HC Deb 16 April 1962 vol 658 cc159-93

10.17 p.m.

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

I beg to move: That the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order, 1962, dated 30th March, 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th April, be approved. Under Section 1 of the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1958, the Order must be accompanied by an Explanatory Report. This has been published as House of Commons Paper 159 and laid at the same time as the Order.

The second General Grant (Scotland) Order, made in December, 1960, fixed the aggregate amounts of general grant for 1961–62 and 1962–63. These were £57 million for 1961–62 and £59 million for 1962–63. 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. That is what this amending Order seeks to do for the years 1961–62 and 1962–63. The House will be aware that a similar Order to increase the aggregate grants in England and Wales has already been approved. That Order dealt only with the year 1961–62 and I understand that a further Order for 1962–63 will be made later.

In two words, the principal reason for this amending Order is "increased costs". As hon. Members will have seen from the Report, these costs can, broadly, be divided into salary increases and other costs. As hon. Members see from Appendix 1, the bulk of the increases in salaries and, in fact, of the increases altogether over the two years, results from the new scale of teachers' salaries which took effect from the 1st June, 1961. The other main awards were awards to firemen, nursing and midwifery staff and to manual workers and building trade operatives. There were also a number of awards of lesser financial importance. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the bulk of these awards took place in the first half of 1961.

The most important of the other increased costs is an increase in rate payments due partly to rates on new schools and partly to a shift of the incidence of rates on revaluation; but the details and the amounts of these costs are all listed in Appendix 1 of the Report.

The point I should like to make at this stage is that the extent of these increases has been discussed with the local authority associations concerned, that is the Association of County Councils in Scotland, the Convention of Royal Burghs and the Association of Counties of Cities. These discussions resulted in complete agreement both on the items that were eligible for consideration for increases in general grant and on the estimates of the actual increases in cost resulting from them. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation to the local authority officials and members representing those associations whose very hard work and skill in this technical field succeeded in producing these agreed solutions.

Had these increases been taken into account without any other considerations, there would have been an increase in general grant in 1961–62 of £5.29 million and in 1962–63 of £6.28 million. The Order, however, as the House will see, provides only for an increase in 1961–62 of £1.75 million and in 1962–63 of £2.5 million.

The reason for this is to be found in the financial effects of the transfer of responsibility for the administration of bursaries for higher education in Scotland from the local authorities to the Exchequer, and a consequential reduction in general grant. In case there should still be someone unaware of the fact, I had better make it clear at this point that unlike the increases I have mentioned previously the amount of this particular decrease is not one with which the local authority associations have felt able to agree.

The disagreement does not concern the estimated amount by which local authority expenditure will be reduced as a result of the transfer. This is agreed to be £3.54 million in 1961–62 and £3.78 million in 1962–63. But the local authorities take the view that, of this total of £7.32 million for the two years, only the amount which would have been met from general grant—that is about £4.5 million—should be deducted from the grant, whereas the Order provides for deducting the whole amount. This makes a difference of about £2.8 million, or £1.4 million a year, the reasons for which I shall try to explain.

The Anderson Report on Grants to Students made a number of suggestions, but no firm recommendation, about the administration of bursaries. Nothing in the Report suggests that there should be any substantial change in the way in which expenditure is shared between the Exchequer and the rates. The Government have agreed to meet the whole of the additional expenditure arising from the improvements in bursaries resulting from the Anderson Report.

The question at issue relates to the current expenditure on bursaries before these improvements are made. As far as this expenditure is concerned, the Government see no good reason why the transfer of administrative responsibility, which in itself involves no change on policy, should result in expenditure of about £1.4 million a year being found in future by the general taxpayer instead of from local rates.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

The right hon. Gentleman says that this involves no change of policy. Surely it is a very big matter that now the Secretary of State will decide whether or not a student may have a bursary, whereas that decision lay with the local authority. That is a very big change indeed.

Mr. Maclay

It is in fact really an administrative change. There is no real change of policy. I feel that very definitely. The House will appreciate that the consensus of opinion among the Scottish local authority associations was in favour of the Government taking over administration of the bursaries.

The adjustment of the financial arrangements effected by the present Order is therefore designed, I would emphasise, to ensure that the local authorities are no better off and no worse off, measured by the amount they have to raise by rates, than they would be if the Anderson Report had not been implemented. This seems to me elementary justice.

I must be very frank and say that, in the interest of Scotland, the Government must try to maintain a fair balance between Scotland and England and Wales in the amount of assistance given by the Exchequer towards the cost of local authority services. It has only been by maintaining this principle that it has been possible for the educational system of Scotland to develop according to its own traditions and needs, on different lines from those of England and Wales. In both countries the overall cost of bursaries, pre-Anderson, was shared in the proportion roughly of 62 to 38 between the Exchequer and the local rates. In England and Wales, where the State scholarships are being transferred from the Government to the local authorities, part of the cost of future growth will fall on the local authorities. In Scotland, the whole of the additional expenditure on bursaries arising from the Anderson Report will be met by the Government. It would not be reasonable to expect the general taxpayer to take on in Scotland, in addition, part of the expenditure which the education authorities previously met from the rates.

I know that it has been suggested that we ought to have followed the arrangements made in England and Wales, under which certain local Colleges of Advanced Technology—usually known as C.A.T.s—are being taken over by the Government and are becoming a charge on the Exchequer without any recovery from local rates. This is a completely different matter. The English proposal involved a change in the status of the colleges in question. In agreeing that it would be justifiable for the whole of the expenditure on these colleges, once they become a Government responsibility, to be met by the Exchequer, the Government had in mind, among other things, the fact that the Scottish central institutions, which are comparable with the C.A.T.s have been financed entirely by the Exchequer for many years.

It has also been argued on the local authorities' side that since expenditure on bursaries, now that it has been taken over by the Government, will no longer be relevant expenditure for purposes of general grant, it is wrong on this occasion to adjust the general grant total by reference to it. This on the whole is a pretty odd argument. Of course the expenditure on bursaries is now Government expenditure and connot in future be relevant expenditure for general grant. But what we are concerned with here is the adjustment to be made at the point of transition.

This is really a question of what is the most equitable arrangement as between the general taxpayer and the ratepayer. As I have already explained, it seems to the Government that the only fair thing to do is to deduct the current amount of bursary expenditure from both sides of the account—both from the estimated total of relevant expenditure for the two years covered by the Order and also from the grant which otherwise would be payable for those two years. We are left then with a net increase of £1.75 million in 1961–62 and of £2.5 million in 1962–3. This additional grant will be distributed to local authorities in accordance with the formula as set out in the Second Schedule to the 1958 Act.

Despite the difference of principle between the local authorities and the Government about the bursary expenditure, which I greatly regret, I think that this Order shows that the machinery for revising the general grant from time to time is flexible enough to take account, during the period of any main grant Order, of the very varied types of increase in awards and costs that can take place. As I have already said, everything except the amount of the deduction for bursaries has been agreed. I repeat my regret at this disagreement, but I appreciate the good spirit and technical skill with which, in spite of the disagreement, the negotiations have been conducted by the local authorities, and I should like to express my thanks for their help. I commend the Order to the House.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

Under Section 1 of the 1958 Act, General Grant Orders must be made in advance for a period of not less than two or three years. The Order at present in force is the General Grant (Scotland) Order, 1960, which prescribed the general grant as £57 million for 1961–62 and as £59 million for 1962–63. These amounts were fixed in December, 1960, but since then there has been a considerable increase in the level of prices. There have been substantial increases in the salaries of teachers and firemen and other professions, all of which have involved local authorities in considerable increased expenditure.

In order, however, that such expenditure should not fall entirely on the shoulders of local authorities, which are already over-burdened with expenditure which ought not to be theirs, the Secretary of State has, in accordance with Section 2 of the 1958 Act, decided to increase the grants by approximately £5¼ million for 1961–62 and by £6¼ million for 1962–63. I believe that these figures have been agreed as between the local authority associations and the Secretary of State.

There is, however, a very serious dispute between the local authority associations and the right hon. Gentleman about the amount which the Secretary of State proposes to deduct from the grants in respect of the administration of bursaries, which has now been transferred from Scottish local authorities to the Scottish Education Department Many meetings have taken place between the Secretary of State's Department and the local authority associations. A considerable volume of correspondence has also passed between the Minister and the local authorities. The Secretary of State and the local authorities agree that the reduction of local expenditure resulting from the transfer of these functions may be estimated at £7,300,000 for the two years. That figure is agreed, but the local authorities claim—I think with every justification—that only the amount which would have been met from the general grant should be deducted. This in essence would mean that only £4½ million would be deducted and not the £7,300,000 proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.

The Government themselves decided to take over the full responsibility for this service and, having done so, it is surely logical and inevitable that they must accept the full financial responsibility. But the Government attempt to escape from this obligation by saying that they intended to take over only the responsibility for the administration and not the full financial responsibility. The Government now say that the local authorities should bear a proportion of the cost. In effect, the Government are saying that Scottish local authorities should be responsible for the administration of bursaries. That to me not only seems illogical, but it is also a mean and despicable attitude for any Government to adopt.

What justification exists for local authorities having to bear a proportion of this burden? They have absolutely no control over bursary awards. The Glasgow local authority, for instance, does not know how many students have been given awards, nor the rate or scale of those awards. The local authority associations do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the full amount of £7,300,000 should be deducted. With the Scottish local authorities, I think that the grants should be reduced only by the due percentage of the reduction in relevant expenditure. To do it otherwise simply means that the local authorities must find part of the cost of bursaries out of local rates, despite the fact—and I emphasise it again—that the local authorities are no longer responsible for the payment of those bursaries. Surely, that part of the rate income that had previously been used to meet their proportion of the cost of the bursaries should be left with the local authorities to use elsewhere, or to reduce the rates.

To give an illustration, the Mental Health (Scotland) Act, 1960, transferred the responsibility for the maintenance of boarded-out mental defectives from the local authorities to the National Assistance Board, and the Government accepted full administrative and financial responsibility. At no time was there any suggestion that the savings effected by local authorities as a result of that transfer should be deducted from the general grant. That is all we ask here; that the expenditure incurred by local authorities when they deal with bursaries should not be deducted from the general grant.

We grant that the Government are entitled to deduct the Exchequer proportion of the transferred expenditure, but not the share of £1,400,000, or the £2,800,000 for the two years, which was previously found from the rates. The Government are being needlessly evasive in saying that the transfer of bursary award functions is merely a matter of administrative convenience. The Government have, after all, accepted that the full cost of any improvements in student bursaries should be met from national taxation. The Secretary of State himself finally decides whether or not a bursary award shall be granted. Is it not, therefore, logical that the person making the final decision on all financial matters should foot the total bill?

This is called the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order. While the Order authorises an increase in the general grants, it also conceals an effective decrease by reducing local authority expenditure by £7,300,000 which, in our opinion and in that of the local authorities, should be only £4,500,000.

We say most emphatically that there is no justification for passing an additional burden of £2,800,000 on to the local authorities and it is for these reasons that we oppose the proposals contained in the Order.

10.41 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

As has been said, the Order is made in conformity with the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1958, and the Education Act, 1962, and the result of combining an increase under the first Act with a decrease under the second is to give local authorities a net increase of £1,750,000 for 1961–62 and of £2,500,000 for 1962–63.

The decrease is the matter about which the authorities have quarrelled with the Government and which has been in dispute tonight. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would explain a little further exactly what expenses will be left with local authorities regarding bursaries. Will they, in fact, have to raise the £1.4 million, which is the sum in dispute, or will this figure be gradually decreased?

On the other main topic—the question of increased costs to local authorities—I have some questions. On the back of the Secretary of State's Report there is a list of the estimates of additional expenditure. Can we be told whether these cover only increases which are known and, if not, how far they are projected into the future? For instance, in the near future there will be a severe increase in the price of coal in the north of Scotland. Is that included in the estimates? There are also certain to be further increases in salaries and pay as we move away from the period of the pay pause. It is obvious that some of these are included—awards for teachers, firemen, nursing and midwifery staff, and so on—but are these simply those that have been agreed or what may be considered, to use a Scottish Office expression, to be "in the pipeline?"

I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to some of the real difficulties which face the north of Scotland over the administration of these general grants. I am speaking chiefly about my constituency, although I know that many of these points have arisen in other highland counties. If we take the total relevant expenditure in Shetland, it is up from £392,000 in 1957–58 to over £½ million in 1961–62. In this period the amount met by grant fell from 60 per cent. to 50 per cent.

At the same time, we face difficulties which are not found except in the more remote areas. For example, the position of teachers in Shetland. There are the remote area and district island grants, and for a remote area such as this travelling expenses all through the administration of the county and the cost of freight transport figures largely. The fact that we have a great many islands and scattered districts means that we have 28 one-teacher schools and 12 two-teacher schools. School transport costs represent nearly £21,000, or equivalent to 10d. in the £ in the standard rateable value, and 50 per cent. of the secondary school pupils must be boarded. This is a very heavy extra expense on counties of low rateable value and small population. The average number of pupils in Scotland per teacher is about 20, but with us it is about 16. In addition, we have to keep nurses on every island. We have extremely high building costs, as the Secretary of State well knows. It is difficult to get builders to come and do work in the far North, except at extra expense.

I am bound to say that in spite of our many advantages, we do have certain difficulties with our climate. We had a small local difficulty in Shetland this year when the wind rose to 177 miles per hour. This is about double the speed of the major American hurricanes, and makes it necessary to strengthen buildings in a way not needed in the South.

All the highland counties have a high proportion of old people. Twenty per cent. of the population of Shetland are pensionable and the sparseness of the population, which is now 34 persons per 100 acres, means that the additional assistance given to sparsely populated areas is not so effective as it sounds because while the congregation of the population in the burghs has been increasing, the costs in the landward areas do not fall as the population decreases.

Under the original Act certain allowances are made for ferries, but ferries are treated on the same basis as roads. They are much more expensive, especially as on many islands we have no piers, or totally inadequate piers, and again the side roads are most expensive to keep up and are not very good anyway.

The Shetland County Council has made certain proposals to the Scottish Office. I should like to refer to them briefly because they merit very serious consideration. First, the Council suggests that in relation to sparseness the borough population should be ignored and that the sparsity figures should be based simply on the landward areas. Secondly, attention is drawn to the extra cost owing to the sea journeys and the Council would like the Scottish Office to consider the sea journey as equal to twice the length of a road journey in the calculation of the various grants. It recommends weighting in favour of old people which has been suggested by many local authorities, and it would like some recognition of its difficulty in trying to stem the decline in the population.

As for the building subsidy position, we argued this to some extent over the Housing Bill, but the difficulty remains that while subsidies are going down, building costs are going steadily up. Finally, the County Council believes that grants should be paid in relation to the actual expenditure, and it greatly regrets the tendency to rely more and more upon notional or estimated expenditure in various forms.

I do not now refer to the crofter counties' grant because that is a complicated matter, but I take the opportunity to point out to the Scottish Office that this whole grant system is not satisfactory so far as the highland and island counties are concerned. While we welcome the net increase which is to be given under this Order, we believe that it is time that many of the special considerations of these counties should be taken more into account.

I must confess that what I am never clear about is what the effect of this sort of Order will be upon the equalisation grant. I hope that the Secretary of State, with his usual lucidity, will explain this in some detail before we part with the Order, because it is most important.

I would also draw attention to the fact that it is difficult to find out in the Library of the House of Commons how the equalisation grant is applied. There are statistics for England but they are not supplied by the Government. They are supplied by the Society of Treasurers of the Counties. Again, I am sure that the Secretary of State will be able to inform me about this. I see someone moving in a direction which, I hope, bodes well for the future.

Mr. Maclay

It was once said that there was only three people in Europe who knew about the Schleswig-Holstein problem, and one of them was mad.

Mr. Grimond

I recognise that reference. One was dead, one was mad, and one had forgotten. I am very much afraid that the Secretary of State has been so long at the Scottish Office that he has forgotten. We cannot think that he is dead, and we are reluctant to think that he is mad. I hope that, by the end of the debate, his memory will have been refreshed. It is an important point, and I imagine—I should like to know—that this Order will have a bearing upon it.

I apologise to the House for having referred largely to statistics from my own constituency. One always finds it so much easier, of course, to obtain statistics from one's own constituency than from anywhere else. I think that the point is a general one and it should be made on this Order.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

I cannot recall an occasion when there has been such unanimity of opinion expressed from the associations represent- ing the local authorities. All of us on this side of the House and, I imagine, all on the benches opposite, have received a very lengthy document setting out in detail the argument which has gone on between the County Councils Association in Scotland and the Association of Cities of Counties, showing the way that both associations have come together, how each endorses the other's actions, how they reiterate and emphasise each other's view. They have together supplied evidence of the kind of case which they have regarded as sound.

I recall that, when the general grant was before the House in the first place, there was a lot of opposition from the County Councils Association, but there was no unanimity when we took into account the Association of Cities of Counties on that occasion. If I remember aright, Edinburgh did not support the others in their protest against the general grant, for the good reason that Edinburgh would benefit considerably from the general grant system, as we all now know. Here, even Edinburgh is very much opposed to this device—I can call it no other—adopted by the Secretary of State.

The Government have argued, so far as I have understood them, that the local ratepayers and local authorities must be in no worse position than before. I suggest that they must necessarily be worse off if functions are taken into account. An important function has been taken from them. They did have the function of deciding who was or who was not to receive grant, and they had the function of deciding how much money was to be spent. If local authorities were generous in their decisions as to the number of students who were to receive bursaries or grants, they decided how much money was to be spent. If they were parsimonious, similarly this was their decision. They had a considerable say in the amount of money to be spent or not spent. Although the Government paid a share, the local authority in this way had a voice in deciding what should or should not be done. This function has been taken from them.

Henceforward, these decisions as to who shall or shall not receive payment and how much shall or shall not be spent are being taken by the central authority. It seems to me, therefore, that there is a definite way in which a local authority is worse off, if functions and powers and the right to exercise those powers mean anything in local government. No hon. Member would challenge the importance of these matters to local authorities.

The principal argument that was brought forward in support of the general grant when it was introduced was that it would give local authorities so much scope and independence in the exercise of their powers. Here, the local authorities are being deprived of an important function but are being made to pay nevertheless. One must understand why they should feel as sore as evidently they do on this matter.

We might argue that this function has been taken from local authorities but that, nevertheless, they are permitted to give advice and make certain recommendations. It might even be said that from the area of a local authority will come the students who benefit from these grants. If any educational function could be seen as a function of national responsibility, it is surely this highest of educational functions.

Here we are deciding who will be our university students and our teachers. We are deciding the people upon whom to lavish the final touches of education, not that they simply enjoy themselves, but so that the nation benefits from this final polishing, this producing of the best of our youngsters to render the most valuable service to the nation. This cannot but be seen as a service which is national in importance, a service to the nation. It is something with which the nation as a nation should be concerned.

I agree that this is a matter of deciding centrally with advice coming from the local authorities, but it is of such importance that the nation must put itself in a position where it can ensure that youngsters of ability are not denied the opportunity because of parsimonious local authorities or that, perhaps, in some cases youngsters lacking in ability are not pushed forward by over-generous local authorities, although that sort of thing seldom happens.

This is a matter of national importance, affecting the nation as a whole. The local authority ought not to have to make the decision as to who shall or shall not go forward or who shall get the bursary or grant. If we recognise that we must take the responsibility unto the nation, so we must take to the nation the responsibility of paying the cost and not seek to saddle the local authorities with this quite substantial proportion of the cost.

Logically, we cannot reach that kind of conclusion. This is more especially true with other examples, which have been brought to our notice by the local authorities themselves, of an acceptance of responsibility for services that are deemed to be national in importance. We are reminded, for example, of the trunk roads which pass through local authority areas and are used by them. They sometimes even park their vehicles on either side of those trunk roads. Nevertheless those roads are recognised as of national importance and as a national responsibility, and are paid for nationally. Indeed, local authorities, in some cases, are given payment for certain administrative services which they carry out in connection with the roads.

We are reminded, too, that under the Mental Health (Scotland) Act, 1960, the boarding out of the mentally handicapped youngsters has been taken away from the local authorities as a peculiarly local authority burden—I should not use the word "burden"—as a peculiarly local authority charge and has been vested in the nation. If that kind of thing can be accepted as a national responsibility it would seem to me that this other matter must surely be seen as one of national concern and something which calls for national action.

Let me finish with this and mention another point with which I am concerned. I can deal with this very briefly. I notice in Appendix I that there is mention of increased capital charges and increased rates—increased interest rates, I presume. We Members from Lanarkshire constituencies have been concerned over quite a period now with the difficulties affecting the Lanarkshire education authority. Lanarkshire education authority, at the instigation of the Government themselves, on the basis of the White Paper which the Government put out in terms of the kind of school building programme which the Government were determined to embark upon, worked out its programme, submitted its programme to the appropriate Government Department, and was assured that this was in accordance with Government policy. It was then discovered that the amount of money which was to go to the Lanarkshire education authority in respect of this building programme under the general grant was quite inadequate, and that the share which was to fall upon Lanarkshire would place a very heavy additional burden upon the ratepayers of Lanarkshire.

It may be that Lanarkshire should have said, "Forget about the money. Let the money in future take care of itself. Let us go ahead with building schools. We will argue about the money later." It may be that Lanarkshire might sensibly have taken that course. Lanarkshire may find itself faced with a very considerable increase in the amount of charge to fall to itself. It calculated that, whereas formerly the Government would have borne a share of this amount of work in the proportion of 64 to about 36, the position was so working out that the Government share had fallen to about 51 to 49, a very substantial shift of the burden of the provision of schools.

This is always the big point; it is not so much the cost of building schools, it is the continuing cost of interest charges. That is the point with which we are primarily concerned. Finding itself in this position Lanarkshire, of course, cut down very severely on its building programme, and all Members for Lanarkshire constituencies are still feeling the effect of this. None of us has escaped the censure—I can put it in terms of censure—of very angry parents because of the kind of schools and the kind of facilities which their youngsters are still having to suffer at the present time.

We know we cannot wave any wands and get rid of slum schools all at once just like that, but we could have done so very much more if Lanarkshire, with a generous Government, had been permitted to carry out the programme which its architects were convinced it could carry out. It could have been well ahead now if the Government had said, "Go ahead and build, and we will meet the financial difficulties when they arise."

Evidence is clearly emerging, in spite of what we have been told, that the primary purpose of this general grant was not to expand the services, and not to give additional freedom to local authorities; the primary purpose was to keep very effective control at the centre and prevent expenditure from increasing. One can point to increases, but they would have been substantially more if the local authorities had been working on the basis of agreed proportions for the job that had been approved—that is the point—and not some scheduled lump sum spread over all the local authorities in Scotland.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will say that he is looking closely into the difficulties, particularly into the difficulties produced by the existence of a new town in Lanarkshire. I hope that he will be able to offer some means of overcoming these difficulties so that we may get on with the job that faces us in Lanarkshire.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that Lanarkshire's misgivings were not about what had happened over expenditure, but about what might happen in the future. We undertook to go into the difficulties with Lanarkshire and to consider with other local authorities at the earliest opportunity the implication of these figures. We hope that Lanarkshire will accelerate school building in the interim.

11.6 p.m.

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

Lanarkshire is not the only county that finds itself in this position as a result of the operation of the general grant Every progressive local authority is in the same position, and when we last debated the General Grant Order I drew attention to the fact that Midlothian County Council had found itself in the same position as Lanarkshire. I do not know what the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has to say about that, but I think that in Midlothian it was decided to go on with the school building programme, in spite of the fact that by doing this, because of the operation of the general grant, it would be subsidising local authorities who were not undertaking an educational programme of a similar size and character. It required some courage to do that, but it is grossly unfair to the local authorities who are progressive minded and anxious to do what the Government keep asking them to do—to provide opportunities to make the best use of the children and their abilities.

I think that this is a shocking Order, and I think that the Government's treatment of the local authorities is mean and petty. It is a strange thing that during this Session we have had two Bills which have been opposed by the local authorities, and now we have this Order which is also opposed by them. It will be a noteworthy occasion when the Government introduce a Bill which is acceptable to the local authorities.

The Government pay very little attention to that aspect. They push the local authorities around as though they were a bunch of school children. I think that this is a deplorable way to treat men and women who freely and voluntarily give hours of their time every week to administering local services and local government. All that they get from the Government is this offhand treatment.

The Government had one or two excuses to offer in this connection, and I want to ask one or two questions about them. The right hon. Gentleman kept advancing the argument that the transfer of the bursaries to the central Government, recommended by the Anderson Committee, was done purely for administrative convenience. Never has more nonsense been talked at the Dispatch Box—and we have to listen to a good deal of nonsense from that Box.

This is sheer rubbish. The whole purpose of the Anderson Committee was not to recommend something merely for administrative convenience; it was—as my hon. Friend has pointed out—to make suggestions that would be in the interests of the whole of Scotland and, what is more important, to achieve a degree of equity in the treatment of boys and girls irrespective of where they lived and what their local authorities were like. That was far more important than the question of administrative convenience about which the right hon. Gentleman talked.

Not only did he talk about administrative convenience; this is the excuse given in House of Commons Paper No. 159, which says: The Government cannot accept this; they see no good reason why a transfer of function which is made solely for administrative convenience should result in a sum (amounting to about £1.4 million a year), which is at present found from local rates. … That is not true, as was demonstrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) in his speech. The Government ought to be ashamed of themselves for placing this shoddy bit of material before the House. So much for the Secretary of State's first point. It was not even a fair representation of the Anderson Committee's recommendation. But this is the mental approach of the Government on the question of the transfer of these expenses.

The right hon. Gentleman then advanced the rather peculiar argument that the Anderson Committee had not made any recommendation about the transitional period, and recommended that this £1.4 million should be transferred to the Government. To start with, I do not suppose that the Committee was asked for recommendations covering the interim period, and I very much doubt whether it would think of the interim period. What it was concerned with was making recommendations which it hoped would be adopted by the Government and local authorities. But the right hon. Gentleman has not even the courage to accept responsibility for his own actions. He says: "We are not doing it, because the Anderson Committee did not tell us to." What a way to argue a point before the House! It is moral cowardice, to a deplorable degree, that the Minister should try to shelter behind this pettifogging excuse and put it forward as the reason for his not accepting the case of the local authorities. The more one considers it the more deplorable the whole business, and the worse the Government come out of it.

A further reason was advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not follow this to its conclusion either. He said, "We must not get too out of line with England and Wales in the percentage of money paid by the central Government and the percentage paid by local authorities. In England 62 per cent. is paid by the central Government and 38 per cent. by local authorities." He left it at that. How far are we away from England's figures? To what extent does this £1.4 million per year differ widely from the English figures? He never told us anything about that. He never gave us any more figures. He simply produced these and told us that we must not get too far away from them—from which one would assume that this £1.4 million would make a very big difference.

That was the implication of his argument. There was no point in his referring to this if he was not suggesting that by the Government's assuming responsibility for the £1.4 million for each of the two periods under consideration we were departing to a very great extent from the general allocation between the central Government and local government. What are the figures? I hope that the Under-Secretary is listening and will tell us. The hon. Gentleman smiles, but we heard nothing about this from his right hon. Friend.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)

I find it difficult not to listen to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Willis

That is precisely why I was raising by voice and speaking, as is my custom, with gusto. I doubt whether it impresses the hon. Gentleman. At times I doubt whether anything can. But I hope that he will tell us what difference The figure of £1¼ million makes to the ratio of 62:38. Does the figure of £¼ million take Scotland very much out of line with England and Wales?

I have often heard it argued that local authorities should not ask the Government to undertake certain local authority services, because in that way local authorities lose power. That is an argument to which we are accustomed, but in this case it has been reversed. The Government have taken over services but left the local authorities to pay for them. Scottish local authorities welcomed the Anderson Report and gave up these powers willingly in the interests of the nation as a whole, but their reward has been to be told that, during the interim period at any rate, they must continue to pay for them.

This is a mean and despicable way in which to treat local authorities. It is a pettifogging meanness which, I presume, is being undertaken at the behest of the Treasury. We ought to have the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or some other Treasury representative, here—not the right hon. Gentleman and his minions, but the man Who dictated this decision—so that we can let him know what we think about it.

Local authorities are very angry about this treatment. My hon. Friends and I cannot vote against the Order for we are in the dilemma which always occurs when we have an Order of this kind—that we cannot amend it and so we have to accept what is bad in order to have the elements which are good. But my hon. Friends and I and most Scottish local authorities are opposed to this action and I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman deals with the matter again, he will be more generous to local authorities, especially over the matter of bursaries.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

It becomes increasingly difficult to listen to the Secretary of State doling out platitudes to the men and women on local authorities—who serve the community with zeal and enthusiasm and advise the Secretary of State and his Department on matters affecting local government in Scotland—when they are treated so shamefully and shabbily.

It seems that the new technique of the Secretary of State is to treat local authorities in this way. Only recently when he was introducing the infamous Housing (Scotland) Bill he even refused them the right to form a working party to examine its implications. Now we have the transfer of certain functions from the local to the central authority and, after all the earnest consideration local authorities have given to it and the customary thoroughness with which they have examined the proposed changes, the Secretary of State rejects their plea that there should be no charge to local rates for a service which the local authorities no longer provide.

It seems absurd to decide to run a service and to charge other people for its operation. I have never heard anything so ludicrous in my life. The Secretary of State knows perfectly well that when the hospitals were taken over and run by the taxpayer, the contribution which local authorities had been paying up to that time was not deducted from local authority grants. No such mischievous idea was entertained at that time, yet now we have a situation in which the Secretary of State and his Department say that they will run the bursaries for Scottish students, but those who no longer have any responsibility for the bursary awards will pay for them. I have never heard anything so nonsensical.

We are being misled by the Secretary of State saying that there has been no change of policy. There has been a decided change in the bursaries policy since they were taken over. Prior to the Department taking them over, the local authority in Lanarkshire gave bursary awards to married men students and their dependent wives without regard to age, but when the Secretary of State commenced to operate the scheme he laid down a condition that no married man would qualify for the dependent wife's allowance unless he was 25 years of age or over.

I know of an outstanding case in the town of Coatbridge in which a student bursary was assessed by Lanarkshire County Council at £130 more than the figure at which the Scottish Education Department assessed it. The Department agreed only because Lanarkshire had committed itself in writing to the student, but gave an absolute warning that in future there would be a rigid policy that no married man student under 25 would get a dependant's allowance for a wife. I have noticed that the Secretary of State has been deep in conversation with one of his understudies. I hope that he has been courteous enough to pay attention to this important change of policy.

He may not realise it, but he is driving young people out of Scottish universities and central institutions as a result of this policy. When the Minister replies I hope to hear a firm statement that he will administer bursaries as they have been administered before being taken over. I hope we shall have a positive answer. The Secretary of State is making little contribution to overcoming the problem of shortage of qualified and certificated teachers in Scotland by adopting a miserable attitude like this. I wish to know if he intends to fulfil his threat, given in black and white, that in future unless a married student is over 25 he will not receive a dependant's allowance in respect of his wife. This is an extremely important principle which must be dealt with as a progressive education authority would have tackled the problem.

I wonder whether the Under-Secretary will say to us that as a result of the increase in grant we shall be assisting local authorities, and especially Lanarkshire, to build more schools. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), I have been subject to the wrath of the people whom I represent because of the lack of school accommodation. Scarcely a month passes when I am not present at protest meetings or receiving deputations of people screaming because their schools have been axed from local authority programmes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Timmons) and I addressed such a protest meeting yesterday. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell's contention that a school should be built where needed and then we should fight the Government about who should pay for it, as this seems preferable to penalising the children.

Members of the Lanarkshire authority feel so aggrieved and frustrated that they see no sensible purpose in meeting a deputation of irate parents from Coatbridge. The Secretary of State has now a benign look on his face and I ask him whether he or his underling will receive a deputation of taxpayers and ratepayers who are anxious to express their genuine protest against the way in which their children are being treated. It is a shocking state of affairs that children aged 5 to 11 years should be expected to travel to four different schools. The Director of Education for Lanarkshire sees no solution but to send the children from St. Augustine's School, Coatbridge, which was condemned in 1932, to four different schools. Chapel-side school, in Airdrie, is ready for the museum as soon as the Secretary of State co-operates in carrying out a school building programme which was axed in November, 1960, because of lack of funds.

One could continue almost indefinitely with this weary recital of the need for schools. There is only one Catholic senior secondary school for the whole of North Lanarkshire—St. Patrick's, Coatbridge—and the accommodation there is so obsolete and inadequate that the curricula laid down by the Scottish Education Department cannot even be completed. This is a serious state of affairs for the school, the children and the parents. In Airdrie there is an ordinary level certificate school, Airdrie High School. The school has 1,400 pupils for approximately 800 places. As a consequence, when the headmaster sets out in the morning he has to indulge in a route march to supervise the children who are spread over four schools which are quite a distance from each other. There are nearly 300 Protestant children in Shawhead without any school.

This school problem could be solved by a word of encouragement from the Secretary of State to the effect that the Government are willing to review the operation of grants to assist hard-pressed local authorities to provide much needed education. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that the grant has been accepted by local authorities, including Lanarkshire. I recognise and respect that point of view, but it appears that Lanarkshire made a mistake. It is easier to be wise after the event. It would appear that if in the operation of the proposed grant additional emphasis were placed on school population, as opposed to the general population, this would result in authorities which have large school populations having an entitlement to grant which would enable them to proceed with providing the necessary school accommodation.

I appeal to the Secretary of State to have another look at this problem. It is above party politics. We are dealing with the citizens of tomorrow—intellectuals, engineers, scientists, teachers, professors, doctors, etc. We cannot allow this rot to continue. I hope that the Minister who replies to the debate will assure me that this increase will, in his opinion, meet the wishes of Lanarkshire and enable it to proceed with the full-scale school build- ing programme which it axed at the end of 1960. If it does not, I hope that he will say that it is the Government's intention to introduce a supplementary Order so that we can look forward under the general grant formula to the resumption of school building in Lanarkshire, which has been suspended since November, 1960. That is the only solution to our problem. I emphasise that it is as much the Government's responsibility as it is the local authorities' responsibility. It is part and parcel of the machinery for the development of Scottish educational service. I hope—if not for the sake of the Opposition, for the sake of the children and the citizens of tomorrow—that the Government will not fail us.

11.31 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

In introducing the Order the Secretary of State made the same claim as was made when the last supplementary Order was introduced, that apart from one vital matter, which has been dealt with very fully, the local authorities are in agreement. The local authorities could do nothing but agree. It was decided some years ago that this would be the form of financing local government from taxation. All that local authorities had to decide on this Order was whether the extra amount covered the needs outlined. There could not be any quarrel on that. It is not any great claim to be able to say that, apart from one very vital matter, the local authorities were in agreement. The majority of local authorities are still as opposed today to the general grant method of financing them from the central Department as they were in the beginning.

I want to deal first with the question of the Anderson-type bursaries and the very strong feeling that local authorities have against the action of the Secretary of State. I do not know if the Secretary of State read the Glasgow Herald this morning. The third leader dealt with this very point. I shall not read the whole leader. I shall quote what I think is an important point of view. It is not only the local authorities which think that the Secretary of State is wrong. It is not only members on this side of the House who think that the Secretary of State is wrong. The Glasgow Herald, which is no supporter of my hon. Friends, says this: The dispute raises several points of principle and policy. The first concerns 'taxation without representation', for the local authorities are being asked to find part of the cost of student bursaries out of rates although no longer responsible for their payment. Local authorities feel very strongly about this and they have expressed their feelings forcibly to the Secretary of State and at meetings which have been held with the Minister of State and with officials of the Department. The Secretary of State said that this is merely an administrative device, but it is not. Until this new method of giving these Anderson-type bursaries was introduced last year, local authorities had the right to decide which of their students would be given an award.

It is true that the question was how much, although, except for extra expenses, the Regulations laid down pretty well definitely what had to be paid. But in many matters the local authorities had the right of decision. That right has been taken completely out of their hands. It is because of that that the Glasgow Herald talks of taxation without representation; the taking of £1.4 million from local authorities to finance something over which they have no control. No fair-minded person anywhere could agree that that was right. Indeed, everyone thinks that the Secretary of State is wrong.

The article goes on: The second is the need to distinguish where local responsibility for full-time education ends. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) mentioned a very important point on this very subject. He said that the Anderson Committee was not asked to give its opinion on this subject but that the whole tenor of that part of its Report was that these further education bursaries of the Anderson type should become an Exchequer responsibility. Nobody reading that Report could come to any conclusion other than that the Anderson Committee regarded the financing of this type of bursary as a purely Exchequer responsibility, and that no part of it should be borne by the local authorities.

The Glasgow Herald says: Thirdly, Government policy ought surely be to reduce the number of official bodies now involved in the State's responsibilities in higher education. Understandably, the Government are anxious not to be drawn into discussing these wider issues in this limited context. But they are being needlessly evasive"— and that is not a very pretty word— in saying that the transfer of the bursary-award functions is merely a matter of administrative convenience. I strongly agree with that, and so do my hon. Friends, and so does every Scottish local authority—even including Edinburgh, which, alone among the local authorities in Scotland, a number of years ago welcomed the General Grant Order.

It seems to us to be quite wrong that the Secretary of State should have paid no heed whatever to the strong representations made by those responsible men and women in Scotland who, day in and day out, look after their own local authorities without financial return. They are public-spirited people, and what they ask of the Secretary of State seems to us to be no more than justice. I would again ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the matter further.

The subject was again raised during the Report stage of the Education Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman dealt tonight with a number of the comparisons then made. He took very great care not to deal with what might be the most important one—the boarding-out of mentally defective children. That provision is on all-fours with what we now say because, before that function was taken over, part of the financial responsibility was the Exchequer's and part was that of the local authorities. But, when the Government decided in the recent Mental Health (Scotland) Act to take over the full responsibility for those children they also took over the full financial responsibility.

It will not be enough for the Under-Secretary to tell us, as his colleague has told us previously, that when the Government did that they warned the local authorities that it should not be regarded as a precedent. We do not accept that. I repeat the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) that whoever has the responsibility and makes the decision should foot the bill and, in this instance, that is clearly the local authority.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised a number of points, including the increases that are forecast and those that have already taken place. It is clear that future increases in coal prices, and so on, will not be covered, and it is clear from the protest meetings that have been held all over the country that the salaries of nurses and midwives are wholly insufficient. Surely the Secretary of State had some idea that the pay pause would come to an end. If so, he should have made provision under the Order for the increases that are bound to take place. On the other hand, does this mean that the nurses and midwives will not get an increase? Many local authorities have an acute shortage of midwives and this is an important matter.

Several of my hon. Friends have pointed to the inadequacy of the arrangements for school building. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) seemed to think that Midlothian's difficulties were comparable with those of Lanarkshire.

Mr. Willis

We debated this matter and I know the position in Lanarkshire. I was making the point that all the progressive local authorities have undertaken large school building programmes and were finding themselves in exactly the same position of being compelled to place increased burdens on their ratepayers because of the operation of the general grant.

Miss Herbison

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point, for the same is happening to many local authorities. I got the impression, from what the Under-Secretary has said, that he believes that Lanarkshire is doing nothing. Might I inform the hon. Gentleman that Lanarkshire was already £2 million overspent when the decision was taken and that that amount has had to come from the ratepayers? That £2 million was over and above the cost of the buildings started and ready to start. Lanarkshire has made a further decision to spend an additional £1 million which will have to be fully borne by the rates.

Even so, Lanarkshire's school building is in a parlous state. That is because of the extra burden of the new town at East Kilbride. There is Fifeshire with Glenrothes, but the problem there is not nearly as serious as that in Lanarkshire. The problems of Cumbernauld are not as serious as those of East Kilbride or Lanarkshire. It has been essential to provide schools in East Kilbride, in the main not for Lanarkshire children but for incoming families. But the rest of Lanarkshire is being starved of school buildings and there have been protest meetings throughout Lanarkshire.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) spoke of a school in Airdrie which was supposed to be giving educational tuition up to the ordinary level certificate. I supported the deputation of which he spoke because a great many of the children of my constituents attend that school and the conditions have to be seen to be believed. It is quite impossible to give to those children the education that they ought to receive. This Order will not help.

I could take hon. Members to another part of my constituency, to another school that was in the programme and had to be cut out because of the decision of the Government, Calderhead junior secondary school, where the children are denied so much in a school where there are always 40 per cent. of uncertificated teachers. Among the difficulties of attracting certificated teachers to that school are the shocking conditions there. Another example is Muirhead, a big development area, where the conditions are scandalous. All of these places are denied schools merely because we have a big new town in Lanarkshire.

The Under-Secretary gave an answer to an hon. Friend of mine to the effect that he should ask the other local authorities to get together and see what could be done. Whose responsibility is this? The responsibility must be placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. Take the local authorities with new towns—Lanarkshire, Fifeshire and Dumbartonshire. Are they going to get every other local authority whose needs for new schools are very great to decide that they are going to give these three local authorities a bigger share of the general grant? It is just nonsense, and it is time that the Secretary of State realised this fact and made the decision that will ensure that those local authorities that have to make educational provision for new towns are not penalised as they are at present.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to answer many of the questions that have been asked and will perhaps give some hope—although I doubt it very much—to local authorities on this matter of education.

11.48 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)

Apart from the contribution of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), we have had a comparatively calm debate tonight. That is perhaps not altogether surprising, because the general grant is not usually a very exciting subject to discuss.

Before turning to the main problem of the bursary arrangements which have interested most hon. Members, there are one or two other matters on which I should like to touch. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) asked about future increases in expenditure and whether they were included in the figures in the White Paper. Only increases which have actually taken place or can be foreseen are included. These do not include, for instance, future increases in the price of coal or possible future salary awards. But, of course, a further Order can be made at any time to cover such increases. So the absence of these factors this time does not involve any hardship to the local authorities.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether this Order has any effect on the Exchequer equalisation grant. The answer is that it does not because equalisation grant is a quite separate subject, which is going to be reviewed in consultation with the local authorities with a view to legislation next Session.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and for Edinburgh, East and Lanarkshire, North, raised the question of the need to provide schools in their areas. The hon. Lady implied that in her area the need was greater than the average throughout Scotland. I appre- ciate the anxiety of the hon. Lady and of those local authorities which, because in some particular respect their expenditure happened to be higher than the average, have made points of this kind. But, of course, the whole object of the general grant, as I am sure the hon. Lady realises, is to give local authorities greater freedom. The general grant is a subvention in aid of the whole expenditure of a local authority and not a series of specific grants in aid of several different kinds of expenditure. What really matters is whether the distribution formula which is set out in the 1958 Act gives to each local authority the proportion of the general grant which is fair in relation to the overall expenditure which may reasonably be expected to be incurred in its area over the grant period.

I think that I can best deal with the general criticisms Which have been made of various possible failings in the working of the general grant—notably those of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland—by saying that a review is shortly to be held into the operation not only of the Exchequer equalisation grant but also of the distribution of the general grant. I assure all right hon. and hon. Members that the points which have been made in the debate tonight will be very carefully considered in that review.

Mr. Lawson

How soon is shortly?

Mr. Galbraith

"Shortly" means some time before next Session. I do not think that I ought to go further than that.

Mr. Willis

Will the results be included in the local government financial arrangements to be put before the House next Session?

Mr. Galbraith

The review is in connection with that possible future legislation.

I now come back to what has been the real source of controversy in the debate—how to deal with bursaries. Before the Anderson Committee reported, the position was that expenditure by the local authorities on bursaries counted for general grant purposes as relevant expenditure and, of course, local authorities received grant on that expenditure. The Anderson Committee proposed that detailed executive functions of award making should be done in one of three ways: entirely by the Education Department, by the Education Department with the local authorities acting as agents, or by the local authorities under rules drawn up by the Minister. When these possibilities were put to the local authorities, nobody showed any desire for grants to continue to be administered by the local authorities. The transfer to the central Government was not something imposed upon them, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mclnneis) seemed to suggest. There was no disagreement about the transfer at all.

It was only when it came to making the financial adjustments to the amount of grant following upon the administrative change that differences arose. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central said, the local authorities wanted the amount of grant to be reduced only by the due percentage of the reduction in relevant expenditure, and they wished that part of their rate income which had been used previously to meet the local authorities' proportion of the cost of the bursaries to be left with the local authorities—and here I quote from page 12 of their circular— for use elsewhere or for a reduction of rates. The local authorities have been quite frank about it. They wish to use this administrative change as a means of reducing rates.

Mr. Willis

Why not?

Mr. Galbraith

It is understandable, if one looks at it from the point of view of the local authority or of the ratepayers. But it is hardly a view which the Government, with its responsibilities to the taxpayer, could be expected to accept.

Mr. Willis

Why not?

Mr. Galbraith

If the hon. Member waits, I will tell him.

Our view quite simply is that, as a result of the change, local authorities should not be any worse off, nor should they be any better off. The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North referred to constitutional propriety and quoted the Glasgow Herald.

Mr. Willis

If local authorities give up something, surely they are entitled to compensation for giving it up.

Mr. Galbraith

The hon. Member seems to have misunderstood. They wished to give this up. What I am saying is that it does not necessarily follow that they should be able to relieve their ratepayers of a burden and then transfer it to the taxpayer.

Miss Herbison

The Minister is continually insisting that the local authorities wished to give this up. That is putting a completely wrong light on the matter. Three methods were examined by the Anderson Committee. The English Minister chose one. The Secretary of State for Scotland, in discussion, decided on another. The local authorities in Scotland accepted it, reserving right from the beginning the matter of the part that was not, they considered, relevant expenditure. It was not a case of their wanting to throw this away from themselves, because they took great pride in their bursaries.

Mr. Galbraith

I am sure they did. But when the three possible alternative ways of awarding the bursaries were put before them, the Scottish local authorities chose not to accept, as the English chose to accept, the one in which the local authorities did the work. That is all that I was trying to say.

The hon. Lady quoted from the Glasgow Herald what, I admit, is an interesting article. The important thing, however, is whether the Government's proposals are fair. If the Government were asking ratepayers to undertake an additional burden, that clearly would not be fair; nor would it be fair, as the local authorities propose, to lighten their burden at the expense of the general taxpayer.

Mr. McInnes

Surely, the hon. Gentleman must recognise that what he is in essence doing is asking a local authority to rate for a service which it does not provide.

Mr. Galbraith

If the hon. Member will wait, he will see what we are suggesting. We are suggesting that the local authorities, as a result of the changes, should be neither better off nor worse off.

Mr. Willis

They should be better off.

Mr. Galbraith

It seems to the Government fair and proper to make the adjustment in such a way that the local authority is neither the gainer nor the loser. Naturally, one can realise how disappointed local authorities are not to gain by this administrative rearrangement. But it would be impossible, the Government feel, to justify any other course, particularly when in England, also following upon the Anderson Report—I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East will note this—it was decided that it would be more efficient administratively for the local authorities in England to assume all the detailed executive functions of award-making: that is, to do the very opposite of what we are doing in Scotland.

Because in Scotland we adopted one of the recommendations of the Anderson Committee and England adopted another of the Anderson recommendations, it would be indefensible if this resulted in our transferring in Scotland to the general taxpayer a burden which is still borne by the local authorities in England.

Mr. Willis

Will the hon. Gentleman reply to my question about the percentage of, I think, 62.38?

Mr. Galbraith

Well, the old figure was 62.4. Naturally, as a result of this change it has altered slightly. It is now about 61.2 or 61.3. I should not like to be dogmatic about the figure; but it is a very slight difference.

It might be a very pleasant thing to make this adjustment which the hon. Gentleman proposed, but I do not believe it could really be regarded as right to take this burden away from the ratepayer in Scotland when it is being borne by the ratepayer in England, and to transfer it, in Scotland alone, on to the taxpayer. It makes a quite consider able difference—

Mr. Willis

The hon. Gentleman said just now that it made little difference.

Mr. Galbraith

I am not going to debate it with the hon. Gentleman like this. I did not interrupt him when he was speaking, and I cannot carry on a conversation with him like this across the Floor of the House.

The hon. Lady, and, I think, one or two other (Members, referred to the boarding out of mental defectives. Though the point there is in some ways the same, there are some differences. The arrangements made at the beginning of the second grant period for transferring this task from the local authorities to the National Assistance Board involved comparatively little money. It was only £300,000 or so, as against £3½ million which is now involved. It was understood at the time, as my hon. Friend told the hon. Lady previously, that this should not be regarded as a precedent.

Mr. Willis

What is it then?

Mr. Galbraith

Well, it was something. One should be grateful for small mercies, but they should not necessarily be held to be precedents.

Mr. McInnes

In essence the hon. Gentleman is saying that it is not principle which matters but the amount of money. In the mental health service transfer, only a small amount of money was involved, he said. This is absolute expediency. The question of principle does not enter into it, according to the logic of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Galbraith

I think the hon. Gentleman is being unfair. It is often possible, when a small sum of money is under discussion, not to apply the principles rigorously. But here there is quite clearly a principle at stake. We have local authorities in England bearing part of this cost—the cost of these bursaries—and just because they chose one method recommended by Anderson and we chose another it seems to me it would be utterly wrong for the general taxpayer to bear this burden which really ought to continue to be borne by the local authorities in Scotland.

Miss Herbison

But there is one very big difference. The Secretary of State has tried to say it was just administrative convenience, but the Under-Secretary of State has been a bit more forth coming. He says that in England executive responsibility is with the local authorities. Of course, if one has executive responsibility one is willing to carry some of the finance, but the executive responsibility is now completely with the Secretary of State. No executive responsibility—

Mr. Speaker

There must be some system about this debate. The hon. Lady has made one speech, and I think, three interventions. Another hon. Member has made one speech and, I think, two interventions. Really, that is departing from the proper form of debate, and debate cannot be conducted in this way.

Mr. Galbraith

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, because it is very difficult to make a speech under these conditions.

Reference has been made, not so much in this debate but in the circular sent out to hon. Members, to the C.A.T.s, but it seems to me that these C.A.T.s are one thing, bursaries are another. C.A.T.s in England and central institutions in Scotland are national bodies. In both countries the cost is borne by the taxpayer. Administrative considerations have given rise to different solutions for running bursaries in the two countries. In England it is the local authority which plays the major part; in Scotland it is the Scottish Education Department; but this haphazard difference in procedure should not be used as an excuse for imposing an additional burden on the taxpayer in respect of Scottish bursaries only when in England part of the burden is borne by the ratepayers. I am sure that on reflection the House will see the injustice of this state of affairs which is suggested by the Opposition, and that the Government scheme is really a fair one.

I ask the House to approve this Order which, in spite of all that has been said against it, gives local authorities £4½ million extra, and which in doing so shows the flexibility of the general grant to meet changing circumstances and the Government's determination to see that local authorities have the means of exercising the freedom and discretion with which the general grant provides them.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order, 1962, dated 30th March, 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th April, be approved.

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