HC Deb 01 July 1969 vol 786 cc353-72

9.7 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

I beg to move, That the Grant-Aided Secondary Schools (Scotland) Grant (Amendment) Regulations 1969 (S.I. 1969, No. 506), dated 26th March, 1969, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th April, be withdrawn. These Regulations reduce by £94,000 the amount of Exchequer assistance provided for grant-aided schools in Scotland. There are 29 of these schools in Scotland, with about 20,000 pupils. In 1967–68 they received 52.5 per cent. of their income from the Exchequer grant, 41.6 per cent. from fees paid by parents, 3.4 per cent. from a number of local authorities which take up places in these schools, and the balance of 2.5 per cent. was provided by endowments and the like.

These schools provide the middle sector of education in Scotland, standing midway between local authority and wholly independent schools. One effect of the Instrument will be to reduce the proportion of income provided by the Exchequer, to increase the proportion paid by parents, and so to remove from some parents the possibility of sending their children to these schools.

This is the second of two Instruments introduced by the Government in the last 18 months, and I remind the House that paragraph 1 of this Instrument proposes that the Regulations should be taken as one with the previous Instrument of last year. If the two are taken together in this way they represent a cut of £130,000 a year in the amount of Exchequer assistance to Scottish grant-aided schools. This represents a cut of about 8 per cent.

The first Instrument introduced a cut of £36,000. This second, the target of our Motion, introduced the larger second cut of £94,000. This large cut is to come into force during the current year, 1969–70. Its full weight, therefore, has not yet fallen on these schools, but it will do so very soon. It will be a continuing burden because this is not a cut for a single year; it imposes a new and lower fixed level of Exchequer assistance which will continue year after year. The grants which aid the grant-aided schools are being cut and then frozen. The electorate is becoming conditioned to squeeze and freeze. These are the chilly realities of Socialism. To impose squeeze and freeze simultaneously and to impose them on schools redoubles one's faith in the quality of Socialist mismanagement.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I feel a little confused. I cannot understand the position. I understood that on the question of abolishing fees in local authority schools the Opposition protested that parents were not allowed to pay. Now the hon. Member seems to be protesting that parents will be allowed to pay.

Mr. MacArthur

I will gladly debate the Education (Scotland) Bill with the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes. I hope what I say will help him greatly. He is misunderstanding what I am declaring now, just as he misunderstood what we declared on that Bill.

This Instrument has a shabby history which dates from December 1967. Earlier in 1967 the Secretary of State decided to refer consideration of the rôle of the grant-aided schools to the Public Schools Commission. That consideration has been proceeding, and I hope that it may be in order for the Under-Secretary to make some passing reference in his reply to let us know when the Commission's report on those schools can be expected. In view of this decision, surely the proper and logical course for the Secretary of State to follow, if he were genuinely open-minded about the rôle and financing of these schools, would be to await the findings of the Commission and to hold his mind open and impartial in the meantime, but impartiality in education is not the Secretary of State's strongest point. He has referred the grant-aided schools to the Public Schools Commission and asked for its judgment, but before it could begin considering the evidence he pronounced the sentence.

On 5th December, 1967, the Secretary of State announced in a Written Answer that as a result of the consideration by the Commission, a ceiling should be imposed on the amount of grant available. The ceiling, he said, would be at the 1967 level. That back-to-front justice was bad enough, but worse was to follow. Within six weeks of this assurance being given it was broken. On 19th January, 1968, the Secretary of State told the House that after all the 1967–68 ceiling was not to apply. The Chancellor had told him what to do. The economy cuts of that month would force the level down by £36,000 in 1968–69 and by a further £94,000 in 1969–70. The second of these cuts is provided for in the Measure now before us.

I expect that the Under-Secretary will ask why if we wished to defend the grant-aided schools—as indeed we anxiously wish to do—we did not pray against the first Order which introduced the lower first instalment of the two cuts, but are opposing this second Measure. There are three reasons. First, the original announcement was part of a range of cut backs and adjustments within the total educational programme. They were part of the price which the country had to pay for the Government's bungling mismanagement of the economy, a price which has to be paid by all sections of the community. Second, the Government, with a nice sense of timing, laid the Statutory Instrument during the Recess when Members of Parliament were all away. I make that comment almost in passing, and it is more of a rebuke than a reason.

The third point is by far the most important; and it provides the reason for our Prayer against these Regulations. It is that the first Statutory Instrument was laid against a background of economic mismanagement. Since then a threatening political motivation has come to light and we fear that it is this political objective rather than the economic objective which shapes the Government's intentions in the Statutory Instrument.

We see this second Statutory Instrument more as a political than an economic threat to grant-aided schools. We are, therefore, praying against it so that we can discover the real nature of the Government's intentions and the real reason why these large cuts are to be made. Is this Statutory Instrument purely an economic measure, or does it represent the beginning of a deliberate and planned attack on grant-aided schools?

The Government's hostility towards grant-aided schools which we believe exists in this Statutory Instrument first became apparent when the Secretary of State, having referred the question of grant-aided schools to the Public Schools Commission, decided to freeze the level of grant. Then came the cuts, of which this Statutory Instrument imposes the larger. These were seen at first in economic terms—the imprint of the Chancellor's clumsy hand. Now we suspect they were the second stage of a long-term plan for the erosion and suppression of these schools.

Without the grant-aided schools and the local authority fee-paying schools choice in education in Scotland would be effectively restricted to the very few parents who can afford to send their child to a totally independent school. The belief that the Statutory Instrument is politically motivated was strenghened by the terms of the Education (Scotland) Bill and the tone of the debates on that Bill. That Bill was an open attack on the local authority fee-paying schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was a contemptible attempt to abolish not only the fees, but the structure and nature of these schools, despite the courageous opposition of the local authorities, which refused to bend easily to the Government's will.

During the debates on the Education (Scotland) Bill we referred to this very Statutory Instrument. The debates showed the Government's narrow-sighted conviction that variety in the structure of education should be removed, freedom of choice suppressed, and local opinion crushed. Over and over again we saw the Labour Party's hatred of independence in education and its blind insistence that selectivity is a sin.

This Statutory Instrument seems to us to be part of the whole process of Government circulars, speeches and actions which show their determination to impose on our country a single comprehensive system. This is why the local authority fee-paying schools are to be abolished. That, we suspect, is why this Statutory Instrument has been laid—to squeeze out the grant-aided schools. In time, the wholly independent schools, too, will come under renewed attack.

This is the charge which the Minister must answer frankly tonight, because only then will we be able to judge the real intent of this Statutory Instrument.

There is excellence in every form of education. The comprehensive schools, which are so much a part of the Scottish education tradition, will have an increasing rôle to play, and they will make a growing contribution to the outstanding quality of education in Scotland. But there is room and need for other systems also. The variety in our schools system produces the excellence which we should cherish. It also provides the choice which a free society demands. Surely variety, excellence and choice in education are virtues which wise government should protect.

If the Statutory Instrument is viewed in isolation, it might be seen in purely economic terms as the imposition of an additional cost on grant-aided schools and thus an unwelcome extra burden on them and on parents. Recent developments in the Government's education policy, however, have given it an uglier complexion. We cannot agree to the Regulations unless the Minister can assure us that they are no more than one of the marks of the Government's economic incompetence. We cannot agree to them unless he can assure us simply and frankly that the Government support the grant-aided schools, recognise and applaud their rôle in the education structure, and will allow them to continue unimpeded by further Regulations of this sort.

9.20 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I warmly support the criticism by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) of the Government for reducing the financial assistance to grant-aided schools in the current and subsequent years. I want to look briefly at the situation in general, and then to look at it in a little more detail as it affects two schools mentioned in the Statutory Instrument that are in my constituency: St. Joseph's College and the Benedictine Convent School.

Support has been whittled down in the past two years. The logic of the Secretary of State's attitude seems strange, in view of the Report "Education in Scotland in 1968", Cmnd. 3949, published a few days ago. The Secretary of State says in the paragraph on grant-aided schools on page 22 that he is delaying any increase in grant because the Newsom Report on the public schools, extended to cover grant-aided schools, has not yet been published. The report says some complimentary things about grant-aided schools, but also indicates that the matter has been referred to the Newsom Commission in more detail. I understand that the second volume will not come out until later this year. It is wrong that the Secretary of State should have made these cuts before receiving the Newsom Commission's advice, because the Commission was set up specifically to inquire into the working of the grant-aided schools, and the Secretary of State is pre-judging the matter to the serious disadvantage of these schools.

The grant was cut by £36,000 in 1968–69 and by a further £94,000 this year, or £130,000 in the two years. My hon. Friend is very right to say that the full weight of the cut will be apparent to the schools' treasurers only in the coming months. While grants have been falling in the past two years, and the Government have been failing to support the schools to the extent that they should, the local authorities have been doing so. They have fulfilled their part of the bargain. According to the latest figures I have for Dumfries County Council, it was giving substantial grants to the two schools mentioned. The Convent School, an important Roman Catholic school in South-West Scotland which is widely respected and rightly held in the highest regard in Dumfriesshire and Galloway, is suffering serious financial repercussions from the Minister's action. The mother superior has told me that it finds it very difficult to continue the battle against the rising costs of staff salaries and scientific and other equipment. I have been to the school several times. No school makes more effort to help itself in the raising of funds locally, and this should be put on record. Its scholastic record is excellent. The Government should be helping this school in every way, not defeating the objectives by cutting the grant.

Every pound counts. The Minister may say at the end that the total grant which has been cut from the Convent School is not significantly high, but, in relation to its budget, I think that it is a very serious cut.

I now turn to St. Joseph's College in Dumfries, which has a fine tradition known throughout the United Kingdom. It is the senior Roman Catholic secondary school for South-West Scotland. I hope that the Minister realises this, because it is of extreme importance. It receives boys from seven primary schools throughout the area and, indeed, many boys from outwith South-West Scotland. This is all to the good. Indeed, it provides important boarding facilities in this part of Scotland both for boys whose parents are too remote from the school and for boys whose parents are abroad.

It is also important that the Minister should realise that the continued existence of secondary education for Roman Catholic children in South-West Scotland depends at the moment on St. Joseph's College. The local education authority has agreed that it fits into the pattern of education in South-West Scotland.

I hope that the Minister realises that this fine school, doing such magnificent work, does not receive grants for capital expenditure. The local authority agrees that it has provided services of the highest value. When we realise that the capital cost of this school is probably of the order of £180,000, just think what a saving it has been to the local authority in the first place. It is important that the Minister should try to evaluate the worth of such a school both in financial terms, which seems to be his only approach at the moment, and in terms of pure education.

St. Joseph's College, like the Convent School, is fighting rising costs. Indeed, the brothers who teach there often return part of their salaries to help. But no boy is ever turned away because his parents cannot afford the fees. It is not on record that anyone has ever been turned away on financial grounds. But St. Joseph's College, like the Convent School, makes a massive effort to raise funds. Former pupils and friends helped to finance the new buildings. The Minister may say that last year there was a slight underspending; but this was on account of teacher shortage and for no other reason. The school is having to skimp on library and technical equipment and sports facilities.

I will not go into the more general points on which my hon. Friend touched, but the backgrounds of the parents of the boys who go to St. Joseph's are extremely varied. I expect that the Minister has seen the report that went to the Public Schools Commission showing that the boys come from every walk of life.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not discussing whether the schools should be grant-aided. This Regulation merely reduces the grants that are made. The hon. Gentleman must talk about the reductions.

Mr. Monro

It is important to point out that if the grants are reduced the schools will not be able to continue to provide the facilities that are now available.

I should make it clear that the grant affects only Scottish boys whose parents are resident in Scotland. The boys who come from outwith the area pay the full fees, so it does not apply to them.

In view of what I have said about the great importance of these two grant-aided schools, the Minister should think again because of the financial hardships that both schools will have to overcome if the Regulation goes through. The cut is very severe in terms of the budgets of both schools. There may have to be a reduction in the services and facilities that they provide if the Minister takes this very hard attitude to cuts in educational expenditure.

I warmly support my hon. Friend in what he has said, and I hope that the House will reject the Regulation.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

These are Regulations to reduce Exchequer support for grant-aided schools. They will be greeted in many quarters with widespread indifference, and in certain others they will be less than popular. That is understandable and inevitable. My own view is clear. The Regulations are fair. I do not understand and Jo not see why, at a time when we are constantly invited to contemplate fresh attacks on public spending in almost every quarter, this collection of schools should in some way be exempt from the overall atmosphere of stringency.

I could not accept the half-explanation offered by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur). Hon. Members opposite are constantly baying for new sacrifices in public expenditure. To call for the exemption from those sacrifices of schools in this narrow sector is hardly equitable. I suppose that it is unreasonable of us to expect the Opposition to think through the consequences of their own slogans which are so freely bandied about, but at least, if we do demand widespread cuts in public expenditure, surely we must accept that, on occasion, interests which may be close to ourselves are going to be hit, and we should grin and bear it.

Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)

But the Government are always saying that cuts are not being made but programmes are only being slowed down or rephased. Here is not only a cut but inflation at the same time which is reducing the money of these schools still more.

Mr. Dewar

I do not know what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say but I accept that there has, first, been a level placed on the expenditure and, second, a reduction. That is undeniable. But what we are arguing about is whether this reduction is justifiable and whether it will affect the fabric of education in Scotland as we know it, and, if it does affect it, whether it will do so adversely.

The argument for this reduction could well appeal to the Opposition because it represents a transfer of expenditure from the public to the private sector and could be determined in terms of the doctrine, enunciated in Scotland recently in the context of another sector, of the dangers of using public expenditure to subsidise private expenditure to provide services bought by the public.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss the principle of whether there should be what the hon. Gentleman calls "public expenditure subsidising private expenditure". There are certain grants to grant-aided schools and the Regulations propose to reduce them to a certain extent and give the Minister discretionary power to vary the reduction. The hon. Gentleman must discuss that.

Mr. Dewar

I am sorry if I was infringing on your tolerance, Mr. Speaker. I was suggesting that the cutting of such subsidisation might have been regarded as an acceptable development in terms of the political philosophy we hear from the Opposition. I am disappointed that the squeal is so loud from hon. Members opposite when the shoe pinches.

There is one argument worth hearing on this, however. It is based on the difference in the systems north and south of the Border. We have 29 grant-aided schools in Scotland, and there are 179 direct-grant schools in England. It has been said on occasion, referring specifically to England, that this is not a dangerous or damaging cut because it will be merely the transfer of expenditure from the Treasury to the local authority and will not victimise parents in any way who have a child in such a school.

This point was made recently in an article in The Times Educational Supplement of 11th June, 1969, by John Marshall, headmaster of Robert Gordon's, when he pointed out that this is not true in Scotland. In England it is perfectly clear that on the latest figures 11 per cent. of all children have fees partly or wholly remitted—in other words, met out of public funds—and something like 64 per cent. of all pupils in direct grant schools have their fees paid entirely by the local authorities—

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman is straying from the Regulations.

Mr. Dewar

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to point out that there is an important distinction between England and Scotland in this way and that it is fair to say that while in England, because of the kind of system whereby compulsory places must be made available to local authorities—25 per cent., with an optional 25 per cent. over and above—there is an argument for saying that individual parents will not be victimised. The kind of main argument used by the Opposition, that the person whose finances only marginally allow a child to go to a school would be affected, is not valid, because he will not be hindered in any way.

It is true that in Scotland the cut will fall upon the schools and presumably will be passed on to the parents. There is a fair argument against a cut in Scotland as against the cut that might have been inflicted in England. If we look at the kind of support that grant-aided schools get in Scotland and compare it with the direct grant schools in England it will be seen that granted-aided schools in Scotland are extremely generously treated and that the kind of cut now being inflicted on these institutions in Scotland is very small, in proportional terms, never mind global terms, as against the £1.8 million cut that has been imposed on their counterparts south of the Border.

We also have to remember that these schools get exemption from S.E.T. and there are the mandatory de-rating provisions under the 1962 Local Government (Financial Provisions etc.) (Scotland) Act in Section 4(1). It is not possible to say that this is the ungenerous treatment of a hostile Government, at least in a prima facie sense. This very argument, that the burden will fall not on the realignment of public funds but upon parents, in a sense underlines the enormous weakness of the position of direct grant schools in Scotland because they do not, at the moment, provide the kind of service provided in England.

They do not produce that great range, with one or two honourable exceptions, and it may be that one of them is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), or the substantial block of places available to local authorities. For that reason alone they are in an exposed position. If I was a protagonist of grant-aided schools in Scotland I would be anxious to try to come to an agreement, to make a rapprochement, with the public authorities, to build myself into the State system so that I could say that I provided that kind of service, that I had a real element of meritocracy.

By and large this is not the situation in Scotland, and it is fair that some measures should be taken, that there should be some further trimming of the financial support available, when we consider how very generous it is compared with that offereed in other parts of the United Kingdom.

There has been much talk about the long and honourable records of individual schools, and I do not want to deprecate that record. I feel that this is a privileged sector of education; it is an élitist sector which inevitably and by definition, however much it may be altered, will always depend upon the principle of selection. Therefore, it is not compatible, and cannot be compatible, with the development of comprehensive education.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is doing what I asked him not to do. We are not debating grant-aided schools. We are debating the reduction of a grant to grant-aided schools.

Mr. Dewar

I accept that. It seems to me that the Opposition's case is that this will be the last straw that breaks the camel's back, that it may put individual institutions into bankruptcy or into some genteel state of voluntary liquidation. If it is the case of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire that the whole thing is a monstrous political conspiracy to assasinate those schools, then to some extent we have to deal with the merits, not in depth but in passing, as well as merely the arguments as to how big a slice should be taken off the grant. I will not pursue that matter. My view about it is on record, and we have rehearsed these arguments before. We cannot have a very large selective sector creaming off from the State system. It destroys the possibility of a real intellectual and social cross-section in the State education system. We cannot allow it to continue for ever. At some point these schools, which are in limbo between the State system and the independent system, will have to rationalise their position and make their choice.

I found very strange the argument at which the hon. Member for Dumfries hinted in passing, that parents who send their children to these kinds of schools are saving public money because they are paying through taxes for a place which their children do not take up. This is a most remarkable argument which is often advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it does not apply only to direct grant schools. It is a very dangerous argument that, wherever private services duplicate those offered from the proceeds of taxation in the public sector, someone who opts out of the public sector should have part of his expenses in the private sector met by the State. It would mean that the man who paid taxes for the Health Service but went to a private consultant could expect the State to pay part of the consultant's fees. This is a most peculiar and dangerous argument which cannot be taken in isolation, however charmingly it is put by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Brewis

Would the hon. Gentleman, therefore, accept that the independent public schools are perfectly all right under the Socialist principle?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Whether they are all right or not, they come into this discussion only as far as the grant which is being paid to them is reduced by this Statutory Instrument.

Mr. Dewar

I realise that I must not be tempted to go too far, Mr. Speaker. Obviously different factors enter into the argument, I shall be delighted to argue the point with the hon. Gentleman on another occasion.

It has been said by the hon. Members for Perth and East Perthshire and Dumfries that it is wrong for the Government to go too hard on this problem, that we are waiting for Newsom and that no action should be taken until the Newsom Commission has reported and its report has been digested and, presumably, reconciled with the developments in the State education system and in independent schools. All that I can say is that the Newsom report may well be a bit of a weary anti-climax. I hope that I am wrong.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I see nothing about the Newsom report in these Regulations.

Mr. Dewar

A major plank of the Opposition's case has been that no action should be taken until the Newsom Report has been received. However, I will not persist with the point. I believe that the Newsom Commission will almost certainly recommend that the Scottish direct grant schools should be brought into line with the English direct grant schools as a minimum, because the English direct grant system is what it has proposed in essence for the independent section.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If they are to be brought into line, it will be done by another Statutory Instrument.

Mr. Dewar

If these Regulations equalise the State support given on either side of the Border, it seems to me that they are preparing for the Newsom report.

I welcome the Regulations on two main grounds. First, it is right and equitable in the present financial climate that the cuts should be shared and that some of the burden should fall on these schools. Second, I welcome them in the very long term. I suppose that I am confirming, as a back bench Member, the worst fears of the Opposition Front Bench. I see the Regulations as a start in the process of forcing these schools to make the inevitable choice between whether they should integrate with the State system or opt for full independence and all the financial responsibilities of the status which they affect and which many people imagine they enjoy. Many people have said that the private sector cannot be squeezed—that if we carry out this cheeseparing operation all that we shall do is annoy and aggravate in order to save a few halfpennies of the totality of public expenditure without affecting the future pattern of education.

There are some interesting figures in the Newsom Report to which I want to draw the attention of the House. They are English figures but they show that the percentage of the total number of children in secondary schools had fallen from 9 per cent. to 5.5 per cent. in 1967. That is not surprising, because there has been an enormous increase in the number of children staying on in State schools. Taking 14-year-olds, we find that there has been a similar phenomenon, and that the figure has fallen from 8 per cent. or 47,000—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The reduction in respect of the grant-aided schools specified in the Schedule will not affect the figures that the hon. Member is talking about for England.

Mr. Dewar

That is possibly so, Mr. Speaker. My contention is that the squeezing which is clearly the result of a general recognition of the increasingly high standard in the State section will be given an added shot by these Regulations, by the kind of reduction that the House is debating, from 47,000 or 8 per cent. down to 37,000 or 5.8 per cent. for the 14-year-olds in 1967. That is a good trend and a socially justified trend. Regulations on those two major grounds are helpful ones, which will be widely welcomed by the House.

9.47 p.m.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

My speech will be very short. In my view the Regulations and their reductions have been introduced simply because the Government do not like this sort of school. I should like to know how these figures were arrived at, and who thought them up. Was there any consultation with the schools themselves? Secondly, I should like to know how many of these schools will be put out of business as a result of these reductions, in the Government's estimation. Thirdly, I see that the Secretary of State may have power to come to the rescue of a school which gets into difficulties. What schools do the Government have in mind?

9.48 p.m.

Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)

I am sure that I should incur your displeasure, Mr. Speaker, if I sought to reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar). I preface my remarks by congratulating you upon reducing the hon. Member, if only for a moment, to speechlessness.

I think I shall be in order if I say at the outset that I speak with a certain vested interest, since I am a governor of one of the schools mentioned in the Regulations and have another in my constituency. I trust that the three schools that head the list mentioned will take note of the early remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, because those remarks are very pertinent to the situation in which those schools find themselves.

I shall not follow the hon. Member into the broader aspects to which he referred. Further, I shall not raise the point —because it was admirably stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur)—that the Regulations narrow the freedom of choice of parents. I shall not develop the point that it threatens the academic integrity of some old and important schools.

I want to make five points to show why Regulations represent a thoroughly discreditable piece of educational propaganda—to use the words of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) speaking in a seated position about half an hour ago. I believe that these are bad Regulations. [Interruption.] I suggest that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire should take note all the time.

These are bad regulations, first, because the consequence will be a sharp and permanent increase in fees in the 29 schools mentioned in the Schedule. One must remember that this has happened twice, as my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire mentioned, £36,000 a year ago and £94,000 this year. It happens to schools which it is perhaps slightly inaccurate for my hon. Friend to say have endowments of 2½ per cent. The figures show that the 2½ per cent. endowment is based heavily on the older schools on the list, such as Hutcheson's Schools in Glasgow and the Merchant Company Schools in Edinburgh. Some schools have no endowments whatever, and the burden resulting from the cut will be shifted on to the fees paid by parents, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, who has wisely left the Chamber, pointed out. That is my central point.

Secondly, I wish to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) said, that many of these schools have no capital or maintenance funds. Three of them, Craigholme, Laurel Bank and Westbourne in Glasgow, splendid schools as they are, each having approximately 600 pupils, are converted houses. Some are schools which are 50 or 60 years old, so that capital and maintenance funds have to be provided by parental contribution. It is therefore important to remember, when one hears about the lavish way in which educational expenditure is disbursed in these days, that no such resources are available to these schools.

I would, for instance, were I not likely to be curbed by you, Mr. Speaker, ask how much money has gone into Glasgow schools' television in the last two years. I guess that it is well over—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Minister answered, he too would be out of order.

Mr. Wright

I realise that I would be out of order were I to put it in that form. I am simply demonstrating the point that no such resources, local or parental, are available to these schools.

May I take up the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South? He drew the customary comparison between the 179 direct grant schools in England and Wales and the 29 mentioned in the Schedule. No such comparison can be sustained. As he revealed, 75 per cent. of the fees paid in those 179 English schools come directly or indirectly from non-parental sources. They come overwhelmingly from local authority funds.

For sound historical reasons—and he is a student of history—the 29 direct grant schools in 1944 were not put on the same basis as the 179 in England. When Tom Johnston faced this possibility he saw that it was impossible to find schools in Scotland that could be made into twins of the 179—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has allowed the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) to tempt him a long way out of order.

Mr. Wright

I am merely making the point that no such comparison can be sustained for a reason which should be prominently in the mind of any good student of history educated in Glasgow University, even though he sits for Aberdeen.

One point which will be of interest to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), is that Troon College in Ayr has a major contribution of about £43,000 a year in addition to the £76,000 paid to them this year as a direct grant—I am subject to correction on this. The consequence of these cuts will be that the good people of Ayr will have to pay more rates, and it might be said that that is one reason why it is a good thing that there is not an exact parallel between direct grant and grant-aided schools.

The fourth point I wish to bring to the attention of the House is that there have been teachers' salary increases of about 6 to 6½ per cent. per year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire could have demonstrated that the first warning was that the ceiling imposed by the Government in September 1967 was based on the first term's expenditure by the schools. These were not the final figures on which the cut was imposed. They left out the teachers' salary increase. Therefore, as the years pass more and more money will have to be found to pay the teachers' salaries, and with obvious justice.

I come to my final point, which is central to the argument. It relates to teaching costs and is a fundamental point. Two years ago I made a somewhat superficial investigation into this matter, so perhaps my figures are 18 months out of date. Taking only Glasgow, I worked out that the cost of educating a child in the city schools in Glasgow was £130 a year and that the cost of educating a child at grant-aided schools in Glasgow was £129 a year.

Parents are prepared in the schools which are listed in the Regulations to make contributions varying between £70, £80 and £90 towards the £129. They are helping the taxpayer. It is a matter of freedom of choice. Of course, they want their children to go to these schools for all sorts of reasons, and I would not defend all the reasons that could be adduced. But if there is a reason for the cuts, if the argument is one of financial stringency, why not leave the system as it is and allow parents to make this contribution?

I warn the Minister—and there was a sounding of this in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South—that if there is a long-term threat to schools of this type—and there is a long waiting list for all these schools—they could well move becoming totally independent of the State system. This would be the curious non-Socialist consequence of these thoroughly bad Regulations. These are cogent reasons for asking the House to oppose them.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

In his opening remarks the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) admitted that there might be some injustice in these Regulations. After that statement one would have thought he might have abandoned his doctrinaire and absurd vendetta against private education. But as he developed his argument it became crystal-clear that he fully supported the Regulations, which he regards as a means by which slowly and surely schools of this kind can be abolished.

I object to the Regulations because their precise effect is quite clear. The money involved is a substantial sum to the schools concerned, it will certainly be substantial to those who have to bear it, but it is a tiny sum in relation to the amount which the Government spend on education and in relation to all the other responsibilities of the Government. The Regulations, taken together, amount to about £130,000. Although it may not be a large sum in relation to total Government spending, it will have a marked effect on the fees charged in these schools.

If there were any dissatisfaction about the schools as they are at present organised, it might be some justification for wishing to bring about a change by cutting grants. But I do not believe the Minister would suggest that these schools are in any way deficient or that they fail to perform an educational purpose. Far from the Regulations representing just a cut of around £100,000, when one considers the rising costs of providing education in these schools and the increase in teachers' salaries, then in relation to the total share of cost the Regulations will put a disproportionate burden on the parents.

Let us consider precisely what will happen as a result of the Regulations. There will be two obvious effects. One is that serious hardship will fall upon the parents of children who are already at these schools—parents who put their children into these schools on the assumption that there would be a certain level of expenditure for them, with perhaps a rise of a small order. In the Glasgow schools covered by the Regulations there has been a substantial rise indeed over the last four years. The parents have been warned that because of these Regulations and the previous provisions there will be a further substantial rise.

I ask the Minister, if he insists on going ahead with the Regulations, whether there is a way in which—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.