters, but sometimes they are not successful in their efforts.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment but, in doing so, I ask that further consideration be given to this point.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[The Lord Advocate.]
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison
I am, indeed, very surprised that the Lord Advocate should have moved the Third Reading so briefly. Yesterday, we spent a very long time discussing the Bill. It is quite evident that we, on this side, attach far greater 1256 importance not only to this Bill but to all matters that appertain to Scottish education than some others would appear to do. Yesterday, while we were moving Amendment after Amendment and new Clause after new Clause, no interest whatever was shown by Government back benchers in any case that was put forward. Sometimes there was not a single Member on the Government back benches—
§ Miss Herbison
One hon. Member opposite is protesting. I think that he and perhaps one other hon. Member were the only two on the benches opposite who made a short intervention. In all matters of real importance not a single voice was heard from Government back benchers.
This was an opportunity to discuss not only what the Government considered necessary to amend the 1946 Act, but what we and others considered should be done. I had hoped that there would have been some ideas in the minds of Government back benchers. It is a shocking example of the lack of interest among Government supporters that they found nothing at all to amend in this Bill and that only two of them, during that long debate, found it worth while to say anything about education in Scotland.
I know that today we have had to curtail the time at our disposal to debate the Third Reading of the Bill. From the Second Reading hon. Members on this side of the House have had to curtail what they wanted to say. No Minister could say that a minute was wasted yesterday. Hon. Members on this side of the House have given much thought to the provisions in this Bill and have considered how to improve it. Time and again we had to cut down speeches, and there were hon. Members who were not able to speak at all yesterday because of the time limit that was placed on us by the Government having introduced this Bill so late in the Session.
This is not the kind of Bill that we should have liked to see. I agree that many of its provisions are improvements on the 1946 Act, but there are some which we consider are not improvements. We feel strongly that if we had been given more time to develop our case we 1257 might have got the Minister to accept what we consider to be improvements in the 1946 Act.
The Joint Under-Secretary said time and again that the Government had such faith in the local authorities that they were willing to leave matters referred to in the Bill with the local authorities. Yet at Question Time today the Secretary of State made it quite clear, on the important question of housing, that he had no intention of leaving it in the hands of the local authorities. If the Joint Under-Secretary is to take part in this short debate I think he might deal with that matter. I know that one or two of my hon. Friends wish to speak on it.
We shall give a Third Reading to the Bill because it contains some improvements, but we protest that a Bill of such importance, which could improve educational facilities in Scotland, has been hurried through the House in this disgraceful manner.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
This was an eminently suitable Bill for the Scottish Grand Committee. That point has been made before, but it loses nothing by repetition and emphasis. Despite that, the Government waited until the dying moments of this Session to introduce it and, what is worse, left no interval between the Committee and Report stages, so that any representations which had been made to the House could have been considered between those two stages.
This seems to be an indication almost of contempt with which the Government have treated the Opposition in this respect. If the Government had been sincere in saying that this Bill was important, and held all the promise which they said it held during the Second Reading, they would have left some interval betwen those two stages.
Today, the matter has become even more ludicrous because, with the assent of the Opposition, we were allocated until 6 o'clock today for the discussion of the Third Reading. Now, because of a new turn of events, the time has been further shortened. What is now the position? The Lord Advocate, by formally moving the Third Reading, leaves it to the responsibility of the Opposition to 1258 carry on the Government's business. What will happen if this debate collapses before 4.30 today? Did that point cross the right hon. and learned Gentleman's mind? I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will let us know what the Government propose to do if this debate should finish before 4.30.
Turning to the Bill itself, it is true that, so far as it goes, there are some improvements which we welcome. The first improvement is in Clause 1, which makes it possible for local authorities to assist and to be assisted in the provision of safety barriers, and so on, in dangerous roads. Clause 4, which deals with bursaries, is also a welcome provision, because it extends the payment of bursaries in respect of dependants of students.
We regret, however, that the Government have not gone a little further in this matter and did not accept a human Amendment which we moved yesterday in respect of disabled children who are kept at school compulsorily until 16 years of age. The parents of the normal child who proceeds to a senior secondary school can receive a grant, whereas the parents of the handicapped child who is compulsorily kept at school until 16 receive nothing. The Government would have been acting with great public spirit if they had found it possible to accept that Amendment. However they did not do so.
We sought the opportunity given us in Committee yesterday to make some important suggestions which would have had a radical influence on the future of education in Scotland. The Government missed that chance, and we can only hope that, in the days to come, some of the suggestions and arguments which were advanced most sincerely yesterday will yet prevail and the Government will, at some future time, if we have the opportunity of raising them again, find it possible to accept them for the future betterment of education in Scotland.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I want to make two comments at this stage, one as to the manner in which the Government have treated the House in regard to this Bill, and the other as to the contents of the Bill itself.
As to the manner, I submit that the Government have treated the House with 1259 contempt. On Second Reading, the explanation of the Bill was inadequate. Many questions were put to the Minister who was conducting the Second Reading. He was unable to answer those questions. We came then to the Committee stage yesterday, which was rushed. Mr. Speaker, if you had occupied the Chair during the whole of yesterday, I am quite sure that you would agree with me when I say that the speeches from this side of the House were all of a very high order and constructive. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."] I say nothing of my own contribution, Mr. Speaker. I am quite sure the House will agree with me when I say that more than one day should have been devoted to the Committee stage of the Bill.
Today, we come to the Third Reading, and the Lord Advocate, who is usually, as I said yesterday, so careful, diligent and exhaustive in his arguments in this House—
§ Mr. Hughes
—has the audacity to get up and move the Third Reading formally. Is the Bill important, or is it not? If it is unimportant, then we can deal with it on that basis. On the other hand, if it is an important Bill, the Lord Advocate is treating the House with contempt in formally moving the Third Reading.
As to the contents, the Bill is a very "mixed grill" ; it deals with a variety of subjects in a quite inadequate way. The Opposition yesterday did its best to make it a useful Bill. We proposed Amendment after Amendment, but they were turned down in a most cavalier fashion by the Government. Now this puny weakling comes before the House on Third Reading, and is rushed through in this way.
I submit that the Bill is a quite unworthy contribution to the great and varied problems of Scottish education. The variety of topics touched on its 14 Clauses and 2 Schedules is an indication of the inadequacy of treatment afforded to them. The Bill, to adopt a well-known saying, is "Jack of all trades and master of none". In its 14 Clauses it deals with a variety of subjects, but deals with none of them in an effective or exhaustive way. We of Her Majesty's Opposition made many attempts yesterday to improve the Bill by proposing 1260 Amendments, but these attempts were, in the main, quite unreasonably rejected. The result is that this wretched little Bill, which should have been made a landmark of the right kind, is being made a landmark of a bad kind, a landmark of Tory ineptitude in dragging the Bill in at the end of a Session, rushing it through, giving inadequate opportunity for amending or improving it, and then formally moving the Third Reading.
Scotland waited for a long time to have its educational problems dealt with adequately. It waited until the year 1946, when one of the first acts of the new Labour Government was to introduce the Education (Scotland) Bill of that year, a comprehensive consolidating Measure which became, and remains, the legal basis of the public educational system of Scotland.
I do not propose to analyse this little Bill in detail. I am just taking this opportunity, on Third Reading, to make these few comments and to say that the Bill is quite unworthy of the occasion and quite unworthy of the Government, and should have been far more robust.
§ Mr. Hughes
No more worthy than one might expect from a Tory Government. What is required is a Bill which would enshrine the broad principles which are required in any Measure to solve the problems of Scottish education. This Bill does not do it. It is hopeless now to do anything more ; the procedure is on its last legs, and the Bill is receiving its Third Reading. It will now go to another place—
§ Mr. Hughes
It has gone to another place, I am told ; it has had its chance there of being improved.
§ Miss Herbison
My hon. and learned Friend is quite right. The Bill still has to go to another place because, although it stayed on the Order Paper for almost a whole Session, this inefficient Government had so many Amendments of their own that it must go back to another place.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend on the Front Bench 1261 for showing that I was right. The Bill will go to another place. The point is that it has had its chance in the other place of being improved and made a better Bill, and it has had its chance in this House of being made a better Bill ; but the Government, represented in the other place and here, have not taken the opportunity of making it such a constructive Measure and a landmark in the history of Scottish education as the occasion demands.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The alleged purpose of this Bill, according to the Memorandum, was toremove some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the administration and development of public education in Scotland.It was therefore not without some high hopes that we anticipated and entered upon the Second Reading and Committee stages. But that all began nearly a year ago. It was in 1946 that we had the last opportunity of considering Scottish education. Indeed, the 1946 Measure was merely a consolidating Measure, and it was really much earlier than that that we had an opportunity of going through the whole scope of legislation relating to the structure, administration and development of Scottish education. It certainly was not before time that this House gave its attention to the problem.
Many difficulties had been experienced in the working of the original Bill. Many ideas have changed with reference to education which demand legislation in order to put the new ideas into force. What we had, therefore, was potentially a great opportunity. It is all the more regrettable that the way the Bill has been handled by the Government has robbed this House of any possibility of doing what the situation really demanded.
We had the Committee stage yesterday, in the full knowledge that we were today to get Report and Third Reading within a few hours. How could we discuss seriously important aspects of Scottish education and hope that the Government would take them into consideration and eventually decide to do something about the complaints made from this side of the House? Obviously, it was impossible. The fact that we have lost an opportunity not merely of deciding upon these important matters but even of debating aspects 1262 of education in present circumstances which are a challenge is the fault of the Government. Is it not all of a piece that, on the winding up of such a Bill, a responsible Minister of the Crown stands and says, as his contribution, "I beg to move that the Bill be now read the Third time", and nothing else? I do not wonder—he is a lawyer. One of the curses of Scotland has been its delight in litigation and its need for lawyers, but we need them not in the matter of Scottish education.
It is a matter of complaint by Members on this side that last night, in the circumstances in which we were placed, when there was obviously no time for considering even the most minor changes, we were faced by a Minister saying that he could not make changes because he was not empowered by the Secretary of State to make them. The Secretary of State, out of courtesy, should have been in his place last night—and, indeed, today. That is our first complaint about the Bill.
Potentially, it was a very important Bill for every Member from a Scottish constituency. In Scotland, we have lived far too long on our educational reputation and, unfortunately, debates on Scottish Education in this House and in the Scottish Grand Committee have been occasions for dabbing a rather dilapidated structure with whitewash. And yet today, when the challenge is so great, when report after report stresses the need for technicians, who can only come through the schools, and point out that we are not producing them—professional men, skilled craftsmen and all the rest—we get a slick Government who are pleased with themselves when they are able to get a potentially important Bill through the House without adequate discussion. The Joint Under-Secretary stood at the Box the other night and proclaimed his ignorance of the provisions of the Bill. He did not think it sufficiently important even to read his own brief and he could not answer simple questions.
Let us look at this world-shattering Bill. It is designed to remove some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the administration and development of Scottish education. Its first purpose is the putting up of safety barriers outside schools and another is the filling in of potholes in private roads. My hon. and 1263 learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen. North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who is the expert on potholes, has just left the Chamber and it would be unfair of me to go into his brilliant speech of last night, in which he left no pothole unexplored.
There is, however, one thing that the Government have not told us, even on this part of the Bill. They have not told us what it will cost. What do the Government estimate will be the cost? Another part of the Bill, which we applaud, will help certain people who are undertaking study at a later age—married people, perhaps, or people with dependent parents. We are glad that this is being done but we would like to know what it will cost.
I ask those two questions to find out how the cost will be paid for. It is bound to cost the Government something—or will it? Perhaps the Education Fund is to remain the same and the only change will be a different spread of the money within that fund. In other words, to pay for these great improvements that the Government have brought in on almost the last day of the Session, we must be deprived of something else that would be paid for from the Scottish Education Fund. That is one of the more important questions to which I should like an answer today.
It is regrettable that the Bill began in another place. While there may have been more pedestrian and well-reasoned criticism of various aspects, the other place is not permitted to legislate for the spending of money. It may well be that in the interests of Scottish education we should toe doing things that cost money In every possible direction, therefore, the Bill has been handled in such a way that we could not possibly get the best out of the opportunities that were presented by this chance to go through the 1946 Act.
It is regrettable that in a Bill which claimed to be aiding the greater development and improvement of Scottish education there should be Clause 2, which takes away from local authorities in Scotland what is presently one of their duties and what I consider to be an important duty. It takes away also from the Secretary of State one of his important supervisory duties. Clause 2 amends Section 7 of the original Act, which set out the responsibilities laid upon local authorities 1264 by its earlier Sections in carrying out the will of Parliament in respect of primary, secondary and adult education. But whereas hitherto responsibility has rested on the local authorities for drawing up and presenting schemes in respect of certain aspects of primary, secondary and adult education, and on the Secretary of State for examining and approving them, these schemes are no longer to be presented. It is regrettable that at a time when we have been welcoming a seeming revival of interest in adult education in Scotland, the Government should be doing anything which in any way should be interpreted as discouraging it.
The whole thing is all of a piece with the Government's whole attitude to education. It is one of pure neglect, doing as little as possible and avoiding the scrutiny of the House of Commons. I sincerely hope that in future the Government will be able to give us a better opportunity of discussing these Scottish questions, for they have done very badly in the present Bill.
I should like to know how we, as Members of the House, are to be informed of what is happening in the education of those over school age. How is the Department to keep track of what is being done? How will it advise authorities as a time when they may well be doing something which is undesirable? If schemes are not presented at the right time, the Department will not be fully informed of what is happening in the local areas.
This could have been a good Bill. It could have been a great Bill and, as one of my hon. Friends said, it could have been a landmark in our discussion of Scottish education, but by the way that the Government have handled it they have shown that they certainly are desirous of avoiding any such searchlight into what is happening in education today, and I regret it.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
My only complaint about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is that he has been too generous towards the Government. My hon. Friend seemed to think that this was really the first occasion on which we have had discussion on educational legislation since 1945, but my hon. Friend 1265 must have forgotten that the period is infinitely longer than that. The story is a much graver one for Scottish education.
In 1945, Parliament was in the middle of discussing a major education Measure for Scotland to follow the 1944 English Act. When the General Election came at that time, the Bill was rushed through without adequate consideration. My hon. Friends who were in the House at that time withdrew many Amendments to expedite the Bill's progress and it was not fully discussed or given adequate Parliamentary scrutiny. It was followed in 1946 by a purely consolidation Act, and therefore I suppose there has been no serious consideration of the educational legislation of Scotland for something like 30 or 40 years. That is the position at the moment.
On this occasion, the Government have had ample opportunity to put the matter right by enabling the House to give adequate consideration to the Bill. I notice from the Bill that it passed from another place as long ago as February this year. There was every opportunity for Scottish Members of the House to have given a fresh scrutiny to the whole of Scottish education, instead of which we have come back from the long Recess, been presented with the Bill and told that we must rush it through without being able to deal with any of the many important aspects of Scottish education which are now long overdue for overhaul. It is merely a further symptom of the general malaise of Scottish education today.
We are becoming increasingly aware that our country has been living for more than half a century on an educational reputation which belongs almost entirely to the past and every year has less and less relevance to contemporary conditions, for there are so many branches of modern education in which Scotland lags behind. Yet the Government go complacently along without doing anything very much about Scottish education. That is the attitude of Members of the party opposite generally towards Scottish education. The Government are merely further expressing that general attitude towards it. I have lately been reading the reports of the debates on Scottish education when Members on the opposite side of 1266 the House were sitting on this side of the House, and the constant refrain of their remarks was that education should never be a subject of any sort of controversy and that there should never be any sort of political argument about it, and that legislation concerning education should be passed through the House as quietly and as quickly as possible.
That has constantly been the opinion of hon. and right hon. Members opposite, and it explains their treatment of this Bill. A little earlier in the House today we were having an argument about other Scottish legislation, and whether it should be treated separately from English legislation. Because of the way this Bill has been treated by the Government there may be a great deal to be said for tagging Scottish education legislation on to the end of English education legislation. It could be argued, for instance, that Scottish education legislation should have been tagged on to the English Measure of 1944. In those circumstances, we should at least have had time for the adequate consideration of legislation about Scottish education. As it is, we have our separate Scottish Bills, like the present one, and because of the lack of interest and of energy on the part of the Government we do not have opportunity to give the Bill proper consideration.
This Bill is a modest Measure with some merit. For instance, one Clause, which has been strengthened by an Opposition Amendment, gives the local authorities not merely the power but, indeed, the duty to make grants to the dependants of adult students. That is a very important Clause. It is a notable step forward in present conditions, in which we want to encourage more and more married men and family men in the workshops and factories to go back to the classroom and the lecture room to acquire technological skills so important to the country today. We want more and more of what has been called "dungaree degrees". That Clause is a most useful part of the Bill.
However, there are so many other provisions which ought to be in the Bill, but which are not. The Government had many opportunities in Committee to make the Bill more than a minor reforming Measure, to make it a really important Measure for Scottish education, but they 1267 failed to grasp their opportunities. I have come to the conclusion that we shall not have any really adequate consideration of Scottish educational problems by the present Government, and that we shall not have that kind of shake up that Scottish education requires to bring it into line with the needs of the time from the present Government, and that for the education legislation which Scotland so badly needs we must await a change in the Administration.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollok)
I have been present practically throughout our consideration of this Bill and have observed with great attention the efforts of the Opposition to magnify its importance. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomas) summed up the Bill in proper terms, for he said that it is a modest Measure of some merit, but throughout our consideration of the Bill hon. and right hon. Members opposite have tried to blow it up into something of great importance being neglected by hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House. Of course, it is not. It is a simple, kindly little Bill, a tidying-up Bill, a Bill for the end of the Session.
The Opposition have tried to tag on to it some very important matters. Some day, perhaps, we shall have the opportunity to debate comprehensive schools and the cessation of fee paying in Scotland. Those are very important matters, we agree, but not for this Bill, and that is why we did not prolong the debate yesterday. When the right time comes we shall be ready to discuss those subjects.
§ Mr. George
It is a modest Bill, but it is an important Bill in some ways. In particular, there is the Clause which the hon. Member for Dundee, East mentioned, the Clause which comes near to my own heart, the Clause which enables the local authorities to pay bursaries to the dependants of those wishing to attend technical colleges. I have spent many years in technical colleges and in mining areas where young men of promise left school at 14 years of age, who, had they had the opportunity to stay on at school or to take further education, might have played a far more important part in life than they did.
1268 I am delighted that this provision has been made. It is very important. I hope it will be an expensive Measure. I hope its existence will be known throughout the country so that those who could have acquired further education in technical classes had they not been prevented from doing so by lack of funds may benefit by it. Thus I hope that this provision will be expensive.
I have been reading a new book issued by P.E.P. giving an analysis of what happens to graduates on leaving their universities. The year taken for the analysis was one in which many of the students were men of mature years who had been in the Army. There had been a long gap of time between their leaving school and going to the university. Thus it is quite evident that there is no real difficulty in taking men from the workshop to the technical school and university and thus making them into the technicians and technologists we need. This provision is very dear to my heart, and I hope it will be used.
I have listened to our debates upon the Bill with great interest, and I have learned a lot, and I congratulate the Joint Under-Secretary of State on the able way in which he has handled the Bill throughout its course. I congratulate him and those who have assisted him upon the patience which they have shown with many of the irrelevancies brought up from time to time. It is a modest but an important Measure, and I congratulate the Government on bringing it now to its Third Reading.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Henderson Stewart)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) very much for his kind remarks.
In winding up this short debate, I should like at once to thank hon. and right hon. Members of the Opposition for their co-operation with us in getting this Measure on to the Statute Book in somewhat difficult conditions. Owing to the exigencies of the Parliamentary timetable—and only today we have an example of how unexpected changes have to be made in it—we have had to work at considerable speed. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) complained that the Lord Advocate confined himself to 1269 the formal statement in moving the Third Reading. My right hon. and learned Friend had ready a very good speech which he very much wanted to make, but it was thought that the Opposition should be given the fullest opportunity in the limited time at our disposal, and for that reason, and that reason alone, my right hon. and learned Friend gallantly withheld his oratory. That was the only reason why the Third Reading was only moved formally.
Despite the comparative speed with which we have had to work, the Bill has had a good examination and emerges from our discussions a better Measure than it was and for that I want to express my appreciation to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.
As I said at the opening of the Second Reading debate, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok has just reiterated, this is a minor Measure designed not to introduce any substantial, single reform, but rather to deal with a number of miscellaneous administrative difficulties which have hampered our progress in recent years. Though one or two of the Clauses have evoked queries and sometimes even mild suspicions—if one can use the word "mild" for any intervention by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)—I still feel that by the end of our long Committee stage yesterday the aims of the Bill were well understood and for the most part had won the approval of the House.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) said that she regarded some of the Clauses as quite valuable. It was only in respect of one or two others that she was not quite so sure. But minor though they be, I feel that the proposed changes in the Bill will be of real practical value to Scottish education. Inevitably—and they have been mentioned more than once this afternoon—wider issues have been raised. Though we have not been able to accept many of the new proposals made by the Opposition, I should like to assure hon. and right hon. Members opposite that the closest consideration will be given to the speeches made because, of course, this great service of education is not and must never be regarded as a static service. It changes and develops, as indeed it must do, from year to year, and the stimulus 1270 of Parliamentary debate, such as we had yesterday in particular, is one of the most potent agencies in our continuous advance.
I thought that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) was a little unkind to those who give their time to this education service in Scotland when he spoke about its suffering from a general malaise and suggested that we are behind the times and not keeping up with other countries. The hon. Member does great injustice to Scottish administrators and denigrates a great Scottish service. It is my duty to watch comparative movements in other countries, and I still believe that the Scottish education service is second to none. I hope that the hon. Member will help me to keep it so in days to come.
I do not know how many debates on education have taken place in the House, but in the last 250 years, and that is a long stretch of time, there have been many education Acts affecting our country. Some of them have been of the first importance in the forward march of our people, for example the Acts of 1696, of 1872 and of 1918, which the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) so properly described as a tremendous achievement of legislative power. Today we are making a modest addition to that venerable list. In so far as it brings benefits to children and to other students, and streamlines the activities of the various authorities responsible for Scottish education, I am sure that all of us wish the Bill well.
§ Miss Herbison
It might help the hon. Gentleman, who has been asked to carry on and is finding it difficult, to let us have the brief of that very good speech which the Lord Advocate had and we did not get.
§ Mr. Stewart
It would be much better, I think, if the Lord Advocate kept that for another day.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked a question about the possible cost of this Measure, and I should like to have been able to give him an exact figure, but it is not possible to estimate the cost because it depends on what action the local authorities take. As the hon. Member knows, we have given the local authorities power in the Bill to do 1271 a great many new things, such as the improvement of roads, paths and bridges. To the extent that they operate that new power they will spend money which will be borne by the rates, which will be assisted by Government subventions. I am sorry, therefore, that I am not able to advise the hon. Member on what the cost will be.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North put a point about the local authorities, which seems a very great subject with which to fill the next couple of minutes. The hon. Lady appeared to find some discrepancy between my expression yesterday of faith in the local authorities and the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this afternoon. Actually, there is no discrepancy at all. In the realms of both housing and education we leave the actual work to the local authorities. We leave to them very wide discretion in the way that they perform their operations and the extent to which they carry through the Measures passed by the House.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order. While we welcome the new-found interest in Scottish education, it would be helpful if newcomers would allow us to hear what the Joint Under-Secretary is saying.
There is very frequently a certain amount of disturbance when a large number of Members enter or leave the House. I would take this oppor- 1272 tunity, since it is given to me, of asking hon. Members when they leave the House or when they enter it to do so quietly.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member. I was dealing with a matter which I am sure must be of interest to the whole House, and not only those concerned with Scottish education.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North had challenged me a little while ago about the genuineness of the Government's faith in local authority administration. Yesterday, in Committee, I had to reject more than one Amendment from the Opposition which sought to take away from the authorities the discretion which they now enjoy. I supported that view on the ground that it was right for the House and for a Government to impose faith in the authorities and let them do their job as they thought right. In a democracy of our kind, we must trust the authorities to perform their duties as they think best.
It has been a very good, short, sharp debate on this Measure. I thank the hon. Members who have now filled the House for the great interest they have shown in what we are doing in Scotland. I hope that I may take this as an example of the faith they have in the Scottish Ministers in the work which they are now attempting to do.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.