HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc777-98

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the activities of the Department of Education and Science and the Scottish Education Department and to report thereon this Session.—[Mr. Crossman

10.3 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

I should announce that I have selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), in line 2, leave out ' and the Scottish Education Department '; and the first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), in line 4, leave out ' seventeen ' and insert eighteen '.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I beg to move, in line 2, leave out ' and the Scottish Education Department '.

I wish to apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for pursuing this matter at this late hour after an arduous week for the House, during which I have also wearied your patience considerably. But this is an important matter. I wish to protest most strongly on behalf of my Scottish colleagues about their shabby treatment in this business being conducted at this time of the week and at this time of night.

Many of my Scottish colleagues would have liked to be present if they had had sufficient warning. I have to apologise for many hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies who were up all last night on the Transport Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), for instance, asked me to apologise because he has been working hard all week on the Transport Bill and was up all last night. He would have liked to be here to underline my point of view.

Then there is the Chairman of the Scottish Labour Group. He also was up late last night. I have been approached by other right hon. Members. For example, the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) was very anxious to take part in the debate. [HON. MEMBERS:" Where is she?"] If one is not given proper notice of what is coming on in the House, there is perfectly legitimate reason for hon. Members being absent. I can make these apologies for hon. Members because it is essential that, if Scottish business is to be transacted, reasonable notice should be given to Scottish Members——

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

Is my hon. Friend saying that the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) was up all night and all week?

Mr. Hughes

No, I did not say that. The hon. Lady is not on the Transport Bill Committee. So far as I know she is not on any Committee of this House, but she was elected for Hamilton and she is entitled to be treated with the ordinary courtesies of this House. We are giving the hon. Lady something which is very important in this House, a genuine grievance. She protested at Question Time, as I did, and asked that this business should be postponed until hon. Members had an opportunity of giving thought to it.

This Motion appeared on the Order Paper only this morning. This matter was commented on in the Scottish Press this morning. It is a matter of extreme importance at present that we should maintain the rights of the people of Scotland, especially in view of the criticism of this House made in many quarters in Scotland. If the opinion grows in Scotland that this House is being steamrollered and hon. Members are not given time properly to consider what matters very much to Scotland, we must not be surprised if the unorthodox parties have a legitimate grievance against the way in which the business of this House is managed.

I am not a nationalist of any kind. If I were asked to define my attitude towards nationalism, I would say, in the words of Tom Paine:— My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. I say this in reference to the importance of the movement which is arising. Although I am not a nationalist, I want good government. I want modernised government. I want the affairs of Scotland, of Wales and of England to be conducted in such a way that they are conducted for the benefit of the people of all countries.

I may have to talk at some considerable length, but this is a very important matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have been invited by the Leader of the House to keep on. I could keep on for a very long time. The Leader of the House tempts me. I remember once speaking through two sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker is not tempting the hon. Member.

Mr. Hughes

I quite understand that you, Mr. Speaker, are not tempting me. I recall the famous saying of Oscar Wilde:— I can resist everything except temptation. The Leader of the House says "Keep on". I could keep on as long as the House is interested in what I have to say. I appeal to the Leader of the House, even at this late stage, to withdraw this Motion and to let it be considered next week or the week after, because it is not right that hon. Members should be treated in this way.

In spite of my momentary differences with the Leader of the House, I pay tribute to the way in which he has tried his best to modernise this Parliament and in order to——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member will come to his Amendment I hope.

Mr. Hughes

I was approaching my Amendment because it deals with Select Committees and Specialist Committees. May I explain to you, Mr. Speaker, if you are not already informed, that the Leader of the House has been a pioneer of Specialist Committees. In relation to this Motion he has played a very active part. The Motion says that we should appoint 17 hon. Members to form a Committee to consider education and science. This is one of the new Specialist Committees. I wish it good luck. The modification put in this morning would empower the Committee to investigate, not only the education system in England and Wales, but also the Scottish Education Department. This has caused considerable interest in the Scottish Press. Today's Glasgow Herald carries an article headed Ross gives way on Scottish Office inquiry". This is of immense interest to the people of Scotland. Apparently there has been some difference between the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Scotland on this important issue. I do not know what the inner differences have been. As a result of a considerable feeling, two Scottish Members have been added to the Committee. Of the 17 Members who are to form the Committee, two will be Scottish Members and the other 15 will be English Members. I do not know where the Welsh Members come in. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) has not yet discovered this.

This is not in the interests of education in England or in Scotland. I want first to put the case for the English. I believe that this Committee has been appointed because it is the view of hon. Members that a Specialist Committee is needed to discuss the problems of education in England and Wales. We all know that these are important and pressing questions. I have consulted English Members of the Committee. I have no objection to the personnel of the Committee. I have nothing to say of the hon. Members who are to be appointed.

If this Committee is necessary in the interests of education in England and Wales, surely there is enough to inquire into in England and Wales without the Committee wandering over the Border to discuss problems in Scotland in which the English Members are not interested. If these 17 Members meet, an agenda will have to be prepared. If the English Members are anxious to discuss certain aspects of education and science, which is an overwhelmingly important question, they will naturally draw up an agenda covering the aspects in which they are interested. Where would Scotland come in then? Obviously the 15 English Members would not want to wander into Scotland before they had conducted their examination of the problems in England. Therefore, the English Members, with whom I have had conversations, are entitled to object to this procedure, because if they are to carry out their work properly they will concentrate on England and Wales first and on Scotland next. The problems of England and Wales are so pressing that I cannot see that poor old Scotland will be reached for another five years. It may be said that we cannot draw the borderline between education and science in England and in Scotland. But the education systems in both countries are different. Questions of education in Scotland are referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I was educated in Wales and England. When I went to Scotland I found that its education system was different. I speak with considerable experience, because I have been a member of a local authority in Scotland; I have probably the longest continuous experience of local government of any hon. Member. I believe that from 1928 to the present time I have been interested in one way or another in problems affecting government and education. I have been on a county council and a Scottish education authority. There is enough difference in the systems to justify a special committee of Scottish Members dealing entirely with the Scottish aspects of education and science.

Dr. Johnson once wrote in his memoirs after visiting Scotland that in Scotland there is a school which they call an academy. He was mystified, and if English hon. Members come to Scotland to investigate education there they will come across the strange word "academy" in its educational connection. The ordinary definition of academy is that there are pictures about the place, but in Scotland the secondary schools are academies. I live in a little town where there is an academy, which is the opposite number of a fairly big English or Welsh secondary school. Therefore, the 15 non-Scottish Members on the Committee will have to learn a new vocabulary.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

Is my hon. Friend not aware that the word "academic" is not unknown in England? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Mr. Hughes

My right hon. and hon. Friends are glad of any help at all—even academic help. I was talking of the noun, not the adjective.

If that argument does not convince, I turn to another matter which hon. Members will understand, the question of corporal punishment. In England they use the cane and in Scotland they use the strap. Whether the difference matters much to the pupils is another question. I only mention these facts to show that there are two different systems and they deserve two different inquiries.

Let us come to the larger question of education administration. When one goes on to a local education authority one finds that there are Catholic schools and that there are priests, Church of Scotland ministers and so on on the education committee because of the different religious set-up.

I think that I have said enough to prove that the systems of education are so entirely unlike in England and Scot, land that Scotland is entitled to its own Specialist Committee conducting its own researches in its own way. We have very difficult problems in Scotland. The rector of the academy to which I have referred tells me that it is short of science teachers, with the result that a large number of students who wish to take that subject have to take something else.

The shortage of science and mathematics teachers is pronounced in Scotland. There is the whole problem of teacher supply and the future of education for the next generation. As one who has spent a lifetime dealing with these problems, I know that they demand serious investigation and that they should get it from Scottish Members of Parliament. In the light of what I have said, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House should be prepared to withdraw the Motion in order to give the rank and file of Scottish hon. Members an opportunity to discuss this Select Committee and the need for research and inquiry.

I am sure that English, Scottish and Welsh Members alike ought to say to him that he has no right to foist this kind of compromise on us at such short notice and if necessary we will test it in the Lobby.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that this is a most inappropriate evening on which to discuss anything relating to Scotland. It is all very well the Leader of the House frowning and looking bemused, but Scotland is a long way away.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross) indicated dissent.

Mr. Johnston

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State may shake his head as he likes, but he knows that those of us who are active in various parts of Scotland usually catch the train which we should have caught tonight. His own colleagues from Glasgow usually do. This is not a simple matter and, in itself, is unsatisfactory. I am giving the Leader of the House time to compose himself, since clearly he thinks that Scotland is not far away either. It may be that he needs to think more closely about it.

It is desirable that the Scottish Office be taken under scrutiny. The question is how to do it. My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) pressed the Leader of the House on this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that we do not deviate from our view that the proper answer is a Select Committee of this House on the Scottish Office, with sub-committees to deal with its various departments. That is the right answer in the present context which in turn does not mean that I deviate from my belief that, in the end, a Scottish Parliament for Scottish affairs is the true solution.

Nonetheless, I am very conscious of the presence of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the interest that he must have taken in this. I have always believed that it is better to have something rather than nothing. It is a very old argument about a loaf and half a loaf and no bread, but it is not an argument which loses much of its validity with the passage of time, although one can sometimes say that the bread can be so mouldy as not to be very desirable at all. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire has made valid criticisms about the suddenness with which this appeared on the Order Paper, and the fact that most Scottish hon. Members have fully committed themselves. It is all very well for people to shake their heads and say that there are priorities. This is true, but we know that occasionally hon. Members are forced to seek priorities outside the House.

How does the Leader of the House propose that this Select Committee should operate in regard to the Scottish Education Department? The Select Committee on Science and Technology and its subcommittee, which was set up to deal with the question of the "Torrey Canyon", affords a precedent. The Leader of the House is not altogether thirled to precedent. That is a word which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire will understand. If he is not completely thirled to precedent, there is this precedent, and there are others in the Services Committees of the House when a sub-committee is set up to deal wholly and specifically with a particular matter. We already have the hon. Members for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) and Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) on this Committee.

Can the Leader of the House tell me if it is his intention that when the Select Committee deals with the S.E.D. it should do so not as a full Committee but as a sub-committee with co-opted members, as was done in the case of the "Torrey Canyon"? I mean Scottish co-opted Members, dealing with something in which they have an interest rather than dragging up Members who are not particularly interested. This would in no way affect the interim measure that he has introduced. I am all in favour of the Scottish Office being scrutinised.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the suggestion that the 15 English members and the two Scottish members shall co-opt certain Scottish members? How are they to be chosen?

Mr. Johnston

The choice of Committees of this House has always been a deep mystery to me, and I am not sure that it is not so to the hon. Member also. There are some so-called channels through which this is done. This is not the most important point. Is it the Leader of the House's intention, in dealing with the S.E.D., not to put it at the end of the queue, which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire rightly said might happen, but to have a sub-committee of this Committee to deal specifically with it, with the two Scottish Members already on it representing a base, in the same way as the "Torrey Canyon" sub-committee had a base on the Committee of Science and Technology?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I must press for an explanation on this. In a Scottish county council or a Scottish local authority, any co-opted members are co-opted by members of the authority. Is it his intention that these co-opted members should be nominated by members of the Committee, so that the Scottish members would be nominated by 15 Englishmen?

Mr. Johnston

No, I certainly do not mean that. I am certain that this is not by any means the normal way in which a Committee of this House is chosen. What I mean is that the interested parties, if I may use that phrase in a double-edged sense, would discuss together which Members they would wish to have representing them.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire quoted the Glasgow Herald. Perhaps I might quote the editorial in the Scotsman, which is a very influential newspaper in Scotland. It made two points this morning. It supported in part the contention of the hon. Gentleman when it said: The Committee on Education will naturally be chiefly concerned with the work of Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker's Department … It cannot be expected to carry out with thoroughness the job of inspecting the S.E.D., and most of its members will have little knowledge of the distinctive features of the Scottish system. It went on: … the best method is a Select Committee on the Scottish Office. In that case, Scottish administration would be examined by M.P.s with the most knowledge of the subject and the strongest Interest in finding out, for the benefit of voters as well as themselves, how the departments execute policy. If we had an assurance from the Leader of the House that the S.E.D. was to be dealt with primarily by a sub-committee of the main Committee, that would meet the valid point which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, the Scotsman, the Glasgow Herald and many other influential people in Scotland have made.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

Perhaps I might begin by saying to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that I have no complaint about this Motion coming up tonight. It was no shock to me. In a modified form, it appeared on the Order Paper last Thursday, and it may surprise the hon. Member for Inverness to know that it was not only hon. Members on the Liberal benches who noticed it. Hon. Members on this side of the House representing Scottish constituencies also noticed it, and took exception to the form in which it appeared.

I noticed it, and I had a word with various people. It may be that my word is a little more influential than that of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), because due heed was taken to my objection, and it was withdrawn. My objection was a valid one, but it was not that there was no reference to the Scottish Education Department. It was to the fact that there were no Members representing Scottish constituencies on the Committee.

As its terms of reference were then drafted, it was to consider the activities of the Department of Education and Science, which covers universities. That was our second objection. I did not object because the Scottish Education Department was not included. Although I think that it is a mistake to include the S.E.D. I carry no grudge. I think that it is unnecessary. But what my colleagues and I wanted was the recognition that very important universities exist in Scotland, and come under such jurisdiction as the Minister is able to exercise over universities at large. Indeed, one of the matters that I should like to see considered is the lack of jurisdiction of Ministers over universities. As a result of London University practices, Scottish educational standards are not recognised, and Scottish students are handicapped when they want to take London external degrees. That is a complaint which I should like to see dealt with by a Select Committee which was considering the activities of the Department of Education and Science. We need not bring in the Scottish Education Department at all.

Like my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, I insist on our right to representation on United Kingdom Committees. We do not intend to be banished to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling or any other place. We recognise and feel ourselves to be British, very British. We feel that people down here in the South need us as much as we need them.

We insist that we should be given our due place in regard to United Kingdom matters. This was my objection last Thursday. I take it to have been just an oversight. My hon. Friends and I do not like being passed by. But I can excuse it. There was recognition of the mistake, and an attempt to put it right was made right away. In fact, the attempt has gone further than I wanted, by bringing in the Scottish Education Department. But I wanted recognition of our existence in relation to United Kingdom matters, a recognition that this Committee was a United Kingdom Committee dealing with the universities, which covered Scotland as well.

My hon. Friends and I wanted due Scottish representation on the Committee. The reason why there is not a battalion of us here tonight is that we got what we wanted. It is wrong for my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire to say that it is because we were up all night. I was not. But my hon. Friends who were up all night would have been here now if they had felt that there was something to be fought for. But now it is sufficient to leave me here. I can look after their interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) is here too. He will back me up if any backing is necessary; but I do not think it is.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

My hon. Friend agrees that the formula is inaccurate; it does not meet his request. If so, what is his objection to having it delayed for a week so that he may adjust it according to his own argument?

Mr. Lawson

True, it goes further than I felt was necessary. Perhaps it is a belated recognition of our importance. All right. I accept that we shall require—I do not think there will be much opposition to it—a Select Committee to deal specifically with Scottish affairs. In that category might come the point made by the hon. Member for Inverness. I do not think that there will be objection, and the powers that be will see the sense of doing that.

At this stage, the Government are doing all that we wanted—in fact, more than we wanted. For this reason, although I do not often appear to be a staunch supporter of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, tonight I am. I say, "Go ahead, but keep in mind that at a later date we may ask you to set up a Select Committee covering Scottish affairs". At this stage, neither my Scottish colleagues nor I have any complaint.

10.38 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

This discussion fascinates me, for two reasons. First, I regard the process of creating Specialist Committees as important in itself. My right hon. Friend dn. Leader of the House deserves great con, gratulation for pressing ahead with them. Second, I recall that, when the Specialist Committee on Agriculture was created, we had something of a furore because Scotland was not included. There were great demands at that time that there should be some sort of representation from Scotland, and eventually that was conceded. We now seem to have he opposite argument, that Scotland should be kept out of this Committee or be given some Specialist Committee of its own. There seems to be a genuine and interesting discussion developing about the kind of field over which these Specialist Committees should range and what their composition and terms of reference should be.

In this particular case, my inclination is for a wider than for a narrower composition and field of study. The Select Committee on Science and Technology did not stop at national boundaries but carried out a lot of interesting investigation in the United States and on the Continent of Europe. I think that there is a lot of value in the comparative method of study, in looking at different systems and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

My hon. Friend raised the question of universities. I believe that there is a good deal to be said for a Committee of the House to look at the Scottish system, which involves a four-year initial degree course, and compare it with the English system which has a basic three-year course. There are other differences in the systems which would need to be examined, and I am not convinced that a comparative analysis of some aspects of the English and Scottish systems might not throw up interesting ideas and suggestions for the House to consider.

We seem to have struck an interesting point in the evolution of these Committees. I think that perhaps there ought to be further study of the nature of Scottish representation and the remit for Scotland of these Committees, and I think that this discussion in itself is quite a useful contribution to that.

10.41 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for putting down this Amendment—one does not often say that—because it gives me the opportunity, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) said, to see how we are progressing in this experiment of Specialist Committees. I emphasise that this is still an experiment. We are still feeling our way, and I am grateful for all the ideas which have been put forward in this debate.

I must start by dealing with the criticism of myself about the timing of the Motion. The criticism was made rather sharply this afternoon during Business questions by the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing), who managed to be present then, when no doubt the Scottish Press would print what she said, but has not been able to stay for the debate. I do not think that there is any real excuse for complaining on a Thursday afternoon, when there is plenty of other time, about when we discuss a Committee dealing with the United Kingdom. I resent the fact that people criticise me in the afternoon, but cannot be bothered to turn up in the evening for the serious debate.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Surely my right hon. Friend is being rather unfair to the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing). Is it not normal, having looked at the Order Book, to make one's arrangements accordingly? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman put his Motion down earlier in the week, to give everybody an opportunity to be here?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That was the point I was coming to, because I want to explain the origin of this Motion. I need not explain it to my hon. Friend, because he knows it, but he did not mention it in his speech.

Some time ago I gave an assurance that on the 14th of this month I would table a Motion giving the names and terms of reference of the Committee on Education. I kept my word, and when I put it down on that date there was some criticism from Scottish Members. I want to explain what happened. I am an innocent from south of the Border. I thought that what was good enough for agriculture was good enough for education. I therefore thought that I would put down the same terms of reference for education as for agriculture. But I made a mistake. I put down the same terms of reference, but left out Scottish Members. The moment it was pointed out to me, I realised that this was a grievous error, although it is true that on the Agriculture Committee, after some differences of opinion, we reached an amicable modus vivendi, which enables us to discuss, with Scottish Members present, a number of subjects common to both countries.

Unfortunately then we had a Committee on education, which was English in its terms of reference, and wholly English and Welsh in its selection of Members. I withdrew the Motion, and asked myself how I could put it right.

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose——

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend need not interrupt me, because I have repeated what he knows.

That meant that I needed to put it down for this week. My hon. Friend knew that there was nothing surprising about this. He had seen the original Motion. He knew that I was modifying it to meet criticisms made from both sides of the House. My hon. Friend must pay attention to what I am saying.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I want to correct my right hon. Friend. He is not a dictator in this place.

Mr. Crossman

I say, with all courtesy, that my hon. Friend can correct me when I have completed my argument. I listened to him with interest.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

If my right hon. Friend gives way now, I shall make my comment and then keep quiet.

Mr. Crossman

I therefore consulted with hon. Members on both sides about the best way to correct the terms of reference, and we decided finally to include the Scottish Office and to add Scottish Members. I am well aware that this is a compromise solution which is unsatisfactory, but I thought, on the whole, having heard the objections from both sides, that this was probably the least unsatisfactory solution——

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose——

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend is so impatient. I thought this was probably the least unsatisfactory solution to have. So we drafted it, after careful consultation, to include the Scottish Office and two Scottish Members.

I am the first to say that this is an experiment which will not necessarily last. It is something that we tried to do—it is the first time we have had education—to see if we could operate it successfully.

Hon. Members have asked me if I could tell them how the Select Committee will work. Would it, for instance, have a sub-Committee? I think that was put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston). I know enough about Select Committees not to tell them how to do their work.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has my right hon. Friend finished with me now? My right hon. Friend when he wanders into Scotland is simply bewildered and unreliable. May I ask him what study of Scottish agriculture this Specialist Committee on Agriculture has undertaken? Has it been to Scotland? Has it done anything for agriculture in Scotland?

Mr. Crossman

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would be stretching your rules of order were I to loom into agriculture. However, foot-and-mouth disease is not limited by frontiers. This is one United Kingdom subject which Scottish Members on the Committee can study along with us.

I have not had a word of complaint, apart from my hon. Friend, from the present Members on the Committee. They have found it a useful Committee to be on.

I turn now to the central issue which was raised seriously by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness. The question is whether we study departments or subjects. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley spoke as though it was a Committee on Education. It is not. We were seeking two experiments: one studying departments and the other studying subjects. The Committee on Science and Technology studies subjects. There is no doubt that the subject Committee has proved itself easier to run than the departmental Committee.

Mr. Derek Page (King's Lynn)

To help hon. Members to make up their minds on this Amendment, will my right hon. Friend bearing in mind the experience of the Agriculture Committee, say whether the Select Committee is to have a chance to have its report debated if and when it makes one?

Mr. Crossman

I should not have thought, in discussing the terms of reference of the Committee, we should discuss whether the House debates its report. This is a different subject. We are now discussing a Motion about the terms of reference and membership of this Committee. I was pointing out that we have varied the formula from the Committee on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

It is arguable that subject committees are, on the whole, better and easier to work. Because these national frontiers are overcome, we do not have the difficulty about Scotland and England. It may be that in the final resort we come only to subject committees; but we were pledged to try out a departmental committee. Therefore, we tried it out on agriculture, not as a topic, but as linked to a department. We thought that we would make a second experiment. Instead of having an English and Welsh Department with Scottish members on it, we thought we would try the English and the Scottish Departments with both English and Scottish members on the Committee, and see how it worked.

I cannot say how well the committee will organise itself. It will have the power and authority to set up a subcommittee. If it comes to the House and asks for a sub-committee for this purpose, which it has to do, I would advise the House to give it permission. That is as far as I can go.

There are a number of subjects which it could discuss which are what I would call United Kingdom subjects. One was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). He is right in saying that universities in the United Kingdom are United Kingdom subjects, but all the Members of this Committee can study the whole subject of higher education in universities extremely fruitfully by comparing the two sides. In my view, teacher training is broadly similar. Research Councils, which are under the authority of the Department of Education and Science, the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council, are not delimited by frontiers. They are also subjects which we can usefully discuss on a United Kingdom basis. Thirdly, I give the example of fee-paying schools. We have interesting comparisons to make about fee-paying schools on both sides of the Border.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Milk in schools, too.

Mr. Crossman

And milk in schools. My hon. Friend is coming over to my side, as he always does in the end.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

As this is a Select Committee dealing with a Department and is experimental, as I understand it, I presume that it has power to investigate the Welsh Department of Education, which is a separate Department and which comes under the Secretary of State for Education and Science. It does not come under the Welsh Office. This distinguishes it from the Scottish Department of Education. As Wales has its own Departmental problems, it seems rather odd that there is not a single Member representing Wales on the Select Committee.

Mr. Crossman

This is a point which could have been raised earlier in the form of an Amendment. I am sure that in principle the hon. and learned Gentleman is correct. I cannot discuss the question of Welsh Members being on the Select Committee, because there is no Amendment to that effect.

I turn, finally, to the proposal for a Scottish Specialist Committee. This seems to be a perfectly serious proposal. I have had extremely serious proposals for a Welsh Specialist Committee. This would be a different way of dealing with it in terms of the region—may I say "nation"? It is dangerous and highly controversial to use that word. Whatever we call it, it is this different part. There is much to commend the view that there could be a Committee which dealt, I would not say with the Scottish Office, but with Scottish affairs. We do not want it separately in terms of the Scottish Office. This is something which we might well study in the House.

I have had constant pressure from this side of the House for the last four or five months to consider the case for both a Scottish Specialist Select Committee and a Welsh Specialist Select Committee. If we had such Committees, there would be the problem of manning and of staff. There is a severe limit to the number of Committees we can have. If we are to have United Kingdom Committees on subjects, Departmental Committees and regional Committees, we shall soon have so many Committees that there will be nobody to man them. It is a question of working out which is the best formula. My own suspicion is that the subject formula is, on the whole, easier than the departmental formula. If there was one I might drop, it would be the departmental one, and I would keep the subject and the regional, or whatever else we call it, because I think that these are the two which clearly have the biggest demand.

I hope that the House will accept this explanation, and accept that I do regard this as experimental. I am grateful for the suggestions which have been made. I would ask those who have tabled these Amendments to withdraw them so that we can have a unanimous agreement to this Committee, because I believe that in its present form it is practicable. It is high time we set it up and let it get to work.

Amendment negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the activities of the Department of Education and Science and the Scottish Education Department and to report thereon this Session:

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Committee do consist of seventeen Members.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

I beg to move, leave out 'seventeen' and insert 'eighteen'.

Ever since the idea of specialist Committees was first mooted my party has very strongly advocated the idea. We have put it forward in our election manifestoes. We have developed it in the various debates the House has had on parliamentary procedure in recent years. We have tried to enter into the activities of these new Specialist Committees as and when they have been set up. Hon. Friends of mine are on the Select Committee on Science and Technology, the Select Committee on Agriculture and the Sub-Committee dealing with coastal pollution. I had thought on the basis of those three precedents that an hon. Member from my party would be appointed to any future Specialist committees, until I saw on the Order Paper the list of hon. Members appointed to this very important new Select Committee dealing with education.

I entirely agree with all those hon. Members who have emphasised what an urgent task the Select Committee must undertake. It was therefore with great disappointment that we found that no hon. Member from our party had been appointed. I was interested to hear the Leader of the House say at the end of the last debate that we were reaching a position where we had a problem in manning Committees because there were so many that there was nobody to go on them. He said that we had to watch that situation if we were to appoint further Sub-Committees, as my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) suggested, to deal with Scottish education. If that is so, I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome hon. Members willing to put in a good deal of time on the Specialist Committees.

Therefore, I beg him to consider the Amendment favourably and to increase the Committee's size by the very small amount we suggest. It would mean that my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), who has great knowledge of education, has been interested in the subject for some years, and has a great deal to contribute, might be appointed to the Committee.

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose——

Hon. Members


Mr. Emrys Hughes

Whenever hon. Members say "Oh" like that I know 'hat I am right——

Mr. Lubbock

Especially when they are Ministers.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I agree.

This debate again shows how hastily the Committee has been drawn up. When a Committee has been decided on. the Liberals are entitled to a fair share on it. I would go further and say that if the electors send nationalists here they are entitled to be on a Committee. I have some doubts about the way some of the Committees are hand-picked. There is too much whippery-pokery. The Whips have far too much say in these matters, and that is not democracy.

The Amendment makes the position of Scotland worse. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has sitting next to him a distinguished member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, an experienced school teacher with a knowledge of education in Edinburgh and Inverness, a qualified person who has been to an academy and a university, and has specialised knowledge of everything required.

Mr. Russell Johnston

May I quote all that in my election address?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Certainly. There is no copyright in HANSARD. It might do the hon. Gentleman good and it might not. I do not know; I am an embarrassment.

What is happening here shows how hastily and ridiculously the whole business has been conducted. I agree that the Liberals are entitled to have a member on the Committee, but instead of putting up a distinguished Scottish Member, which would go partially to meet my case, they propose an hon. Member from Cornwall to go to Scotland to investigate——

Mr. Lubbock

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to all the distinguished qualifications of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness which he mentioned, he is also a member of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland, which is occupying a great deal of his time?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

He should not grudge at least a little of his time to education if education is so important.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

Order. On this Amendment, we are discussing only the size of the Committee.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

If the Liberals want to vote on this issue, I will vote with them on it. I think that the Liberals are entitled to have a representative on the Committee, although they could have made a wiser choice.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Crossman

In my view, the Liberals have little cause for complaint about their representation on Select Committees. I reckon that they have 50 per cent. more involvement on our Select Committees than their numbers justify.

I see their point. They would like to have a member on each Committee and attend when they like, because there is a difficulty for members of small parties. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is a superb attender at Specialist Committees, but I had a calculation made about his party, and on at least two recent Committees his party's representatives have managed an attendance of 40 per cent. That is because if members of a small party get themselves on to all Committees, they cannot attend. Therefore, it is not fair for the Liberal Party to complain that they are underrepresented on Select Committees.

Since there is clearly disagreement about which of the Liberals should be on the Committee—whether it should be an Englishman or a Scot—I hope that we will leave the size of the Committee unchanged.

Mr. Brian Parkyn (Bedford)

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the great power of a Select Committee is the fact that it represents the House as a whole, and, therefore, that the Committee would be strengthened by having a member of the Liberal Party on it? It is a question not of whether the Liberals have a right to sit on the Committee or whether their representation is proportional, but rather of whether the Select Committee, as a Committee representing the views of the House as a whole, would be strengthened.

Mr. Crossman

If we had parties more evenly balanced so that they were all evenly represented, we might be more even in our representation, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that size and numbers must have something to do with representation on Committees.

We have 15 Select Committees. The Liberals have representatives on seven of those Committees. That is far more than is justified by their numbers. I do not begrudge it them in the least—I am delighted; but when they want even more, I should like to consider it. Nobody, however, should say that by our present method of selection, the Liberals are under-represented on Select Committees.

Mr. Hooson

Does that mean that a Nationalist would never be represented on a Select Committee, or that an independent Member of the House could never hope to be a member of a Select Committee?

Mr. Crossman

No, it does not. It means that if people say that they are under-represented, I am entitled to give the figures.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I would have wished that the Labour Party, and not Nationalists, would capture by-elections, but if the electors send a Nationalist to the House of Commons, does my right hon. Friend adopt the attitude that that elected Member is not entitled to be on any House of Commons Committee?

Mr. Crossman

The answer is, of course, "No".

Amendment negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to

Resolved, That the Committee do consist of seventeen Members.

Mr. Walter Alldritt, Mr. Ronald Bell, Sir Edward Boyle, Mr. John Fraser, Mr. James Hamilton, Mr. Stanley Henig, Mr. Richard Hornby, Mr. Gilbert Longden, Mr. Kenneth Marks, Mr. Richard Mitchell, Mr. Charles Morrison, Mr. Trevor Park, Mr. Christopher Price, Mr. Arnold Shaw, Mr. van Straubenzee, Mr. Frederick Willey, and Mr. Esmond Wright to be Members of the Committee:

Power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to admit strangers during the examination of witnesses unless they otherwise order; and to report Minutes of Evidence from time to time:

Four to be the Quorum.—[Mr. Crossman.]