HC Deb 19 March 1957 vol 567 cc204-6
27. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in the light of the Government's proposals for the future financing of local government in England and Wales, any change is being considered in the method of calculating the grant for Scottish education.

Mr. Maclay

The proposals envisage that both in Scotland and in England and Wales, the specific grant for education should he largely merged in a general grant. The considerations which should be taken into account in fixing the total of the Scottish general grant both initially and in subsequent periods will be discussed with the local authorities.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Secretary of State aware that this raises very important implications for Scottish education? At present, the Scottish education grant is a fixed fraction of the Ministry grant. In future, is Scottish education to have its grant decided by the amount of money spent by the English local authorities?

Mr. Maclay

The amount of grant hitherto available for education authorities in Scotland will, of course, obviously be a consideration in determining the amount of general grant and one to which I shall have regard in considering the amount of grant for Scotland.

Mr. Woodburn

When this new grant is fixed, will it be fixed no matter what the increased cost on the local authority? Will the Government contribution be fixed for a given time, and what time win that be? Will it be for five years, two years or one year? Does this mean that all extra cost will be borne by the local authority and not by the Government, as it is today?

Mr. Maclay

It would not be appropriate for me to go into detail about this complicated subject, on which discussions are about to take place with the local authorities.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it is important that, before the discussions are fixed, the House should make its mind felt about this matter? Is he aware that there will be considerable trouble if there is to be a reduction and local authorities are made to bear all extra cost from now on?

Sir J. Henderson Stewart

Can my right hon. Friend indicate roughly when these discussions with the local authorities may take place?

Mr. Maclay

Certain talks are going on, but I should like notice of that question so as to be able to be more precise in my answer.

41. Mr. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what protests he has received from local authorities or other associations expressing concern at the Government's proposal to institute a block grant system in respect of certain local services; and what reply he has made.

Mr. Maclay

The Education Institute of Scotland and the Ayrshire local association of the Institute have written expressing concern about the inclusion of the Education main grant in the proposed general grant; and it is intended to discuss the matter with the Institute at a convenient opportunity. I do not think it right at this stage to indicate what questions have been raised in the discussion with the Local Authority Associations, which are continuing.

Mr. Ross

Surely the Secretary of State is aware of the concern throughout Scotland that the inevitable result of this change will be to stultify progress in education as well as other local services and that he is shutting his eyes to what is happening financially to local authorities and telling them to make the best of it while he is safeguarding the central Government?

Mr. Maclay

I believe that to be a quite wrong assumption.

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