HC Deb 01 March 1962 vol 654 cc1588-99

5.40 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I beg to move, in page 7, line 3, to leave out "attending courses of education" and to insert: in respect of their attendance at universities, colleges of education, colleges of technology and other institutions in Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Before I deal with the Amendment, Sir William, I should like to ask you to convey my thanks and those of Scottish Members to Mr. Speaker for giving us the chance at this stage to discuss these matters, which we consider to be of importance in Scotland. I should like to say to the Under-Secretary of State that Scottish Members still feel strongly that because of the radical change that is made in the Bill it ought not to have been tied up with a Measure concerning England, in whose case the change is much less radical, and should have been discussed in the Scottish Standing Committee, where we could have given much more attention to it.

Section 43 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, provided for grants for all persons in need of them. It covered pupils over school-leaving age and students at universities and advanced colleges of various types. Clause 5 of the Bill covers the first category, those who are still pupils at school, and some others. Clause 6 covers the second category and it refers to Section 70 of the Scottish Act of 1946. When we turn to Section 70, we find that it deals with the application of the Education (Scotland) Fund. It is only that which gives anybody any clue as to the meaning of this Clause. Indeed, a number of hon. Members, and not only on this side, could not find out where the radical change was being made.

If we were to leave the words "attending courses of education" in the Clause, there would be no indication of what is meant by "courses of education". We do not intend to press our Amendment to a Division. It is a probing Amendment, on which, we hope, the answer from the Under-Secretary will tell, not only Members of Parliament, but all those who are interested in education—for example, parents who might want to know the possibilities of grants for their children—exactly what the term "courses of education" covers. The Amendment is more specific. I realise—it was my intention to have changed it—that it is more limiting than the existing grant policy. The Under-Secretary of State does not need to explain to us that the words "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" would have a limiting effect.

5.45 p.m.

I should like to know how many grants are given annually for students in this category who are studying overseas. Who are the people who will be covered by the Clause? Which people will be considered as attending courses of education? My hon. Friends who were interested in the part of the Bill which applies to England and Wales had many Amendments in Committee. Last week, they had many Amendments in an effort to bring more and more types of student into the category of recipients of the Anderson type of grant.

We simply do not know from the Clause what type of student is covered by what will be understood as the Anderson type of grant. I take it that this will apply to university students, but will it apply to those who are taking first degrees only, or will the Scottish Education Department have power to give grants to other students Who take further degrees?

The Under-Secretary will know that for a considerable time Scottish Members have shown concern at the fewness of those students who are doing research work in Scotland. We know that that is not altogether the fault of the Secretary of State or the Scottish Education Department. We realise that our universities could be doing much more. We know also that for scientific and technological research, grants can be obtained by students from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Some of us at least know, also, that the Department of Education in Scotland may make grants for research in the arts.

We would like to know how many of those grants are given by the Department each year. The qualification "attending courses of education" in the Clause is important. Some students who are doing research will not be attending courses of education. We want to know what help they will get for their research work, which is considered to be of such importance. In particular, we want to know about the scientific and technical research because of the great needs industrially for this in Scotland.

Is the Under-Secretary convinced that in both of those directions the grants are sufficient in number? Does he know whether anybody who is fit to carry out research in either direction—scientific and technological or the arts—is denied the opportunity in Scotland for financial reasons? If anybody is denied that opportunity for financial reasons, will the Clause provide the financial wherewithal to cover the research work, which we consider to be important?

I take it that those who are attending colleges of education will be covered under the Clause. I hope that the Under-Secretary will inform us of any other students who are covered. In other words, we want to know whether every student in Scotland outwith our schools and the equivalent of our schools will be covered by the very loose wording of the Clause.

Students of architecture are often advised to apprentice themselves to a firm and to do their technical study in evening classes and possibly day-release classes. We have found in the past that very often those students are financially worse off than the full-time students. I know that the Government answer often is that they should be paid more, but there is not a very strong trade union among these young students. Will they have any chance under these provisions to obtain financial assistance from the Secretary of State? As I said, this is merely a probing Amendment and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to answer these questions.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I should like to make a short but rather technical point and I hope that the Under-Secretary and the Committee will bear with me when I try to put forward intentions which, perhaps, are not contained in the Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has rightly referred to the fact that Clause 6 is based on Section 70 (10) of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946. But that Section has been amended already and, contrary to what my hon. Friend said, the amended Section does not allude only to bursaries and other allowances to enable persons to enjoy courses.

As amended, it reads: to making payments of sums by way of scholarships, bursaries, and other allowances for the purpose of enabling persons, and to maintain any persons dependent on them "— These are the important words— while so doing, to take advantage, without hardship to themselves or their parents of any educational facilities available to them… Therefore, it would now read: to making payments of sums by way of scholarships, bursaries and other allowances to persons attending courses of education. What does this mean?

Am I right or wrong in thinking that persons dependent upon such students will not now receive any allowances in order to allow the students to continue their studies? I should be glad if the Under-Secretary could reassure us on this point. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North has said, the Amendment is designed—perhaps not in the best words—to elicit from the Government what courses and what people are covered and to whom, particularly in research work and in study for doctorates, these facilities will be made available.

Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)

I should like to take up one point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). My hon. Friend referred to architects and I should like to widen the scope slightly to include various arts and crafts studies and to ask for an assurance that these will receive fairly generous treatment in the matter of grants not only at the undergraduate level—although, strictly speaking, we are dealing largely with diplomas rather than degrees—but at the post-graduate level, in which there is great scope in architecture, town planning and art. I should like an assurance that grants for courses of education cover wide ranges of studies in architecture and art.

This is an aspect of our education which does not always receive the attention it deserves, partly perhaps because of our preoccupation with university and school education. But graduates in schools of art and architecture become absorbed into a whole range of extremely important professions, as architects, planners, teachers, and artists and craftsmen, and their work is concerned not only with our economic well-being, which is vitally important, but with the enrichment of our culture and the improvement of our whole physical environment.

One of the problems is to persuade enough people taking courses of art and architecture to go on and teach it to others. At the Edinburgh College of Art, out of 22 people who took diplomas in the school of design and crafts in 1960 only nine went on to teach the subject. The rest were attracted to industry. I could give other figures, which represent the same trend, of only a small proportion going on to teach.

Those who go on to teach would receive fairly generous treatment from the Department I know that it is the policy of the Secretary of State to encourage these people, but I should like an assurance that those who want to go on to do post-graduate work, particularly in the school of architecture, will receive favourable treatment from the Department. The sphere of town and country planning and the whole methodology of the subject is widening so much already and is becoming such a vital part of our whole academic and educational activity that I should like to see a generous policy pursued by the Department to give money for research in architecture and town planning and indeed for some of the more specific design and craft studies.

I should be glad to have the comments of the Under-Secretary of State on the subject.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)

I should like to put a question to the Under-Secretary about another branch of training which the phrase "attending courses of education" literally would exclude. This is the course of training which an intending advocate takes after he has taken his arts and law degrees. He then must submit to a year of pupilage and this is as much training for his profession as is his law course and is a good deal more specific training for his profession than is the arts degree

This is the kind of situation in which it is extremely difficult for young men of financially modest backgrounds to make their way. The degrees, plus the pupilage, put a young man of the working class at a considerable disadvantage and this is the kind of situation in which the phrase "attending courses of education" should be interpreted in an extremely wide fashion. A year of specific professional training ought to qualify for grant in the same way as theological, medical or any other kind of professional training.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to say that it will.

6.0 p.m.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)

I had not intended to intervene because, as the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said in Committee previously, it is generally accepted that there were reasons why it was not necessary for me to do so. I do so on this occasion, however, for rather different reasons. The reason for my silence in the Committee previously was that we in Scotland are well content with Clause 6 because, as those who have administered bursaries on education committees for many years are aware, we are more generously treated in Scotland than perhaps some hon. Members opposite realise.

This is a happy situation and we want it to continue. But the width of interpretation accepted in the past is one of which we are extremely jealous and which, as the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has said, should be continued. It is extremely satisfactory to know that various institutions, which do not normally get the recognition which some of us would like to see, such as the National Institution of Houseworkers, qualify in this way.

With the good record of the past in the allocation of bursaries in Scotland, and the width of view which has been taken, those of us who have studied Clause 6 should pay tribute to the remarkable administrative work which has been done so successfully by those behind the scenes. Those who know the work involved in bursary awards, the detailed knowledge which is required and the examination which is entailed, must be amazed that such a very small staff, dedicated to this task and to the service of those who have made applications, could have carried out their duties in Scotland in such a remarkably successful way in this venture. I conclude this short intervention, therefore, with a note of gratitude to those who have done this job so well.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I hesitate to intervene in a debate on a Scottish Clause, but I regret to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has introduced words which limit the students to places of education in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Miss Herbison

I do not think that my right hon. Friend was here—

Mr. Ede

Yes, I was.

Miss Herbison

—when I said quite clearly that that was a mistake and asked the Under-Secretary of State not to take up the time of the Committee in dealing with it.

Mr. Ede

Of course, my hon. Friend may be able to exercise her blandishments on the Under-Secretary of State. I assure her that I intervene with great hesitation and with all due humility, because I know that no Englishman is ever allowed to say anything about Scottish education unless he intends to pour on it unadulterated praise—which I do not feel.

I believe that education is an international republic and that to circumscribe the opportunity of participating in it by any geographical limit is a mistake. I regret that students will not be able, at any rate under this Clause, to go to Trinity College, Dublin, to Harvard, or to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is an institution without parallel in the world and which has very largely solved the problem of providing high technological education in a liberal atmosphere.

I cannot help thinking that we are imposing an undue limitation of opportunity on some of the best students that we have when we make such provisions. A large number of people who held similar views on religion to mine, and who suffered in the past in England for doing so when it came to their going to a university, used to study at Leiden, in Holland. This has built up a tradition of association between this country and Leiden in theology and science which has been of great value to English and Dutch students and to both nations in times gone by.

While I do not want to say any more than this, I regret that we have accepted this limitation for England—perhaps I should say that we were made to accept it for England by a vote of this Committee earlier—and that we are now to impose a limitation on Scotland as well. If there is anything that does a Scotsman good it is the realisation that there are other countries besides Caledonia.

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

I thank the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for giving me the keynote on which to start what I shall endeavour to prevent becoming a diatribe on the merits of Scottish education. Under the Bill, our students will enjoy precisely that breadth of opportunity which he would like to see them enjoy.

The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) made it clear that she did not wish this to be taken as a limiting Amendment. She asked for figures. There are about 100 students at present receiving grants from the Scottish Education Department for courses outside the United Kingdom.

Dr. A. Thompson

Is it not a fact that a Scottish student attending Trinity College, Dublin, gets a smaller grant than he would if he were at an English university, whereas an English student gets the same grant at Trinity as he would at another university? Is that not discrimination?

Mr. Brooman-White

The point is that English students going to Scottish universities will start at some advantage vis-à-vis Scottish students, but we are waiting the further report of the committee considering maintenance questions. I made a quick inquiry to find out whether we have sent any students to America. We have sent one to McGill University and a number to Trinity College, Dublin, and to courses in langauges at continental universities.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

The hon. Gentleman has given a figure of 100 as studying outside the United Kingdom. Does that mean outside Great Britain and Ireland?

Mr. Brooman-White

It includes grants to Trinity College, Dublin, and to continental universities.

The right hon. Member for South Shields spoke of the advantages of universality. One of the things we are getting from the Bill is that the Scottish student, who, hitherto, has been at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the English student in going to universities south of the Border—including a lower level of grant—will now get what he has long campaigned for and felt was his due. This is, equality of treatment in being able to go to the university of his choice. Certain adjustments are awaited on the question of maintenance, and we hope that the committee's report will be forthcoming shortly.

The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North asked whether all this is logical. The broad definition is that the Scottish Education Department is giving grants to full-time courses at university, to college education for teaching, and to advanced full-time and sandwich courses at other full-time establishments. This leaves to local authorities part-time further education courses, non-advanced further education courses, and school courses.

Miss Herbison

Would that mean that people taking training as social workers, for instance, would be covered by the Clause?

Mr. Brooman-White

The broad definition which we are using is a course which is an extension of a university course necessary to acquire qualifications to enter a profession. There are bound to be borderline cases of demarcation between what comes under the local education authority and what under the Department. But during the first year of practical experience, this matter has not raised any great difficulty and we hope that it will run even more smoothly as our experience progresses.

Reference has been made to research. Grants are available for 45 research scholarships and about 30 have been given this year to arts students. Other research grants will continue to be assessed on their merits and given through the Agricultural Departments or the D.S.I.R., as hitherto. I must apologise for not having figures about the D.S.I.R. grants, but I do not think that there has been any substantial change from previous practice.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and other hon. Members referred to the case of the professional student. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) will remember that this matter arose in our debates in Standing Committee. The point is that we are not giving grants to part-time students. We feel that if a man is engaged in his professional work, it is up to the profession to assist him and he is eligible for consideration for a grant for part-time study. If he is attending as a student full-time, he is covered, and that deals with what the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) said about students of architecture.

The hon. Member for Maryhill spoke about the availability of courses and the Amendment of paragraph (10) of Section 70 of the 1946 Act. This is a technical matter, but I think that I have followed him correctly. The words about allowances for dependants in the 1946 Act were included to remove doubt arising from the hardship criterion, but now that we have removed the hardship criterion I am assured that the words are no longer necessary. The position is automatically covered.

Mr. Hannan

That is precisely the point. As the Bill stands, there is no reference to dependants and there is simply a reference to grants for the courses. The explanation in Committee left no doubt about the position, but I do not understand at what point in the Bill that doubt is dispelled. If I am assured that the phrase "for educational courses" includes grants for dependants. I shall be satisfied, but until then I do not think that I shall.

Mr. Brooman-White

The question of allowances for dependants is covered in the provisions concerning eligibility for married students and in the assessment of the general income scales. I cannot give the hon. Member a more detailed explanation now, but I would be glad to go into detail with him afterwards, if he likes.

6.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) mentioned the smoothness with which this new method of payment has been put into operation. I would like to thank her, on behalf of the Department, for her words of appreciation and hon. Members of the Committee, in general, for what has been said about this transition.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a pupil for the Bar—he is not part-time, but spends his whole time studying for his profession—qualifies for grant?

Mr. Brooman-White

I can go no further than repeat what I said in Standing Committee. Such a student who was not full time would be considered as an apprentice and treated under the arrangements generally made for apprentices.

Miss Herbison

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.