HC Deb 10 June 1969 vol 784 cc1386-409

Amendments made: No. 54, in page 45, line 40, at end insert: (2) In this paragraph the expression 'local authority' shall have the same meaning as in the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968: Provided that until section 1(4) of the said Act of 1968 comes into operation the expression 'local authority' shall mean a local health authority within the meaning of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (including a joint committee or board constituted under section 20 of that Act).

No. 55, in page 46, line 6, leave out from 'made' to 'of' in line 8 and insert: 'or approved under the corresponding provision of Part VI'.

No. 56, in line 10, after 'State', insert: 'or the Scottish Universities Committee of the Privy Council'.—[Mr. Millan.]

11.3 p.m.

Mr. Ross

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As I said in moving the Second Reading, I regard this as a valuable Bill which recognises that the reforms and developments which are constantly taking place in education and in educational practice must be reflected in statute. The only provision that has provoked long discussion is that which will do away with fee paying in schools run by education authorities in Scotland as from 1st August, 1970.

I do not propose to rehearse the arguments in favour of this very necessary change. They have been fully covered on Second Reading and in Committee. We on this side of the House have no doubt that the continuance of fee paying in education authority secondary schools is undesirable in itself and impossible to reconcile with the Government's aim of comprehensive secondary education, or with Scotland's tradition of education. It would be unfortunate, however, if this Bill were regarded solely as the Bill that did that—abolish fees in about 20 Scottish schools or in the three Edinburgh and five Glasgow secondary schools on whose future the arguments on this provision have mainly turned. It is concerned with much more than that—with the education of all our children and young people.

One of the most important Clauses is Clause 10 which sets out in detail a new and improved procedure for the ascertainment of children requiring special education or who are so severely handicapped that they cannot be educated and trained at all. In devising this new procedure we have had two main principles in mind—to safeguard the interests of these unfortunate children and to ensure that their parents are fully informed and given specific rights to appeal to the Secretary of State when decisions are taken. In all this we are not imposing on education authorities a new attitude to these proposals or a new relationship with the parents of handicapped children. We are trying to ensure as far as we can by statute that all attain the high standards of sympathetic concern and careful ascertainment which the best of them already practise.

The new power in Clause 15 to prescribe the constitution and functions of the governing bodies of grant-aided colleges by regulations will enable us to modernise more quickly and effectively the constitutions of our central institutions. It is, I hope, unnecessary for me to repeat that we shall consult the existing governing bodies of central institutions before the new regulations are drafted. Indeed, as my hon. Friend said on Report, preliminary consultations are already in train.

I do not propose to go through all the other provisions of the Bill in detail. It takes account of the changes which are taking place in education, recognising the essential unity of school education and accepting that a child guidance service is now a necessary part of the provision in many areas. I express my thanks to those hon. Members who paid particular attention to efforts to improve the Bill. They were not always successful in having accepted what they thought were the right ideas, but I thank them, and I commend the efforts of the Under-Secretary of State, whose work has been arduous and whose ability to clarify obscure issues has been a constant advantage to the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I shall state again, fairly briefly, on Third Reading, that we object strongly to the proposal in Clause 1 in which the Government are deliberately attempting to abolish the category of local authority fee-paying schools. We have made clear throughout the passage of the Bill that we are strongly opposed to the wanton destruction of this category of schools which over many years have built up standards and traditions of excellence in education in Scotland. It is easy to destroy what is good or outstanding, but it takes effort and work over many years to create or re-create.

During the passage of the Bill, I am sorry to say, the Government have made this provision even worse, because on Report stage they have written into the Bill a date, just over a year's time, by which, if the Bill is enacted in this form, the abolition of these schools will be automatic instead of the matter being left to an order which the Secretary of State might or might not bring forward later. This means that if the Bill is enacted in this form, fee-paying schools are due to be abolished on 1st August, 1970, no matter what happens in the meantime, for example the arrival of another Government with different views.

This will happen unless there is amending legislation, and I therefore state categorically that the next Conservative Government will introduce that amending legislation in order to restore the tight to local authorities to charge fees if they wish to do so. The choice will again be at the discretion of the local authorities.

We are opposed to the attempt to impose a uniform pattern of education on all areas and all local authorities in Scotland. Different combinations and a different organisation are appropriate to different areas in Scotland. For example, in some rural areas where there is a scattered population the best arrangements are often different from what is appropriate to cities and large towns.

It is schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow which are now threatened by this Bill. The whole nature of these schools will be changed. It is beyond doubt that the Government are determined to stamp out this kind of school. Naturally there is selection, but it is based on the ability of the pupils alone. As my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) has demonstrated, the parents of these pupils come from just about every occupation. The Secretary of State must be aware of the widespread opposition in Edinburgh and Glasgow to what he is proposing in the Bill. That opposition comes from all sections of the community.

It is depressing to think that Parliament should be asked to pass a Measure aimed at deliberately extinguishing schools which have achieved the highest standards of excellence in education, schools with outstanding records of achievement. We in Scotland cannot afford to throw away such assets. We have resources of brains and ability. They should not be deprived of some of the opportunities that are now available to them.

The Bill is not only bad for Scotland—remembering that to a great extent we shall in future depend on our young people of today and tomorrow—but it gives a misleading impression that in Scotland we do not value the excellence of education. The people of Scotland have always valued excellence in education and they will not willingly jettison it for doctrinaire reasons. We need to encourage establishments that can do so much for our promising young people, for Scotland's future will be largely in their hands in the coming years. We cannot allow the Government's philistine and destructive designs to pass without the strongest protest.

On the payment question, in Glasgow it amounts to £25 a year. This is not an inhibiting factor, being equivalent to two packets of cigarettes a week.

I repeat that the next Conservative Government will introduce the necessary amending legislation to restore the rights of local authorities to charge fees if they so wish. In the meantime, we thoroughly deplore the Government's attitude.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. Woodburn

I completely refute the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell). It is nonsense to say that the selection of pupils for these schools is made on merit alone. In any event, the inference is that all the others who do not get to these schools do not have merit. One must consider the question of parents who wish to pay the fees but whose children do not have the merit and of the children who have the merit but whose parents do not wish to pay the fees. This proves that many children are excluded from these schools, which means that there is no justification in the hon. Gentleman's argument that selection is based on merit alone.

Moreover, in arguing in the way he does, the hon. Gentleman condemns the schools throughout Scotland, schools which have produced students who have gone to every part of the world and have distinguished themselves and Scotland. Many of those who take the hon. Gentleman's point of view never went to Scottish schools. I did not attend a Scottish fee-paying school. I was educated at a public school, in the Scottish use of the phrase, and the education provided at that and the other schools throughout Scotland was and is in no way inferior to the education provided in any school in Britain. That applies to a great many of our Scottish public schools, from which the great majority of Scots have come, and many of whom have then gone, to our nation's credit, to places all over the world. To seek to put a slur on them by saying that the only people of distinction have come from the few fee-paying schools is a disgrace to those who do so.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

The right hon. Gentleman is, no doubt unwittingly, saying what I did not say. I did not say that all the people of distinction come from certain schools, but I did say that those schools have made a remarkable contribution to Scottish education.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Younger

I cannot let the no doubt well-intentioned remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) pass without saying that he spoke with great sincerity but totally off the whole point of the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell). If one is trying to make a point, it is the simplest thing in the world to do so by demolishing an argument that has never been put forward. I could do the same thing, but I do not propose to waste the time of the House in doing so.

I agree with the Secretary of State that it would be a pity if the Bill were to be thought of only as destroying the fee-paying schools. There is much in it that is good. I refer particularly to the improved arrangements for assessing and dealing with handicapped children.

I support what my hon. Friend has said about the truly deplorable move to destroy the right of local authorities to have fee-paying schools if they so wish. After what has gone on earlier, it is strange to find a complete somersault by the Treasury Bench. In reply to Amendments moved from this side, Ministers have said again and again that it is good that local authorities should be able to decide matters for themselves. They have asked why we cannot leave the local authorities to decide about religious education, and all the rest. Then we have the somersault, and it is suddenly wrong for local authorities to decide in favour of fee-paying schools. I can assure the Government that they have not heard the last on that point.

What about the financial effects of the Bill? Here we have a Government which can afford to do hardly anything, now throwing away £¼ million. Plenty of things that need to be done in Scotland could be done with that amount of money. The Secretary of State chooses this time to take £¼ million out of the education service. Is he so rich, so well endowed, so well able to look after the needs of the country that he can afford to throw back such a sum to those who are willing to pay it? I am sure that he can look forward in the next few months to suggestions about how £¼ million could be used in various ways in Scotland.

What about the removal of choice? The Government may think that they have got away with the Bill, but I ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to put themselves in the position of parents living in one of those parts of Scotland which are desperately short of teachers, where the schools are inadequate, and schooling is only part-time. If their child is academically bright, those parents at present at least have the chance, be it large or small, of getting that child into a school where the teaching and the amount of education will be adequate to get it to university. After the Bill is enacted, that chance will have gone. The child will have to stay at the school to which it is allocated, even if the staff is inadequate and the education is only part-time.

Where is the equality there? The only solution these parents will have is to move to one of the areas where education is good. Where can they find money to do that? It is all right if a parent is well-off. Then he can buy a house in Bearsden where education is better, but these parents cannot do that. This will be the effect of destroying the fee-paying schools. The people it will hit will be those who have not the means to move from council houses and from areas where education is not so good.

I hope that the Government will realise that they should change their priorities of spending to bring schools up to the staffing standards we need. No doubt they have impressed on themselves that this is a great reforming Measure, but I think it means a reduction in the quality of education which can be offered. It is certainly a reduction in freedom of choice and a steam-rollering of local authorities which wish to run schooling in a different way from that of the Secretary of State. This is a very irrelevant vicious and destructive Measure which has been opposed by many thousands in the cities and by the Opposition. It should be opposed by everyone until local authorities are given back the freedom to have these schools if they wish. I am certain the Government will regret this action.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Willis

As a Member for one of the constituencies in the city most affected, I wish to speak about fee-paying schools. Edinburgh has probably more fee-paying schools than any other town in the country. If all the arguments adduced by hon. Members opposite in favour of fee paying are sound, for heaven's sake let them get back to their areas and advocate it there—in Moray and Nairn, or Ayrshire, for instance. Areas outside Edinburgh and Glasgow do not have these schools, but are people in those areas at a disadvantage? If so, hon. Members opposite should be fighting for them.

Mr. Younger

I am sure that the right hon. Member would want to be fair. I advocate that local authorities everywhere should have the right to fee-paying schools if they wish to have them.

Mr. Willis

In the last six months I have not read any speeches by hon. Members opposite directed to their local authorities telling them of the great benefits to be derived from this form of education. It is a comment on the paucity of policy of hon. Members opposite that they should go to the barricades almost on this one issue. This is the sole educational issue on which they are prepared to go to the barricades. What is the issue?

Mr. MacArthur


Mr. Willis

Why does the hon. Member not fight for freedom in his constituency? Leave Edinburgh alone; we shall fight for freedom in Edinburgh. The freedom hon. Members opposite talk about is that a small minority of people should be allowed to continue to purchase an educational cachet for their children which will exempt them from most of the undesirable tasks in society. That is what hon. Members opposite are fighting for.

Those people are obtaining that educational privilege at the expense of the taxpayer and the ratepayer. The poor people that the hon. Gentleman mentioned—I have thousands of them in my constituency—are paying through their rates and taxes for the minority to enjoy this privilege. Hon. Members opposite say that it is not a large fee—£25. It those people want that education, let them pay the full price, which is £400. Who pays the other £375? The taxpayer and the ratepayer, irrespective of their income. The Supplementary Benefits Commission pays through its supplementary benefits payment of rent and rates and goodness knows what so that a small group shall retain an out-dated privilege.

I have made long speeches about this in the past, but now I would only congratulate the Government on at last having grasped the nettle, on at last trying to introduce at least into the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh a system that is fair and meets the needs of modern society in which we live. We cannot have a modern system of education in Edinburgh unless we make this change.

Hon. Members


Mr. Willis

The hon. Members who say "Rubbish" do not live in Edinburgh.

Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I live in Edinburgh, and I shouted "Rubbish".

Mr. Willis

The hon. and learned Gentleman is one of the misguided few in Edinburgh who support fee-paying. But even the Education Committee in Edinburgh supported the Bill. It was the Burgh Council that turned it down, not the education experts on the Education Committee.

Mr. MacArthur

Talk to them now.

Mr. Willis

The Education Committee was not against the proposal.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and hope that the change will be made in Edinburgh as quickly as possible, so that we can have a sensible system of education.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) rightly said that the two local authorities most directly concerned are Glasgow and Edinburgh. The main arguments have been fully canvassed in Committee, but I should like to put two points about Glasgow.

Can the Minister now say anything about the physical problems that will arise in Glasgow as a result of the change? Almost all our fee-paying selective schools are concentrated in or near the city centre, where a small number of people in relation to our total population live. Precisely how can the right hon. Gentleman consider that the Glasgow Education Authority can change its system to territorial comprehensives by using these schools? We have no surplus of accommodation and no surplus of teachers; we have a shortage of teachers.

Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that the only way is by a major bussing operation, by bringing children from the suburbs in buses to attend schools in the city centres and calling them territorial comprehensives when they are nothing of the sort? This is not comprehensive education. It is not a territorial comprehensive system if children are brought in buses from miles outside in the suburbs into the city. What could he the territorial area for the Boys High School, for Allan Glen's, for Notre Dame?

The right hon. Gentleman may abolish fee-paying schools. He may abolish selective schools, but he cannot in Glasgow, at least for 30, 40 or 50 years, create a proper territorial comprehensive system with the stock of schools we have. Mention has been made of fees. Fees are not the major issue. If they are, why do not hon. Members opposite agitate against the schools with big fees? If big fees create privileged education, why not agitate against those schools which charge £200, £300, £400 or £500? Instead, they go for schools where the fee is 10s. a week. There may be a tiny fraction of the population which cannot afford even that fee but there are many thousands of children whose parents cannot afford the Gordonstouns of this world. If fees matter, why not go to the barricades and attack the high fee schools? Why go for the schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow where the fees are so small?

The truth is that the Government are out to destroy selective education—that is the issue. In Committee, I offered to vote with the Government if, in exchange for the abolition of these fees, they would agree to retain the schools in their present form as selective schools, some as single-sex schools. It would be a good bargain to bring stability to education and we would not have what could be the appalling situation with schools switching backwards and forwards from selective to comprehensive and fee-paying to non-fee-paying. It is important to avoid this switching about in Scottish education. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept a compromise and allow selection to remain while abolishing fees?

We object so strongly to this proposal because it will not bring equality—far from it. It will entrench inequality. I have no basis for these figures but I estimate that more than nine out of ten parents in Glasgow could, with a little sacrifice, afford to present their children for entry to these schools. Indeed, it might be 19 out of 20 parents. But at any rate it is the vast majority.

What are the Government replacing this system with? They will no longer have the situation where bright kids from different areas go to these schools. Instead of academic selection, there will be rigid class selection, in which the best education, with no shortage of teachers, will be concentrated in nice areas. Instead of asking themselves whether they can afford to spend 10s. a week in fees, parents will ask whether they can afford £6,000 or £7,000 to buy a bungalow in a nice part of Edinburgh or Glasgow.

One of the problems is that the way our cities are planned means that society is becoming more and more stratified. We have the working-class areas, the executive areas—in this part of England, the stockbroker belt. Opportunities for social mix are becoming less and less. If we are to have a competitive society with equality of opportunity, we must get away from rigid class divisions. But more rigid class divisions will be created in Edinburgh and Glasgow by this proposal. We have some of it already. In some areas, there is a bad teacher shortage; in other areas there is not. In some areas, a large proportion of the children stay on after school-leaving age; in other areas a higher proportion leave.

The Government's proposals will make the problem worse. It will be utterly impossible for someone in a rough, tough area, where there are unavoidably, poor education and facilities, to break through. It will be impossible to have schools like the Boys' High School, Allan Glen's and Notre Dame where there is now a good social mix with kids from all sort of areas. We delude ourselves if we say that the fees matter; they do not. Fees could be abolished tomorrow without reducing the problem. The real problem is selective education which the Bill is to abolish. That is what the Government are after. They will create more rigid class divisions in our society.

This is what we must battle against. We must oppose the Bill with all our strength. [Laughter.] English hon. Members opposite may think that this is funny, but it is not. The Government are creating a tragedy for the community of the year 1990 or 2000. We ought to try to break down the class divisions in our society. More important, we ought to try to provide equality of opportunity for everyone.

We shall not be able to do that so long as we have some areas where the education problems are concentrated and we shall not overcome those problems by saying that we will give 50 quid for teachers in tough areas. These problems cannot be overcome unless there is social mix.

I look forward to the day when we have selective education throughout. Of course it has its problems, for no system is perfect. But the Bill is a tragedy, for it creates more class divisions. The Government are making a terrible blunder and I wish that they would reconsider the Bill. We will not suffer for it and most of our children will not suffer for it, but the consequences of the Government's blunder will be seen in 20 or 30 years.

11.37 p.m.

Mr. Dewar

One or two hon. Members have already said that they are sorry that the debate has concentrated on the one issue of fee-paying schools. If that is a tragedy, it is a tragedy which the Opposition are making, for they have fought and agitated about practically nothing else. I do not entirely blame them for that, because I recognise that it is an extraordinarily emotive and important issue.

I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) that in this argument fees are comparatively unimportant. We are talking when discussing this small group of schools about our attitude to the development of the education system in Scotland and about the future of, for example, selection.

I make no bones about it: I am unashamedly proud to say that I do not approve of selective education as it is represented by these schools. I do not think that an efficient system of selective education can be run. There are far too many distorting factors which are bound to enter into it. The child from the literate home, from the middle-class home, from the home which is educationally aware and educationally ambitious, will always have enormous advantages over the child from the housing scheme area, the child who does not come from that sort of background. With the best will in the world, if an education system is run on out and out selective lines, it has a built-in mix of children from the middle income groups who strive because that is their tradition. That is not necessarily a good thing.

I am sure, too, that on the whole these schools are socially divisive. I recognise much of what has been said about the social mix in one or two of these schools, but many of them inculcate and encourage attitudes which are socially divisive. No one who has mixed with their products and their pupils would disagree with that.

I recognise that there are many divisions, educational and social, in society. I recognise that the comprehensive system, for example, as the hon. Member for Cathcart said, means that we will get one area where there is a low education tradition and where only a small percentage of children are likely to go on to higher education and that a school in such an area may become an unfashionable comprehensive. This kind of demarcation may be built in by unfortunate zoning policies, or perhaps inevitable zoning policies, but this fault could be eradicated in many areas. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] In the system that hon. Members opposite defend and would perpetuate, educational apartheid, the build-in is inevitable. There the creaming off would take place and the élitist, separatist school would be set up and established. That is a much more dangerous and more certain educational stride than the occasional unfortunate—and I agree they may be unfortunate—unsatisfactory zoning arrangements.

Take my city of Aberdeen where we are about to have 10 all-through comprehensive schools. There are two areas out of the 10 where we might say that the kind of satisfactory social mix that we all want does not exist. I regret that. But the system which these schools will replace is riddled with educational apartheid and distinctions about which we shall never do anything unless we are prepared to put through the educational reform for which the Government, by this Bill, are preparing the groundwork.

I do not accept very many of these arguments. There is a tendency, again possibly an understandable tendency, for hon. Members opposite to say that these schools are good schools according to their standards. They may be. I have dissented from that view. But even if it were true, and even if they were desirable in themselves, we must look at the system as a whole. I am sure that the continuance of these schools would have an unfortunate and disastrous effect.

We cannot run an efficient education system on comprehensive lines—and even on the benches opposite there are people who pay lip-service to the idea of comprehensive education—if in a city like Edinburgh or, to a lesser but still significant extent Glasgow we take from every area of the city all those children who are intellectually able and ambitious and cream them off into a small group of élitist schools in the centre. That would not work. The argument is not about whether we are victimising—and I think that we are not—the small group of people who get into these schools at the moment.

We should be thinking about what we are doing for the whole of the education system and the tens and twenties of thousands of children who every year do not get the chance to opt into these privileged institutions but just have to go into the massive schools which, as the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) said, are under-staffed and underprivileged and educationally inefficient. Those children cannot get out. They are stuck. These schools will continue to be in this state for much longer if the parent who is educationally aware is allowed to opt out and to say, "It is not my business because my little Jennie will not suffer". I want to harness the ambition which exists among these people, and which is rightly praised by hon. Members opposite, for the benefit of all the schools and children in Scotland.

I am convinced that the Bill is an essential and necessary first step. People have said that this is the thin end of a wedge. I watch with interest and await with hope the report of the Commission on grant-aided schools. I hope that it will not be such an anti-climatic let-down as the report on the public schools. In one sense, for me this is not so much a fear as a hope.

The Bill is a limited step forward. But it is an essential step forward, and I wholeheartedly welcome it and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues on the Front Bench on having had the courage to make a start on an extraordinarily difficult and emotional topic.

11.44 p.m.

Mrs. Ewing

On Second Reading I expressed the view that comprehensive education is a good old Scottish custom. In so far as the Bill reverts to this tradition, the principle cannot be under serious attack. Concerning the time scale, criticism could be made and opinions could vary about how it should be put into operation. I have made my comments on that and I will not repeat them. However, that is not a sufficiently strong criticism to enable me to vote against the Bill.

I cannot vote for the Bill because of the existence of Clause 18. I feel strongly and sincerely on the matter of the dismissal of certain teachers. The dismissal of a minority cannot be waved away by the argument that it is just a minority. When minorities have strong principles they are important and their rights must be considered.

I wish to make two brief points. The first relates to entrance into the profession. A new entrant to the teaching profession knows that it will involve registration and he or she knows the present situation in regard to the G.T.C. When he enters the profession he makes a contract on a known basis. He can have no particular grievance, and it would be up to him to change the situation from within. But worthy of consideration are those who entered the teaching profession on a certain basis which was later changed without their consent.

Their fault is that they committed the human error of not reading the small print. They should have studied a report which vitally concerned them and should have expressed disagreement. It is the lawyers who are accustomed to reading the small print; they are suspicious of it. But the teachers' attitude was one of trust. They did not feel it necessary to become lawyers and to study the matter as they should have done.

My second point is that, fortunately, in the end only a small minority was dismissed. There is strong evidence, if one studies Parliamentary Questions and Answers over the period, to support the view that vast numbers of teachers registered reluctantly and against their principles. Should people be asked to act against their principles and to alter the basis on which many had been teaching for a lifetime?

Bitterness has been caused in a profession which should be without bitterness. It is a profession which has so many other problems, staff shortages, large classes and other difficulties. Hon. Members will have received countless letters from teachers who had no particular scruple against registration but who deplored the dismissal of their qualified colleagues. Petitions were sent to me, as I am sure they have been sent to other hon. Members, and were handed over.

Whatever solution is found to the problem, it cannot have been right to dismiss qualified teachers. I feel so strongly about the matter that I cannot support the Bill. I say so with the utmost sincerity. The situation is delicate and could get worse. The whole issue is alive again. It is not dead and buried. It may affect the training colleges and entrants may go into the profession with feelings of bitterness.

There must be a solution. Clever draftsmen must be able to find a way out so as not to cause injustice to entrants. Surely an amnesty could yet be offered to the teachers who were dismissed. I make an earnest appeal to the Minister to consider the matter. I am sure that he is a clever Minister in framing Clauses. I appeal to him to find a solution to enable these teachers to be brought back into a short-staffed profession.

Anyone who suggests that the teachers were insincere in what they did would do them an injustice. Many of them were in my constituency. One was a headmaster, and others were members of E.I.S. They did not feel it right that their contract of service should be altered. It is unusual for a person of repute to be dismissed not for an act of commission, but for doing nothing. That cannot be right. It is not common sense. We have large classes and a shortage of teachers. Perhaps the Minister will consider that he has made a mistake in the matter and will try to find a solution.

11.50 p.m.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

It would be churlish of some of us if we did not welcome the Bill. It is not generally known that even in England in 1944 there was a decision to get rid of fee-paying schools. The educational set up in England is different from that of Scotland, but we on this side would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend for bringing forward a reforming Measure which England abolished in 1944.

We are grateful for the setting up of a General Teaching Council, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing). Before becoming a Member of Parliament, I was an education administrator. I remember how the teaching profession longed so much for a General Teaching Council. It longed for professional status. It longed for the time when it would receive professional recognition on the lines of the British Medical Association—the B.M.A. as it is known.

We do not challenge people's sincerity on this issue. When a person finds himself at variance with his colleagues, it is wrong that he should find himself out in the cold because he does not want to join the majority.

Perhaps I might give an analogy from my experience as a miner. My trade union decided that a miner should not be allowed to go underground unless he wore a hard hat. Some said that they would not wear a hard hat. They were good, honest, decent people, but we had to say to them: "If you will not wear a hard hat you cannot go underground." This was not an infringement of freedom: this was a decision made by the majority.

When we went further and decided that men should not smoke underground, some said that they wanted to smoke underground. But the majority said: "You will not smoke underground. If you want to become part of the industry you will have to do what the majority want to do."

It is a rather strange argument that a minority can complain of having their freedom taken away from them because the majority have made what I should consider to be a sensible decision.

I will not pursue this argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I see that you are rather anxious about the point that I am making. But in discussing freedom and decency, I should point out that those people in the mining industry were just as decent as those in the teaching profession. If people decide to go out-with it, they go outwith it because they themselves have decided in their own consciences to do so.

Some significant facts emerged during the debate. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) came out firmly in favour of the principle of selective education. We on this side of the House do not accept that principle.

One of the amazing points brought cut by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was that we were not only discussing fee-paying schools, but the question of the 11-plus, or the 12-plus as it is known in Scotland, and the five-plus. We consider that this is a ridiculous concept to apply in modern twentieth century education. To talk of freedom of choice and freedom in education is absurd when some of these fee-paying schools are applying the policy and principle of selectivity. Where is the freedom in education there?

We have argued against selectivity and against the idea that we should have a system of education that writes off 60 per cent. of the school population and decides that only 40 per cent. may go on to some spheres of higher education. One of my greatest pleasures as an education administrator in my county was to see the abolition of primary and post-primary schooling.

Some of us on this side of the House have as much experience of education as hon. Gentlemen opposite have. We do not challenge their sincerity, but some hon. Gentlemen opposite have not had the advantage of Scottish education. Some of them turned their backs on our system, and it is therefore difficult for us sometimes to listen to lectures on the kind of educational policy that we should have in Scotland.

I know that my constituents would not want to go back to fee-paying schools. I know that the constituents of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) do not want to go back to them, either. I was for a time Chairman of the Education Committee in Fife, and I know that even in the great town of St. Andrews, the seat of the university, the people there do not want to go back to primary or post-primary fee-paying education. I played a part in abolishing the fee-paying system in that county.

I said in Committee, and on Second Reading, that the Opposition had taken a trouncing on the basics of the argument. The people of Scotland do not want fee-paying schools. They do not want selectivity in education. They want a system of education which will give real equality of opportunity to the children. Since this Government have been in power the output of students from the universities has been greater than ever before. I have tabled Questions which show that the number of children going for "O" level certificates is higher than ever before. The policy against selectivity, and for comprehensive education, is paying off to the extent that it is opening a real gateway of opportunity for the education of our children. I give the Bill a very warm welcome, and I congratulate my right hon. Gentleman and hon. Friend on carrying it through the House.

11.58 p.m.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

The arguments for and against fee-paying schools have been deployed over and over again. I do not propose to imitate the gramophone record performance of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) who has treated us to the same performance on many occasions.

Mr. Willis

A very good one, too.

Earl of Dalkeith

I rise merely to place on record a final protest, in the strongest possible terms, on behalf of the many parents in my constituency, and throughout Edinburgh, who are deeply distressed at the Government's action in abolishing fee-paying schools. I believe that a great many of them—and many more parents outside—recognise this manœuvre for what it is—a pure Socialist doctrinaire, levelling-down policy to deprive parents of any form of freedom.

This will do the Government no good at all when the votes are counted. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. He can afford to ignore public opinion in Edinburgh, because he is not standing for election again. He can leave it to his wretched successor to carry the burden.

If the Government want to hammer nails into their own coffin, who am I to stop them? But I bitterly resent the fact that they are doing it at the expense of children and parents and their freedom, and, what is more important, the freedom of responsible local authorities to decide what sort of education they want to provide. I therefore register my protest in the strongest possible terms.

Mr. Millan

The Bill generally has had a welcome from the House. It contains many useful provisions. At this late hour I shall not attempt to outline them, but I am glad that they have had a general welcome. I want to say a few things in reply to the points raised about the abolition of fee paying—not the abolition of fee-paying schools, which rather suggests that the schools are to be blown up or otherwise demolished at the date when the Bill comes into operation, but the abolition of fee-paying in local authority schools in Scotland.

I can say for the Opposition, at least on this point, that they have maintained a consistent attitude all the way through. They started in a state of hysteria about this modest proposal, and this lasted right to the end. That attitude seems to come pretty naturally from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), but I was slightly surprised at some of his right hon. and hon Friends. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) repeated the pledge that a future Conservative Government would restore the right to have fee paying.

It would be out of order for me to deal with such a hypothetical and wildly improbable set of circumstances as the return of a Conservative Government, but I find this pledge quite remarkable, apart from anything else, in the light of the history of this issue in England and Wales. English and Welsh Members opposite—if there are any Welsh Members opposite—must find it strange to hear this pledge apparently being given on behalf of a Conservative Opposition.

I should be a little more impressed by this pledge if I thought that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn and his hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire had attempted to persuade their own local education authorities to introduce fee paying in their areas. I know that their local education authorities are not interested in this, and that the hon. Members would get short shrift if they suggested that their local education authorities should introduce fee paying in their areas.

All the way through, the burden of the argument of hon. Members opposite has been that in the absence of a certain element of fee paying in local authority schools there was a deficiency in the education provided by local education authorities. If they do not accept that proposition I find it rather difficult to understand what all the fuss has been about.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

The hon. Gentleman might have listened to my opening speech, which I kept short owing to the lateness of the hour. I made it clear that in rural areas in the North of Scotland—such as the area that I represent—where the population is dispersed, different systems are appropriate. We say that local authorities should be able to do what is best for their areas.

Mr. Millan

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Member's evangelical fervour does not extend to his own constituency. All that I would say, in company with my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)—and I speak as a Glasgow Member—is "Please leave Glasgow alone."

The issue, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has recognised almost exclusively among his hon. Friends, is that of selection. I have never made any secret of that proposition. I should have found it easier to argue with the Opposition on this issue—and would have respected such arguments as we have heard from them rather more—if we had ever had from them a clear statement of their views about the selective system. We have gone through a tremendous amount of argument on the Bill and at the end of it I am as unclear of the Opposition's policy on selection as I was at the beginning.

Mr. Willis

So are they.

Mr. Millan

So are they—as my right hon. Friend says.

I have made my view clear on many occasions. I look forward very much to the abolition of the selective system. That is the basis of Government policy. Its object is the promotion of comprehensive education in secondary schools. In the light of that policy, I make no excuse for the fact that I find fee paying inconsistent with our philosophy and, from the point of view of this Government, a complete anachronism. I am, therefore, happy to have been associated with this Bill and the abolition of fee paying. Parental choice is important, of course it is, but the selective system does not provide parental choice. I would except the need for the widening of choice but this can be done through the comprehensive system which, in Scotland, is more part of the tradition than it is in England, and we want to see it extended.

The Opposition appears to be thinking in élitist terms. The hon. Member for

Moray and Nairn talked tonight of producing able pupils and I spoke of the need to value excellence, I agree, but we must not look for ability and excellence in a small minority of children to whom the whole educational system is directed. We cannot run the kind of economy we have in this country at present unless we produce large numbers of capable children from our educational institutions, and that is the aim of the present Government and one which we have, in fact, demonstrated we are achieving.

I accept that there are inequalities in the educational system and not all these inequalities arise only from the selective system or from fee paying arrangements. There are other inequalities, for example, those which arise from differences in home backgrounds. Those are something else and much more difficult to eradicate, but the difference between Her Majesty's present Government and the Opposition is that we wish to abolish these inequalities while right hon. and hon. Members opposite advocate policies which would perpetuate those inequalities. That is the difference between us, and this modest proposal which we make goes some way towards reducing the inequalities in our Scottish educational system.

It is not, in itself, a major proposal, but it is in a Bill containing many other useful proposals and it is on that basis that I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 156, Noes 107.

Division No. 245.] AYES [12.8 a.m.
Albu, Austen Concannon, J. D. Foley, Maurice
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Conlan, Bernard Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Anderson, Donald Crawshaw, Richard Ford, Ben
Archer, Peter Dalyell, Tam Forrester, John
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Galpern, Sir Myer
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Gardner, Tony
Barnett, Joel Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Garrett, W. E.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Binns, John Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gregory, Arnold
Blackburn, F. Dempsey, James Grey, Charles (Durham)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dewar, Donald Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dobson, Ray Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Booth, Albert Doig, Peter Harper, Joseph
Boston, Terence Dunnett, Jack Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Boyden, James Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Haseldine, Norman
Brooks, Edwin Eadie, Alex Hazell, Bert
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Ellis, John Hilton, W. S.
Buchan, Norman English, Michael Hooley, Frank
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Horner, John
Cant, R. B. Faulds, Andrew Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Carmichael, Neil Fernyhough, E. Huckfield, Leslie
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Coleman, Donald Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Hunter, Adam
Hynd, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Rowlands, E.
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Manuel, Archie Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Janner, Sir Barnett Mapp, Charles Sheldon, Robert
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Marks, Kenneth Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Silverman, Julius
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Mikardo, Ian Small, William
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Millan, Brucs Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Judd, Frank Miller, Dr. M. S. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Molloy, William Tinn, James
Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Tuck, Raphael
Lawson, George Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Urwin, T. W.
Leadbitter, Ted Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Varley, Eric G.
Loughlin, Charles Moyle, Roland Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Luard, Evan Neal, Harold Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Newens, Stan Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
McBride, Neil Norwood, Christopher Wellbeloved, James
McCann, John Oram, Albert E. White, Mrs. Eirene
MacColl, James Orme, Stanley Whitlock, William
MacDermot, Niall Oswald, Thomas Wilkins, W. A.
McGuire, Michael Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Palmer, Arthur Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Park, Trevor Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mackie, John Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Winnick, David
Mackintosh, John P. Price, William (Rugby) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Maclennan, Robert Rhodes, Geoffrey
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Richard, Ivor TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
McNamara, J. Kevin Ross, Rt. Hn. William Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Grant-Ferris, B. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Pink, R. Bonner
Astor, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Pounder, Rafton
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Biggs-Davison, John Harris, Reader (Heston) Pym, Francis
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Blaker, Peter Harvie Anderson, Miss Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hawkins, Paul Royle, Anthony
Body, Richard Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Russell, Sir Ronald
Boyle, R. Hn. Sir Edward Heseltine, Michael Scott, Nicholas
Brewis, John Higgins, Terence L. Scott-Hopkins, James
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hill, J. E. B. Sharples, Richard
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Holland, Philip Silvester, Frederick
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hornby, Richard Sinclair, Sir George
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hunt, John Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Jopling, Michael Smith, John (London & Westminster)
Clegg, Walter Kimball, Marcus Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Cooke, Robert King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Summers, Sir Spencer
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Kitson, Timothy Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Catlicart)
Corfield, F. V. MacArthur, Ian Temple, John M.
Cunningham, Sir Knox McNair-Wilson, Michael Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Dalkeith, Earl of Maddan, Martin Tilney, John
Dean, Paul Marten, Neil Waddington, David
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Maude, Angus Weatherill, Bernard
Digby, Simon Wingfield Mawby, Ray Wells, John (Maidstone)
Drayson, G. B. Mills, Peter (Torrington) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Miscampbell, Norman Wiggin, A. W.
Emery, Peter Monro, Hector Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Errington, Sir Eric Montgomery, Fergus Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Eyre, Reginald More, Jasper Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Fisher, Nigel Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Wright, Esmond
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Murton, Oscar Wylie, N. R.
Fortescue, Tim Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Younger, Hn. George
Foster, Sir John Nott, John
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Osborn, John (Hallam) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gower, Raymond Page, Graham (Crosby) Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Grant, Anthony Percival, Ian Mr. Humphrey Atkins.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.