§ The power of an education authority to grant bursaries to, and otherwise defray the expenses of, persons over school age shall extend to children over the age of fifteen who are receiving special educational treatment in accordance with section 64 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962, notwithstanding that under section 32(4) of that Act they are deemed to be of school age.—[Mr. Lawson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)
I think that it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss at the same time the Amendment to the Title, in line 11, after "thereof", insert:to provide for the making of payments by education authorities in respect of persons receiving special educational treatment".
§ Mr. Lawson
That will be convenient.
The proposed new Clause is on the Order Paper largely because of the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) who, unfortunately, is not able to be here tonight. He is engaged on Government business elsewhere. I am sure that all hon. Members would have been delighted had he been here to argue the case. The Under-Secretary may recall that on 24th April last my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill asked her right hon. Friend:… if he is aware that children attending school beyond the statutory age limit are eligible for bursaries, whereas children attending special schools to the age of 16 years are not so eligible; and if he will now seek to amend Section 32(4) of the Education (Scotland) Act so as to rectify this anomaly.The Secretary of State replied:I appreciate that older children attending special schools are not eligible for higher school bursaries, and this question will be looked at when there is a suitable opportunity for amending legislation.As a result of that Answer, my hon. Friend pressed the matter further and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) asked:Why can we not deal with this in the Scottish Education Bill which is at present going through this House? Could we not insert something in that Bill?576 The right hon. Gentleman, replying further to my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill, said:The problem is that this would have to be dealt with on a United Kingdom basis and not on a Scottish basis.… the problem is exactly the same in both countries. I think it would be resented and would be unfair to England if we legislated on a separate basis.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April 1963: Vol. 676, c. 211.]I find this a rather strange argument coming from the Secretary of State. I would say the same of the representative of any Government. It has been the regular practice to legislate for Scotland as distinct from England and Wales. The reverse is equally true. A substantial amount of credit is taken for the fact that there are differences in the laws of both countries. A large part of the argument for the continuation of a separate Scottish Office—indeed, the very existence of the right hon. Gentleman, and the noble Lady acting in her present capacity—is that there is separate legislation.
To bring the argument the right hon. Gentleman used as one to justify the failure and refusal on the part of the Government to act now—to remove an anomaly which it is admitted exists—seems nonsense. There are many examples of the differences in the legislation between the two countries. For example, there is the problem of inheritance for women in Scotland. This is totally difference from the law for women in England and Wales.
This matter has been raised by many of my hon. Friends. Recently my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) demanded an opportunity to bring the law of Scotland into line with the law of England and Wales in regard to intestacy. It has not been provided. Recently we passed the Licensing (Scotland) Act. Some of us wanted to go a little further than the Government in bringing our law closer into line with English law on that subject.
So we have a situation in which differences exist. Frequently, the differences in one country are utilised in order to bring the law of the other country into line. For instance, the law of capital punishment in England and Wales was substantially altered to bring it into line with Scottish law, which was considered 577 to be better. So we are entitled to argue that this change we propose—a change which the Secretary of State has himself said is desirable—should be made.
The law on this is absurd. I cannot understand how it came about unless by some oversight. The existing position is that if a child stays on at school after the statutory school leaving age of 15, the local authority may make a grant towards him maintenance. On the other hand, if a retarded child is compulsorily kept on for a year by the local education authority because he needs special educational treatment, he will be considered not to be above school leaving age. This means that the local authority is debarred from making a grant for his maintenance because it cannot make a grant in respect of a child who is not above school leaving age.
Thus there is the strange position that a handicapped child who is considered by the education authority o need an extra year at school cannot get a grant or bursary from the local authority. We all appreciate that these grants or bursaries would be subject to a means test, so there is no question of handing out money in large sums unnecessarily. Undoubtedly there are cases of hardship. It was such a case that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill had in mind when be put this Clause down.
It could not originally have been intended that the handicapped child should be penalised. We must surely agree that, above all other children, such a child requires special care, and if that special care can be obtained with money, it should be obtained. The handicapped child even more than the bright child should have that help. In all probability, the parents of the handicapped child even more than the parents of the bright child should he helped, yet they and their child are discriminated against under existing law.
We have here an opportunity to rectify that anomaly, and if that means that the Scottish law will be out of step with the English and Welsh law, I am sure that our English and Welsh colleagues on both sides of the Committee will not begrudge this little change but will insist speedily on making a similar change. The opportunity is here by accepting the new Clause. It may not be correctly 578 worded, but we have no objection to it being redrafted, provided that it meets our wishes. It would make a small but valuable change, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will accept it.
§ Miss Herbison
I wish to support the new Clause which my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) moved so excellently He dealt with the Minister's answers to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan). I hope that the Under-Secretary will not tell us in her reply that perhaps this case is different from the examples which my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell gave when he showed the differences between Scottish and English legislation. I hope that she will not say that if this were accepted Scotland would get more than her fair share from the Treasury for education, for I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell is right in saying that if this is accepted for Scottish children and parents, the English hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would be ready at any time—ten o'clock or midnight—to pass a simple amending Bill.
We are concerned about children who are physically or mentally handicapped, and sometimes both. They are often a cause of great concern to their parents. Not only do they remain at school compulsorily until they are 16 but their parents fully realise that possibly such a child may never be able to earn. Some will be able to earn but many will not. I know of parents who in such a position are denying themselves continually in order to make some financial provision, no matter how small or limited, for the future of these children. In cases like this, when they become 15 years of age they should be eligible for a bursary in exactly the same way a s those children who have all their faculties. and whose parents do not have to worry very much about their future provision.
Why do we make these grants after a child has reached 15 years of age? One reason is to encourage young people to remain at school. The noble Lady may say that since it is compulsory for the others to stay until they are 16 years of age, the question of encouragement does not arise. That is true. But we also make grants in order that the parents of these children can be helped to maintain 579 them when they stay on at school. Very often mentally handicapped children need far more clothing than those who are normal. I have examples of that in my village and my constituency. The cost of clothing some of these children is often much higher than is the case with normal children.
I am sure that the noble Lady is interested in these matters, and I hope that she will be able to tell us tonight that even if the Clause cannot be accepted as at present worded, when the Bill goes to another place the provision that we are asking for tonight will be inserted.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I support the Clause because I feel strongly about the division which exists between the two types of children who are being educated. We have given bursaries and rewards to parents to support children for a long time, the main reason being that we need as many educated people as possible to sustain our society and help us to maintain our position in the world, both culturally an economically. Grants and bursaries can always be justified for the parents of normal children.
But I want as many children as possible to be able to take advantage of opportunities afforded by technical education. I want to see the State, with the support of parents, providing as much education as possible, not only for the development of character which this ensures but because of the contribution it enables these young persons to make to society later on. The fundamental purpose of education is not to confer a great blessing on society; it is to confer qualities of character upon the individual who is receiving education.
Ever since I was at school it has seemed to me that those who attend grammar school or secondary school, and who have all their faculties, which can be developed through our scholastic system, are able to make a contribution to society and should therefore be assisted by bursaries. But here we are dealing with the handicapped child. He has as much right to take advantage of education and to develop his character and personality and other qualities to the best of his capacity, although when 580 he has done so he can contribute nothing to the State or to society. To my mind, that fact does not enter into the reckoning.
In our Christian society we are prepared to give aid to parents whose children can afterwards make a contribution to society: should not we also help the parents of those other children who, because of natural forces, are less able? Are not they, as human souls, just as entitled to develop their personalities and characters? Yet we seem to say that, because a child can make no contribution to society, we shall not give him or her a bursary. For all my life I have thought this to be a terrible thing in a Christian society. There is no hon. Member who has a family of children who would not make a greater contribution to the weakest child of the family rather than to the strongest despite the fact that it is the strongest who can make the largest contribution back to the family and, indirectly, to society as a whole.
I feel very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) for having put down this proposed new Clause. I thought that here was an opportunity to say something which I have wanted to say all my life and that here, too, was an opportunity for the Government to help children who are handicapped. I hope that the Government will accept this new Clause because it is one of the most desirable suggestions made in the House of Commons since I have been a Member.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) is unable to be present tonight because I know that he takes a great interest in this problem. At the same time, I am grateful for the fact that his hon. Friend, the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) has moved the Motion in his stead. I should like to say that I am grateful for the evident sympathy expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence).
The real trouble about accepting this Clause is that it creates other difficulties. It is not so much a question of the legislation for the whole of Britain, which 581 is an argument which has been put forward. At first sight, it would seem unfair that one child should be able to have a bursary at the age of 15 years while the other child, because he or she is a pupil at a special school, cannot receive one before the age of 16 years. But, as I have said, if we accepted this new Clause we should crate other problems.
I ask the House to consider this point by going over the present position. A child attending an ordinary school must receive full-time education until a fixed day following the fifteenth birthday and that means that the child can leave school, if he so wishes, somewhere between 15 and 15½, depending on the date of the birthday. A child who is handicapped physically or mentally and who, therefore, is educated in a special school, must remain at school until after his or her sixteenth birthday. This has always been the case, and the gap between those who have bursaries and those who do not, used to be wider. The period used to be two years, and not one. Until 1947, when the school leaving age was 14 years for most children, the age for the special school child was 16—the same as now.
Under the Education Act at present the gap is narrowed and will be closed when the school leaving age is raised to 16 years. This is a reform to which the Government are committed and which we would clearly like to undertake but which we cannot immediately because of the shortage of teachers.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
When is the hon. Lady going to tell us something about the implementation of the Crowther Report?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Not on this new Clause. The new Clause is concerned with allowances for school pupils, known in Scotland as higher school bursaries. Therefore. I ask the Committee to consider for a moment the reason for making these allowances. If they were intended simply as a general family subvention in aid of a child's maintenance, to he given without an educational test, we would not expect them to be paid by education authorities. It would be much easier and more logical to increase family allowances at the appropriate stage. But this is not the object of the bursaries. 582 Their purpose is set out very clearly in Section 49(2) of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1962. Although this is a recent Act, the origin of bursaries is very much older.
Higher school bursaries are meant to help pupils to take advantage of educational facilities of which they might not take advantage if some financial assistance were not given. They are simply a means—and this was recognised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North—of encouraging continued attendance at school by those whose ability justifies it but for whom attendance is voluntary. Therefore, they are not awarded to a pupil so long as he or she is under an obligation to attend school.
If the new Clause were accepted we would be creating another difficulty, namely that for most children higher school bursaries would not be paid while they had to attend school, while special school pupils would be eligible for bursaries during the last year of their compulsory attendance. Therefore, I suggest that we would be creating more difficulties than we have already. What we would do would be to substitute a new criterion, of age, for the present one of voluntary attendance.
It is for this reason that I feel that at this advanced stage of the Bill, without a great deal of careful thought and consultation to see if there is another way of getting round the difficulty, I cannot accept the proposed Clause, although I understand perfectly the reasons for it having been moved.
§ Mr. Willis
Having heard the hon. Lady's reply, I am profoundly disappointed. When she spoke about the special difficulties that would be created, I thought, Now we shall hear some really effective reasons why this cannot be done ", instead of which the reasons which we have been given seem to me to be quite trifling. The reason simply is that we shall be instituting a new criterion, of age, instead of basing the arrangement on taking advantage voluntarily of higher education.
Suppose we did this. Who would object? What difficulties would arise? Who are the people who would be storming the Edinburgh City Chambers or the town council meetings to demand that 583 this unfair practice should cease at once? I do not know of anybody. I cannot think of a single soul who would object. I do not think letters would be sent to Members of Pariament about the unfairness because wee Johnnie, who is at a special school, has got a bursary at the age of 15 instead of 16, as hitherto, thus putting him on an equal footing with another boy who is also 15 but has got all his faculties and is likely to be able to do quite well for himself when he leaves school. Who would object? When the question is put simply, the absurdity of the argument is seen at once.
Very few people would follow the rather involved argument about substituting a new criterion of age instead of voluntary attendance for higher education. It is the most trifling argument for refusing something which would appeal to the human sentiments of almost every citizen. I should expect it to appeal even to hon. Members opposite, but, apparently, they are not interested in education, and they do not take a very great interest in the children at special schools. It is a matter of no concern to the Scottish Tory Party, although, of course, most people would wish to be very kindly disposed to the parents of these children, being only too thankful that they did not have the same troubles.
The noble Lady's other curious argument was that it will all be put right when the school leaving age is raised, but she could not say when that would be done. We are off again into the 'seventies—or even the 'eighties or 'nineties. But if it is to be put right swiftly, the difficulties will last for only a very short time. If the immense difficulties which the noble Lady sees are to last for only a year or two, is it suggested that we should not help those who have the misfortune to be backward or who, for other reasons, need to be at special schools?
The answer is, of course, to raise the school leaving age very soon. If the Government are at all serious in their desire to raise the school leaving age, and they do it as soon as possible, there is nothing in the noble Lady's argument about the difficulties which the new Clause would create. If there were a feeling of dissatisfaction, it would be considerably mitigated if the noble Lady 584 could say that the problem would last for only a few months until the school leaving age was raised.
Those were her only two arguments; I do not think there was another. They are trifling arguments, and it would be deplorable if the Committee were to reject a new Clause with such an excellent object on such flimsy grounds. We are to refuse to do the right thing because there may be certain administrative difficulties. That is one of the cruellest arguments I have heard for a long time.
At least the hon. Lady should give more thought to this new Clause to see whether these arrangements cannot be made for this special category of children. It is not as though we were dealing with all children. We are dealing with only a comparatively small minority, a most deserving minority. Again I hope that the hon. Lady will tear up her notes. We are suffering too much from this sort of stuff. It is conscientiously prepared and I have no criticism of it on that ground, but we should judge these issues for ourselves.
§ Miss Herbison
I am extremely disappointed by the hon. Lady's reply. I felt that on this new Clause at least we would get something from the Government. It is the job of her officials to regard this as a matter of education, but in this case they have gone to the bottom of the barrel to find reasons for rejecting our proposal.
I thought that I might be told that the reason for the bursary after 15 was to encourage children to stay at school. The hon. Lady said that things were not so bad now and that the gap used to be two years and was now only one because of the raising of the school leaving age to 15 and that it was Government policy to raise it to 16, so that there would be no gap at all. But that does not mean that any child will get more, but only that grants will then not begin until 16.
I wondered whether the hon. Lady realised that when she was reading her brief. Even if it did not mean that, I would not be impressed by that argument. In 1918, the intention to raise the school leaving age to 15 was put on the Statute Book, but although we had Tory Governments, or their equivalent, from then until 1945, the school leaving 585 age was not raised to 15 in those years. If we get policies for the 1980s and not the 1970s, there may be some chance, if hon. Gentlemen opposite are still in power, that it will be raised to 16. I have the gravest suspicion that the hon. Lady's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) was the real reason for the rejection of the new Clause—that because England does not have this provision, we cannot have it.
But if the real reason is that we must keep this bursary really as a weapon to keep children at school, then the fact that this matter had been previously raised in the House ought to have made the Secretary of State and the hon. Lady think about how help could be given to disabled children aged between 15 and 16, because when these children reach the age of 16 their parents can apply to the National Assistance Board for National Assistance in respect of these children, and this will be granted irrespective of the income of the parents.
We have our policy ready to deal with this problem. It may be that the hon. Lady will not have very much time in which to give this matter serious consideration. We shall do away with the means test which is at present applied in respect of these children. We shall increase family allowances according to the age of the child concerned. 'I here will then be no argument to advance against our giving handicapped children between the ages of 15 and 16 the help that they are not getting at the moment. The Government should accept the new Clause as a stop-gap measure while they consider the wider questions of what can be done to help these people.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Under-Secretary of State made a highly significant statement. It is given as a reason for not accepting the new Clause that the school leaving age will soon be raised. If the noble Lady wishes to deny that, perhaps she will do so now.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I think that the hon. Gentleman was not listening as closely as he usually does. I said that the anomaly, if it is one, would be removed when the school leaving age was raised, but the real reason I gave was that the purpose of bursaries was to try to persuade people to stay cn after the compulsory attendance at school.
§ Mr. Dalyell
By innuendo the noble Lady is suggesting that it is hoped that the school leaving age will be raised soon. If it were a matter of one or two years, I would accept that as reasonable, but this sort of argument comes ill from a Government who have not made any decision on Sir Geoffrey Crowther's recommendations. If the Government had made a decision on the Crowther Report one could have accepted the arguments put forward by the hon. Lady tonight, but it is little less than fraudulent to put forward this kind of argument without telling us whether any decision has been made on the Crowther recommendations.
When will the Government make up their mind about what they are going to do? They have very little time in which to do this, not so much on political grounds, but on educational grounds, because of the "bulge", and so on. I hope that we can have an answer from a Minister who speaks not only on behalf of Scotland but sometimes on behalf of the Ministry of Education in England.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
According to the noble Lady's logic, the raising of the school leaving age will make matters worse, because it will eliminate those between 15 and 16 who receive bursaries. The noble Lady made it clear that the purpose of a bursary was to induce students to stay on at school beyond the compulsory school leaving age.
Is the noble Lady absolutely sure that there are authorities in Scotland which do not award bursaries within the compulsory school leaving age? Is she satisfied that there are authorities which are not awarding bursaries at 14 to 15 years of age? We have a right to some information on this sort of question. This view has been expressed in education circles. Is it right or wrong? I should be glad if the noble Lady would clarify the point when she replies.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow Scotstoun)
I recognise some of the noble Lady's difficulties. They have been experienced by local authorities as well. A local authority should be responsible in toto for its quota of those who require special educational treatment and there should be a subvention from the Ministry of Labour which would be a national charge. This approach might well be examined. The argument about special 587 treatment turns on the question of educational benefit and the incentive to go on, and the determination whether a child, though not highly educated, is trainable. There has been a long existing gap in this respect. A Ministry of Labour agency should bear the burden when a child is prevented from leaving school at 15. I am not, however, advocating that children should leave school at an early age to become earners and I support the principle embodied in the Clause.
§ Mr. Bence
I am disappointed with the noble Lady's reply to the speeches made on the Clause from this side of the Committee. I have a feeling that perhaps she is sympathetic to the purpose of the Clause but has been overridden by Whitehall bureaucrats. One often has the feeling that if a Minister who is replying to a point had real charge of affairs the reply to a debate might be different. One sometimes feels that there is a machine behind a Minister which forbids the acceptance of certain propositions.
This is the third or fourth occasion in my experience when I have come into the Chamber at 10.15 and found the House or Committee dealing with Scottish business. This is an important new Clause and if more Scottish Conservative Members were playing their part in the debate I could stay here all night.
§ Mr. Willis
My hon. Friend should not be silly. He should know that hon. Members opposite are not interested in education.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis
Is my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. 588 Bence) not aware that a completely nonpolitical Bill is at present before the Scottish Grand Committee and that we still cannot get a contribution from hon. Members opposite?
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will not stray further than necessary from the new Clause we are now debating.
§ Mr. Bence
I apologise, Sir William. I was merely pointing out that this sort of thing is happening far too often. Important matters are tacked on at the end of the day. It is now 11.45 p.m. and I am sure that my hon. Friends are able to adduce a great many more persuasive arguments in an endeavour to get the noble Lady to accept the new Clause. Indeed, I hope that my hon. Friends will persist in trying to persuade her. If the noble Lady continues to send her Parliamentary Private Secretary with messages to and from the Front Bench we may get somewhere.
§ Mr. Ross
I had hoped that the noble Lady would change her mind, or at least provide us with a more satisfactory explanation. The argument of her right hon. Friend that something could not be done for Scotland alone because the same thing arises in England and Wales is not good enough. I admit that the noble Lady did not say that. It was her right hon. Friend—and since he is a Cabinet Minister we would not expect him to know, anyway.
We still have industrial derating in Scotland. It does not exist in England. We will have it for another five years. An hour or so ago the Secretary of State boasted that in Scotland the question of community welfare would be tackled in a totally different way from the course adopted by the Minister of Health. Thank heaven for that.
589 The noble Lady says that she cannot accept the new Clause because this business is not a matter for education. I agree with her about that, but the new Clause has been on the Order Paper for a long time. My hon. Friends have asked Questions on the subject. In any case, this is, perhaps, not the most serious part of the problem. A serious aspect is the question of handicapped children being able to get to school. Parents with handicapped children are tremendously relieved when the bus calls to take them for training. It means that the education authority has decided that their children will benefit from such training.
Obviously there is an anomaly here. We know that some children who stay on do not benefit, just as we know that many who would have liked to stay on but could not would have benefited. But even the slightest benefit to handicapped children is far greater than the benefit to an ordinary child in staying on longer.
If there is hardship, then it should be met even by stretching the education system. But if the hon. Lady really feels that it cannot be done this way because it will break legal precedence and offend statutory proprieties, then surely she can still give a little more satisfactory answer than the terrible one she delivered, which was, "It will he all right when Mr. Macmillan pedals into the 1970s." [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I was talking about Kirkpatrick Macmillan. We are told that the school leaving age will be raised to 16 and then this anomaly will disappear.
§ Mr. Willis
For the enlightenment of hon. Members who are following my hon. Friend's penetrating remarks will he explain his reference to Mr. Macmillan?
§ Mr. Ross
Kirkpatrick Macmillan came from Dumfries and invented the bicycle. Hence my use of the word "pedaling".
We are told that when the leaving age goes up to 16 the obligation will start after that age. According to the hon. Lady, there will then be no anomaly because no one will get anything. The serious thing is the condition of these children. We have to do at least two things: speed up the provision of special schools and end the anomaly either in this or some other way. I should like to 590 hear the hon. Lady at least express some sympathy with our intentions and her aim to let her right hon. Friend know how we feel.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I want first to answer one or two specific questions which were put to me. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked whether I would make an announcement tonight about the Crowther Report. I do not think that it would be suitable to do so on this new Clause, and in addition, as he knows, the Crowther Report applies to England and Wales.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I do not think the hon. Member could have listened, because I did not mention the Crowther Report at any time.
The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) asked whether I was sure that no local authority was paying a bursary which ought not to be doing so. It would be illegal for them to give a bursary to any child who was attending school compulsorily. To my knowledge, no local authority is doing this. He is quite right, as is the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), in saying that if the school leaving age were raised to 16 the obligation to pay any bursaries to children under that age who were compulsorily attending school would cease. The only result would be that all these children, whether handicapped or not, would be in the same position.
I appreciate the feeling which has been expressed by every hon. Member and by the hon. Lady who have spoken on the subject, but the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock put their finger on the point, which the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) also recognised—that these bursaries are educational inducements, and the question therefore is whether there is any other way in which this problem could be dealt with at this time.
I am convinced that I could not accept the new Clause, for the reasons which I have already given. I will, however, certainly convey the feelings of all hon. Members to my right lion. Friend. I doubt whether anything can be done within the educational field. 591 but we will see whether it is possible to do anything in any other way. It is a great problem. It has evidently been going on for many years. I looked up the previous debates on the subject. or at any rate those which I could find, before I came to the Committee. I find that the subject was first raised in 1956, when it was pointed out that the bursaries are for this particular educational reason. As far as I could see in the time available, the question was not raised by hon. Members from either side of the Border when the 1962 Bill was passing through the House, although that Bill applied to bursaries. There must therefore have been a certain amount of recognition by the House that while there was a definite problem, it could not or should not be dealt with by these means. I recognise the problem and will convey the feelings of hon. Members to the Secretary of State, but I cannot accept the Clause.
§ Mr. Ross
I do not like to press the point, but does the Secretary of State know that we are discussing education tonight? Scottish education? When he was asked a Question on the Floor of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) he said,I appreciate that older children attending special schools are not eligible for higher school bursaries, and this question will be looked at when there is a suitable opportunity for amending legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 2111Here we have amending legislation. Where is the Secretary of State? I am serious about this. I see no reason why he is not here to discuss a matter to which he addressed himself and in relation to which he gave a promise on the Floor on 24th April, 1963. Has the hon. Lady some special information as to why her right hon. Friend is unable to be here? He was here at 10 p.m. because we heard him complete a rather miserable speech. In that we were discussing education, and in that there has been on the Order Paper a new Clause dealing with a problem which he said could be dealt with when we had suitable amending legislation, it is surprising that when we have this suitable legislation he is not here. We fully appreciate the noble Lady's position. She is only one of the Under-Secretaries, and she is bereft of 592 power. I am only sorry that we shall get no satisfaction out of this debate, but will have just another instance of the way in which the Secretary of State neglects his duties in this House.
§ 12 m.
§ Mr. Willis
I do not wish to detain the Committee, having been in the House since half-past ten this morning, and since it is now midnight, but I feel compelled to enter once again into the debate on this important matter. I want to point out the difficulties under which we are labouring. It is obvious from what the hon. Lady said that she has no power to do anything on her own. This raises the whole question of the reason why we are here, arguing about matters in respect of which she cannot make a decision but has to tell us that she will convey what we have said to her right hon. Friend.
This puts the Committee in a difficult position. I do not know whether my interpretation is correct, or whether the hon. Lady does in fact have power to accept the new Clause if she feels that it is a good one. From what she said she apparently cannot do so. In that case I wonder whether the few remarks I want to make will be of any use.
The hon. Lady pointed out that my hon. Friends had referred to the real difficulties that arose out of the fact that bursaries were bribes to parents to let their children obtain further education. I thought that that was the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small). I do not accept that argument, nor the argument that this is not an educational matter. Although the bursary might tend to induce people to take advantage of further education it does not seem to me that it is a bribe for this purpose. From what the hon. Lady said it appeared that she was arguing that this was a bribe, but I think that it is given to enable parents to keep their children at school a little longer. It might be that the children desire to stay at school in any case. It does not always require a bribe; it is merely a question of providing assistance to enable the children to stay on.
I submit that there is no reason why children attending special schools should not also be eligible for assistance in this 593 respect. I cannot see the difference. I make no pretence of being an educationist, but I do not accept the argument advanced that this is not an educational matter. It seems to me that a boy at the age of 15 who stays on at school is getting something towards his keep. If that is so, and if it is necessary to give one parent something towards keeping the boy at school and towards the cost of maintenance—and let us remember that he is not a handicapped boy—then there is a bigger case for giving the parent of a child at a special school something towards the maintenance. I just cannot see what is wrong with our argument. It seems to me to be eminently fair.
All this rubbish served up tonight about the educational aspect does not answer my point. Let us remember that the bursaries are granted by the local education authorities. Even if we accepted this Clause, it would still be those local authorities who would decide whether to give a bursary or not; and these local education authorities must know something about conditions in their own areas. All these profound difficulties about which the hon. Lady talks are not unknown to members of educational committees. There are educational experts on those committees and quite a number of the members have very wide experience and know the difficulties. I should have thought it reasonable at least to have given them the opportunity to be able to award a bursary to a child. I really cannot see why they should not be allowed to do this and I cannot see that there are any other arguments about this.
Perhaps, as my hon. Friend has suggested, the real reason is that the Government will not let Scotland get a little advantage. If that is the answer, then it is about time that the Secretary of State and other Scottish Ministers displayed rather more courage and initiative in facing the cohorts of English Ministers who frown upon these things. It has not been unknown for Scottish Ministers, of both parties—there is nothing political in this—to fight for things against their English colleagues. Sometimes, the English colleagues were not very willing to give them anything, but they have fought, although what they fought for did not obtain in England. Sometimes, they have won a battle—a sort of politi- 594 cal Bannockburn—with the result that we have in our legislation several advantages over England.
I cannot see why the Scottish Ministers cannot face this matter. It is a small thing which we are discussing, but a human one, and it would not cost vast sums of money We have had an announcement today which will cost about £200 million; but that was dismissed in about ten minutes. Would it cost more than the board which we talked of setting up a little while ago? I cannot think that my proposal would cost any large sum but what this small sum would achieve would be a very desirable thing to do.
The hon. Lady, who I am sure would like to do this, ought to take her courage in her hands. We will back her up. After all, the hon. Lady gets most of her support from this side of the Committeee. Very few of the Tories ever come in to hear her. I have spoken before of the lack of gallantry on the part of Tory Members who allow the hon. Lady to appear here, single-handed, fighting a lane battle against the cohorts of the Opposition. We would support her in her fight against her English colleagues if we were to get this Clause for Scotland. We would even support her in her fight against the Secretary of State—
§ Mr. Willis
—and against her colleagues in the Smoking Room. She can depend upon it that this would be a very worthy battle, whatever effort she might have to make to win it. Why cannot the hon. Lady take her courage in her hands—she is not lacking in courage—and say, "That is really a thing that I should like to give to the Opposition. This is a matter with which I have a great deal of sympathy. I am concerned about these children and we ought to find a way of helping them. This provides an opportunity of doing so, and even if this is not exactly a bright way of achieving this objective, there does not seem to me much wrong with it. It would not create too many difficulties and, therefore, we will accede to the Opposition's request"?
Can the h on. Lady not do that? We make many pleas to the hon. Lady, which she answers nest charmingly but 595 most unsatisfactorily. She might be forthcoming on this proposed new Clause. It would save a lot of debate. I do not look forward to sitting here till 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning, but if we have got to do so for this worthy cause we shall have to do so. It would save all that. The hon. Lady could be in her bed by 12.30 if she would accept this Clause.
§ Mr. Willis
Of course, we would try to persuade her to accept the other Amendments, but she would get home much earlier than she otherwise would. Therefore, I hope she will accept this Clause. She ought to have made up her mind by now. I ask her to tear up all that paper beside her on the bench and accept this reasonable and humane provision.
At the same time, she might also express her gratitude to the Opposition for their help, their care and legal expertise in drafting a Clause of this character. I draw the hon. Lady's attention to the clarity of the Clause. If only the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, on which we spend so much time arguing, were framed in such a way as this, what a time it would save. We have set an example in this Clause of how legislation ought to be framed and of how to make a thing clear, explicit and easily understood. I should have thought we deserved some commendation for that, and the hon. Lady might even consider that as one reason for accepting the Clause.
I cannot think of any more reasons at the moment, but before we finish our debate I may think of a few more. I hope that we shall make some impression on the hon. Lady and that ultimately we shall leave the Chamber feeling that we have done something worth while in helping a section of the community which deserves help and which ought to receive the serious consideration of this Committee. I am sure that if we leave tonight in that frame of mind, we shall all sleep very pleasantly, but if we have to sit here till 6 o'clock in the morning our feelings will be of a totally different kind.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I offer no apology for returning to the subject of the school leaving age in connection with the new Clause. The noble Lady said that the anomaly, if it be one, would be removed when the school leaving age was raised. It was the noble Lady and not I who raised the question of the school leaving age in this connection. She must do one of two things: either admit gracefully—I am not trying to score points—that it was a red herring, or tell us frankly when she and the Scottish Department of Education hope to raise the age in Scotland.
The implication of saying that Crowther is irrelevant is that we in Scotland can take a decision different than that south of the Border as regards the school leaving age. Again, I ask the noble Lady: will she either admit that this argument is irrelevant or tell us what proposals she has for raising the school-leaving age in Scotland?
§ Question put and negatived.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.