HC Deb 10 June 1969 vol 784 cc1283-309
Mr. MacArthur

I beg to move Amendment No. 57, in page 23, line 15, at end insert: (5) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult with the managers of any grant-aided college affected thereby and in making the regulations he shall have regard to any representations made by them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment, it will be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 58, in Clause 23, page 29, line 22, at beginning insert 'Subject to the provisions of section 15(5) of this Act'.

Mr. MacArthur

Perhaps I might open this debate by saying how grateful we are to Mr. Speaker for selecting the Amendment. It appears on the Order Paper as a starred Amendment, but the House will understand that it was presented a few days ago, during the Recess.

I would normally apologise for springing a starred Amendment on the Government with little notice, but I do not think that the Minister expects an apology on this occasion because the appearance of the Amendment is in response to a semi-invitation that he gave us in Committee. I mention that to remind my hon. Friends of the debates that we had on Clause 16, as it then was, and on Clause 24.

5.45 p.m.

In Committee, my hon. Friends and I were concerned about the strength of representations made to us by the central institutions in Scotland on a major change proposed in the Bill. The position today is that any regulations made by the Secretary of State for Scotland under the Education Act are subject to the requirements set out in Section 144(2) of the 1962 Act. That provides that before the Secretary of State makes regulations under the Act he shall, not less than 40 days before making those regulations, cause a draft of the regulations to be published. The subsection goes on to put upon the Secretary of State the requirement to send a copy of any draft regulations to every education authority. It also requires the Secretary of State to have regard to any representation made by an education authority or by any person interested before he makes the regulations.

It is proposed elsewhere in the Bill to remove that provision. From the date of the passing of this Bill, the statutory position will be that no draft regulations will have to be published and no consultation will be required statutorily. Understandably, the central institutions are concerned about that.

When we debated Clauses 16 and 24 in Committee, we tried to raise the matter. Perhaps I might say in passing how much I regret the way in which the Minister treated our Amendments on that occasion. I said at the time that he was playing fast and loose with the Committee, and I repeat the charge. I trust that his approach to this Amendment will be a little more understanding, and I hope that he will be a little more courteous today than he was in dealing with our previous Amendments.

I accept at once that our earlier Amendments were regarded as defective. In Committee, we proposed that the whole subsection should be retained. We believed that the way to protect the consultation which has to take place at present would be by retaining the whole subsection. In reply, the Minister referred to the heavy and clumsy requirement of the subsection which was that not only was consultation required but that draft regulations should be published 40 days in advance, which he felt to be unnecessary.

I explained carefully to the Minister, though he refused to comprehend the point, that we were not so much concerned about the publication of draft regulations as about the statutory requirement that consultations should take place. As a result, we have drafted a simpler Amendment which restricts the requirement to the need for consultation. The Minister will recognise that we are no longer proposing that draft regulations should be published 40 days in advance. All that we are asking the Minister to do is write into the Bill the statutory requirement that, before making any regulations under the Clause, the Secretary of State shall consult with the managers of any grant-aided college affected by them. We go on to put upon him the requirement that in making the regulations, he shall have regard to any representations made by them.

What could be more reasonable and simple? What could be more in accord with the declared intentions of the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary? On Second Reading, the Secretary of State said that it was his intention to consult with the central institutions and that there would be no question of steam-rolling them with regulations of which they had no previous notice. I noted with pleasure that a large part of the right hon. Gentleman's Second Reading speech was devoted to this very Clause, and he gave a lot of emphasis to his intention to hold these consultations. I do not question the integrity of a statement of that kind.

On Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman said: I give a firm assurance now that no regulations will be made under this Clause with regard to the constitution and the general functions of the governing bodies of central institutions before the existing bodies have been fully consulted; and that goes for regulations made after the new bodies have been created, too."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1969; Vol. 776, c. 282.] That was a straightforward and categorical assurance. The Under-Secretary of State said this: I give the asurance again that, obviously, we shall consult all the bodies interested before we produce regulations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, First Scottish Standing Committee, 11th March, 1969; c. 631.] I suppose the hon. Gentleman might say that we are being impertinent in proposing to the Government that an assurance given on Second Reading and again in Committee should be underwritten and confirmed by being written into the Bill.

I will in a moment give the hon. Gentleman irrefutable evidence why this requirement should be written into the Bill, but before doing so I would remind the House of the powers which are placed in the hands of the Secretary of State by Clause 15. The powers are enormous and, if the Amendment is not made, there will be no provision for consultation between the Secretary of State and the central institutions, whose total life and structure could be affected or removed completely by regulations introduced without consultation statutorily by the Secretary of State. Of course, I accept that the Secretary of State would have consultations. I do not question the honesty of the word given in the House and in Committee, but I see no reason why he should not continue his declaration of good-will and good faith by writing the requirement into the Bill.

Let us look at some of the powers which Clause 15 gives to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may make regulations with respect to grant-aided colleges, which include central institutions, covering the following matters. The regulations may make provision with regard to the constitution of the governing bodies of such colleges; in other words, the Secretary of State may lay down who should be a member of the governing body or who should be removed from that governing body.

The Secretary of State may produce regulations which prescribe the general functions to be discharged by the governing bodies and confer on them such powers as the Secretary of State may consider necessary or expedient for the efficient discharge of those functions. This must mean that the Secretary of State may by regulation, without any statutory need for consultation, dictate to the colleges just how they should run their own affairs and what their functions should be.

The Clause goes on to state that by regulation the Secretary of State may prescribe the administrative and other arrangements to be adopted by the governing bodies for the purpose of discharging their functions. He may provide for the appointment, remuneration, discipline and dismissal by the governing bodies of administrative, teaching and other staff. So by regulation, without any statutory requirement to consult, the Secretary of State may dictate to the colleges what their administrative and other arrangements should be. He may determine the appointment, the pay, the disciplining and the dismissal of teachers and administrators employed by the colleges.

By regulation, without any statutory requirement to consult, the Secretary of State may make provision with regard to fees and other payments to be made by students. The regulations may also provide for the constitutional bodies representative of students in attendance at such colleges, may confer on any such bodies such functions as may be prescribed in the regulations, and may, without any statutory requirement to consult, prescribe the procedure to be followed in cases of alleged breach of discipline by students in attendance at such colleges.

Subsection (2) provides that regulations may be introduced which establish institutions for the provision of any form of further education. To round it all off, under subsection (3) the Secretary of State may be regulation dissolve any grant-aided college.

These are terrifying powers. The Secretary of State has set himself up as the Pooh-Bah of grant-aided colleges. He may create them, he may kill them; he may determine who does and who does not sit on the governing bodies; he may decide how the teachers should be disciplined if they misbehave and he may even decide whether they have misbehaved at all. It is up to him to dictate the whole shape, content and life of the colleges, the people who administer them, the teachers who teach in them and the students who work in them. And if he does not like them, he can abolish the lot.

There is no requirement in the Clause or in the Bill that there should be consultation with the colleges. Indeed, the Bill goes out of its way to remove the requirement for consultation which exists in Section 144(2) of the parent Act.—[Interruption.] The Minister mutters that there is no requirement for consultation. He may perhaps be interpreting consultation in a dictionary sense, but the purport of that subsection is quite clear. The effect of the subsection is that if the Secretary of State proposes to make regulations about the life, the conduct, the future and the very existence of these colleges, he has to publish the regulations in draft 40 days in advance and must send a copy of them to everybody concerned.

Mr. Millan

He does not.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Gentleman is muttering. I will read the subsection: Subject to the provisions of the next following subsection, the Secretary of State shall, not less than forty days before making regulations under this Act, cause a draft of the regulations to be published … The Minister will be with me up to this point. Before making the regulations they must be published in draft 40 days in advance: … and send a copy thereof to every education authority. The Minister will agree that a copy of the draft regulation has to be sent to every education authority. The Minister mutters that this has nothing to do with the central institutions, but perhaps he will stop muttering and listen. From that point on, the Secretary of State: … shall have regard to any representations made by an education authority or by any person interested before he makes the regulations. Of course that covers the central institutions and could well cover any student. It could cover any of the people over whose lives and future the Secretary of State has taken such wide powers in Clause 15. The Minister says, quite rightly, that this is not consultation. But if there are to be no draft regulations—and we do not require that there should be—then there must be a process of consultation, and the Minister must see this.

I hope that the Minister will take note of the words I am about to use. There is a simple reason for putting these words in the Bill. It is that their purpose has been announced already. It was announced by the Secretary of State on Second Reading, and there seems to be every argument for removing any possible uncertainty about the Government's intentions in this matter. The best way of doing that is to put the requirement in the Bill, and that is what we are doing by this Amendment.

6.0 p.m.

I suggest that those words will be familiar to the Minister since they are a slight adaptation of his own words on the last day of the Report stage of the Bill, when the debate collapsed ignominiously because the Government lost their supporters. The hon. Gentleman then, in relation to another Amendment, said: There is a simple reason for putting the date in the Bill. It is that the date has been announced already. It was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Second Reading, and there seems to be every argument for removing any possible uncertainty about the Government's intentions in this matter. The best way of doing that is to put the date in the Bill, and that is what we are doing by this Amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May 1969; Vol. 783, c. 524.] If it was right to put the date in the Bill—and we do not believe that it was right—in order to remove uncertainty, then it must be equally right to accept our Amendment so as to write its requirement into the Bill, since the circumstances are precisely the same.

I will not open again the whole debate on Clause 1, but perhaps I will remind the House that when we debated the Bill on Report on 7th May, the Government introduced the date of 1st August, 1970, as the date when fee paying was to be abolished in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We had no indication that this date was to be written into the Bill. The Government in reply said, "We announced this on Second Reading, we made it clear in Committee, and to remove any uncertainty we are now putting the date in the Bill."

That is a precise parallel with the consultation provision which we wish to write into the Bill. Just as the Secretary of State announced the date at Second Reading, so he announced his intention to consult. Just as this date was repeated in Committee, so was the intention to consult. Just as the Minister thought it right to put the date into the Bill in order to remove uncertainty, so we believe that the requirement to consult should be written into the Bill in order to remove uncertainty. The uncertainty is there, and it is a large one extending to all the colleges in Scotland. Hon. Members will remember the volume of correspondence which we all received from the colleges during our earlier debates on the Bill.

I have said that I accept the good faith of the Secretary of State and of the Government generally in saying that there will be consultation. Although I accept the good faith of the Government, they have not made a good start in convincing the central institutions that consultation will be genuine, widespread and effective. Nor have they given the central institutions any indication that the points of view of the central institutions will be taken into account by the Government.

I should like to remind the House that we are not dealing with trivial matters, but with the structure of the colleges. We are dealing with the structure of their governing bodies, with their teaching staffs and their student organisations, and with the very existence and survival of the colleges themselves.

I have learned through one of my hon Friends that one of the central institutions, a very well known institution, as recently as only last month expressed considerable surprise at what the Government are doing in the Bill. They had no idea at all, even at the beginning of last month, that the requirement to hear representations was to be removes, Indeed, the letter, under the heading "Legislation affecting Central Institutions", dated 2nd May, said: No information with regard to this legislation has come to us direct from the Scottish Education Department, but on inouiry I found that the Education (Scotland) Bill has passed the Committee stage in the House of Commons and is now at the Report stage. I accept that there was no requirement for the Government to consult with the central institutions about the proposals in this Bill.

Mr. Millan

Would the hon. Member say which central institution did not know that this particular Clause was in the Bill?

Mr. MacArthur

Certainly it was one of the central institutions. Perhaps I could hand the letter privately to the Minister now. Here it is.

Mr. Millan

I do not want to read it.

Mr. MacArthur

It is from the principal of one of the central institutions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] I am not going to say. The hon. Gentleman will see the letter. It was written to one of my hon. Friends. It is perfectly proper that I should make no further reference to the matter than that. The fact is that the principal of this very well known college has stated, in the letter dated 2nd May, that he had no information direct from the Scottish Education Department about the legislation. The hon. Gentleman can have the letter if he wishes.

This reflects the uncertainty in the minds of the central institutions. I know that they will join with me in accepting the good faith of the right hon. Gentleman's declaration. But declarations are not enough. If we are to remove the requirement of publishing draft regulations which already exists, if in Clause 15 we are to give vast powers to the Secretary of State, it is only reasonable to require consultation between the Government and the grant-aided colleges before the regulations are put into effect. I know that this is the Government's own wish. Therefore, I ask them to show their good faith by accepting the Amendment and by writing these protective words into the Bill.

Mr. Younger

I cannot begin to match the eloquence of my hon. Friend; indeed, I shall be wise not to try to do so. I add my support to what he has said about the necessity for this Amendment.

I would go a little further and say that I should be very disappointed if the Minister does not accept the Amendment. I raised the matter originally in Committee and, having had an unsatisfactory answer from the Minister, my hon. Friends and I went out of our way to produce an Amendment which would meet the arguments which were deployed by the Minister in Committee. That is why Amendment No. 57 does not go nearly as far as the previous Amendment which was discussed in Committee. The Amendment seeks to keep down the obligation to what is reasonable and minimal in carrying out the expressed intention of the Secretary of State on Second Reading and the Minister's words in Committee to consult with these institutions.

I make no allegation that the consultation between the Department and the central institutions is not adequate. My limited experience is that it is extremely good, and there is a close link in most cases. Consultation takes place one way and the other well and satisfactorily. But I want to draw attention to the key paragraph in what the Under-Secretary said in Committee. In the columns which he filled in trying to answer this argument, without much enthusiasm from those pressing the argument, there was one paragraph which tried to put his objection. And that argument seems to be largely met by the form of this present Amendment. He said: When one considers the variety of regulations we have to produce under the Education Acts and the very large number and variety of bodies interested in education legislation it is difficult to impose a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State to consult which either is not too restrictive, on the one side, so that large numbers of interested people are omitted from the process of consultation, or so wide a responsibility on the other hand that it becomes completely impossible".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, First Scottish Standing Committee, 11th March, 1969; c. 636.] That is a good argument and deserves answering, which is why great care has been taken in this Amendment to see that the Secretary of State is obliged to consult only the managers of any grant-aided college affected by the regulations proposed.

Surely that is not an intolerable administrative burden. It will not cause a great influx of extra staff and give great expense and bother merely to ensure that, as of right, they must consult a grant-aided institution affected by a regulation. One could not make it more sensible or more pointed. If that is not acceptable, the only possible conclusion is that the Minister wants the right to produce regulations without consultation. If that is not the conclusion, I should like to know what is. He and all his successors down the years, until the Bill is amended, will be bound by the statement of the Secretary of State on Second Reading, the hon. Gentleman's own statement in Committee and any that he may make tonight, yet the Government are not prepared to be bound by Statute.

The only possible conclusion is that they foresee an occasion—I am sure that their desire to consult is genuine—when it would be necessary for the Department not to consult such a grant-aided college. We are entitled to some idea of such an occasion. Can the hon. Gentleman give an example of an occasion on which he would wish to produce regulations affecting a college without consulting it? I do not expect him to tie himself to describing every such occasion, but let him give us one example of what is worrying him about having this written in.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will not regard this Amendment as produced for its own sake or simply to ventilate a point of view. He may understand this better if he puts himself in the position of a governor of one of these institutions. Of course, virtually all the financing of these institutions is provided by the Government, whether by student grants or grants direct from the Department. A great deal of the policy is decided by Government, by Acts of Parliament, by administrative actions and by trends in education controlled by the Secretary of State.

6.15 p.m.

Yet very distinguished and excellent men and women sit on the governing bodies and there is a real problem, even today—it will grow in future—of giving these busy people a real job which they regard as worth while. All those to whom I have spoken—I know quite a number—feel that they are doing a worthwhile job, because they know that they are given the consultation which people of their calibre should have in running these institutions, entirely voluntarily and with great care and attention. If it were ever felt that there was an area of policy in the detailed running of these institutions where consultation was not possible, if there were any feeling among these people that their views might occasionally not be sought or not be wanted, this will create a doubt in some of their minds about whether they will do such a useful and public-spirited job in future.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will carefully consider the thoughts behind the Amendment. I cannot believe that its acceptance will add one iota to the work which his Department must do to keep its relations with these institutions as they should be. He will lose nothing by accepting. If he accepted it, he would not only be responding to one of the proper and genuine jobs which Parliament should do—the raising of an issue which should be raised before the Government of the day—but would be making a real gesture of confidence towards these governing bodies, now and in future.

Even if he must play for time again, as he did in Committee, and decline to accept this particular Amendment, I beg him to carry on his consultation procedures in the weeks to come, and if necessary, amend the Bill in another place as we suggest. I hope that he will address himself above all to this key question—what occasion can he perceive when he will introduce a regulation affecting the detailed running of a grant-aided college when he will not consult it beforehand? Let him tell us that convincingly, and I would view the Amendment differently. However, as it stands, I am certain that the Amendment would lose nothing for the Government and would gain for them a great deal of good will. It should be accepted, and I hope that it will be.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I support the Amendment because it is extremely important that we give reassurance to those who are greatly concerned that this has been omitted from the Bill.

I first raised this matter on Second Reading with the Secretary of State, or at least one aspect of the matter, and I still have great anxiety.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) rightly argued that the Govrnment have twice said that they will consult those concerned. If this is indeed their intention and they will consult, then surely they can accept the Amendment as simply putting into print the undertaking which has been given. I should be very surprised if any Government would wish to give a serious undertaking in this House and then not agree to write it into the Bill.

I speak on this Amendment because I have been a student at one of the institutions concerned and I have been a governor of another. It is important to carry the good will of these institutions at all times. There have been times, with respect to successive Secretaries of State, when good will has not been the keynote of negotiations over important matters. Nobody doubts the need for consultation. The evidence of this is the commitment made by two Ministers that there shall be consultation.

The central institutions have a very difficult rôle to play. At present they are, broadly speaking, divided in Scotland between the old institutions which are highly specialised and the new institutions which are developing very fast indeed. The governors do particularly good work, and it is important that the governors selected to do this work should include a number of specialists quite unique in their knowledge of the matter concerned. I should like to think that part of the consultation will be in the appointment of the governors and of successive governors. We have some particularly distinguished people in Scotland, and I hope that the Minister will always have them in mind.

There may be a time when one of our outstanding persons of distinction in, for example, music might be available to govern a college. I should like to think that this will be continued if possible. I can think of others equaliy important to the new and developing institutions of which I have also spoken. I do not think that the governors at present have the confidence that they will be taken into consultation on this point. It is of the greatest importance to them and it is equally important again in the art school.

The Secretary of State gave me some assurance on Second Reading that this would be done, but I should like the Minister, if he will be courteous enough to give me his attention, to reinforce what was said by the Secretary of State on Second Reading and give me an assurance that there will be consultation on this point.

My final point concerns the developing need for communication with students. "Communication" has become a very popular word. It is curious that the Government today are apparently not prepared to look at a very simple method of communication by writing into the Bill that there shall be consultation on important matters. But if there is a need for communication today, there is an urgent need for communication between the staff and students, between the staff and the Government of the day and between the governors and all three. We are endeavouring to write into the Bill the certainty that there will be consultation which will include, if necessary, participation by students and by staff.

I hope that the Minister will treat the Amendment with the seriousness that it deserves, which is a very high rating indeed reckoned by anyone who has personal knowledge of these institutions.

However satisfied the Minister may feel that assurances have been given, this is not the feeling in the institutions concerned and amongst those most closely connected with them. If, by accepting the Amendment, the Minister can add to the good will upon which these institutions depend so much, it will certainly strengthen the Bill, and I cannot see that it could in any way weaken the hand of this or any successive Government.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) in his opening remarks more than once accused the Minister of muttering. Whether this is a justified charge or not, it is certainly not a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In my short career in this House I have seldom heard so much synthetic anger and fury over such a comparatively minor Amendment. The only way in which the hon. Gentleman's performance fell short of his usual standard was in terms of staying power. On a comparatively minor Amendment, the hon. Gentleman fell short of 30 minutes by a couple of points. This is not the form of which we know he is capable.

I have some sympathy with the arguments which have been put forward. It seems to me that this is a matter merely of reassurance, not of substance. Putting the case in simple terms, there is a genuine worry among the managers and governors of the central institutions. This I know, because in my area they have come to talk to me on this issue. If we accept that there is this level of concern, why not give them the statutory words merely as a form of reassurance? Put in those terms it is attractive, but when we get down to the implications and difficulties we see that this is an oversimplification. There is no point in writing in a form of statutory words unless it will clarify the situation and strengthen the position of the central institutions. I do not think it will.

In the past I have listened to debates about whether consultation is adequate. There has been consultation. Hon. Members opposite have said that it has merely been a form of words; it has merely been lip service. The statutory duty does not remove grievances if the Government ultimately take a decision which goes against the wishes of some of the people concerned. So we shall not definitively end discontent or discord by writing in a duty to consult.

What is the meaning of the phrase, he shall have regard to any representations made"? Its meaning completely defeats my imagination. The phrase "shall have regard to", presumably does not mean that the recommendations which have been made must be accepted. The matter is further befogged and clouded by those words. I am prepared to accept that the intention is to reassure the governors of the central institutions but that reassurance is worth nothing.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Gentleman will have regard to the fact that these words appear in the 1962 Act. The requirement on the Minister to have regard to representations appears throughout every form of statute that we have. It is not new.

Mr. Dewar

It is not new. This kind of argument will rage on and on. Those who wish to make speeches can always find an excuse on this kind of issue. The fact that it has appeared in statutes in the past seems to suggest that it does not have the kind of magic powers which have been suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. MacArthur

My point is that the Bill in its present form is removing that requirement completely. We wish to restore that requirement.

Mr. Dewar

My point is that we can write into the Bill the duty to consult, but that does not end the problems. Consultation can be, I repeat, a fairly meaningless process. Consultation will in any case take place. The hon. Gentleman went out of his way to say that he did not doubt the good intentions of the Government. There seemed to be some disunity in the Conservative camp on that matter which I should think would have been straightened out after a long Committee stage. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire seeks to assure the House that he did not doubt the good intentions of the Government Front Bench, but the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) indeed, seemed to doubt them. He got himself into the position of saying in effect that he did not trust this Government but he distrusted some future Government. That has an interesting implication given his biased views on Britain's political future over the next few years.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Younger

I asked to be told of the occasions on which, if any, a regulation would be produced which was not the subject of consultation.

Mr. Dewar

The hon. Member tot Perth and East Perthshire said that he accepted that there always would be consultation, and he added that assurances had been given to this effect. The hon. Member for Ayr is either accepting the fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire has vouched for the Government's bona fides and he is distrusting some other future Government, or he is going counter to the views of his own Front Bench. The whole argument is shot with fallacies, and will not do anything to help the situation.

Prime facie there is something to be said for reassurances in a situation like this, but if the Government and the central institutions were to look at what the reassurance would amount to they would realise that it was a matter of no substance. If, on every possible occasion when it would be reasonable to do so and when one would expect any reasonable Government to be anxious to explore and discuss possible reforms, we were to write that in as a statutory duty, we should clutter the Statute Book with an enormous number of words which are utterly unnecessary.

For that reason, and because at the end of the day what is suggested will not usefully or materially strengthen the position of the central institutions in the negotiations which it has been admitted will almost certainly take place, I hope that the Government will not accept the Amendment.

Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)

I waited with interest to hear what line the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) would take, because his determination to support the Government on every possible occasion, whatever the case, excites the admiration of anybody who admires people who support a lost cause with so much enthusiasm. I thought that the hon. Gentleman's argument was even weaker than I have heard him advance in the past. All it came down to was that if this requirement were put in the Bill the consultations could still be inadequate. That happens whatever legislation is passed. It may not work. People may break the law. The fact remains that it is our job to pass legislation in as good a form as we can get it.

When the hon. Gentleman says that to start putting in this statutory requirement amounts to introducing something new, he is misrepresenting the situation. What is happening here, and what we are trying to prevent, is that the requirement to consult is being withdrawn.

Mr. Millan

We considered this matter at some length in Committee, but I am happy to go over some of the arguments again. Perhaps we can start by looking at Section 144 of the 1962 Act, which the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) specifically mentioned. That section provided for provisional regulations, but it did not do a number of things which the hon. Gentleman suggested it did. For example, it did not lay down matters for statutory consultation, which is what the hon. Gentleman suggested it did. Nor, for that matter, did it provide that a copy of draft regulations should be sent to everybody who was interested in them, or could be affected by them. If we had accepted the proposition put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite in Committee that we should retain Section 144(2), the central institutions would never have received a copy of the draft regulations, because all that that subsection refers to is sending a copy of the draft to the education authority. It was therefore misconceived, as I said in Committee, to wish to retain that subsection.

Mr. MacArthur rose

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman spoke for nearly half an hour. I have hardly started, and I have not the slightest intention of speaking for anything like that long. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on Report. We are not in Committee.

Mr. Millan

As I said, the argument in Committee about Section 144 was misconceived, but we have now dealt with that section. We have eliminated subsection (2), which provided for the making of regulations in draft. Incidentally, we have also eliminated subsection (3) of that section, which provided for the making of provisional regulations for reasons of urgency.

The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) suggested that there could never be circumstances in which the Secretary of State would want to make regulations so urgently that he would not have time to go through the necessary statutory processes. The fact is that such an occasion arose within the last two or three years in connection with the General Teaching Council, when, as the Government, we used Section 144(3). We shall no longer have the opportunity of using that subsection, because we have eliminated it in the Amendment to Clause 23.

We have settled the argument about Section 144, and there are no other Amendments to Clause 23. If hon. Gentlemen opposite feel so strongly about this question of consultation, I am surprised that they have not introduced the argument in relation to Clause 23, where we could look at the whole question, but have chosen instead to raise the issue on this Clause where we are considering the matter only in relation to the grant-aided colleges which are covered by this Clause.

That is really one of the basic difficulties about the proposition being put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I accept, and I made this clear on Second Reading, as did my right hon. Friend, and I made it clear again in Committee, and I do so once more now, that there is an obligation on the Government to consult the institutions and bodies affected by regulations which we intend to make This is part and parcel of the normal process of government at the present time We regularly consult local education authorities, teachers associations, and so on, and we shall continue to do that, and in the new circumstances where the central institutions specifically are coming under that regulatory power we shall consult them, too.

It would be very odd to include in an obligation under this Clause to consult the bodies concerned with it, an obligation statutorily to consult when in the Bill as it is now, and as it will be even if the Amendment is accepted, there is no obligation to consult local education authorities or teachers associations on any matter which is the subject of regulations, even though those regulations may have important consequences for the education authorities and the teachers associations If the Amendment is accepted, there will be a statutory obligation to consult the bodies concerned under this Clause about the effects of this Clause, but no statutory obligation to consult the larger number of bodies which may be concerned with matters raised not only under the Bill but under education legislation generally. It seems to me that that would be an absurd position, and for that reason alone I could not possibly accept the Amendment.

Mr. Younger

Surely the Minister is going against his own argument? If we had said that the Minister should consult everybody concerned about every subject he could say that it would be hopeless to try to consult so many people so often, but it is in the interests of narrowing this consultation to the vital area that can be coped with that the Amendment has been drawn so closely.

Mr. Millan

As my right hon. Friend said, that is a phoney point, because in particular circumstances we could narrow down the regulations even to particular individuals, certainly to teachers associations, and in some instances to local education authorities and others. That disposes of the hon. Gentleman's argument earlier about the Opposition's Amendment being narrowly drawn.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Surely the point is that there are alternative roads for the other people the Minister has mentioned through their associations—the Association of County Councils in Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, and so on? But there is no direct consultation with the institutions and that is why it is reasonable to provide the administrative possibility by narrowing the Amendment as we have, and the Minister's argument is fallacious for that reason.

Mr. Millan

There is, in fact, an association of central institutions, though I do not place any particular emphasis on that, and the governing bodies meet together and consult about matters of common concern.

The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire read out at great length all the various matters on which the Secretary of State has regulatory power under the Clause. It is an impressive, even formidable list, but the Secretary of State's present powers to make regulations about the colleges of education are virtually just as comprehensive; there may be differences in wording, but in practice they are as comprehensive as anything in the Clause.

It was interesting that all the arguments put on the Amendment today kept referring to the central institutions. The Clause deals not only with the central institutions but also with the colleges of education. The difference between the central institutions and the colleges of education in this respect is very simple. It is that the colleges of education have already been subject to regulation, whereas the central institutions are being brought under the regulation-making power of the Secretary of State for the first time, something that I understand has the support of the whole House.

I suggest that one of the reasons why we have had so many representations by the central institutions—and I recognise that they have been sincerely made—is that they have no experience of the normal process of consultation that goes on between Government and bodies subject to regulations, because they have never been subject to regulations. It is significant that the local education authorities, for example, have not asked for a statutory obligation to consult to be written into the Bill, because they know that as a matter of course the Government consult them before regulations affecting them are put into operation. Similarly, the colleges of education, which are bodies just as distinguished as the boards of governors of central institutions, have made no representations on this point, because they know from their experience that when we are dealing with matters affecting colleges of education we consult them, although there is no statutory obligation to do so, and we shall continue to consult them.

Therefore, I think that what the central institutions require is not something written into the Bill, which would be at odds with everything else we are doing for other bodies concerned with regulations, but a reassurance, which I am glad to give again, that in practice they need not worry about the process of consultation, because consultation there certainly will be.

The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire read a letter from an undisclosed central institution—he was extremely coy about giving me its name—which suggested, although what he said to us was rather obscure on this point, that the principal of the institution had no knowledge of the Clause, and did not know that this kind of thing was being written into the legislation. If there is a principal of any central institution in Scotland who does not know about the Clause, he is a remarkably ignorant man; we discussed the Clause with the central institutions even before the Bill was published, and consultations are going on with the central institutions about the possible content of the regulations when the Bill is enacted. Therefore, I do not accept for one moment that any principal of a central institution should be in any doubt about the contents of the Clause and the Government's views on what might go into the regulations. Certainly, there should be no principal of a central institution in any doubt about the commitment which the Government have made, and which I have just repeated, to have consultations with the governors before regulations are introduced.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Are there many central institutions? Can my hon. Friend give us some examples of those that would be consulted?

Mr. Millan

We have consulted them all. It depends on exactly what we include, but I think there are 10. They include Robert Gordon's Institute in Aberdeen, the Dundee Institute of Art and Technology, the Paisley College of Technology and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, which I visited the other day, when this point was not even mentioned to me, never mind raised as a matter of great concern. There are the colleges of domestic education, Leith Nautical College, the Woollen Institute at Galashiels, and perhaps one or two others. We have already had consultations with them as to what might go into the regulations.

Only one other point was raised. The hon. Member for Renfrew, East spoke about the importance of good communication between staff and students and so on. I am glad she raised this point, because the regulations dealing with the colleges of education at present include references to the student body, student discipline and so on. It is interesting that none of the instruments of government of the central institutions has any reference to students, and as far as I recollect none of them has any provision in its constitution for staff to serve as governors of the body concerned. So far from the power given here taking away from the communication between staff and students or between staff and governors, it will give us the opportunity to make specific provision for these matters for the central institutions in a way similar to that which we have already made for the colleges of education.

Therefore, I ask the House to reject the Amendments. In saying that, I in no way attribute insincerity to the governors of the institutions concerned. I am not saying that they have had assurances which it is wrong for them not to have accepted. I can understand that they are in a period of uncertainty and that they may well feel that they require something written into the Bill. But I do not believe that they do need it written in, and to write it in would be a great mistake, with considerable implications. To write it in for them would mean that we should have to write it in for everyone, which would be very undesirable.

For all these reasons, I must ask the House to reject the Amendments.

Mr. MacArthur

With the leave of the House, perhaps I may make some comments on what the Minister has said.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman does not need the leave of the House.

Mr. MacArthur

Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, may I say as a matter of courtesy to you that I do not intend to detain the House for long.

The hon. Gentleman has given a very disappointing reply to our Amendments. I particularly regret the way in which he gives the impression of playing a sort of game of catch-as-catch-can. So often he said in Committee that we should not do a thing one way but should do it another, and then if we did it that way he said that we should do it in yet another way. He did this jumping from Clause to Clause in Committee, and today he has returned to that habit, which I find rather disagreeable.

The Under-Secretary fails to understand why this protection should be written into the Bill. I remind him yet again that Section 144(2) of the 1962 Act will be abolished when this Measure is enacted. There will, therefore, be no process whereby those who are concerned about these regulations can make representations to the Secretary of State.

The hon. Gentleman said that consultations will take place. The same was said by the Secretary of State. I accept their good faith, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) pointed out, unless they can foresee a situation in which it might be inconvenient for consultations to take place, there is no reason why they should not agree to write this simple protection into the Bill.

I was not trying to make a great deal of the letter from the principal, but it is worth reiterating that in his correspondence of May he pointed out: No information with regard to this legislation has come to us direct from the Scottish Education Department … That may have referred to the progress of the legislation, but the fact remains that the principal did not feel that adequate consultation had taken place. Despite the assurances given by the Government at the meeting last November—I gather that that was the meeting to which the Under-Secretary referred—the colleges are not content with the position and want this protection written into the Bill.

While I do not wish to detain the House, it is interesting to note what some of the letters that we have received have said. [Interruption.] I do not know how many such letters hon. Gentlemen opposite have received. It is important that we take note of representations of this kind and, while I would be in order in reading them all, I will quote from only two. One says: They"— that is, the governors of this college— agree that the assurance given by the Secretary of State … and by Mr. Millan … go a long way to allay the uneasiness felt by the Governors. However, they find it hard to understand why the Government is unwilling to give this assurance the necessary statutory backing by having it included in a suitable form within the Bill. They feel that their position will only be fully protected if an appropriate clause is inserted at the Committee stage indicating that such consultations must be carried out before any regulations are made under the Clause. Another letter reads: At a meeting in St. Andrew's House … an assurance was given (and repeated by the Secretary of State in the debate on the Second Reading) that such prior consultation would take place, but we are all disappointed that no such assurance has been written into the Bill. All the other letters make the same point. I therefore cannot understand why the Government will not insert this protection, particularly in view of the wide powers that are being taken by the Secretary of State in Clause 15. Indeed, as the Under-Secretary said, there is a formidable list of powers, which I will not detail again.

This point distinguishes the central institutions from the other bodies. These powers are enormous and, because they are so great and because they can be invoked by regulations—which no longer need to be circulated and about which representations can no longer be made—it is important that a process of consultation should exist.

I am surprised and disappointed that the Under-Secretary did not refer to the precisely parallel case to which I referred earlier.

Mr. Lawson

On a point of order. This being Report stage, is it permissible for the hon. Gentleman to make a second major speech?

Mr. Speaker

It is not for Mr. Speaker to say what speeches are major and what are minor.

Mr. Lawson

Further to my point of order, Mr. Speaker. As this is a starred Amendment applying to a subject which was extensively debated in Committee upstairs, are we obliged to listen yet again to a repetition of the arguments at such length?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has been long enough in the House to know that he must listen patiently to remarks of which he may disapprove.

Mr. MacArthur

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and assure him that we should be only too happy if our arguments could be got into the Minister's head simply and rapidly. Unfortunately that has not been our experience throughout the discussion of the Bill. I regret that I must make certain points a second or third time. I was about to bring my remarks to a close when the hon. Gentleman rose on a point of order. If he had not interrupted me I should have been finished by now.

The parallel to this Amendment is the Amendment moved by the Government recently when they introduced a date into Clause 1 with the aim of removing doubt. That was done despite a firm

assurance given on Second Reading that such a date would, without its being written into the Bill, be the date when the fee-paying schools would be abolished. That date was given to remove doubt. The Amendment should be accepted for the same reason in precisely the same way to underline precisely the assurance given by the Government. Because I am disappointed with the content and terms of the Under-Secretary's reply, I must ask my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 174.

Division No. 239.] AYES [6.55 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gower, Raymond Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Grant, Anthony Osborn, John (Hallam)
Astor, John Grant-Ferris, R. Page, Graham (Crosby)
Awdry, Daniel Grieve, Percy Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hall, John (Wycombe) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bell, Ronald Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Pink, R. Bonner
Berry, Hn. Anthony Harris, Reader (Heston) Pounder, Rafton
Biffen, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Biggs-Davison, John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Prior, J. M. L.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harvie Anderson, Miss Pym, Francis
Black, Sir Cyril Hawkins, Paul Quennell, Miss J. M.
Blaker, Peter Heseltine, Michael Rees-Davies, W. R.
Body, Richard Hiley, Joseph Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hill, J. E. B. Scott, Nicholas
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Holland, Philip Scott-Hopkins, James
Brewis, John Hornby, Richard Sharples, Richard
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hunt, John Silvester, Frederick
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sinclair, Sir George
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Bullus, Sir Eric Jopling, Michael Speed, Keith
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Kershaw, Anthony Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Kimball, Marcus Summers, Sir Spencer
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Knight, Mrs. Jill Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Chataway, Christopher Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Clegg, Walter Lubbock, Eric Temple, John M.
Cooke, Robert McAdden, Sir Stephen Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill MacArthur, Ian Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Corfield, F. V. Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Waddington, David
Cunningham, Sir Knox McNair-Wilson, Michael Wainwright, Richard (Coins Valley)
Dalkeith, Earl of Maddan, Martin Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Maginnis, John E. Ward, Dame Irene
Dean, Paul Marten, Neil Weatherill, Bernard
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Maude, Angus Wells, John (Maidstone)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Mawby, Ray Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Drayson, G. B. Mills, Peter (Torrington) Wiggin, A. W.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Miscampbell, Norman Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'le-upon-Tyne, N.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Emery, Peter Monro, Hector Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Errington, Sir Eric Montgomery, Fergus Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred More, Jasper Wright, Esmond
Fisher, Nigel Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wylie, N. R.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Younger, Hn. George
Fortescue, Tim Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Foster, Sir John Murton, Oscar TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Nicholls, Sir Harmar Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Gibson-Watt, David Nott, John Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Albu, Austen Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Binns, John
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bagier, Gordon A. T. Blackburn, F.
Anderson, Donald Barnett, Joel Boardman, H. (Leigh)
Archer, Peter Baxter, William Boston, Terence
Armstrong, Ernest Bence, Cyril Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Bradley, Tom Hilton, W. S. Palmer, Arthur
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hooley, Frank Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brooks, Edwin Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Pavitt, Laurence
Brown, Hugh D. (C'gow, Provan) Huckfield, Leslie Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Buchan, Norman Hunter, Adam Pentland, Norman
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hynd, John Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Price, William (Rugby)
Cant, R. B. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Probert, Arthur
Carmichael, Neil Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rankin, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Chapman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Richard, Ivor
Coleman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Judd, Frank Rogers, George (Kensington. N.)
Crawshaw, Richard Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Leadbitter, Ted Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Sheldon, Robert
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Loughlin, Charles Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Luard, Evan Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silverman, Julius
Dempsey, James Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Slater, Joseph
Dewar, Donald McCann, John Spriggs, Leslie
Dobson, Ray MacColl, James Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Doig, Peter MacDermot, Niall Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Dunnett, Jack McGuire, Michael Summerskill, Hn, Dr. Shirley
Eadie, Alex McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Tinn, James
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackie, John Tuck, Raphael
English, Michael Mackintosh, John P. Urwin, T. W.
Ensor, David Maclennan, Robert Varley, Eric G.
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Faulds, Andrew McNamara, J. Kevin Watkins, David (Consett)
Fernyhough, E. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Weitzman, David
Foley, Maurice Manuel, Archie Wellbeloved, James
Ford, Ben Mapp, Charles Whitaker, Ben
Forrester, John Marks, Kenneth White, Mrs. Eirene
Fowler, Gerry Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Whitlock, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Millan, Bruce Wilkins, W. A.
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Milne, Edward (Blyth) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Gregory, Arnold Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Grey, Charles (Durham) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Moyle, Roland Winnick, David
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Neal, Harold Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Norwood, Christopher Woof, Robert
Harper, Joseph Oram, Albert E.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oswald, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Haseldine, Norman Padley, Walter Mr. Neil McBride and
Hazell, Bert Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Mr. J. D. Concannon
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Paget, R. T.
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