§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
§ Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
I think the right hon. Member will be aware of the answer I shall give in respect of the Amendment he has moved. He seeks to insert the words:and provided that the Secretary of State is satisfied that such failure is due to conditions outside the control of the local authority or local authorities concerned.If he will look at the Amendment as it appears on the Order Paper he will see that the word "not" is omitted. I am sure that he would not wish us to accept the Amendment in its present form.
He said that he could not conceive of any Secretary of State seeking to penalise a local authority for something which was outside its control. Even if a Secretary of State did so, a local authority would then have the opportunity to make representations, and in those representations it would assuredly point out that the failure was due to reasons beyond its control, and those representations would have to be laid before Parliament along with the Secretary of State's report. So it is very hard to believe that the Commons would approve of the report in such circumstances. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will expect us to accept a quite unnecessary Amendment.
He further asked what action could be taken if a local authority could not afford to maintain the required standards. That question requires no answer, because the purpose of the general grant is to enable local authorities to maintain the necessary standards. If standards were to go down they would only do so because of circumstances outwith the control of all local authorities—possibly because of 452 some national disaster of something of that kind. But, in the ordinary way, given the maintenance of our economy and prosperity, there is no doubt that the intention is that the general grant should be sufficient to enable all local authorities to maintain adequate standards.
§ Mr. Woodburn
We have had experience of this situation in agriculture, in regard to marginal farms. We are now really discussing marginal education areas. They are similar to marginal farms which cannot be made economic in the normal way. If we introduce general legislation to make it possible for all farms to pay, it means that an enormous amount of money is given unnecessarily to the well-to-do and highly efficient farms on the good land. The Minister said that the general grant would be of such a nature as to make it possible for Shetland, Sutherlandshire and other counties with practically no rateable value to ensure a proper standard of education. If the general grant is sufficient to enable that to be done, how is the Minister going to avoid extravagance in cases where a high payment of grant is not necessary?
I agree that when the general grant is being settled these matters are taken into account, but when circumstances arise which make it impossible for marginal areas to maintain educational standards, how under the terms of the Bill can the Minister increase the grants to those areas in order to enable them to maintain their standards? What happens once the general grant is fixed? As far as I can see, the Minister has denied himself the power of compensating authorities for falling below the standards through no fault of their own.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
It is difficult to conceive of any local authority being in that position, any more than one can conceive of there being only one marginal farm. The answer must be that which we have given before, namely, that the formula which is contained in a Schedule to the Bill is not necessarily going to remain exactly as it is for ever. We have undertaken to review it after a year or two, that is to say, at the time when the Valuation and Rating Act is being reviewed. That should give sufficient assurance that if the formula is working 453 wrongly, in such a way as to impoverish certain authorities and enrich others it will be reconsidered.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In view of the Minister's assurance and the fact that the word "not" has been left out of the Amendment, it would be quite impossible to insist upon its acceptance.
Since the question is not limited to the terms of the Amendment, but obviously covers a wider field, I shall seek permission to withdraw the Amendment so that we can pass on to the next one. But the Joint Under-Secretary has simply said, in rather flowery words, that the Government do not know what is going to happen in the circumstances that I have outlined, and that no provision is made in the Bill to deal with such circumstances. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter and put it right in another place.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
I cannot allow those remarks to pass. Although there is no provision in the Bill to deal with the matter, we have repeatedly said that when the time comes for us to review the equalisation grant we shall review the working of the formula at the same time. That would be the appropriate time to review it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I beg to move, in page 3, line 41, at the end to insert:(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, if the Secretary of State is satisfied that any authority has been successful in attaining exceptional and better standards in the provision of any of the services giving rise to relevant expenditure regard being had to the standards maintained by local authorities generally and considers that the general grant payable to any local authority who are responsible for outstanding work ought therefore to be increased, he may make and cause to be laid before Parliament a report stating the amount of the increase, the reasons therefor and if the report is approved by a resolution of the Commons House of Parliament, the Secretary of State may increase the grant accordingly.I am sure that the Amendment will command the support of Members on both sides of the Committee—and especially of the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) in view of his speech on a previous Amendment, when he expressed his enthusiasm 454 for encouraging good authorities. He will agree that in addition to the rod, which the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) advocates for the boy who does not behave himself, some encouragement should be given to local authorities which do behave themselves.
The Amendment allows the Secretary of State to be other than merely negative, and not merely to encourage local authorities by threats. When a local authority achieves something of distinction and gives a lead to other local authorities; where, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), it achieves a higher standard, it should be possible for the Secretary of State to give it a further grant to meet the cost of its extra achievements. If we are going to have a penalising Clause in respect of authorities which do not measure up to the required standards, I do not see why we should not give something to local authorities which more than measure up.
That seems to me to be a logical consequence. Therefore, I hope that when I sit down the Minister will jump up with enthusiasm and accept the Amendment. For the life of me I cannot see why, logically, it should not be acceptable to him and to all other hon. Members. I am sure that it would inspire local authorities to do their best. One of the complaints of my hon. Friends is that the Bill at present operates to penalise the authorities who do well while providing some sugar for those who do not do so well. It should work both ways. I am a great believer in claps on the back rather than kicks in the pants, and the effect of the Amendment is to add a clap on the back to the Secretary of State's proposals to give kicks in the pants.
§ Mr. George
I readily rise to support what the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has said. I also read the Economist, and I have read what it suggested. The Bill should be not merely negative but also positive. If we have Clauses which penalise the laggards, we should provide rewards for those with outstanding achievements, whether in matters of organisation or public expenditure, which enable them to reduce the size of classes, to conduct researches and bring out new methods, or improve the general results of education. It is possible for active and diligent local authorities to raise their standards and 455 act as a guide to the other areas of Scotland, and if they can do so I think that they should be given some reward by way of a higher grant.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
This is an important Amendment because it seems to apply to such cities as Aberdeen. I should like to say a few words about the ideas expressed in it, although I do not think that its terms as proposed by an ex-Secretary of State, provide a very practical method of administration.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
It seems to me that under the terms of the Amendment reports would come in from all kinds of local authorities and they would then have to be laid before the House, when each would have to be debated in its turn. That seems to be a very lengthy procedure.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I had perforce to accept the guidance of the previous Clause as to the method I should adopt. I thought that in order to be absolutely sure about the draftsmanship I could do nothing better than accept the Secretary of State's method as a model.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I now say, with deference to one Secretary of State and one ex-Secretary of State, that this does not seem to be a very practical method.
However, I want to seize this opportunity of saying something about the provision as it affects Aberdeen. In many ways this would have been more suitable in a discussion on the Schedule, in which I had hoped to take part in Committee but was unfortunately guillotined. It is the formula in the Schedule which affects the financial provisions and is the most important factor in this Bill. Hon. Members will understand the difficulty in which I find myself. During the Second Reading debate I said that I supported the Bill as a whole because it undertakes certain principles in which I have believed all my political life. On the other hand, there is the constituency and the personal problem. As I can make out, under this Bill, in the second year of its operation, Aberdeen will not benefit in the way in which to my mind it should.
456 6.0 p.m.
This I think is an example of the kind of personal decision which comes before Members of Parliament all the time. We are always having to say to ourselves that we must think of the greatest good for the greatest number; but, obviously, some have to be hurt in order to achieve that end. My problem is that Aberdeen which, to my mind, is the cradle of education in Scotland, will bear the major burden of securing that good which we believe will be done to the many. As I have said before, I think that the various transitional arrangements in the Bill in the first year are satisfactory. I entirely support the Secretary of State in his decision not to wait for revaluation for the reasons which he gave. I think it is a very complicated Measure and we should do well to gain certain experience before revaluation.
However, there are some things about which I hope the Secretary of State will give us yet further assurances. I appreciate that he has already done so on various occasions. It seems to me that the best way we can get over the problem which undoubtedly exists is not by one Amendment now. I think that the transitional arrangements will have to be reviewed——
§ Mr. Willis
The noble Lady was a member of the Standing Committee when we suggested the same thing.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Certainly, that is quite true. But I have thought over it for some time and I do not think that the proposed Amendments were the best.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I know that the formula in the Schedule for assessing the grant was agreed to by a working-party but, as the Joint Under-Secretary has said, before revaluation we have to ask that this matter be looked at again.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
This is not the kind of thing which, in my view, can be done by Amendment in this Committee. I do not think we are capable of putting down an Amendment altering a Schedule which is a very complicated matter——
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may find my speech very dull, but at least they might listen to it——
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
If the objective cannot be achieved by way of Amendment in this Committee, will the noble Lady indicate how it can be achieved?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
That intervention bears out my contention, that hon. Gentlemen are not, alas, listening to my speech.
The main part of this Bill is the formula in the second Schedule which was, I understand, agreed by a working party and I do not think that we as hon. Members of this House have the skill sufficient to alter it by way of Amendment.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The Joint Under-Secretary of State made a valuable statement to the effect that he is undertaking to see that the formula is reviewed. I hope that the Secretary of State will take the opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The noble Lady has said that she understands that this formula was agreed by a working party. Surely she knows that all that happened was that the Secretary of State decided that there must be a general grant system and he got some of his officials to call some local government officials together to see how best they could allocate a general grant? They looked round to find a formula and ultimately they produced a formula which the officials of the Secretary of State were able to recommend to the right hon. Gentleman. Surely the House of Commons is superior to a working party of officials collected together by the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The point made by the hon. Gentleman is one which needs a lot of consideration. I do not think that Members of Parliament, in a debate in this Chamber, can undertake such an important task as the alteration of a formula put before the Secretary of State for his approval. I understand the procedure is that when it is found—as I think is the case here—that a formula will not carry out the purposes of a Bill, it is, 458 from the administrative point of view, incumbent on the Secretary of State to ask for more guidance and more solid work to be done on the matter.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I understand from the Joint Under-Secretary that that is what is to happen.
Reverting to Aberdeen, it is true that in the years ahead—I suppose, even under the present formula—the situation will even out. But the fact remains that now, because of the advanced stage of its education programme, Aberdeen—which I submit is a city in an exceptional position—is getting exceptional treatment of an unfavourable kind. I appreciate what I consider to be the very real efforts made by both the Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary to examine the particular position of Aberdeen——
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Hon. Members may know that a great deal can be done by personal representation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I appreciate that the object of the transitional arrangements is to give time to review the anomalies created by the present formula. I cannot pretend that I am happy about the present situation, and were there to be a straight vote on the Second Schedule, I should be forced to abstain.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the Committee are delighted that the noble Lady has now joined us in making representations to the Government about the position of Aberdeen. She will recollect that we made the best efforts we could in her absence during the earlier discussions on this Bill——
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
May I correct the hon. Gentleman? I was present during the Committee stage discussions although I did not see fit to speak. I had already made by position perfectly clear during the Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Thomson
I accept the remarks of the noble Lady, though I think it was a little ungallant of her to use the Guillotine imposed by her own Government as an alibi for not dealing with this matter. However, we were more than 459 compensated by her intriguing revelations of what has been going on behind the scenes between the noble Lady and the Secretary of State. We await further revelations with interest.
We have been tremendously encouraged by the fact that the first two speeches from hon. Members opposite following the moving of the Amendment have been in support of it. I hope that we shall learn from the Secretary of State that he proposes to accept the Amendment. It is particularly encouraging, because of the expressions that we had from the Joint Under-Secretary a short time ago referring to another Amendment which I moved, and which had a similar sort of motive as the present one. We have been trying, assiduously and conscientiously, to make the best of a bad job with this general grant, and to try to introduce some flexibility into it; in particular, to try to look after those local authorities, such as Aberdeen, which have been particularly enterprising and progressive, and looked after the interests of their citizens, and who now stand to be penalised under this block grant arrangement.
When answering a point made earlier I think that the Joint Under-Secretary gave the game away from the Government's point of view. He tried to claim that the Government were interested in the general progressive advance of local authorities particularly in education. But when he was pressed about the matter the hon. Gentleman said, "Well, if a local authority is particularly progressive about education and does something which other local authorities are not doing, then it ought to be satisfied with getting the credit for that." Our objection is—I hope it will be shared by hon. Members opposite—that such a local authority not only gets the credit for any new arrangements it makes, but it also gets the entire bill.
We wish to make sure that where a local authority is progressive and enterprising, the Government shall pay their share of the bill as they have done in the past. So far as I can understand his case, the Under-Secretary defended his position in this way: that one did not need to make special arrangements for local authorities which have been particularly enterprising, because the Government believed so much in general 460 expansion that it would fix the aggregate grant at a level which would allow education to move forward on all fronts.
The hon. Gentleman will excuse us for not accepting that view when advanced from the Government benches. Our scepticism, as his political opponents, may be understood, but, in addition, he must accept the fact that all the local authorities, particularly those interested in education in Scotland, are equally sceptical when the Government make that kind of general statement of a beneficent intention towards Scottish education.
We, the local authorities, and Scottish educationists want an assurance written into the Bill that the Government will make an effort to encourage local authorities faced with special difficulties, or authorities which may make special efforts. So far, the Government have resisted all attempts to achieve this.
What will happen under the present arrangement is that if a local authority, like Aberdeen, is particularly progressive, or if, as in the case of Glasgow, it engages in some pioneering educational activity, the expenditure on that will be calculated for the purpose of the general grant for the whole of Scotland and be distributed among all the local authorities in Scotland. The Minister seems to believe that this is a method of encouraging other local authorities to be more progressive in their educational expenditure. This would be rather cold comfort—even were it true—to those corporations who are having to present bigger and bigger bills to their ratepayers because they are forced to do so by this Government.
But it is not true. If Aberdeen goes ahead and spends a great deal more money on some new and progressive educational activity, in due course all the other local authorities will get the same financial advantage for the extra money that the ratepayers of Aberdeen are having to pay. But many of these other authorities will not spend that money on following the noble example of Aberdeen and blazing the educational trail ever upwards. They will use the money to reduce their rates.
This is what will happen unless we have this kind of provision in the Bill. I hope, therefore, that we shall get a favourable response from the Secretary of State towards this Amendment. Here 461 the right hon. Gentleman has a unique opportunity. In Glasgow, there is a well-known award called the St. Mungo Prize. This Amendment of my right hon. Friend provides the Secretary of Stale with an opportunity to immortalise himself by providing what might become to be known in the future as the "Maclay Prize" for local authorities who show particular enterprise. Local authorities could compete with each other in new and more enterprising forms of educational pioneering, and, at the end of the year, they might qualify to receive the "Maclay Prize".
The Secretary of State, if he has any time left, might well go on a tour of Scotland, awarding the prize to local authorities which, under this Clause, have been able to——
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. McInnes
Would it not be rather ironical if the winner of the prize happened to be the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir)?
§ Mr. Thomson
I am more than willing to see the Secretary of State being called upon to pay tribute to Aberdeen in that way. Perhaps he might invite some of his colleagues from a little further south to enjoy the ceremony.
I am sure that the noble Lady will agree with me that Aberdeen has been a notably enterprising authority in the field of education, but that, as one of my hon. Friends reminds me, it is controlled by a Labour majority. It is notably enterprising. Most of the arguments about what constitutes enterprise in education come down to the forum of political controversy. People who advocate it call it a notable advance, while the people opposed to it say that these are "lavish frills".
The Under-Secretary used the word "lavish" and it was quoted by my hon. Friend during the Committee stage. The whole history of educational advance in Scotland has been that the "lavish frills" of today become the normal standards of tomorrow, and authorities like Aberdeen, which are trail-blazers in this way, will be penalised under the Bill. Unless 462 the Minister accepts this Amendment, or something similar, which will guarantee special treatment for those authorities engaged in progressive work, he will penalise them. If he is to hold down the whole pace of educational advance in Scotland, if he is to say that all pioneering is to be paid for entirely by local ratepayers, they will find that a particular burden.
I hope that, in view of the support which this proposal has obtained from both sides of the Committee, the Government will accept it.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
I certainly admire the pertinacity and the ingenious endeavours of the Opposition to find a way in which we could give some recognition to the local authorities which reach out to new or higher standards, but I do not think that the idea of a St. Mungo Prize or a St. John Prize would meet the case. I think that the Committee must face the fact that there are some serious disadvantages in this suggestion. It is never very easy to fix standards capable of attainment by all local authorities, but it is certainly far more difficult to decide whether a local authority's performance had been sufficiently exceptional to justify, as it were, a bonus.
The second objection is this. The judgment involved would place the Secretary of State in an extremely invidious position. He would have to decide that a local authority had done so much better than other local authorities as to deserve a prize. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that there is an essential difference between a carrot and a stick in this case, because whereas there will not be many candidates for the stick, there will be an extraordinary number of candidates for the carrot. It will be extremely difficult for the Secretary of State to award the carrot or carrots.
I suggest that, as we have a number of different subjects covered by the general grant, and within each subject a number of different branches, the time of the House would be taken up quite substantially in considering Orders that might be laid before it under this subsection. In any case, it might happen that the circumstances relating to a particular service were unusually favourable in one area, and that the local authority's task in achieving a higher standard than elsewhere had been correspondingly easier. 463 In general, it would involve comparisons between local authorities, and comparisons are notoriously odious.
The third reason which we should take into account is that it is not too clear exactly what the Amendment contemplates. There are two possibilities. One is that the bonus should be provided at the expense of other local authorities, and the other that it should be added to the aggregate general grant. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that this would be something that could be given on its own, outside the scope of the general grant altogether, but, with respect, I suggest that that would be outside the scope of the Bill, and could not be done.
The total of the general grant, as the Committee knows, will be fixed for the country as a whole, and will then be divided among local authorities in accordance with the distribution formula, so that it would certainly not be fair to penalise a local authority which had complied with all the relevant standards for no other reason than that another local authority had been able to do better.
The right hon. Gentleman may have regarded this Amendment and a previous Amendment which has been rejected as complementary, but we have rejected the previous one, and that would, therefore, mean that there would be no way out of it. It would have to be taken away from the general grant available to other local authorities, or, alternatively, if it is intended that the bonus should be added to the general grant, then a further Amendment would be required to give the bonus to the local authority concerned over and above its share of the grant under the formula. Otherwise, as the Bill stands, it would simply be shared by all local authorities. To give an extra general grant would be quite inconsistent with the principle of distributing the general grant according to objective factors relating to local need.
There is a final objection, which, again, derives from the whole foundation of the Bill. I suggest that the Opposition are not giving sufficient credit for the general urge towards improvement. It is an urge that comes do many ways. It comes from the teachers themselves, it comes from the inspectors, it comes from the parents as well, and it comes also 464 from the county councils and education authorities as a whole. It seems to me that the Amendment proceeds on the rather cynical assumption that a local authority's determination to provide services depends more on its anxiety to receive a further subvention than from its concern for the welfare of its citizens.
We on this side of the Committee do not believe that that is true, and we do not believe, either, that there are only one or two local authorities which will make progress and be in advance of the others. We believe that there will be a general surge forward in education, and that is the reason why we do not think it is necessary, even if it were desirable, to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is the hon. Gentleman committing a breach of the promise in the arrangements between the Secretary of State and the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir)? Is this a breach of the promise made behind the scenes that we heard about?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend has not confined her approaches to the Secretary of State, but that she has made representations to the Joint Under-Secretaries of State very frequently as well.
§ Mr. Willis
With reference to the last remarks of the Under-Secretary, when he spoke about local authorities being willing to spend money, is not part of the Government's case against specific grants the very fact that local authorities tend to spend without a due sense of responsibility because there is a specific grant? What then becomes of the last argument which the hon. Gentleman has been advancing? This is important.
The hon. Gentleman said that the general grant will still encourage local authorities to spend money in the same way as they formerly spent it because of the great urge for improvement. If that argument is true, is not the Government's argument about the spending of money by local authorities without a due sense of responsibility, because they automatically receive a 60 per cent., 50 per cent., or 40 per cent. grant, really nonsense?
§ Mr. Macpherson
If the hon. Gentleman will look at what I said tomorrow, 465 he will find that I did not say that the general grant would encourage local authorities to spend more money. What I was saying was that the urge to develop the services is there, and that the general grant will be adequate to enable them to develop them.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
That is exactly the point. The Under-Secretary has said that there is such an urge to get ahead with the expansion of these services that local authorities will go ahead with that expansion, notwithstanding the discouragement of the general grant. That is what he said.
§ Mr. Fraser
I agree that it not what the hon. Gentleman said, but it is the only meaning of what he said. I will take it more slowly. The Joint Under-Secretary said that there will be such a desire on the part of the local authorities in Scotland to expand their services, particularly in education, that we shall get an expansion of educational services on a wide front. I think he would agree with that. What I am saying is that that surely means that cities like Aberdeen will continue to expand, notwithstanding the fact that the assistance they will get from central funds will be less than they have enjoyed hitherto.
We realise that that was the case made for the introduction of the general grant. It is that the specific grants are objectionable, in that local authorities have gone ahead with the expansion of their services in an irresponsible way, because they have the knowledge that they were to get a substantial payment from central funds. Is that right or is it wrong? I think that what I have said is right. I think I have correctly repeated what the Joint Under-Secretary said just now, and what the Secretary of State himself said on an earlier occasion. Of course, if what I have said stands up, and I think it does, it must make nonsense of any promise which the Secretary of State made to the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) behind the scenes. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is going to tell us later on what promise was made to the noble Lady. We were very interested to learn that the Under-Secretary was not to be left out in the cold. He, too, had been approached by the noble Lady, but, 466 apparently, he did not make any promise. At least, we were informed that he had made no promise.
The Under-Secretary spent his time in the speech which he has just made stating the objections which he and the Secretary of State had to equity in the payment of Exchequer grants. Of course, it would be good to be able to encourage enterprising local authorities to expand their services, but there would be so many candidates. Does he regret that there will be a lot of candidates? Does he regret that there will be candidates for this suggested bonus for the excellence of the services which they are providing?
The Joint Under-Secretary does not want applications rolling in for the prize for excellence. He wants to squeeze them all down to a minimum uniform standard. I should have thought that that argument is not one that he would take, let alone make, very seriously. He knows that there are not so many candidates for the prize for making special endeavours. If there are, they cannot all be making a good case for showing excellence above the standard laid down by the Secretary of State for Scotland, or the standards laid down by the Secretary of State are too low and he has to raise them.
We are seeking to give due reward to education authorities like Aberdeen, who have done a good job, with the approval of the Secretary of State, and under contract that he will pay 60 per cent. of the cost and the local authority will pay the other 40 per cent. Now the contract is being torn up by the Secretary of State without consultation with Aberdeen. The Joint Under-Secretary said that it would be difficult to measure the excellence of authorities that had achieved something outstanding. I asked him during the Committee stage how he would measure the achievement of those who were to be penalised under the Clause. He could not tell us how to measure the failure of the defaulters.
Apparently, the Secretary of State believes that it is necessary to have power to assess the measure of failure of defaulters so that he can impose a penalty under Clause 3. I should think it quite as easy—I am not saying that it is very easy—to measure success as to measure 467 failure. We know that Aberdeen has been successful. The Joint Under-Secretary was concerned upon an earlier Amendment that we were trying to make the stick heavier, but now we are trying to balance the stick with a bit of carrot. Why does the Joint Under-Secretary want the stick without the carrot? Is there any reason why a local authority that gives exceptional service should not be rewarded? It has been rewarded up to now.
If the Secretary of State for Scotland can find no other way of reaching an accommodation with the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South, he can withdraw the Bill altogether. Aberdeen will then be saved from its difficulties. The hon. Lady was most concerned that the right hon. Gentleman should find a way out. She was sure it could be done. She referred to the report of the working party. We have not seen the Report. I cannot get the report of the working party, which was set up to undo on behalf of the Secretary of State some of the damage he did by introducing the block grant in the first place. The damage was caused by the Secretary of State and is being caused by the Bill. Perhaps I should say that it has not yet been done. It will be done if the Bill becomes an Act.
The noble Lady will have her opportunity of speaking up for her constituents and voting for them if she does not get the concession for which she is asking. She can do so on the Amendment now, or on any other Amendment before we reach the Third Reading. Hon. Members can easily get out of their constituency difficulties by voting against the Third Reading of the Bill. I wonder whether they will match their convictions with their votes at the end of the day.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I thought I made it clear that the principle behind the Bill is one that we have supported all through our political life. We believe that the Bill will benefit Scotland. The particular difficulty is a constituency problem arising out of what will be a good Bill for the whole country.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not think there is any principle behind the Bill. There is a purpose behind the Bill, and if the hon. Lady agrees with it she ought not to have made that speech on behalf of Aberdeen. 468 The principle is to reduce the contribution made by the central Government towards the provision of local authority services. If she supports that purpose, let her not make speeches to persuade the Secretary of State to modify the purpose of the Bill in its application to her own constituency.
The Under-Secretary said that he could not accept the Amendment. His objection to the equity argument was that comparisons were odious, but what is the purpose of Clause 3 if not to make comparisons? It is the Secretary of State who is asking us to compare and to make comparisons. Is not the whole purpose of Clause 3 to enable the Secretary of State to make comparisons? He is asking for power to pick out authorities—those which have not done as well as most—and to punish them.
We suggest that he should also have the power to pick out those who have done the best, and to reward them. There cannot be anything wrong with that. The school teacher does not only have the tawse; she also gives prizes. We cannot avoid making comparisons; the hon. Lady made comparisons between Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland. We cannot agree with the Under-Secretary that comparisons are odious.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
We have made it clear that this particular sanction has not been applied in the past because it has not been necessary to do so. The Amendment envisages, on the other hand, that wherever an exceptionally better standard is attained there should be an advantage. It is not the same thing and is not comparing like with like.
§ Mr. Fraser
The Joint Under-Secretary of State cannot be quite so stupid as not to know that up to now it was not necessary to have a special provision in the Act to reward an authority that did well It automatically got its extra grant. It had 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of the cost of its services provided from central funds. The Under-Secretary has argued that such an authority will be able in the future to experience great pride in the fact that its exceptional achievements have been financed entirely out of the pockets of its own ratepayers. It will not only pay the whole bill itself but, as the scheme will work out, it will be subsidising laggard authorities.
469 The final objection by the Under-Secretary of State was that the special grant would either have to be given from within the general grant or as an addition to the general grant. If it were within, an inadequate amount of general grant would penalise other authorities. If it were outside, it would be outside the Bill, but the Secretary of State is taking power in the Bill to make grants outside the general grant.
The Chair normally guides us as to whether a matter is within the scope of a Bill or not. The Chair has apparently ruled that the Amendment is within the scope of the Bill. We must not be influenced by the suggestion made by the Under-Secretary that what we are asking is outwith the scope of the Bill. Should the Amendment be carried, it will be in the Bill and it cannot be outside the scope. All we have to do, therefore, is to pass the Amendment and it will be in, and the Under-Secretary will lose his objection that the Amendment is outside the scope of the Bill.
The truth is that the Secretary of State is determined to level down the standard of services in Scotland to a minimum. The purpose of the Bill, or at least the effect, will be a levelling down and that is why local authorities have always been against it. I know there is one notable exception. Edinburgh, which is to get about £650,000 more out of the general grant than from the specific grants. There will be no question of levelling down for Edinburgh in the immediate future. The remaining local authorities take the view that the Bill will lead to levelling down. We are trying to save the Secretary of State from the disaster he is bringing upon the local authorities of Scotland.
The right hon. Gentleman must know that it will not be very difficult to measure general excellence in the provision of services. Take education. He will know how Edinburgh has got on with reduction in the size of classes. He lays down the code to which they have to aspire. He will know how many of them are within the code and how many are not. He will be able to measure and find how adequate the service is, how successful an education authority has been in reducing the size of classes, providing secondary education or technical education.
470 The Minister will have no difficulty in determining whether an authority has done well or done badly. In fact, he will have a duty to keep a check on whether it has done well or badly. If he wishes to reward those who have carried out the wishes of Parliament and provide an adequate service for the people they serve, he will do this. If he does not wish to reward them, he will not do it. I think that he does not wish to reward them, but I hope he will prove me wrong by saying that he accepts the Amendment.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay
There are a few remarks I should like to make arising out of this interesting discussion. Once again, I am impressed by the ingenuity and skill with which hon. Members opposite are trying to make their Amendments attractive.
Although I was not very active in those affairs, I have learned that when earlier local government Bills were passed, on every one of them, the 1929 Measure and earlier ones, a great many people, mainly in the Opposition, were convinced that it would be disastrous to local government. Years have gone by and everyone has found that those Measures have not been disastrous but each, in turn, has made a great improvement. It is rather like saying that a Secretary of State has a slight chance of having a better reputation after he is dead than while he is alive. It is the same with these Bills.
In the long run they have proved good. I would hazard a guess that, in general, this Measure will be viewed as a general advance. As my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) said, the principle is something in which many of us have believed for a long time. The principle is that of getting more responsibility into the hands of local government.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am going to talk about the Amendment. The Amendment has been ingeniously used to make another attack on the principle of the Bill. That is what all the speeches by hon. Members opposite have been directed towards. I need not go through all the details of the practical problems involved. Even if all those practical difficulties could 471 be overcome in some way, and one could discover how to award the prizes and do all the things which go along with the prizes, the principle of the Bill would be prejudiced. That principle must be in line with the principle of general grant.
It is too often forgotten that the object of local government must be to meet local need. The more it is possible for local authorities to make their own assessment of their need, the better it will be for our whole democratic principles. That is the substance of the whole argument. If one follows the proposals implied by this Amendment one finds it is just another way of trying to get a return to another form of ad hoc grant.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is a right and proper thing for a local authority to make an assessment of its own need. Is he keeping in mind the fact that the vast majority of Scottish local authorities made an assessment of the Bill and turned it down?
§ Mr. Maclay
I am referring to my remarks that in the past people have said that such a Measure was worse than it has since proved to be. In reply to my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South, I repeat what I think I have said in this House, and certainly in conversation with her and other hon. Members, not only on this side of the Committee, that we have until 1961, when it will be possible, and obviously desirable, to review the working of the formula. I cannot forecast what the result of that review will be, but it is clear that with revaluation and two years' working of the Bill it would be incredible if we did not then study it to see whether there is any possible method of improving it.
There is no question of jealousy between my hon. Friend and myself with regard to approaches made by anyone. We are always willing to listen to representations made to us. I hope that what I have said will convince the Committee that this Amendment, if accepted, would be extraordinarily difficult to administer with fairness and would be a direct contradiction of the principle of the Bill, in which we believe. I must, therefore, ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am disappointed with the Secretary of State. This Amendment is so reasonable, as is agreed by hon. Members opposite. The Under-Secretary put forward a whole lot of imaginary objections. He pictured a lot of applications coming from local authorities for extra money, but is there anything in the Amendment about that? Can the hon. Gentleman say that there is anything in the Amendment about local authorities making applications for extra grants?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I do not know whether they would or not, but it is not provided for in the Amendment. This Amendment adopts the same principle for encouragement as the Secretary of State has laid down for penalising local authorities. It says that… if the Secretary of State is satisfied that any authority has been successful in attaining exceptional and better standards in the provision of any of the services giving rise to relevant expenditure regard being had to the standards maintained by local authorities generally and considers that the general grant payable to any local authority who are responsible for outstanding work ought therefore to be increased, he may make and cause to be laid before Parliament a report stating the amount of the increase.…If the Secretary of State believes that, is there any reason why he should not be empowered by the Bill to do something about it? That is all we are asking; there is no compelling in the Amendment. There is no "shall" in the Amendment; we forgot to put a "shall" in. It is entirely a matter for the judgment of the Secretary of State. It gives him power to do good to people as well as to punish them.
The right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends have accepted that as a reasonable proposition. The reasons given for rejecting the Amendment are fully imaginary. Because of some arrière pensée by the right hon. Gentleman he believes that, somehow, it would destroy the principle. The principle is established by the Bill. He has made provision to meet exceptional circumstances. We are saying that those exceptional circumstances on the good side ought to have provision made for them the same as for exceptional circumstances on the bad side. That seems so reasonable as to be quite incontrovertible.
473 Neither the Secretary of State nor the Joint Under-Secretary has made any case against the Amendment. They made a case against something which does not exist in the Amendment. In any court of law what they said would not be considered to be consistent with the discussion. They have not replied
§ to the argument, nor shown any reason why this Amendment should be rejected. We shall certainly register our support for the Amendment in the Division Lobby.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 165, Noes 204.475
|Division No. 123.]||AYES||[6.54 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Healey, Denis||Paget, R. T.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Herbison, Miss M.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parker, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pearson, A.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Holmes, Horace||Peart, T. F.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Pentland, N.|
|Blackburn, F.||Howell, Denis (All saints)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hubbard, T. F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Probert, A. R.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hunter, A. E.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, J B. (Attercliffe)||Reid, William|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Carmichael, J.||Janner, B.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Ross, William|
|Champion, A. J.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kenyon, C.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Cove, W. G.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Stones, w. (Consett)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lawson, G. M.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Ledger, R. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Logan, D. G.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Diamond, John||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||McCann, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||MacDermot, Niall||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McInnes, J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thornton, E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Timmons, J.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Viant, S. P.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mahon, Simon||Watkins, T. E.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Weitzman, D.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd E.)||West, D. G.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mason, Roy||Wilkins, W. A.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mellish, R. J.||Willey, Frederick|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moody, A. S.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moss, R.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moyle, A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grimond, J.||Mulley, F. W.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Woof, R. E.|
|Hannan, W.||Oliver, G. H.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Harrison J. (Nottingham, N.)||Oram, A. E.|
|Hastings, S.||Oswald, T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hayman, F. H.||Padley, W. E.||Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Barter, John||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Bishop, F. P.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Black, C. W.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Body, R. F.|
|Ashton, H.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Braine, B. R.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bingham, R. M.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hornby, R. P.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Page, R. G.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Partridge, E.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howard, John (Test)||Peel, W. J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hyde, Montgomery||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Keegan, D.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kershaw, J. A.||Russell, R. S.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, M.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Kirk, P. M.||Shepherd, William|
|Finlay, Graeme||Leather, E. H. C.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Leavey, J. A.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Fletcher-Cocke, C.||Leburn, W. G.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Foster, John||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gammans, Lady||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Glover, D.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Godber, J. B.||McAdden, S. J.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macheson, Brig. Sir Harry||Teeling, W.|
|Gower, H. R.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Temple, John M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Green, A.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maddan, Martin||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Marshall, Douglas||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Mathew, R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Mawby, R. L.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hay, John||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Moore, Sir Thomas||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. C.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Oakshott, H. D.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Bryan and Mr. Hughes-Young.|
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.