HC Deb 17 February 1960 vol 617 cc1323-57

5.3 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

I beg to move, That the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order, 1960, dated 28th January, 1960, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved. Under Section 1 of the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1958, this Order must be accompanied by an explanatory report, and this has been published as House of Commons Paper No. 82 and laid at the same time as the Order.

The first General Grant (Scotland) Order made in 1958 prescribed the aggregate amounts of General Grant for the years 1959–60 and 1960–61. The Act enables me to increase the annual aggregate of the general grants for the current grant period in the event of unforeseen increases in prices, costs or remuneration the effect of which on the cost of providing the General Grant services is so large that it ought not to fall entirely on local authorities. This is what the amending Order is designed to do.

The House will be aware that a similar Order to increase the aggregate grants for England and Wales has already been approved. The principal reason for this amending Order is the new scale of teachers' salaries which took effect from 1st January this year. It is estimated that this will add over £1 million to local authority expenditure in 1959–60 and £2.8 million in 1960–61. Salary awards to nursing and other staff in the employment of local health and education authorities and to officers in local government employment and other minor items have been taken into account, also.

Discussions with the local authority associations concerned, that is to say, the Association of County Councils in Scotland, the Convention of Royal Burghs and the Association of Counties of Cities, have, I am glad to say, resulted in full agreement both on the items eligible for consideration and on the estimates of the increased costs resulting from each item.

The Order provides that the aggregate of the general grants for 1959–60 and 1960–61 should be increased by £1.16 million and £2.33 million respectively. This additional grant will be distributed to local authorities in precisely the same way as the original grant, in accordance with the formula set out in the Second Schedule to the Act.

The original grant settlement agreed with the local authority associations made a fair allowance for reasonable development which could be foreseen at the time. This amending Order fulfils the undertaking given to local authorities that they would not be asked to bear alone significant rises in the cost of General Grant services which neither we nor they could predict at the time of settlement.

I commend the Order to the House.

5.7 p.m.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State is keeping the promise made and giving an increase where unforeseen rises in expenditure have taken place or are expected to take place. Local authorities, naturally, always welcome any crumbs which fall from the table. It is right to say, however, that in this instance the proposed increase is insufficient to meet the increased expenditure which can be foreseen at this time.

In the House of Commons Paper we are given an estimate of the increase for 1959–60 as £1.13 million and for 1960–61 as £3.73 million. In my judgment, no account has been taken of certain increases in education. It is true that there is a reference to teachers' salaries, but there are other items of expenditure in education which, obviously, will increase this year and next year. I have in mind particularly the fact that the bulge in the school population will, this year and next year, in many counties, reach the secondary departments. Everyone recognises that it is more costly to provide education facilities of one kind and another in the secondary departments of our schools than it is in the primary departments. For example, the equipment is certainly much more expensive.

There is a growing number of pupils in the top forms of the high schools of Scotland. This is something which we very much welcome, but this in itself brings about another increase in expenditure inasmuch as many of the pupils are entitled to higher school bursaries. We welcome, also, the increase in the number of students entering universities. There was an increase in university bursaries last year and, no doubt, that will be taken into account, but the fact that more students from the various counties are to enter universities will bring about a further increase in expenditure which I doubt very much has been taken into account in making the calculations.

In addition, the Betting and Gaming Bill now in Committee will, if it becomes an Act, lay upon local authorities further commitments in respect of the licensing arrangements required under it. Also, I very much doubt whether any provision has been made for increased expenditure as a result of the mental health legislation now before the House.

Most important of all, there is no reference whatever in the Paper to the recent increase in the Bank Rate. Obviously, an increase of 1 per cent. in the Bank Rate has tremendous repercussions on the revenues of local authorities. There are four authorities in my constituency. Kirkcaldy, which is the largest of them, reckons that in a full financial year an increase of 1 per cent. will cost something like £25,000 in terms of its rate poundage. That would require an increase of about 9d. in the £ in rates. No mention of that is made in the Paper.

It would appear that the effect of the new grant structure will mean that local authorities will have to cut still further their housing programmes. Many housing programmes have already been cut by virtue of the reduced housing subsidies introduced some years ago, but this, obviously, will mean a further cut.

I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that in the three years from 1954 to 1957 the capital debt of local authorities in Scotland increased by something like £51 million. In 1958 the increase in the debt had fallen to £46 million and in 1959 it had fallen to £39 million. I am quite sure that the present indication is that 1960 win see a further decline in the capital debt. That is a matter for regret because it means that many people in Scotland will have to wait much longer before being adequately housed.

Paragraph 3 of the Report by the Secretary of State for Scotland, House of Commons Paper No. 16, referring to Section 2 (1) of the Act, states: In fixing the aggregate amount of the general grants for any year the Secretary of State shall take into consideration"— then it sets out sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) to which I have referred— the need for developing those services and the extent to which, having regard to general economic conditions, it is reasonable to develop those services. We can assume, therefore, that in the light of this qualification the Secretary of State deems it necessary that, owing to the general economic conditions of the country—despite the fact that we have been told in the last six months that we have never had it so good—the local authorities will have to cut back their housing programmes and many of the provisions which they are required to make for the benefit of the community.

The reason for the reduction in grants was referred to in paragraph (17) of the Scottish White Paper, Cmnd. 208. It stated: The reasons for this proposal, as explained in paragraphs 26 to 29 of the English White Paper, are briefly that local authorities now receive more from Government grants than from the rates. I suggest that that is an understatement, and, in fact, an attempt to cover up the real reason for the introduction of this form of grant. The English White Paper was much more specific when it said that the main reason was to reduce the amount of grants being paid to local authorities. It would appear that the Government are determined to achieve national solvency at the expense of local authority bankruptcy.

When the increase in the grant formula was being discussed in 1957, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) said: … we"— the Government— have puzzled, mystified and bemused the councillors and officials and the tenants in Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July. 1957; Vol. 574, c. 1101.] I suggest that the mystification was quite deliberate. Several Measures which later became Acts were introduced in the House at that time, and their net result was that the ratepayer and the rent payer had to pay more. That was the extent of the mystification. The other result was a net increase in rates.

I hope that, even if he is not prepared to increase the amount which he suggests for 1959–60, the Secretary of State will at least reconsider the position for 1960–61 and be a little more generous in making the allocation for the unforeseen expenditure which one envisages in that period.

5.16 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I speak as the representative of a constituency which forms part of a town that has benefited from the new General Grant, or, at least, from the method by which that grant is distributed. It is true, of course, that Edinburgh benefited as a result of the change in the rating of industry and of the new proposals to the extent of something like a rate of 10d. in the £. But, apart from that, there are one or two questions which I wish to ask the Secretary of State about this Order.

Paragraph 2 of House of Commons Paper No. 82, explaining the Order, says: Section 2 (2) of the 1958 Act provides that if it appears to the Secretary of State that during any grant period any unforeseen increase has taken place in the level of prices, costs or remuneration, and that its effect on the cost of providing services giving rise to relevant expenditure is of such magnitude that it ought not to fall entirely on local authorities, the Secretary of State shall by Order increase the aggregate amount of the general grants. In the course of his speech introducing the Order the Secretary of State said little more than, if as much as, is contained in the House of Commons Paper. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would at least have given us much more information than is given in the Paper. If he simply intended to repeat what was in the Paper, then I am bound to say that it seems to me that he was—I was about to say wasting the time of the House, but he was not exactly doing that—hardly being fair to the House.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay) pointed out, what the 1958 Act says is, of course, something quite different. It says not only that the Secretary of State must take into account any change in the level of prices, costs or remuneration, but also, in Section 2 (1, b), that he must take into account any probable fluctuation in the demand for the services giving rise to relevant expenditure, so far as the fluctuation is attributable to circumstances prevailing in Scotland as a whole which are not under the control of local authorities. Recent events seem to me to have created circumstances which would fall within the meaning of that subsection. I am thinking particularly of the events in West Lothian. The advent of large motor-car factories will cause extra local government expenditure.

Other events are taking place in Scotland which, in my view, will increase the cost of local government expenditure, and I think that we are entitled to ask to what extent, if any, these events have been taken into consideration by the right hon. Gentleman in calculating the General Grant for 1960–61. As my hon. Friend pointed out, in Section 2 (1, c) of the 1958 Act we are told that the Secretary of State should also take account of the need for developing those services to which the Order applies.

The first question that I want to ask is this. Why has not the Secretary of State, in the preparation of this House of Commons Paper explaining the provisions, mentioned anything about these two subsections of Section 2? He confined himself solely to the considerations which fall within Section 2 (1) of the 1958 Act. It also appears, when we study the estimates of the additional expenditure, that he has taken into account nothing other than awards to teachers, nurses and allied staff, local government officers, doctors, dentists, janitors, domestic helps, manual workers, domestic staff, firemasters and retained firemen, the increased cost of schoolchildren's transport and the effects of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1959.

My hon. Friend was right in referring to some of the responsibilities which local authorities in Scotland have to face. On 30th July, 1959, the treasurer of Edinburgh, in presenting the accounts and fixing the rates for 1959–60, said: Since the making of the first grant order several unforeseen increases have already taken place in the costs of relevant services in the United Kingdom—medical, dental, teaching, administrative and other salaries, such items as the chiropody service, pension increases, higher prices for electricity, and so on—and there looms also the likelihood of a great expansion in the mental health service. We discussed the matter of mental health last week, and the burden of every speech was that the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill cannot be implemented without a vast expansion of mental health services. We heard about the increased number of workers who would be required by local authorities and about after-care centres and occupational therapy centres which would be needed. Speech after speech, particularly from this side of the House, dealt with that matter. Hon. Members also spoke about the extra accommodation which local authorities would have to supply for elderly people. There is still a very large programme of work to be undertaken by local authorities for the provision of accommodation for old-age pensioners.

This Order appears to me, from the Explanatory Note, to take no account of the increased expenditure that local authorities might have to bear. The Treasurer of Edinburgh, who, incidentally, is not a Socialist, said in his speech on 30th July: Freedom to make decisions without central sanction"— which was the great argument of the right hon. Gentleman— has little attraction if financial difficulty renders it quite nugatory.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

He was late in learning it.

Mr. Willis

Yes, but at least he has learnt it. What he says is very relevant. Perhaps I might read it again to the right hon. Gentleman: Freedom to make decisions without central sanction has little attraction if financial difficulty renders it quite nugatory. It is obvious from the White Paper that local authorities will continue to be faced with increasing financial difficulties. This will render meaningless a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman spoke about, because local authorities have not the elbow room in which to express themselves as they should.

My hon. Friend mentioned a number of other services. I have no intention of repeating what he said. I do not know the increase in expenditure for the present year, 1959–60, for other local authorities, but in Edinburgh the increase in the net revenue expenditure for this year alone is over £500,000. When one compares the population of Edinburgh with the population of Scotland—roughly 10 per cent. or probably less—it seems to me that, if the same pattern applies throughout Scotland, the increase in net revenue expenditure for Scotland will be about £5 million or £6 million.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

That is what it is.

Mr. Willis

It is against that background of £5 million or £6 million increase in net revenue expenditure that we must consider the additional assistance being given by the Government, which is £1.16 million—less than a quarter of the increase. That does not seem to me to be helping local authorities to meet their obligations or to carry out the programmes announced by the Government—expansion of mental health and technical education services and a great expansion in schools, and so on.

Surely the Government should be far more generous in their treatment of Scottish local authorities. It seems to me that the assistance to be given by the Government is too small. As the treasurer of Edinburgh said—I like to quote him because he is a Tory— … the financial problem is growing no less but rather is becoming greater … He went on to give the figures. It seems to me that the Government are not treating Scottish local authorities fairly, nor are they facing up to their responsibilities. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should give us much more information about what he visualises will happen in Scotland during the current year and the ensuing year, for which this grant is being fixed. If it is limited to increases in salary alone, as it seems, frankly, it is not enough. Account should be taken of the other factors which we have mentioned, about which I should like some information.

I ascertained the figures in respect of education in Edinburgh to see whether we were any better off under the present system than under the old system. While it is difficult to calculate, I very much doubt whether Edinburgh is better off. I think that probably Edinburgh is worse off and that the assistance in education under the present system is less than the amount we could have expected under the old system. I have gone into the figures, and it seems to me that Edinburgh is slightly—not greatly—worse off. That is not good enough. We ought to have a great deal more information before we approve this Order.

5.30 p.m.

Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)

A year or two ago, when we were discussing the Bill under which this Order was made, the Caithness County Council wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland and then to me. The county council was apprehensive that under the change from the old system to the General Grant system it would be a loser. This was a matter of great concern to Caithness because of the great Dounreay development and what would flow from it in the need for new schools, new roads and so on. The county council pressed its case, and I was glad to support it.

I have a letter from the Secretary of State, dated 15th December, 1958, in which he gives me a categorical assurance that the county council would incur no loss in the first of these years and not more than 10 per cent. in the second of these years.

There is a dispute between the Scottish Office and the county council on this issue. The county council says that its loss is £11,700. Hon. Members need no imagination to realise what that means to a landward area in which almost every subject is derated and in which heavy indents have to be made on the two small towns of Thurso and Wick. Thurso is faced with a rate of about 35s. in the £ as a result of this, and of course the people there are very upset.

I do not like to suggest that the Secretary of State has defaulted, but I have his letter and I have shown it to him. I have met him, and he has kindly written to me about it in the last twenty-four hours, but it is a long and technical reply and I have not yet had time to read it.

I felt that I must raise this issue because there is no doubt that the county council believed what was written in that original letter. So did I. I urged the county council to accept the Secretary of State's assurance that no loss would be incurred, and the county council blames me for asking it to accept that. Of course, it would have made no difference whether the county council had done so or not.

What makes a great difference to the community is that every one of the items on which expenditure has been incurred, principally new schools which are needed because of this great inflow of population, has been authorised by the Secretary of State. They are all in accordance with the code of education laid down by the Secretary of State. These things were known at the time. It was known that they were about to happen. Indeed, that was the case which the Secretary of State had to consider, and he allayed the apprehension of the county council by saying, "Your losses will be met in the first year and to within 10 per cent. in the second year." That has not occurred, and but for a fortuitous revaluation of the Dounreay development plant, raising the income of the Caithness County Council by over £11,000, the county would have been £22,000 or £23,000 worse off.

This is a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation. These counties cannot afford such losses. The depopulated and decaying county of Caithness has had the great plum of Dounreay, which has been a great advantage, but it cannot bear rates in any way approaching the figures I have mentioned. I urge the Secretary of State in presenting this Order to make certain that he has sufficient funds to meet the needs not only of my constituency but also of any others which are similarly situated.

5.35 p.m.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

We are debating an Order of very great importance to the people of Scotland. We are dealing with an increase in the general Exchequer grant to make provision for increased salaries in connection with the social services operated by the local authorities. Hon. Members should have a deep interest in these matters because they condition the ordinary everyday lives of the people in their relationship with local authorities and the social services which they receive. I recognise that we cannot deal with the general principle of the block grant, but we are considering how local authorities must decide to prune one service against another in order to spread the block grant over all the services.

The Government are compelled to bring forward this Order because of recent increased costs or negotiated wage awards. It is important for all Scottish Members on both sides of the House to show their concern, and I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has done his duty to his constituents, although I see great, empty spaces on the other side of the House, where apparently no regard is being paid to this increase in the block grant which will augment the local authorities' finances. We have a situation in which the Secretary of State has to augment the previously agreed Exchequer block grant, and in that situation it is imperative that Scottish Members should make certain that the suggested increase is large enough to cover the services which it is supposed to cover.

Listed in the House of Commons Paper, Local Government Finance (Scotland), we see an "award to teachers." We know about that and we need not discuss it other than to say that in some respects it is quite insignificant. We also see an award to nursing and allied staff". Will the Secretary of State indicate what that covers? Does it mean all the other people in and around hospitals? I am not referring to the domestic staff, who are covered in the last item, Other increases in costs and pay". Does this item cover the gardening staff, the technical staff and the boiler staff? Who are covered by the award to nurses and allied staff'?

We ought also to take note of the fact that the increase in General Grant is for the current year and for next year. Has the Secretary of State estimated as nearly as possible the upward trend in costs in arriving at the amounts which he has allocated to these years? The Bank Rate has been increased to 5 per cent. Has he paid attention to what that will mean annually in increased loan charges for all the local authority work in Scotland which will take place during this year and next?

The right hon. Gentleman recognises, I am sure, that much local authority work has been left in abeyance since the war. Take our roads programme, for example. There has been patchwork here and there, all the big schemes being held up. The local authorities are now urging on every occasion they can that much more of the road works be carried out. Has the right hon. Gentleman made an estimate of what will be the impact on the local authorities of the cost of all the schemes of road works, including the renewal and the widening of bridges, which are cluttering the books of local authorities awaiting consent for them from the Department? Has he estimated that in arriving at this General Grant increase for the two years ahead?

I stressed during the Second Reading of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill that in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum it was stated that there would be no net increase in costs because of the Bill. The Joint Under-Secretary of State, in reply to me, said that there would be a fairly substantial increase in costs and that they would be met by direct Government grant—in other words, the block grant, which is the only way the local authority purposes can be met in providing more special schools for children who cannot attend ordinary schools. Much more money will be spent. I take it that the Secretary of State expects that there will be a start with expenditure of that sort within the next two years. Or is he telling us tonight that that Bill will not come into operation and will have no effect at all on local authority expenditure until the end of the financial year 1960–61?

The same question arises in connection with the Betting and Gaming Bill. Local authorities, I understand, are to be licensing authorities for the betting shops which are to be scattered up and down Scotland. There is to be a special licensing authority set up, with officials and so on. All this will cost money. Has that been allowed for? We know that there will be a tedious period in Committee on the Betting and Gaming Bill, but do the Government think that that also will be delayed in the next two years and not brought into operation before?

I want to ask one further question and I shall be content with that for now. We see on page 3 of the Paper that included in increases in costs and pay are pay awards to doctors and dentists, janitors, domestic helps and manual workers, domestic staff, firemasters and retained firemen". It is on that category of firemasters and retained firemen I should like to ask a question.

Am I correct in thinking that the increase is to allow only for the added wages or remuneration of firemasters as such and of part-time firemen? This is an important point and I want the Secretary of State to be seized of it. It is an important matter for his constituency as well as mine. Does the term "retained firemen" mean "part-time firemen"? Does it mean part-time firemen retained in the services of the local authorities?

I take it that it means that, and, if that is so, there is no doubt that the ordinary fireman has been altogether left out of the calculations of this Order. If the ordinary firemen up and down Scotland have not been brought into the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, I think he is making a very big mistake indeed, because there is very great resentment on their part. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the basic wage of these firemen is only £10 7s. 6d. a week, less £1 deductions for insurance and so on?

The are having a very big struggle to keep their homes going on this wage. The Press are becoming quite scathing in their remarks about it. The Guardian—of Manchester—dealing with the problem on 3rd February had this to say: Firemen have, like the police, suffered a loss of status since the war. Today a fireman's pay is well below the national average for industry and this, coupled with the long hours and turns of night duty, have had a bad effect on the standard of recruits. This applies to Scotland as well as England, and these conditions are leading to headlines in our local Press, which says that "Scotland's firemen are burning with rage", that they are "inflamed about their conditions", that they angry at conditions within their service and claiming that they are becoming the Cinderella of the public services. It is significant when a national paper like The Guardian comes to the aid of the Scottish Press in pinpointing what the firemen have to say about the great injustices in the pay structure for firemen. The Secretary of State ought not to be giving a General Grant increase only for firemasters and retained firemen, for by doing that he will only excite in the service even more resentment, and the local authorities are having difficulty enough through their joint boards in recruiting the sort of personnel they want for this very necessary service of protection against fire.

I hope that we shall have some explanation why the firemen have been left out. If the Secretary of State has not and does not intend to have some sympathy with the pay claims of firemen which have been pressed unceasingly for a long time now, can he tell us at least when he will grapple with this problem, and whether there will be a further General Grant increase to cover the firemen as well as the other categories mentioned?

5.50 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I want to assure the Secretary of State for Scotland straight away that there is no danger of Scottish Members voting against the Order. After all, there is to be an increase in respect of 1959–60. But let us remember that most of that year has already gone and that one of the great glories that was claimed for the block grant was that we should be dealing in advance with the local authorities. Here we are, so shortly after its introduction, already trying to catch up with arrears. Indeed, the fact that the Secretary of State, just after a year's experience of the first Order, has had to introduce an amending Order is itself one of the weaknesses of the whole block grant scheme.

We are getting an increase on 1959–60 of £1,160,000. When, just over a year ago, the Secretary of State said to the local authorities, "You get £50,125,000" we did not quite expect that before a year had passed he would say that he would have to increase that sum by over 2 per cent. When he introduced the original Order he said, looking ahead, that prices would rise by about 4 per cent. and that, therefore, instead of getting £50 million, the local authorities would get £52 million. He now tells us that they must have £54.4 million. Between the original sum laid down for 1959–60 and the new sum in respect of 1960–61 there is an estimated increase of nearly 8 per cent.

I am tempted to ask why the Government are so late in bringing in this revised block grant, because the first part of it deals with the year 1959–60, which ends on 15th May, and that is not very far ahead. The Government should have appreciated that some of these increased costs were bound to come some time. Has it come as a surprise to them that teachers are receiving an increase in salary? After all, that increase came into force on 1st January.

I put it to the Secretary of State that if he had gone to the country just before the General Election and said that the cost of living had risen by so much, that salaries and remuneration had risen and that the Government had to ask the taxpayers for an extra £1,160,000 in respect of the current year and an extra £2⅓ million in respect of the next year, it would have made part of Tory propaganda—that the party had kept down the cost of living—look silly.

At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman has met an obligation which he accepted under Section 2 of the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1958. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay), in a very able speech, quite rightly reminded him, Section 2 contains other things and the right hon. Gentleman could have revised the grant to cover new services being introduced.

This Order is related purely and simply to increases of salaries, wages and pensions. There is no question here of meeting a great surge of local authority services. This, from a local authority point of view, is a depressing document. It relates to what has actually happened and to the salaries which are being paid at present. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows very well what is happening in my constituency. We have a new school at Kirkstile, but we cannot open it because we have not got the teachers. I understand that it will be opened now some time in March. The opening has been postponed of a new school, urgently needed for the provision of primary education, which could not be opened in time because there were no teachers available.

I looked at the documents and tried to find out whether the Government are confident that the shortage of teachers in Scotland will be tackled, but the sum mentioned in the Order is what the authorities will receive not in the year ending in 1960 but the year ending in 1961. If there had been an extension of the services, an increase in the number of teachers as well as increases in salaries for teachers, we should have had to face a far bigger bill. Therefore, I want to ask the Secretary of State whether he is budgeting in this increased sum for an increase in the number of teachers.

I can remember hon. Members opposite making bold speeches about all this during the election. There were to be so many more new teachers, and places were to be provided here, there and elsewhere. No wonder they are now silent.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

They are not here.

Mr. Ross

But that fact will not prevent their going on the platforms and telling us that we have been holding up House of Commons business by discussing matters which are vital to Scottish local authorities.

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) is smiling. When he tells his local authority that it is to receive an increased sum, the local authority will tell him that the Government are not meeting the whole bill and that, in respect only of eligible services, the local authorities this year have to raise £750,000 throughout Scotland.

In other words, all the calculations of the town chamberlains in Scotland in the aggregate are out by £750,000 and in the current year they have to find, in addition to what they might well have expected in relation to the block grant, another £1,400,000. In other words, the rates are going up.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Argyle will smile when he meets his local authority and its members tell him their side of the story. It is most likely that he just will not go and meet them, or that he will give them only one bright little picture—that the Government are giving the authorities a little more.

I hope that the Secretary of State will answer quite a number of the questions which have already been asked in the debate. Among the people who are receiving an increase under the provisions made by this Order are teachers. By the way, has the Secretary of State turned down the claim of those teachers who think that they have been dealt with unfairly in the recent salary negotiations? What about the certificated, non-graduate women teachers who were trained between 1919 and 1926 and who, from my personal experience, are the backbone of the primary departments in Scotland? They are far from satisfied that they have been treated justly and they want an increase.

Has the right hon. Gentleman answered that question by way of this Order and they are not to have any more? We want to know all this by the time we come to make speeches in relation to the ordinary teachers' salaries. Does the laying of the Order mean that he is obdurate to the pleas made by these people, or does it mean that he accepts that their pleas are justified and that they should have an increase in salary to bring them up the scale in relation to the men who were trained at the same time, on the basis of equal pay, and that he will introduce yet another increase Order in relation to the general grant? I think that that is what it means, but we must have an answer.

Then there are the local government officers. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me which local government officers are covered by the Order? It is not so long ago—a matter of weeks—since notice of yet another increase for local government officers came before the Ayr County Council, which decided not to pay it. When one thinks of the hullabaloo that there is about the railwaymen getting another Is in the £, and how easy it is for some other people to get increases almost unknown to those who have to foot the bill, I think that we are entitled to know whether the latest notice of increase to come before the Ayr County Council is additional to the one which is covered by the Order.

Also covered are doctors, dentists, janitors, domestic helps and school children's transport. The Order deals with unforeseen increases in the level of prices, costs or remunerations, and there is no provision for new services at all, and no provision for expansion of the present services, many of which, as the Government themselves frankly admit, are not adequate.

There is also the question of the increased number of teachers. I wonder whether the Government, who pride themselves upon their school building programme for this year, appreciate the cost which will be involved in staffing these schools. Have they increased the number of teachers available to take into account the needs of these schools? What about staffing for technical education? There is to be a great increase in technical education and the teachers engaged in it. Has that been provided for, or has the local authority to meet the cost from this vague, generalised block grant in which nothing is placed aside for any particular services and which eventually leads to certain financial difficulties within local authorities?

I imagine that the Secretary of State for Scotland will have some explanation to give us in respect of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill. I am glad that some of my hon. Friends have mentioned this subject. We were quite taken with the fact that we had a great new Bill, which is in many ways a tremendous advance, providing new services, or seemingly new services, and placing certain responsibilities upon local authorities. Yet we were told that it would not involve a new net charge. What about it? Is the Bill not to be in operation during the year 1960–61? If it is, will it involve local authorities in increased expenditure in respect of the services which are laid down in Part II or an expansion of the existing services?

The Secretary of State for Scotland met our criticism on Second Reading by saying, "It is covered by the block grant provisions. The money will be provided in that way." However, when we scan the block grant provision we find nothing relating to an increase. Indeed, there is provision in the block grant related to 1957, and there is no increase in services provided for. Or does the Secretary of State intend to think again and come along with yet another block grant? He might well do so. If he does he will be proclaiming the inadequacy of the block grant procedure in relation to planning two or three years ahead. It is a fairly blunt instrument for planning when one cannot make provision for a specific service which one wants to see advanced and developed speedily and widely.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State realises what has already been the effect on local authorities in respect of many of the services outside the block grant by reason of the inadequacy of what has already been provided and, certainly the inadequacy of the present increase. It has led to considerable financial stringency within local authorities and to the cutting of many services which some people may not consider absolutely essential, but which are certainly helpful in local authority life and in life of some of our towns. For instance, less maintenance work is being done on the roads and less repair work is being carried out. There is sometimes even a cutting down of essential cleansing work in respect of collection. All these services are equally affected by rises in costs and remuneration.

I wonder whether, in calculating the block grant and the increase, the Secretary of State for Scotland has paid any attention to the effect of increased traffic. Does he doubt that during 1960–61 there will be congestion on Scottish roads? This will throw more work on the police. I know that the police are outside the block grant provisions, but their motor patrols are not. I hope that the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong about this.

Mr. Manuel

More money is required for motor patrols.

Mr. Ross

I am sure that more money will be required for that purpose, but under these provisions the local authorities will not get any more money for that purpose.

I have said that I think that the Order is a pessimistic document because it is a recognition by the Government that they have failed to halt Tory inflation. In fact, the inflation is greater than the Government estimated when they set up this procedure in 1958. The Order is even more depressing because, given the Government's willingness to expand certain essential services in relation to education and mental health, the fact that they do not do anything in this latest look into the future shows that they realise in advance that they will fail.

I hope that the Secretary of State will dispel some of the gloom. I hope that he will be able to tell us that he has all these things in mind and that as soon as he is convinced that they can be done he will hasten to the House of Commons, with a host of supporters behind him—

Mr. Hoy

They are not here tonight.

Mr. Ross

—the vigilant Scottish Press will not, I am sure, notice that—and place before the House yet another Order for an increase in the block grant. Only if he does that will he meet the needs of Scotland in respect of the services at present being conducted and as we hope to see them being developed.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

I wish to say a few words on this subject in support of the case which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). I should like to feel that if there is one category of public servants whose claims are to be given attention under the Order it is the firemen in Scotland. They give tremendous service to the public.

One finds it a little difficult to understand why the Government, when they can increase the defence Estimates by £150 million, should find it so difficult to make provision for this admirable form of public service. Indeed, I think that it is a commentary on the Order which we are discussing that when we have increased the Service Estimates from £1,500 million to £1,650 million we have the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) wondering how his local authority can be compensated to the extent of £11,700. It seems to me absolutely ludicrous that the Scottish provisions should present a tremendous difficulty to many people in that part of Scotland while so much money appears to be available for other purposes.

One can well understand—I think it was right—that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland should raise this matter. We have had the development at Dounreay, which we all welcome, as the hon. Gentleman does, but it brings with it certain commitments which the local authority cannot avoid. The hon. Gentleman is right to try to ascertain whether the burden which has been placed on the local authority has been foreseen by the Scottish Office and whether provision has been made to meet it. These are two things which strike one immediately one comes to consider this Order.

One thing stands out in Scotland, and certainly in the City of Edinburgh, and no doubt it applies to many other cities and burghs. If one takes the capital city, the rate expenditure there has been doubled and the local authority says that this is placing an intolerable burden on the shoulders of the local ratepayers. One would like to feel that when the Government come to make up their mind about these measures they give consideration to problems of this kind. It is no use the Government saying that we are living in better times, that we have never had it so good, and that more people are driving and owning cars if they are not making provision for roads on which those people can travel. In Edinburgh we have to carry this tremendous burden. One would like to feel that when the Government came to make up their mind on this particular measure they took into consideration the burden that Edinburgh—and Glasgow very soon—has to face in connection with the Order.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) raised the question of teachers and whether provision had been made for increases in their salaries. For a certain section of teachers it would not require an Order from the Government to make provision for this. I have teachers in my constituency, who, as a result of the new agreement, find themselves enriched by the handsome sum of 7½d. per week. They regard this as rather insulting and are wont to place the blame on the Educational Institute for Scotland as if, in fact, the Institute had reached this agreement.

This is an insulting increase to people who are doing such a magnificent job in education. I am bound to tell the Secretary of State tonight that that section of the educational community is not going to be satisfied with miserable increases of that kind and is going to make further demands on the local authorities to meet what it thinks are rightful increases in salaries. If it does so, and the local authorities have to carry the burden, then the local authorities are entitled to be assured that the central Government will make adequate provision to meet such increases.

It has been said that a Conservative Government would bring about price stability. However, when we hark back to the old days in Edinburgh of the 7s. 11d. rate we go back to the days of the Labour Government. The rates of Edinburgh have gone up to 17s. 10d. with the advent of a Tory Government. That is the situation, and the local ratepayers in Edinburgh place the responsibility fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government, who throughout these years, have thrown the burden of taxation more and more on the local ratepayers. One has only to think of the way in which they got rid of the housing subsidies and placed them on the shoulders of the local authorities to realise why the rates have gone up so much.

The Government are responsible for increases in the rates, but the local authorities have to carry them. We have to ensure that the burden will become no heavier because of lack of foresight by the Government. We want an assurance tonight that for teachers, for firemen—to whom we are indebted for such loyal service—and for roads, the Government will make adequate provision for satisfying the needs of the local authorities.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

6.16 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

In the circumstances I ought to say "Welcome strangers" to some of the Conservative Members opposite.

Whatever else we may say, in a way we welcome this Order which does, at least, make good some of the extra expenditure which has been incurred by the local authorities. There was a considerable suspicion when a General Grant Order was introduced that more and more of the local authorities would be left high and dry with extra expenditure without the Government necessarily increasing the General Grant. I am not clear upon one point and I would like the Secretary of State to explain it. When expenditure increases, perhaps as a result of Government policy or instructions, does the local authority bear the extra cost until such time as a General Grant increase brings in an increased income, and is that retrospective to the time when the additional expenditure starts? It is quite true that this is being introduced to compensate for increased salaries, but, if these increases were retrospective to June last year, would the General Grant reimburse the local authorities for the increased expenditure in a particular year?

One of the great difficulties from which we in Scotland suffer in wage negotiations and changes is that we are very often about six months behind England and that our people lose on the delay. Have the local authorities always a gap to make up out of their own expenditure or will the Government, as a result of increased expenditure, automatically reimburse them back to the date of increase?

This Order is being introduced to meet an increase in teachers' salaries. That increase had for its purpose the attraction of teachers to the profession. Have the Government solved the problem by this? I understand that at the moment they are applying a kind of direction of labour to the teachers in Scotland. I understand also that in the West of Scotland, where, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) says, there is a great scarcity of teachers, and in Glasgow, where there is also a very great dearth of teachers, the Government are trying to solve the problem by placing what is almost a prohibition on education authorities in the East of Scotland from recruiting the teachers who would normally come to them.

Are the Government putting pressure on other local authorities to lower their intake of teachers in order to compel teachers to go to the West though they may not desire to do so? Surely it is a queer way to recruit teachers for the West by creating gaps in the East. Is this the policy?

Before the war, Glasgow Education Committee always paid a bonus—at least, until 1931—as a way of attracting teachers. Has any consideration been given to a change of policy in that respect? If Glasgow and the West of Scotland paid a bonus to attract teachers, would the Secretary of State be willing to reimburse such local authorities out of the General Grant?

I welcome the large programme of school building and school improvements. For many years it has been one of Scotland's terrible tragedies that children have had to go to school in what have almost amounted to slum properties. They have not had the necessary facilities or sanitary arrangements, and I am very glad to hear that the Secretary of State has given instructions for a considerable programme of rebuilding, repair and improvement, as well as new schools, to be embarked upon.

I am not clear about whether the cost of all that will be recovered from the rates, without assistance from the General Grant. In the old days, it would have come out of the general fund, but as that was happening in England as well, we would automatically have benefited. Will local authorities be compensated out of the General Fund for money which they spend on the large school building programme with which the Secretary of State has instructed them to proceed?

Several other questions which I had intended to raise have already been covered by my hon. Friends, and there will no doubt be others put to the right hon. Gentleman. Since I have no wish to give him too many headings with which to deal, I will close with that.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

This Order will provide that the aggregate of Scottish grants will increase in 1959–60 to £51 million and in 1960–61 to £54,405,000. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland say whether in his conversations with Scottish local authorities and local authority associations, considerable hostility was displayed to his proposed figures and, if so, why he remained adamant on the issue and refused to meet local authorities on the many other issues which they raised?

In case the right hon. Gentleman wants to know the source of my figures, I am about to quote from the Municipal Treasurers' Annual Review. In 1958, local authorities in Scotland had a gross expenditure on education of £70,316,000. In 1959, that figure increased to £75,704,000. It is expected that in 1960, if the general pattern is followed, expenditure will be about £80 million. Thus, in three years we have seen an increase in Scottish educational expenditure of about £10 million.

I want to relate that expenditure to the provisions of the Order and to do so adequately and properly I shall have to consider the last year of the specific grant arrangement. In 1958, under that arrangement, total grants covering all services came to £47 million. In 1959–60, the total General Grant will be £51 million and in 1960–61, £54 million. While local authority expenditure on education alone has increased by no less than £10 million, the total General Grant will have increased in those three years by only less than £7 million. The General Grant will cover not only education, but services such as health and fire, which now come within the provisions of the grant. Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to relate those figures to the provisions of the Order?

About two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman set up a committee, under Professor Knox of St. Andrew's University, to consider local contributions to universities. That committee reported a few months ago and recommended that local authority contributions, which come from the education fund in Scotland to the universities, should be increased from £60,000 to £155,000 a year. Has provision been made for that proposed change?

During the last three years of the specific grant arrangement, the grants increased, peculiarly enough, by £4¾million a year. I observed that in the Order there is no indication of such an increase occurring with the general fund. Indeed, the grant will jump from £52 million in 1959–60 to £54 million in 1960–61. Had there been an increase of £4¾million, the grant would have been £57 million. I am positive that local authorities are getting a raw deal under the new arrangement and that anyone with any knowledge of local authorities will admit the inadequacy of these provisions.

6.30 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

It is evident from the course that the debate has 'taken that great dissatisfaction is felt, not only on this side of the House but by the only hon. Member from the other side who spoke, at this method of financing local government spending by the Government. I know that we cannot debate the principle of a General Grant Order now, but I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland is fully aware of the difficulties created by this method of giving financial aid to local authorities.

My hon. Friends raised many important points. The tone of the debate was admirably set by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay). He has great experience of local government. He knows the difficulties facing local authorities, and he put many points to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will answer them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he had had with local authorities, and what attitude had been adopted by them. Page 2 of the House of Commons Paper No. 82 says: Discussions have taken place with representatives of the appropriate local authority associations and agreement has been reached with them about the factors of which account should be taken and also about the amounts which it would be appropriate to include in respect of them. That is very different from the information that I have. It appears from the Paper that agreement has been reached with the local authorities. What does the Secretary of State for Scotland mean by "agreement"? Some councils have criticised the amounts it is proposed to give them. That criticism is not in line with the specific statements made in the Paper.

I want to discuss the Order on two grounds. First, we are told that the amounts to be given are to cover any unforeseen increase. Did the Minister have no information about the proposed increase in teachers' salaries when the original Order was made? The Minister knows what must be done before arrangements for increasing teachers' salaries are finalised and those increases should have been allowed for in the original Order.

Secondly, it has been decided that the amount specified in the Paper is to be provided for extra local government expenditure in 1959–60 and 1960–61. Is that sum intended to cover all the expenditure foreseen by the Government? Very probing questions have been asked from this side of the House, because it is obvious that if local authorities do their duty there will be other aspects of local government which will call for increased expenditure. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs raised the question of education. Teachers' salaries, and an improved supply of teachers, have also been mentioned.

Will improved teachers' salaries provide us with more teachers? Because of the time required for training, even the training of graduates, it seems unlikely that the increased demand for teachers will be met by 1961. One way in which we could be almost certain of increasing the number of teachers would be to accept the strong recommendation made by one of the Minister's own committees, that of giving those graduates who are willing to enter a training college a grant on the basis given by D.S.I.R. If that were done, it would be a great step forward in increasing the number of graduates, which is the category of teacher we badly need in Scotland. Has the Secretary of State for Scotland given that suggestion any consideration?

In about two weeks' time we shall begin the Committee stage of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill. This Bill was welcomed in the House, and. I am glad to say, in Scotland. The Bill envisages great improvements in mental health treatment in Scotland. It places on local authorities many more duties than they have now. It will probably be on the Statute Book by the end of July. If that happens, what will local authorities do between July of this year and May, 1961. Has the Secretary of State for Scotland thought about the urgency of some of the provisions in that Bill?

From July of this year to May of next year there will be an opportunity for local authorities to exercise some of the powers given to them. I know that we could not set up the centres and provide the services laid down in Clause 7 of the Bill by May, 1961, but there are other provisions which would enable local authorities to do a good job of work if they had the money.

It appears that the Secretary of State for Scotland has not thought about that, although Section 2 (1, b) of the Act which deals with this, says that: … any probable fluctuation in the demand for the services giving rise to the relevant expenditure …". Surely the Secretary of State wants local authorities at least to begin to provide those services which, under the Mental Health Bill, they will be asked to provide. Surely he wants local authorities to give more attractive grants to university students who will enter training colleges, if he is not going to do it himself.

When the Bill was being discussed we were told that it would give local authorities much greater freedom than they had ever had before. Judging by some of the speeches of my hon. Friends, and also from what I know about local authority rate increases, it seems to me that the Bill gives local authorities freedom to raise rates—a freedom which they do not want—while taking away from them the chance properly to plan the many services for which they are responsible.

One of the most important is education. I do not want to go over all the points about the bulge, and the need for better provision for technical education for the many more children whom we hope will stay on at school after this summer. Has the Secretary of State taken account of these matters? In the light of the Secretary of State's report concerning the agreement with local authorities, I am prompted to ask him whether any of the points that I have raised were discussed in the talks with local authority associations. The more I see of the working of these General Grant Orders the more I am convinced that if we want to give local authorities the chance to plan well ahead for their services in education, health and mental health, we ought to go back to the old system of specific grants.

Meantime, so long as we have a Tory Government we must make the best of this legislation. But I warn the Secretary of State that each time this kind of Order comes before the House there will be a debate on it, and some very probing questions will be put to him.

6.42 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) will realise that I far from take exception to her last remark. We always envisaged that these Orders would provide an opportunity for the House to consider what is happening. But I confess that this afternoon the normal interest of Scottish Members on both sides of the House has been expressed in a series of detailed questions, and that if I succeed in answering every one of them I shall be very surprised. Nevertheless, I shall deal with as many as I can.

Many hon. Members have commented upon the fact that this is not the occasion for a debate upon the principle of the General Grant. I am not as ingenious as some of them were in succeeding in debating the principle after having made that observation, but on that subject I will merely say that some time ago, when I was talking to somebody about what was happening under the General Grant system, when we all had some anxieties about how it was going to work, this wise person said, "There was an awful row in 1929. There has been great anxiety every time a change has been made in the form, structure, or method of financing local authorities, but it has always settled down, and in time people have seen the changes as real advances." It is understandable that people should have some concern about the question, and we cannot be quite certain how it will work out in all aspects of local government, but that is the way things are when we try to make progress.

As for the discussions which took place with local authorities, all I can say is that the advice I have received is to the effect that they went very smoothly. The main discussions were between the officials of my Department and officials representing local authority associations, and at the end of those discussions one local authority association expressed considerable satisfaction with the agreement reached in connection with the additional general grant over the two years.

Miss Herbison

The right hon. Gentleman now says that the information he has is that at least one local authority association agreed. That is quite different from what is stated in his Report.

Mr. Maclay

I did not say that only one agreed. They all agreed, according to my information. I was merely indicating that I happen to have in front of me information relating to the association which took the trouble to express its actual satisfaction about the way in which the matter had been proceeded with. It was the County Councils' Association. I have no reason to believe that any other local authority association was disgruntled at the result.

Mr. Gourlay

The right hon. Gentleman said that discussions took place between his officials and the officials of local authority associations. Is it not a fact that the elected members of local authorities have not yet had an opportunity of discussing these proposals, and are, therefore, faced with a fait accompli.

Mr. Maclay

I understand that local authority associations are so organised, by committees and delegated responsibility, that that kind of situation is fully met. The position is that we have the official agreement of local authorities to this order.

I now turn to Section 2 (2) of the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Act. Many questions have been based this afternoon upon the view that we are working under Section 2 (1), but we are not; the relevant provisions are contained in subsection (2). Some hon. Members asked why paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) were not dealt with. This is a Section 2 (2) operation, and that subsection states If it appears to the Secretary of State that during any grant period any unforeseen increase … We are not dealing with the normal fixing of grants under subsection (1), but with the exceptional conditions that arise under subsection (2). That answers many questions, but I shall see if I can deal with some others in greater detail.

The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay), in a well-informed and interesting speech, raised the question of education services. The answer is that in making our original determinations for the first two years certain progress was visualised in advance and the first General Grant Order, made in 1958 and fixing the grant for 1959–60 and 1960–61, took account of the likely trends in expenditure, including educational trends. I seem to remember that at that time a good deal of favourable comment was made about our having envisaged these trends. The relevant expenditure in 1959–60 was £80,234,000 and in 1960–61 it was £83,285,000.

I found it difficult to follow the detailed figures given by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), but I suspect that he was adding in some capital figures as well as current expenditure figures. Before I could understand what he was talking about it would mean my sitting with him, with a cold towel round my head at least.

Mr. McInnes

I clearly stated that I was dealing with the gross revenue expenditure, as revealed in the Municipal Treasurers' Annual Review.

Mr. Maclay

I still should need a cold towel. Any hon. Member who has tried to deal with this subject will realise that in such circumstances a cold towel is a good thing to have about the house. I hope that what I have said answers that question of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs.

The hon. Member also asked a question about the increase in the Bank Rate. I have some detailed figures which I shall have to discuss with the hon. Gentleman, because it is impossible to explain now that 1 per cent. is not necessarily the appropriate rate, even though it arises. That is not one of the points dealt with in this Order, which I should have thought, was obvious.

Questions have been asked about the housing programme, but housing is not subject to General Grant and I cannot with propriety, and because of the degree of preparation which I have accorded to this debate, go into the whole detail of a housing debate. One of the fascinating things about the discussion on this Order is the interpretation put upon it, at least by some hon. Members. They seem to think that we are entitled to have a debate on everything which is happening in Scotland. But I am advised that that would not be relevant. I am trying to keep within the rules of order and I have not the slightest intention of being drawn into such a discussion. This Order has a limited purpose. It is to deal with unforeseen increases in expenditure resulting from specific pay awards.

A number of hon. Members asked about the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill and the new services arising under it. The expected increase in local government expenditure on mental health will be taken into account in fixing the General Grant for 1961–62 and later years. Obviously, we cannot anticipate legislation, but that is one matter which can come under consideration as relevant expenditure. I cannot forecast exactly what will happen, but it will be considered.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) produced a stream of questions. The hon. Gentleman's passion for information is admirable, but I cannot always meet it in its full glory. He asked about nurses—

Mr. Manuel

Not nurses.

Mr. Maclay

Yes, the hon. Member asked about nurses and I am jolly well going to answer him about nurses. He talked about nurses and allied staff.

Mr. Manuel

Yes, allied staff.

Mr. Maclay

The point is that "nurses and allied staff" is a technical term for one grade which I understand comes under the Whitley procedure. I think that the hon. Member will realise that it has nothing to do with the hospital service, it is a local authority matter.

Mr. Manuel

But nursery nurses—

Mr. Maclay

The point is that these nurses come under the local authorities.

One or two hon. Members asked about roads—

Mr. Manuel

The right hon. Gentleman is making it appear that I have very little knowledge of the nursing staffs being covered by the National Health Service. I was referring to nursery nurses and not to nurses as such.

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry. I misunderstood the hon. Member. I thought that he was straying from one type of service to another, but now it is quite clear to me.

Road expenditure attracts specific grants and I do not think that we can consider that in the context of this Order. The point is that this Order takes account of specific payments which were not expected when the first settlement was made and, therefore, the provisions of Section 2 (2) come into operation. There has been no similar change in respect of full-time firemen—

Mr. Manuel


Mr. Maclay

I am sorry. I cannot give way. If I give way so often I shall never be able to deal with the other questions.

Mr. Manuel

But this is important. I am deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene again. There have been representations made to many hon. Members on this question. Does the Secretary of State anticipate that over the next two years he will not have to face the question of pay awards for firemen in Scotland? If he does, he is completely out of touch with the situation.

Mr. Maclay

It would be quite wrong for me to comment on that on this occasion, because it is irrelevant. I cannot foresee what will happen and, therefore, I cannot put these matters into this Order. We are dealing with pay awards which have been made in the past.

My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) referred to the problems of Caithness. The distribution of the General Grant between counties was carefully worked out by a working party which included local authority representatives. It was recognised that there would be gainers and losers and the transitional arrangements were introduced to help the losers. It is clear from the House of Commons Paper that those gains and losses were to be calculated with reference to a year about which full information was available, and 1957–58 was the year specified by the Act.

The gains and losses are the difference between the sums which individual authorities received in that year by way of Government grant and what they would have received under the General Grant and other changes in the Act if they had applied in that year. I am sorry that if any statements made either by myself or my colleagues have been misunderstood on the point. All such statements were made on the assumption that they referred to gains and losses as defined by the Bill.

It has been suggested that the distribution formula is unfair to certain counties, including Caithness. The distribution formula cannot be changed without legislation and it should not be condemned on the experience of one year. We are bound to review the transitional arrangements when changes in the 1961 revaluation become apparent, and to review the equalisation grant arrangements before 1963. It would be possible to examine the distribution formula in the light of that review.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) opened his speech in a surprising way, but he soon fetched up more or less in his usual form. He started by saying that he positively welcomed this

Mr. Ross


Mr. Maclay

It was very unexpected, but the hon. Member started by being positively enthusiastic. He then went on to complain of a very curious thing. He complained that we were actually implementing the provisions of the Act. Some other hon. Members expressed surprise about that, but the hon. Member for Kilmarnock complained about it. When we drafted the legislation we foresaw that at any given moment there would be things happening which would increase expenditure, salary awards, and so on, which were not foresee-able. Therefore, we included this Section and now we are implementing it.

We are fulfilling the promises we made at the time when the legislation was going through the House which I think is to our credit and I do not consider that anyone can complain about that. I am glad that some hon. Members appreciated that all the horrible warnings given when the legislation was going through have proved to be wrong.

The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) asked detailed questions about education. I do not think that it would be proper for me to go into the question of efforts to attract teachers and similar matters. The right hon. Gentleman asked a hypothetical question. He asked whether, if there was a special bonus payment for Glasgow, it would be included. It is an unforeseeable possibility and I should not like now to forecast what precise extra charges or costs could come under the provisions of Section 2 (2). It will be seen from the Order now before the House that we are rather broad in our interpretation, and that we have gone rather wide in what we are trying to do to implement the whole spirit of Section 2 (2).

Mr. Woodburn

The right hon. Gentleman has not mentioned whether these provisions are retrospective to give cover to the beginning of these payments, or whether, in the interval, the local authorities will have to bear the cost until the Order goes through.

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry that I missed that point, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that they are retrospective. In fact, in some cases they go back to before the original general grant in tidying up some of the things which were not foreseeable, and this is made retrospective. I am quite sure that I am right about this, but if I should be wrong, I will write to hon. Members. It may be that I have put it in a rather sweeping way, but I am certain that we are making it retrospective, so that there will not be the gap about which hon. Members have been anxious.

I have answered quite a number of questions, and I hope that the House will now agree to the Order.

Mr. Ross

I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question about local government officers.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member has interrupted me again, when I was just finishing and was asking the House to accept the Order. I have forgotten what it was that the hon. Gentleman asked me, but perhaps he will speak to me, write to me, or ask his question again. I now commend the Order to the House.

Mr. Gourlay

Before the Minister sits down—

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the Minister has sat down, and that he is not sitting down in the sense of permitting an intervention.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order, 1960, dated 28th January, 1960, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved.