HC Deb 07 May 1969 vol 783 cc472-530

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

I have published, as usual, my selection of Amendments. The first Amendment selected is No. 1, in page 3, line 22, leave out from 'on' to end of line 24 and insert '1st August, 1970'.

I suggest that with that Amendment we should consider the following Amendments:

No. 2, in line 24, at end insert: 'being a date not earlier than two years after the commencement of this Act'. No. 3, in line 24, at end add: (4) No order under subsection (3) above shall be made unless a draft of the order has been approved by both Houses of Parliament. No. 32, in page 30, line 25, leave out from 'until' to 'and' in line 27 and insert '1st August, 1970'.

No. 33, in line 36, leave out from 'until' to end of line 38 and insert '1st August, 1970'.

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

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 22, leave out from 'on' to end of line 24 and insert '1st August, 1970'.

May I apologise in advance for the depth of my voice.

Clause 1(3) provides that the power to charge fees in local authority schools in Scotland will continue until a date appointed by an order made by Statutory Instrument. One of the Amendments at present under discussion suggest that that date should be as late as at least two years after the passing of the Bill, but I feel that our suggestion is right. The effect of the Government Amendment is to abolish fee paying in those schools from 1st August, 1970.

I announced on Second Reading that fee paying in education authority schools would be abolished from that date, and the Bill will expressly provide for that and there will be no need for a Statutory Instrument. The change will ensure that all concerned know precisely when fees will be abolished, and the education authorities concerned will have as much notice as possible to enable them to decide on the future of the schools concerned. Indeed, when we had the rate support grant negotiations with local authorities earlier this year we took in the point and made arrangements in respect of the next two-year period for the finances involved. The local authorities already know the Government's intentions.

The authorities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are the only authorities which will have fee-paying secondary schools after the end of this Session, have already been asked to bring forward proposals for the integration of the schools within the comprehensive system, and when the Bill is enacted we propose to press the authorities again regarding these proposals. In considering any proposals I, as Secretary of State, will have very much in mind the need to avoid hardship to the pupils already at fee-paying schools, and parents may be assured that I shall be as much concerned as are the responsible education authorities to ensure that any reorganisation is effected in an orderly manner with due regard to the interests of the pupils and the staff.

Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 are consequential. They depend on the timing of the abolition of fee paying. When we printed the Bill in November we were still in discussion with local authorities. My hon. Friend met them in December. That is why we did not put the date in the Bill right away.

Part of my answer to the Opposition Amendment is that it is obviously undesirable, in the interests of the schools and pupils concerned, that uncertainty about their future should continue. A reasonable time has been allowed for authorities to make proposals for the future of these schools and, particularly, for the integration within a comprehensive system of secondary education of the schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh which are fee-paying and selective. If the abolition of fee paying was delayed for at least another year, the authorities might be tempted to delay still further their submissions of proposals, and this would be to the detriment of the pupils concerned and of the beneficial effect of reorganisation.

We have debated the principle at considerable length on Second Reading and in seven sittings of the Committee. Now, we are debating a narrow point. I am glad the Opposition have accepted the principle and that their concern, too, is with the timing.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

The right hon. Gentleman is jumping to conclusions prematurely.

Mr. Ross

I am following the logic of the Amendments. Indeed, hon. Members will appreciate that delay in implementation for a lengthy period would be quite wrong in the circumstances. The Government have made up their mind, and we have told the local authorities and the people of Scotland.

Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)

I must correct the Secretary of State in an assumption that anyone on this side has accepted any principle at all. As I have frequently said, the essence of Conservatism is precisely that it is unprincipled. But I deal with this, because the Secretary of State asked us to, in a narrower sense. He is telling us that he is introducing a date. This was not known to us—and I wonder whether he knew it—in Committee, from 30th January to the middle of March. The assumption was that a Statutory Instrument would implement this part of the Bill.

Mr. Ross

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here for the Second Reading, but I announced it then.

Mr. Wright

I was here on Second Reading and took part in that debate on 21st January.

The Secretary of State asked us to be specific, so I will be. The insertion of the date of 1st August, 1970, by which fee-paying schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh should be abolished, is unwise and totally mistimed. New boundaries are being planned for local authorities and the whole character of education, whether comprehensive or otherwise, is bound to be reconsidered. There is the issue of the place of direct grant schools and of schools outside the public sector.

The Public Schools Commission is about to report on the place of grant-aided schools in Scotland. There is the beginnings of a debate—to my taste, all too late—about the rôle in Scotland of sixth-form colleges. If there is a rôle to be played by these denuded, broken institutions, as they will be after 1st August, 1970, perhaps it would be as sixth-form colleges. We have been able to discuss none of these issues, and, because this will be an Act of Parliament, it will be impossible to do any of these things—in particular, to see that Glasgow High School or the Royal High in Edinburgh become the sixth-form colleges which they might well have become.

I therefore suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's timing is bad. I realise that I am speaking to a scholastic expert—as of 13 years ago. Every item in the Bill gives evidence of the antiquity of the principles which we are being reminded are at stake. I look forward not to 1st August, 1970, but to some other date, about which perhaps he knows more than I, when he may well have to return to his original profession as a school teacher in Scotland—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman will not be out of order if he speaks about the Amendment.

Mr. Wright

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a number of issues and a number of principles at stake even in this apparently tiny suggestion of a precise date. This cannot be considered without considering the character, the quality and the whole function of these relatively few schools in two cities. I admit that we are not discussing principles or the character of comprehensive education, because that is not the debate between us. The character of Scottish education has always been comprehensive. One of the tragedies of the Bill is that it represents the intrusion of English educational dogma into a debate on Scottish education.

We must consider that, as of 1st August, 1970, a small number of schools out of a total of well over 3,000 will, in some degree, be legislated out of existence by decree of this House and the Secretary of State. For a host of reasons, this brings the question of their fate 16 months from now to crisis point. These are old schools. I notice the absence of the only two Etonians in the ranks of the party opposite, one of whom is the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), so I hesitate to say anything about comparisons with Eton—but Glasgow High School is older than Eton and has a history as great and as distinct as Eton's. The Secretary of State will not need to be reminded that that school has provided two Prime Ministers for the United Kingdom this century.

To say that it has defects would be a challenge. A striking feature of the six Committee meetings on this point was that at no moment was a single vestige of criticism made of the quality of those schools. I would have listened with some sympathy if it had; none was made, nor could it be made. These are impressive traditional institutions. In education and, I think, in politics, one defies tradition at one's peril. A school represents far more than simply the men and women who teach there and the boys and girls who study there. There is a quality about the place which is fundamental and should be preserved—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the subsection. We are discussing whether subsection (3) shall come into operation on 1st August, 1970, or two years later. The hon. Gentleman must address himself to the timing.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Wright

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is because I am so concerned about 1st August, 1970, and what will happen to those schools thereafter, and the contrast between the present and the future, that I am raising the point about the importance of their quality and character.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

If Mr. Speaker permits, would the hon. Gentleman explain that very many distinguished people all over the world come from other schools in Scotland, including a Prime Minister from Lossiemouth?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker would not permit him to do so.

Mr. Wright

I now want to deal with a second point which is fundamental to the date of 1st August, 1970. In his all-too short speech, the Secretary of State said that local authorities knew already about this decision and date and that they have been asked frequently to bring forward comprehensive proposals. I submit that that is very much of an understatement. Is it not a fact that since August, 1965, there has been pressure from the Government on local authorities to make these precise changes, which they have remained unwilling to carry through?

At a time when this Bill is in danger of becoming an Act, it is ironical that the local authorities of both Glasgow and Edinburgh are still firmly opposed to the whole proposal. When the Secretary of State says that the principle has been accepted, it has not been accepted by this side of the House, and certainly it has not been accepted by either of those two local authorities.

I submit that in putting in this date and this Amendment, there is a serious threat to the whole character of local government in Scotland.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

Would not the hon. Gentleman accept that there is at least as strong an argument in favour of the changes? Even in the present municipal elections, it is clear that the majority of the electorate do not agree with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. After all, the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party polled more than the Scottish Conservative alliances, and they are both heavily committed to the Bill.

Mr. Wright

Again, I doubt whether that is entirely germane to the subject under discussion. If it were, I would suggest that what is true of Aberdeen as of last night is not true of Glasgow, and it is Glasgow and Edinburgh with which we are concerned.

As we see it, this is not only a threat to local government. It brings into question the influence of the central Government on the freedom of a local authority to make its own educational proposals. I have looked through the corporation's minutes, and I know of nothing—

Mr. George Willis (Edinburgh, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker ruled earlier that all that we are discussing here is a date. The principle is already in the Bill, and there are no other general arguments such as that which the hon. Gentleman is advancing. The argument is simply as to when.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. He anticipated me by one or two seconds.

Mr. Wright

Then may I return to the point that I was making, since it is of relevance to the right hon. Gentleman's constituency in that the future of Edinburgh's schools is threatened?

As a result of this date, in one area of Edinburgh there will be a curious concentration of schools which will result in a serious threat to truly social comprehensive education. If I am allowed to, I will develop that point in a moment.

By putting in this date and making it part of the Act, there is a real threat to local authority control of education. What worries me is how far this system can continue. What is to stop the Secretary of State, assuming that there is time in a congested timetable, bringing forward similar proposals for direct grant schools, independent schools or any other school outside the State system?

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

If there is a danger to local authorities in the Bill, how is the danger lessened or dispelled by the fact that the date is to be two years' hence? Will not the danger be the same then?

Mr. Wright

Am I to understand from the hon. Gentleman that there will be an election before then and that matters will be reversed? If he says that, I welcome it.

Mr. Hannan

I said nothing of the sort.

Mr. Wright

There is a danger in legislation which is binding on two distinguished and old local authorities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and their choice about what they believe is proper for the education of their children.

If this date goes through, we shall face a new social problem in Glasgow after 1st August, 1970. Where is Glasgow High School to move? It cannot stay in the gradually dying city centre of Glasgow. It will have to move, at a cost which is carefully omitted from the somewhat fanciful estimates mentioned by the Under-Secretary of State earlier in our debates.

Plainly, this situation is developing already in Edinburgh. There is a real problem that after August, 1970, the comprehensive character of Glasgow's and Edinburgh's education will be worsened rather than helped. There is a real danger of the disappearance from the city centre—and any product of Glasgow's schools and university should know it as well as I do—

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been listening carefully to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright), and I seek your guidance. I am sorry that I have to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, because I know that he has not a great deal of experience in this House. However, we have spent a long time in Committee discussing principles, and we shall waste further time, when there are other valuable educational matters to be discussed, unless the hon. Gentleman sticks to the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I will stop any hon. Member who is out of order. At the moment, I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) is in order.

Mr. Wright

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that this is a real issue, and I assure hon. Members that I am not wasting time on the point. We are discussing a matter which is fundamental to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The right hon. Lady taught in their schools, and she must know that far better than I do.

After 1st August, 1970, there will be a further social problem created, not eased, by this legislation. I am worried about the future of those schools, about the cost to the local authorities and the Exchequer, and about what is likely to happen to parents after August, 1970. Surely they will gradually move into the snob areas—the West Ends of the two cities—and they will exacerbate the social problems of those cities.

There are real problems implicit in this choice of date and in the Amendment. Moreover, there is the very serious fact—I was about to say "tragedy"—that after this date one form of comprehensive education is destroyed. Too often, hon. Members opposite and educationists in general talk about comprehensive education as if it involved the character of a single school. After August, 1970, a type of school will be destroyed in Glasgow and Edinburgh and, in that sense, comprehensive education itself is weakened.

I come now to a point which I raise with some hesitation. Whenever one mentions the word "religion" or "Catholic", there is a buzz through any audience. I am trying to speak on this objectively. I would like to be assured that there has been genuine consultation with Glasgow's Catholic community, which constitutes a third of the population. We are emphasising dates, but there is another date which must be borne in mind. As I understand, there is an agreement which goes well beyond August, 1970, and makes the Dowanhill area of Glasgow sacrosanct to Catholic education up to the year 2008. The Under-Secretary was a little vague about it in Committee. Perhaps he could be a little more explicit today, because the dates are important.

I want now, very briefly, to raise one or two other matters because, implicit in the argument from this side of the House, there are other problems which are just as profound as those that I have already mentioned. I implied at the beginning of my remarks that there was a place for these schools after 1970 as sixth-form colleges. I wonder how much attention has seriously been paid by the Government to the rôle of the fifth and sixth forms in these schools. They are very large fifth and sixth forms. Where will they go in September, 1970, and onwards? Are they to be pushed into the already overcrowded schools in other areas, and, if so, which? Are they to be moved by bus—that awful feature of American school education which destroys the whole character of locality?

The essence of the claim from the Goverment side is that there should be a sense of territorial community. The neighbourhood school thesis is at the core. The only way in which these schools can continue to function is to have organised groups of children moving in by bus, morning, noon and night. On the scale to which this will increase after August, 1970, this will become a serious educational disadvantage.

I believe that there are fundamental misconceptions here in any event. The major misconception is that after 1st August, 1970, these schools will in some curious way be transformed. In fact, they will have to remain selective. They will have to stream, because the whole character of school education involves selectivity and streaming. The Government are on a false wicket when they suggest that there is a trend to comprehensive education which can absorb these schools and improve them in doing so.

What is at issue here is absolutely fundamental. These schools have trained and prepared what one can call the leaders in Glasgow and Edinburgh—not exclusively the leaders. One presses buttons and says "leaders", and one gets a chorus of groans; one says "elite", and one gets a chorus of groans.

The purpose of education is to provide and train leaders, as it is to train everyone in a class or in a school. It is the job of schools to do the best for all their pupils. I suggest that this Measure will destroy that central function in these particular schools.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the principle of the Clause. We are discussing merely the time factor which the Amendment suggests. Perhaps the hon. Member will relate his remarks more specifically to that point.

Mr. Wright

I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you will gather from the whole character of what I am saying, I am suggesting that it is impossible to separate from the date at which the principles become applied the whole character of what will then happen to these schools. I believe that were there time in the Parliamentary calendar, this would not be by any means the end of the story.

I am surprised that if it is dogma which motivates the Government, as I believe that it is, in this issue, it is these particular schools, with their minute fees of £20 and £25, that are under attack. I believe that the Government are motivated in this issue by both dogma and envy. These are the most malicious ways in which to bring forward educational proposals.

Miss Herbison

Time and time again, we have had from hon. Members opposite the suggestion of very small fees. Did not the hon. Member or his friends, at the big meeting which they had in Glasgow, find out that the outwith fees will go up to £155 a year, which will affect my constituents who travel in to these schools?

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Wright

I recall that the right hon. Lady made that point effectively in Committee. I appreciate the point, but these are a relatively small number of pupils compared with the overwhelming number in the centre of the City.

I believe the Amendment to be ill-conceived and mistimed. I ask the Government whether they can assure us that there are significant groups in Glasgow and Edinburgh who are asking for this proposal that as of 1st August, 1970, these schools should cease to be fee-paying. Have the headmasters asked for it? I know that they have not, because I have a document which I could cite. Have the corporations of the two cities asked for it? Of course not. Have the pupils concerned asked for it? Of course not. Have the parent/teacher associations asked for it? Most certainly not. Indeed, I have a memorandum indicating that no fewer than 1,750 ex-pupils of Glasgow High School are against the proposal that as of 1st August, 1970, their school should cease to be fee-paying.

No one is in favour of this proposal. I have heard no one in Glasgow or Edinburgh expressing anything but contempt for it. It is for these reasons, because no one is in favour of it, that I shall be asking my hon. Friends on this side of the House to oppose the Amendment and to oppose the date.

Mr. Willis

We have just had an example of a university lecturer's approach to a specific problem.

Mr. Wright

On a point of order. Since the word "lecturer" has been used, may I correct the right hon. Gentleman? The title is professor, if the right hon. Gentleman must use it.

Mr. Willis

That makes it even worse. If that is the way a university professor applies his mind to a specific proposition, heaven help us. It is no wonder that people hold up their hands at university professors and we get the woolly emanations that we do from a number of these gentlemen.

Nine-tenths of the hon. Member's speech did not relate to the proposition concerning the date. Nine-tenths of his speech would provide a very good argument against his own Amendment, which suggests that the date should be not earlier than two years after the commencement of this Act Nine-tenths of the hon. Member's argument was a rebuttal of his own Amendment.

I am amazed that the hon. Member should have come to the Dispatch Box and said what he did—or perhaps I should not have been amazed. I have been a Member of the House a long time and I have heard the Tories so often that I ought not to be amazed. In my innocence, however, I always expect rather more of the Tories than they give, but perhaps I am wrong in that expectation.

We are asked now to say that the change should take place on 1st August, 1970. It is about time that it took place. It is about time that local authorities were given a specific date by which to bring it into operation. As far as I know, the Government have been trying to deal with this matter in an amicable way with the local authorities concerned for three or four years. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has, I know, had consultations with Edinburgh Corporation—and, I suppose, with Glasgow, too—on this matter.

Let us not beat about the bush. Edinburgh Corporation would never bring this proposal into operation on its own.

If we believe that in the interests of the country as a whole this principle should be established throughout the country, as all Governments have done when they believed something was in the national interest, we should say to the local authorities that it has to be done by a specific date. If Governments think that a thing is right and proper, introduces a certain element of social justice, and is good for the country as a whole, all Governments tell local authorities what to do. A local authority has very little power to do anything except through the power given to it by the House of Commons.

Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)

Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to the point that if, instead of accepting the Government's Amendment, we accepted the Amendment in the names of my hon. Friends an opportunity would be given to the country to decide whether it agreed with the Government's present view of what is in the country's interests? If it agreed the Government could then go forward, but if not the Government would not got forward with the proposal.

Mr. Willis

This was in the Labour Party election manifesto in 1966 and in 1964, when we swept the Tories out of power in Scotland. The hon. Member ought to be praising my right hon. Friend for keeping the promise he made to the electorate, not criticising him. Hon. Members opposite are apt to say that a proposal has not been in election addresses, but this was in our election programme.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

Does this interesting new principle cover prescription charges, which the Labour Party said it would abolish and which it has, in fact, increased?

Mr. Willis

We are discussing this matter contained in the Amendment. I am prepared to discuss other matters at the appropriate time. I am prepared to discuss anything with hon. Members opposite for they are so easy to meet and beat. We have had approval for this proposal. Why should we wait for another election? Hon. Members opposite have put forward an Amendment referring to a two-year period because they are sufficiently misguided as to think that they will form the Government after the next election. This is another of the hallucinations from which they suffer. They hope that they will be able to avoid bringing this reform into operation, but we are pledged to do so. I am, therefore, glad that my right hon. Friend proposes to put the date in the Bill which will enable us to do this and to see that local authorities carry it out.

What a load of nonsense the hon. Member for Pollok talked. He talked about abolishing fee-paying schools. We are not abolishing any schools, but abolishing fee-paying. The Royal High will still be there with the same buildings and masters and, for the time being, the same children. Naturally, one is always changing educational patterns. This goes on all the time. My right hon. Friend said that he was fully conscious of his responsibility in respect of particular children. We shall have the same school with the same equipment and all the expert guidance and teaching staff. All we have said is that we would abolish the fees.

Mr. MacArthur

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be announcing an entirely new doctrine and flying in the face of everything that was said by the Secretary of State in Committee. Is he trying to inform the House of Commons that if we allow this Amendment to go through all that will happen will be the abolition of fees and that the schools will continue in their character and traditions for all time? If so, he is completely contradicting his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Willis

I was saying that when the change takes place this is what will happen. In non-fee-paying schools we are always changing particular uses and the channels through which children obtain their education. This takes place all the time and I should have thought that it would appeal to the hon. Member for Pollok. In Edinburgh, such-and-such a school has its purpose changed and different children go to it to meet the latest educational ideas put into operation by the corporation. It is a load of rubbish to talk about abolishing history. I am amazed at the hon. Member.

Mr. Hannan

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) has spent too much time on television.

Mr. Willis

Yes, when he is not running the Glasgow Herald.

Mr. Hannan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that towards the end of his professorial career in Glasgow the hon. Member spent far too much time on television?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This is departing too much from the Amendment.

Mr. Willis

I thought that the hon. Member was spending his time in the offices of the Glasgow Herald. Obviously, he is getting out of touch with his profession and ought to go back to it to get more in touch.

The date in this Amendment is a much better one than that in the Tory Amendment, because it would mean that we would keep our promise. It would also mean that Edinburgh and Glasgow Corporations would know that this change would happen on a certain date. Then it would be open to them to take the necessary steps to see that it took place with as little trouble as possible and to see that the problems to which hon. Members opposite have referred will not arise. The trouble has been that there has been nothing definite. There has always been the hope in the breasts of many Edinburgh councillors that somehow they would get around this—somehow they would last out for five, 10 or 20 years until the Tories got back into power.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on putting in the date 1st August, 1970, and I shall be pleased to support the Amendment.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)

I did not have the privilege of being a member of the Committee. Nor did I have the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on Second Reading. Therefore, I hope that on this Amendment I shall be allowed to make clear that I strongly disapprove of the Clause and the purpose to which the Amendment refers.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must address her remarks to the Amendment.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I was keen to get on the record the words you allowed me to get there.

While I had not the privilege of being on the Committee I was engaged on something which is particularly relevant to the date 1st August, 1970, which may be more fruitful than the proceedings of the Committee on this Bill, namely, deciding the future boundaries of all Scotland. In my privileged position as a member of the Royal Commission on Local Government, although I have no intention of going into detail I can say that the main purpose of that Commission is to redraw the boundaries of all Scotland.

I hope that in debating this Amendment hon. Members will recognise that this has been going on. We are discussing a Government Amendment which emanates from the same Government that set up the Royal Commission on Local Government and which proposes to abolish fee paying in certain schools by 1st August, 1970, in the full knowledge that by that time completely new boundaries will have been drawn for Scotland.

5.0 p.m.

It is possible that, as the Secretary of State optimistically suggested, local authorities will have submitted plans for the use of the buildings which are concerned with the date proposed in the Amendment. It is equally probable that any alteration in boundary would affect such a local authority's determination in this respect. It is serious that one of the buildings concerned is a particularly good one. If, on 1st August, 1970, it ceases to function in its present form and since, as the Secretary of State said, local authorities are charged with the duty of determining what should happen to the building. I want to know one or two things from the Under-Secretary.

The Secretary of State said that the local authorities are themselves to decide upon the future of the schools. In the process of making proposals no assurance has been given as to where local authorities will stand either as regards the cash for the replacement of the buildings if they have to be erected elsewhere or as regards any compensation for providing, in a totally different place, the extra school places which may be required as a result of the Amendment. I shall come later to a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) in connection with sixth forms.

The Secretary of State brought out a second and equally important point—namely, the hardship to the pupils presently in these schools. If the Government are genuinely interested in education—some of the expressions used by hon. Members opposite in this debate cause one to doubt that—one would at least expect from the Government a definite assurance that the children concerned will not suffer educationally.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

How can they suffer?

Miss Harvie Anderson

They can suffer easily. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, who did not have the courtesy to rise to make that interjection, will think about his own sixth forms.

Mr. Dempsey


Miss Harvie Anderson

I will not give way. I will finish this first.

If a child is coming up to an important examination, the last thing that is wanted is a change in his curriculum or his teacher. It is nonsense for hon. Members opposite to suggest that there will be no change, except the abolition of fees. Whatever proposals they make, local authorities, even those which have the utmost good will educationally—and these are the vast majority—will be hard pushed to put forward a scheme which avoids the interruption of the education of the children of whom I am speaking. If there is one thing more emphatic than any other in this whole matter, it is that the sixth form education in these schools is that which has produced for Scotland the outstanding successes of successive generations.

Yet this sixth form, whatever size it may be, is to come to an end in its present form on a specific date—1st August, 1970. This can have no educational merit. I am, therefore, forced to the conclusion that, as all Scotland has now realised, this is a piece of political chicanery put forward under the guise of education. So, on 1st August, 1970, the full facilities for the first-class sixth form education provided in these schools will cease in its present form.

The Secretary of State told us that local authorities have still to make their proposals. We do not even know what alternative will be available. We know that some children will undoubtedly be going elsewhere. If one of the proposals is that from 2nd August, 1970, these schools shall suddenly reconstitute themselves as sixth-form colleges, that is a very curious proposition, for two reasons.

First, as my hon. Friend said, there will be much more complicated travelling arrangements than there are under the zoning arrangements, although they certainly entail travelling in many places. It should be recognised that in the more sparsely populated parts of Scotland every education committee is deeply concerned about the effect upon children who have to travel long distances to and from school.

Mr. Willis

This is nothing to do with the Amendment.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Will the right hon. Gentleman, who was a member of the Standing Committee throughout and who has already had his opportunity to speak, kindly allow me to develop my theme?

Mr. Willis


Miss Harvie Anderson

No, I will not give way. The right hon. Gentleman had ample opportunity. These buildings, unique in Scotland, will be used to less than the best advantage as from 1st August, 1970.

I oppose the Amendment, for two reasons. First, by setting a date, the maximum disruption is being caused to the education of the children who will then be in the schools.

Mr. Willis


Miss Harvie Anderson

Time will tell. The right hon. Gentleman will not have to present this to his electorate. If he had to, he would not be returned to tell the tale.

Secondly, it is a very remarkable thing to say that from 1st August, 1970 the offer of parents who willingly pay fees in their rightful belief that they should exercise every opportunity for their children will no longer be accepted and, in the same breath, to take higher fees from people needing spectacles and teeth—fees which they can ill afford to pay. That is a second thing which makes such a mockery of the abolition of fee paying under false pretences.

Finally, selection is one of the questions which will arise consequent on the passing of the Amendment if, in the regrettable event of the Government's holding on sufficiently long, it is passed. On Second Reading, I made it plain in an intervention that people who believe that as a result of this Bill there will be social equality and academic equality in Eastwood and Easterhouse".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1969; Vol. 776, c. 350.] will be proved sadly wrong.

I believe that by the operation of this part of the Bill and by placing a definite date on the closure of these great schools in their present form the social and educational inequalities which most of us—including, curiously enough, some of us on this side—would like to see abolished will be exaggerated.

As I believe that selection in some form will remain, by whatever name it is called, I believe that there is a good deal less wrong with this selection which enables those great schools to hold the record which they have, even if it costs parents something in sacrifice to send their children there. I am sure that selection will continue, whatever the Government try to do under the Bill, so I support the opposition to this Amendment, which I regard as wholly ill-conceived and contrary to true educational interests.

Mr. Dewar

I have listened with some amazement to the speeches which we have heard so far from the Conservative benches. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) seemed to bring a confusion of mind to the problems of education in Scotland which, to be fair to him, he did not bring to the machinations of the early Tudors.

I was sorry, for example, to hear the hon. Gentleman sneer at my right hon. Friend's record in education. If he so values practical teaching experience in a discussion on Bills of this kind, he must look with despair upon his own benches, where, I understand, teaching is wholly unrepresented, at least at school level.

At one point, the hon. Gentleman argued, or appeared to argue, that these fee-paying schools would be abolished root and branch de facto, on 1st August, 1970. A minute or two later he was explaining with great vehemence that, because of the innate virtues of selection and streaming, it was impossible to destroy these schools but they would march on indissoluble and unbowed, whatever the wicked Labour Government might do.

Next, the hon. Gentleman said that these schools could not succeed if one did not have selection because they would have no catchment area to feed them as ordinary comprehensive schools. Shortly afterwards, however, he said that it would be unfair to ask people presently at these schools to bus out to other centres of education. Although I do not necessarily agree that they would be asked to do that, the whole point of the hon. Gentleman's argument is that they must bus in now because there is no population in the immediate area to serve the schools.

Those are small points, but they are symptomatic of the confusion in the hon. Gentleman's mind, caused, I charitably assume, by his efforts to make propaganda points within the narrow limits of order of the present debate. It did him no credit.

I was surprised to hear that there had been no criticism of these schools in Committee. I take the hon. Gentleman's word for that. I was not a member of the Standing Committee, so I cannot say. I should have expected there to be plenty of criticism, on a number of grounds. What we are asked to do by the Opposition, on this Amendment, is to allow these schools to run on in an unreconstructed state, as presently constituted with their present methods of entry and fees, for at least two years longer than the Government intend.

I assume that there lurks in the back of their minds—it was openly expressed by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne)—the thought that they may be able, for a combination of reasons, to get back into power and reverse the trend. In other words, what we are invited to do is to contemplate the continuance of these schools indefinitely. That is what the argument is about.

I am not prepared to contemplate that continuance. I shall not argue at length the basic merits or demerits of the schools. I say only—I put it in, so to speak, vestigial shorthand which, I am sure all those who attended the Standing Committee will understand—that I accept that these schools are socially divisive. I accept that anyone who has moved among them or has examined their composition recognises that they are largely middle-class orientated. Almost anyone accepts that an I.Q. can be taught.

A child with a middle-income background, coming from a background with a good basic vocabulary, with books readily available and with an academic tradition in the home, can be given an enormous advantage, even though it is argued that the basis of entry to these schools is nominally not social class but ability. A self-perpetuating system is developed which keeps the schools forever established upon a comparatively narrow class basis.

The hon. Member for Pollok argued that there was no attempt by any responsible body of opinion—I assume that he excludes us as in some way irresponsible—to preserve that basis. Let him talk to school teachers. I thought it significant that one body which he did not quote was the Educational Institute of Scotland, which came down strongly in favour of the abolition of fees and a changed system of entry to these schools, saying that the schools existed to perpetuate the advantages of segregation, with class-mates of the same background, and then talked of the common charge of snobbery.

I might not be so blunt as to call it the common charge of snobbery. In my view, people delude themselves into thinking that there are positive advantages to be derived from this form of education. However, the opinions of the Educational Institute of Scotland are a little more representative and impartial than those of, say, the parents who are concerned about and connected with these schools specifically and who, understandably, have a vested interest in arguing for their continuance.

Mr. Wright

The hon. Gentleman asks for the views of the E.I.S. I shall quote from its memorandum: Where the school has exceptionally well equipped premises, however, a highly efficient staff and a long tradition of fine academic achievement, one would hope that these resources could be preserved intact; the breaking up of a good school can hardly be regarded as furthering the progress of education.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Dewar

That is not dealing with the question of fees. That statement of the virtues of a school, an unexceptionable statement, would not preclude the use of such a school and its facilities, if they are sound, changing the method of entry and trying to build a new and good school which is much more broadly based socially and educationally, using and continuing the traditions inherited from the previous school. There is no inconsistency there at all. If the hon. Gentleman has read the E.I.S. memorandum properly, he can have no doubt on which side of the argument it has come down, and come down very firmly.

I have listened with care to the arguments put up by the Opposition. Some of them, I suppose, might almost be described as relevant, though all of them are bad. I take one or two of the most outstanding. The hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson)—she was not the first—talked about the reorganisation of local government. Once again, the Government are invited to go into a state of paralysis while waiting for the Wheatley report to appear, for the debates to take place, for a consensus to be reached, and for legislation to be pushed through.

Apparently, we are invited to accept a situation in which there can be no legislation on a wide range of matters in Scotland until that long and inevitably laborious process comes to an end. But that would be intolerable, and the suggestion can be made only because hon. Members opposite are unable to think of anything else to put up as an argument to delay the House in this matter.

I might even have had some sympathy for the argument if the Bill were drawing local authority boundaries for some sort of educational purpose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the Bill. We are discussing an Amendment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks a little more closely to that Amendment.

Mr. Dewar

Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The argument put up by the Opposition is that we ought to delay for two years until we have the report on local government reorganisation in Scotland. I am pointing out that that is not a valid argument. The simple reason is that what the Government are trying to do is to set a date admittedly before the report will be implemented or, perhaps, even discussed at length, but that is of no importance because Glasgow and Edinburgh are the only two areas involved.

Never mind how local government is reorganised in Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh are bound to be the centre of, or perhaps the sole components of, a new local government unit. It is not a question of drawing new boundaries and discovering that they will not coincide with something which will emerge from Wheatley. It is a completely different situation.

We are abolishing an educational anachronism which has survived with disastrous effects in only two areas of Scotland. We are not here discussing administrative boundaries. Therefore, Wheatley is basically irrelevant.

Mr. Willis

And we have no guarantee that the Government will accept the recommendations of the Wheatley Committee.

Mr. Dewar

That is so, but in any case it does not seem to me that the argument is of importance here.

Second, the hon. Member for Pollok argued with some eloquence that what is proposed here is a threat to the independence and freedom of action of local authorities. I can see the force of that argument, and I am not entirely unsympathetic to it. It is always extremely difficult to draw the line; there is always a balance to be struck between local and central Government. That is a platitude with which no one will disagree.

It has been rightly pointed out that whether the change is put off for two years this question remains. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) had said that this is not a right that central Government should have, that they should not be able to impose on local authorities a scheme of this nature, and that the Opposition object to this root and branch, and pledge themselves never to do anything like it when they return to office, that would have been fair and we could have had a realistic argument. But he did not do so. He merely said, "We do not like this provision, and we want to push it as far back as possible". His amendment does not argue about the fundamental right of central Government to set a date by which fees are to be abolished, and therefore again it seems to me that the argument falls.

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

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is an abuse of power to introduce such a change a few weeks before the Government go out of office?

Mr. Dewar

Very often as I walk around the Parliament House I am struck by the air of unreality in the place, as though it were divorced from what is happening in the real realms of society. I worry considerably about the hon. and learned Gentleman, whom I respect, and I suggest that he goes out and talks to people and uses his eyes and ears. He will then realise that that is not a point of great substance.

However, it leads me to the more important point behind all the arguments by the Opposition. They have said in effect, "Give us two years, and we shall beat Labour. We shall be back in, and everything will be all right." In tandem with that goes the argument that the Labour Party has no mandate for introducing an early date for abolishing fees and that the people of Scotland—or perhaps it would be fairer to say the people of Glasgow and Edinburgh, who are really involved—do not want the change to be made.

I do not accept either proposition. If we have the misfortune of the Conservative Party winning the next General Election, it would be a piece of obtuse nonsense to say that it did so because of the question of fee-paying schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The next General Election will be won on a United Kingdom scale for a whole plethora of reasons. Hon. Members opposite are saying that within six months or perhaps a year or two of winning a General Election, but certainly halfway through their term in office, no Government should implement any controversial legislation, just in case there has been a shift in public opinion which will manifest itself at a General Election at an indeterminate point in the future. That is a lunatic proposition which would not for a moment be entertained in private conversation at a serious level by a single hon. Member opposite. I do not see why they should insult the House by trying to argue it now.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The hon. Gentleman is being unfair to the House. I do not think that anybody would suggest that a Government in their last two years in office are not entitled to introduce highly controversial legislation, but the circumstances of the present Government are exceptional. It is clear that they have lost all support in the country. That is the argument for saying that they should not introduce controversial legislation.

Mr. Dewar

I think that the hon. Gentleman's constituency lies between the cities of Aberdeen and Dundee, so I am possibly less sympathetic to that point coming from him than I would have been two or three days ago.

But let us take the argument seriously and analyse it. If we are talking about Glasgow and Edinburgh and the electoral situation, hon. Members opposite are on very weak ground. In 1968, for example, we had the first signs of a violent swing in Glasgow's elections, the main beneficiaries of which were the Scottish Nationalist Party. In invite hon. Members to look at the minutes of Glasgow Corporation for 27th September, 1968 from which they will see that the Scottish Nationalist Party is absolutely committed to the abolition of fee-paying in schools. It is quite clear, and I revel in the fact, that in 1969 the Scottish Nationalists have received a very severe electoral check, but I do not imagine that any hon. Member opposite will say that this was as a result of their stand on fee-paying schools.

The exact details of the votes cast yesterday are not available yet, but the general position is clear. Two parties, the Labour Party and the Scottish Nationalist Party, are committed publicly to the abolition of fees at an early date and one party, the Conservative-Progressive mongrel alliance, is opposed to it and tries bravely to make it an electoral issue. It may be unfair, and not valid argument, to make this point, because of the multiplicity of election issues, but I am trying to counter the kind of thesis advanced by the Opposition in going in for arid numbers games and talking about popular mandates. We find that the parties that supported my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench obtained the majority of the votes cast in Glasgow's municipal elections.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk about arid figures, he should at least get his facts right. He has not done his homework. The Scottish Nationalist candidate in one ward in my constituency specifically said that he was against the abolition of fee-paying schools and the candidate in the other simply did not mention the question of education in his election address.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that we shall not pursue the discussion on yesterday's elections in Scotland too far on this Amendment.

Mr. Dewar

I shall not pursue it, Mr. Speaker. The personal eccentricities of individual Scottish Nationalist candidates would defeat almost anyone.

I merely refer the House again to the Glasgow Corporation minutes for 27th September, showing that the motion moved by the leader of the Scottish Nationalist group was strongly in favour of the abolition of fees at an early date. I am only trying to point out to hon. Members that if they try to argue in terms of a mandate they will find themselves in considerable difficulties for the reasons I have given, which I think are clear.

I am very tempted to become embroiled in the incredible arguments the hon. Member for Pollok advanced on the nature of comprehensive education, but I do not intend to delay the House. I make no bones about the fact that I would like to see a complete change in the method of entry and character of the schools. I cannot see how the removal of fees would militate against comprehensive education. The great problem of comprehensive education in Glasgow and Edinburgh is that in Edinburgh about 37 per cent. of secondary school children are opting out and going to fee-paying schools of one sort or another, while in Glasgow the proportion is as high as 15 per cent. One cannot run any kind of meaningful comprehensive system faced with that situation. It may be that that is something of which hon. Members opposite approve, but I object to their prating on here about their definition of comprehensives in the face of such facts. I hope that the House will not contemplate allowing the situation to drift on in the hope that at a future date the Conservatives will be able to stultify the present unfortunate and divisive educational situation.

The hon. Member for Pollok talked about the dangers of middle-class housing grouped around what the occupiers consider to be suitable schools with a suitable social tone, as though at present we do not have middle-class ghettoes—there are perfect examples. It might be advantageous if they congregated around schools within the city boundaries, when at least the occupiers might be able to bear some of the rate burdens they are too keen to escape at present.

There is no doubt that at present we have an educationally and socially divisive situation, and equally one that is divisive in terms of housing pattern. It is not possible to argue, as the hon. Gentleman did, that by destroying these schools we shall in any way make the situation one whit the worse.

I am clear in my belief that the Bill is a good one and should therefore be implemented quickly and that the Government Amendment should have the support of the House. We should not continue the present situation. Reference has been made to the High Schools of Glasgow's memorandum circulated among hon. Members, which said that the present system should not be replaced except by some other system of "proven worth". The question is, proven worth for whom? Many of those arguing for postponement of the implementation of this provision are thinking about the vested interests of people attending these schools alone. Of course we must consider them and ensure that there is a proper phasing-out so that individual children are not victimised, but it is essential to think of the good of the education system as a whole, of the kids who, for a variety or reasons, do not get the chances which, as most people attending these schools would admit, of privileges and advantages. We have to think on this wider scale and that is why I support the Government Amendment wholeheartedly.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

It is surprising that the Secretary of State should have said that his motive in introducing the Amendment was one of kindness in order to put Edinburgh Corporation out of its uncertainty. Kindness is not a virtue with which I particularly associate him so far as Edinburgh is concerned. Many people in Edinburgh would also disagree with his observation.

Despite what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) has said about the results of the local elections yesterday, I say categorically, because I believe it to be true, that the extra votes given to the Progressives and to the Conservative candidates in the city of Edinburgh were in some part at least inspired by the campaign on this matter, which played a prominent part in the election literature and at all the meetings held by those parties. This is arguable, of course, but I believe that it is a valid assumption.

On the Amendment, we are arguing about three different dates—that is the nub of the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) said that she wanted quite a lot of information from the Under-Secretary of State. She was not a member of the Standing Committee. I was. One of the many depressing features of the Committee stage was the general refusal and disinclination of the hon. Gentleman to answer a lot of categorical questions put to him. In so doing, I believe that he prolonged the Committee stage. A great number of questions remain to be answered, and that is why I believe, unless the hon. Gentleman intends to turn over a new leaf tonight, that it would be better to have the later date rather than earlier dates.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) put many detailed questions in Committee about the future place of the present fee-paying schools in Glasgow in a comprehensive territorial set-up. No answer was given to him by the hon. Gentleman. I, too, asked many questions, reasonably important ones, on both Second Reading and in Committee, and I would have thought it only prudent and essential practically to look at the future, for example, of the Royal High School in Edinburgh, which happens to be in my constituency, if it is to go comprehensive either at some specified date—as was originally provided in the Bill—or on 1st August, 1970, or two years from the commencement of the Bill as an Act.

What sort of questions is one entitled to put to which we want an answer before one of these dates? I go solely on what I am told by people I believe to be authorities on education—that the Royal High School, with 750 pupils, is too small to be a proper comprehensive school. It is generally accepted, I understand, that about 1,700 is the ideal figure. The school has been built at considerable expense for boys only. The Minister might say, Very well. Build another 750 places for girls. Then we would have about the right size." I suppose that this would cost another £1 million, but this is an area which is rapidly becoming over-schooled while there is a shortage of accommodation elsewhere. Not one observation was made by the hon. Gentleman about the Royal High School throughout the Committee stage.

The hon. Gentleman has told us that the initiative will rest with Edinburgh once the Bill goes through, and today the right hon. Gentleman said categorically that he would be pressing Edinburgh and Glasgow again to let him have their views. The clear implication is that the Government have not had but want to get some proposals from these cities and, having got them, will consider them. I want to quote what the hon. Gentleman said in Committee, because this is a matter of considerable relevance and importance. He said: I told Edinburgh Corporation a very long time ago, and Glasgow Corporation, that if they would put up proposals for the integration of these schools within the comprehensive system, looking at the position seriously, if they would bring proposals which they said had to be modified considerably, because of their practical problems, I would be prepared to look at those problems as sympathetically as I could. That offer still stands. Now follow the really important words: Neither authority has brought forward any kind of proposals, and I have not been able to talk with them about the practical problems."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, First Scottish Standing Committee, 13th February, 1969; c. 235.] I have a letter from the Convener of the Education Committee of Edinburgh Corporation dated 9th August, 1968, and I want to quote what he said: Some 18 months ago Edinburgh Corporation submitted to the Secretary of State for Scotland its proposals for the implementation of a comprehensive system of secondary education in the City as required by S.E.D Circular 600. In no circumstances, if that is true, can it be said by the hon. Gentleman that Edinburgh Corporation has made no kind of proposals. One of these statements is false—it must be—and I suspect that, since one of the four points which, I am informed, were made by Edinburgh Corporation in its proposals included the retention of the fee-paying Royal High School and James Gillespie's School, he dismissed it out of hand and said that none of the other three were of any validity. It may be right for him to do so, but it is not right for him to say that he has not had any kind of proposals from Edinburgh Corporation. That he is on the record as saying, and it is completely and absolutely denied by the convenor of the education authority.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Milan)

What I said in Committee was that I had asked both Edinburgh Corporation and Glasgow Corporation if they would put forward proposals for the integration of these schools within the comprehensive system, and that is precisely what I have said they have not done. There is no misunderstanding between me and the Edinburgh Education Authority on this matter. I happened to meet the convener subsequent to the letter which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, and there is no misunderstanding between us.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) is going a little wide of the Amendment.

Mr. Stodart

I have made it clear all along that this debate is about dates. There is clearly a misunderstanding. But if there is misunderstanding, if there is exploration to be done, it is better to be done within the later date rather than to have to hurry the matter and cram it in before 1st August, 1970.

The hon. Gentleman has not satisfied the Opposition that he has made any effort to meet the constructive proposals of the corporations, and until he convinces us of this and until he answers some of the questions as to how the High School is to fit in we shall demand that he is given more time before operating this provision.

Mr. Dempsey

I have been studying the Amendment and I am surprised that the debate should have touched on so many subjects—the reorganisation of secondary schools, transport services, the grading of school children and everything else except the shortage of teachers. This indicates the barrenness of the Opposition's argument. They have no case to submit, but they have to say something and so the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) starts the ball rolling by introducing all these irrelevancies. He did not deal with the Government's Amendment, which suggests that this provision should be introduced by 1st August, 1970.

I am not happy about the Amendment. My criticism of my right hon. Friend is that he is waiting too long. I used to think that he was firm and stern, a man of great conviction, but he is bending to the Opposition too much, and I dislike that because they have treated his kindness as a sign of weakness.

I see no reason why fee paying should not be abolished at an early date. The main purpose of fee paying has not been mentioned by the Opposition. They have not had the honesty of purpose or the temerity of conviction to mention it. Fee paying is the perpetuation of privilege. What experience have hon. Members opposite of organising fee-paying schools and then abolishing fee paying? Have they ever had to undertake that task? Have they seen it in operation? Have they studied the implications?

Mr. MacArthur

I have.

Mr. Dempsey

I have. In the early months of 1946, when I was a new member of Lanarkshire Education Authority, we abolished fee paying in the second largest authority in Scotland, larger than Edinburgh. Incidentally, our election address mentioned our plan to do so. The electors gave us a mandate to do so and we did it. We did not have this awful reaction which the hon. Member for Pollok has mentioned, this serious situation, this catastrophe in modern education, this pitching of young people out of school, this intolerance in administration, this bureaucracy. They did not exist. The whole system was administered by humane Labour members of the local authority. My colleagues in the House are as humane as those in Lanarkshire and will operate this provision with the same humanity.

5.45 p.m.

We ended the problem. Pupils were coming from all the far corners of that county and were occupying places denied to local pupils of greater ability, greater knowledge, with better results and much more capable both physically and mentally. There was no room at the inn because the fee payers were occupying the places.

This is what happens in fee paying schools. There can be no reasonable argument against equality of opportunity in education. Why should not ability be the determining factor and not the depth of the parental purse? Surely that is the proper approach to education. If we decide that we want to produce the leaders of our society in the next generation of citizens, we should fix dates when fee paying can be abolished and when merit will be the sole criterion for admitting pupils to various schools.

This has nothing to do with the reorganisation of secondary education, but that is what the argument has been made to be. Whether there is reorganisation or not, the abilition of fee paying would not affect the situation one iota. Whether there were still selective schools or comprehensive schools, the situation would not be affected by the abolition of fee paying. This is a local authority school, a publicly owned school and the ratepayers and taxpayers are already paying for it, for the teachers and the buildings, and will continue to do so. At the same time, he who pays the piper should call the tune and merit will be the qualification for admission, not the privilege of finance.

Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dempsey

I am tempted not to do so because the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) refused to give way to me. However, I will be a gentleman and give way.

Mr. Brewis

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how he would judge merit for entry to these schools?

Mr. Dempsey

I have explained that it would not be by depth of pocket. It would be the ability of the pupil. I am sure that the hon. Member does not require me to lecture him on ability, although I could give a jolly good lecture on ability. Ability is a method whereby we determine the standards of pupils. I believe that it should be based on the whole of a child's scholastic career and not on an hour's examination. I hope that after August, 1970, this is what we shall be introducing. Finance will disappear as an interest, the power of privilege and the power of reports will be abolished. I am sorry that we have taken so long to move. I can understand that they should have been slower in Edinburgh—they have always been slow to move—but I am disappointed that Glasgow has not acted more quickly. Some authorities fixed dates and they did not wait a year or 18 months. They did it in a few months. We took the decision and abolished such schools within a few months.

There was no chaos, no school strike, no parental disorders, no protest meetings. Even some of the Conservatives on the councils voted for this policy; they were far-sighted enough to realise that the inevitability of development within society would mean that children in our schools should be offered real equality of opportunity so that they could play their part, mentally and physically, in being educated to become future successful citizens. In essence that is the basis of getting rid of privilege and yet another social inequality.

I am amazed to hear some hon. Members opposite accusing my right hon. Friend of interfering with the rights of local authorities. They should be the last to do this. I vividly recall in the 1950s suggesting that we should have an experiment in comprehensive education in the new town of East Kilbride. This was rejected by the then Secretary of State for Scotland as being totally unacceptable. These were the dictators and autocrats of the 1950s, yet they complain today, although my right hon. Friend has a clear mandate on this issue.

In addition, he pays roughly 50 per cent. of the cost of education. In that event he should have some say in the provision of education. That is what he is doing, and my only regret is that he is not doing it quickly enough. It will give me the greatest pleasure to strike another blow for the elimination of privilege from our schools in the Lobby this evening.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

As many of my hon. Friends wish to take part in this debate, I shall be very brief and confine my remarks to one main point. I have always had a sneaking admiration for the way in which the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) always goes down with all guns firing. I was particularly interested by his seated comment about how he has been advocating the principle involved here for half a century. This is typical of the attitude of the Labour Party to this problem. It is an old doctrine which they adopted many years ago, and they are stuck with it. It is one of the few pledges which they are redeeming, it is a pity that they could not have chosen some better ones.

My one point about the timing of this operation relates to the question of who should decide a matter of this kind.

I am convinced this is a matter for local decision, yet the octopus of Whitehall will not release its stranglehold, even in this quite legitimate field of self-determination. If devolution is to mean anything at all I would have thought that this was a case where the people involved should be allowed to make up their own minds. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, South (Mr. Dewar) expressing a certain amount of sympathy for this point of view.

The choice of August, 1970 is a matter of the greatest regret. It is clear that the Government have selected this so as to jump two guns. They are trying to jump the gun of the next General Election, so as to implement this as a dying act before they are thrown out—as they know that the decision will be reversed—and they are also trying to jump the gun of the Royal Commission's Report on local government. They know perfectly well that there may be a recommendation for larger local authority units and it would be impossible to deny to such units the sort of decision-making involved here.

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East tried to get out of his difficulty by saying that this was in the national interest. No phrase has been quite so overworked in the last few years as "the national interest". Almost any diabolical deed that the Government have chosen to do has been excused on the grounds that it is in the national interest. Resentment against this kind of treatment, the defiance of the right of people to express themselves and to have their opinions carry weight is something which was quite clearly shown last night in the local election results. There is no doubt about it that the people of Edinburgh considered this point about the abolition of fee-paying schools very seriously.

Mr. Willis

They considered it so seriously that 30 per cent. of them did not even bother to vote.

Earl of Dalkeith

It was a sufficient number to show emphatically what sort of government they wanted. I regretted that more did not choose to vote.

It seems almost unbelievable that any intelligent body of men could so persistently defy local opinion in such a matter. I can only assume that it is only because they are hell-bent on their own destruction and are now performing the final contortionist act of hammering nails into their coffin, while lying inside it.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

We have argued this in Committee, and I have a vested interest to some extent. The arguments so far have shown that we are not talking about privilege as such but about a few people who will have a privilege in education. We are talking about buying a senior secondary education. I have discovered that many people are so disgusted with the system of education in Edinburgh that they are moving into my constituency, where we abolished fee-paying, post-primary schools a long time ago. I am worried, because this creates pressures in my constituency—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have to remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing an Amendment dealing with the timing of abolishing of fee-paying schools in Scotland. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks to the Amendment.

Mr. Willis

Further to that point of order. Surely it is in order for my hon. Friend to argue that he will be relieved that in August, 1970, this pressure on Midlothian will be removed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Up to this point the hon. Gentleman has not referred to the Amendment.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Eadie

I will try to follow your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will deal with the Amendment by saying that pressures are being created. I had a discussion with a young professional man, an architect, living in the City of Edinburgh. In his case it was not a question of finance. He could afford to pay for a fee-paying school, but because we had the system that within this type of post-primary education an I.Q. test is applied and probably only a child with an I.Q. of over 110 can win a place his children were not considered to have a sufficiently high I.Q. to win a place at that fee-paying school.

That young man was a sensible individual. His approach was to come into the area of a progressive local authority like Midlothian, where we do not operate the 11-plus or have any bars to post-primary education. This is relevant to the Amendment, because it relates to expenditure on education. There is talk about the brain drain, but when we operate fee-paying schools and the system of the 11-plus—or, in Scotland, 12-plus—this is probably the biggest brain drain which we have ever created.

I remember hon. Members opposite saying that their party stood for democracy of opportunity and aristocracy of achievement. How on earth, therefore, can they argue that in post-primary education we should not have a system which provides democracy of opportunity and aristocracy of achievement, when the system of their choice is based upon fee-paying schools and the taking of intelligence tests?

The Opposition lost their argument in Committee. Today, they have put forward an Amendment to try to argue the case again. The elections have demonstrated clearly that although they may have won on other issues, they have not won on the question of education. What perturbs me is that they are bringing this matter before the House afresh when their arguments have already been overwhelmingly defeated. I am convinced that when we go into the Division Lobby tonight, we will overwhelmingly defeat them again.

Mr. Galbraith

I do not intend to speak for long because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I regarded the Secretary of State's manner in introducing his Amendment as being entirely casual. He behaved as he would have done in his old days as a teacher in front of a class—"Do not ask questions. Take it from me that I am right".

We are discussing an important matter which has not been explained at all clearly. I did not have the advantage of being in Committee, but as far as I am aware, it was not explained there why the date should be 1st August, 1970. Why was not this date in the Bill originally? If the Secretary of State has had a change of mind, why did he not tell us in Committee? Why wait until the last minute, on Report, to introduce an important date like this? We have been told from the benches opposite that it has nothing to do with the local elections If hon. Members opposite expect us to believe that, they expect us to believe anything.

I cannot help feeling that orginally the Secretary of State, rightly, did not want a date in the Bill, for proper administrative reasons, because he realised what difficulty it would cause. Had he wanted a fixed date, it would have been in the Bill earlier or introduced in Committee. Having seen, however, the extent to which opinion in the country is against him, he wishes to make sure of imposing his will on the country before a general election takes place. For purely party political reasons which have nothing to do with education, the right hon. Gentleman is speeding up the process which, originally, he thought should take time.

The process of integrating the schools, if it has to take place—I wish that it did not—is a complicated matter. It cannot be done quickly. There certainly is not time to do the job properly by 1st August, 1970. The Minister is as well aware of that as I am.

What is to happen, for example, to Hillhead High School? Only 25 per cent. of the pupils come from the immediate locality. The remaining 75 per cent. come from all round the place. There simply are not enough people living in that part of Glasgow, which is already densely populated with schools, to fill that school. What is to happen to it? We have had no guidance from the Secretary of State how it is to be dealt with. Is it to become a sixth-form school, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) suggested, or will there be an immediate move by fee-paying parents into the area so that other people will have to move out, thereby putting up the price of housing and causing another social revolution, which will be much more socially divisive, as happens in America?

All this is to happen before 1970. The Under-Secretary of State keeps scratching his nose. I wish that he would listen—because we want answers—and not just doodle or whatever he is doing. Has this been thought about? How can a change like this be carried out in so short a time?

Reference has been made to another school in my constituency, Notre Dame, which has an agreement with Glasgow Corporation to remain a selective fee-paying school for another 60 years or so. What is to happen there? If an exception is to be made for it—as it should; it should be able to carry on as at present—why make an exception only for that school? What about other schools in my constituency which are in exactly the same position? Is there to be an exception or not?

Mr. Hannan

Will the hon. Member make clear his attitude to Notre Dame school? Is he saying that the existing agreement should be continued?

Mr. Galbraith

Yes. I am sorry if I have not made myself clear, but I am speaking quickly because of the time. The existing situation should continue at Notre Dame, and at other similar selective schools in Glasgow should be allowed to continue. The whole thing is being rushed forward for political and not for educational reasons. Surely, effect should be given to the views of local authorities, or does the Government's right hand not know what their left hand is doing?

Upstairs the other day, we had a debate on whether local authorities should be the final court of appeal in local planning matters. The Government argued strongly that they should and that the local authorities must be trusted in planning matters. On education apparently, they must not be trusted. The Secretary of State must tell them what to do.

The local authorities are trying to keep down their rate burden. They do not want this additional burden put upon them. If anything is wrong with education, it is a lack of money. The Government are deliberately doing something to reduce the flow of money into education. The cost of these school fees is small, less than many people pay on cigarettes, and most people could well afford to pay them.

I tried to interrupt the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) during his speech, but he would not give way until somewhat later on a less important point concerning Scottish nationalism. The hon. Member referred to the right of the Government to interfere with the local authorities. We accept that Parliament must be supreme—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.]—at the end of the day.

But is it right to interfere with the desire of parents to make sacrifices for their children? That is what it comes to. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South seemed to resent parents taking an interest in their children's progress. He was rather scathing about middle-class families taking an interest in their children and trying to produce excellence. He wishes to stop this before the new system is properly operating. The wise thing in this matter, when nobody knows whether the new conception of comprehensive schools will work well—

Mr. Dewar

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that my argument was that, unfortunately, middle-class parents who take an interest in education are allowed to opt out. I should like to see their intelligent interest and energy channelled into the State sector of education so that the general level can be raised by their efforts in pressuring the Government.

Mr. Galbraith

The hon. Gentleman cannot even understand the basis of freedom. He talks about parents being allowed to opt out. If they wish to educate their children in that way and to make sacrifices in that way, why should they not be allowed to do so? This is the great divide between the hon. Gentleman and myself, and we shall not be able to resolve it in the remaining couple of minutes that I intend to take.

The wise thing in a situation such as this, when a new form of comprehensive education is being introduced, is not to move too quickly, not to bring the date forward unnecessarily soon for electoral reasons, which would seem to me the only reasons why it is being introduced at this last minute, but to compare the products of the comprehensive schools in the new towns, where there is nothing competing with them, with those of the fee-paying schools in the existing old towns and slowly make a decision on the right thing to do instead of, at the eleventh hour, introducing for party political reasons this monstrous proposal to speed up a process which cannot be speeded up.

Mr. Hannan

Since the principle of the matter was discussed fully on Second Reading and in Committee, and since many of today's speeches seemed to me to be outside the Amendment—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair has been very diligent in ruling on this matter.

Mr. Hannan

I am glad to hear that. It gives me the assurance that I can speak for one and a quarter hours on the principle—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair has not ruled that discussion of the principle was in order. It is in order to make incidental references to the principle in agreeing with or opposing the Amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Hannan

I do not wish to enter into a debate with the Chair, but the Amendment suggests that the date should be brought forward, and the principle has been touched on by other speakers.

I should like to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith). It would seem a silly way for Members on the Government benches to proceed by making political capital out of an Amendment on a Bill which will have such dire effects on the population. The hon. Gentleman should not worry about the future of the Government. I do not think that he is worried about the Government's welfare. He is worried about the ending of what is known to be privilege.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) talked about the Government clinging to old principles. But the principle which we are considering is already on the Statute Book; it has been the practice in England and Wales for 34 years. The hon. Gentleman, who no doubt was moved to speak because of his interest in the Educational Institute of Scotland, will agree that the E.I.S. is without doubt in favour of the Bill and to have the principle introduced in Scotland at as early a date as possible so that the same benefits may be enjoyed in Scotland as are enjoyed in England and Wales. The principle was introduced in the Education Act, 1944, not by a Socialist Government but by the present Lord Butler.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) introduced some tendentious evidence from a circular issued by the E.I.S. which dealt with school buildings rather than with the Bill. The E.I.S. Journal of 8th November last says: It is odd, to say the least of it, if not downright shameful, to find a heated public argument going on in Scotland about a modest step towards equality in education which was achieved in England and Wales apparently without any fuss 34 years ago. Later it says about the Bill: This will simply reproduce in Scotland the position that already obtains in England where such powers were abolished by the Education Act, 1944. The only fee-paying schools left in England since that time have been the independent and the direct grant Schools". Later it says that the problem of integrating fee-paying schools with local authority schools is difficult.

The convenors of the education committees in Glasgow and Edinburgh have made it clear that they will enter into talks on this matter. But the principle has been conceded. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has conceded the principle of fee paying. That is not the issue. The issue is selection and selective schools—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The issue is whether this proposal should come into operation on a certain date or some other date.

Mr. Hannan

I accept that, Mr. Speaker.

The number of young people staying on at school after 15 years of age is increasingly becoming a problem not only in this country but in other European countries. There are forecasts that the time may not be far away when a very large proportion of young people will stay on at school. In that event, the physical difficulties of accommodating children of that age must be solved. The earlier the necessary power is given to the Secretary of State, the better.

In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian), absolutely floored the Opposition on the principle of fee paying—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Under-Secretary of State floored them on the principle in Committee, he cannot floor them now.

Mr. Hannan

It is because my hon. Friend did that so admirably that I say that the sooner he has power to put these admirable principles into practice the happier I and my hon. Friends will be, and I shall have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow Cathcart)

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) that the debate on the principle involved here resulted in a victory for the Government. My impression was that my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) flattened the Government.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Honours are now even.

Mr. Taylor

As the hon. Member for Maryhill said, this is a question of a date, and we are concerned with the mechanics. I wonder whether the Minister and the Government have given careful consideration to the mechanics of bringing forward the date.

In his excellent contribution my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) asked what had changed between the date of the Bill being published, on through the Committee stage, and now. Why is it that we did not have a date then, but we have one now? I think the House must know what has happened in the interval. Yesterday at the municipal elections in Glasgow and Edinburgh the Government were hammered, with this matter being a key issue. There has also been a disastrous slump in the Government's standing in Scotland. The result is that the Government know that unless they introduce this Amendment and get a decision on it before the next General Election there will not be another Socialist Government for at least a generation, and this issue will therefore die.

I believe that that is why this Amendment has been introduced. But whether that is so or not, if the Amendment is accepted the Government will find themselves faced with enormous practical difficulties, and I counsel the Minister to withdraw the Amendment until such time as he is able to appreciate the practical difficulties in which he will become involved.

If, as a result of abolishing fees by 1st August, 1970, we are faced with the introduction of comprehensive schools throughout the local authority areas, and if this results in a massive increase in local authority spending due to the provision of buses and other forms of transport to take children from one end of a city to the other, or from the centre of a city to the outlying areas, will the Government make good the increased expenditure? Because of the present burden on local rates, I believe that it would be unreasonable to bring in so quickly a provision which will have a substantial effect on the spending of local authorities as a result of bussing hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of children into our city centres to enable them to attend these schools. Will the Government foot the Bill?

If the Minister insists that before this proposed date local authorities must submit plans for comprehensive education, perhaps he will answer three questions. First, will he accept any form of selectivity in these schools? If Glasgow says that it cannot do this unless it has one, two, three, or perhaps four, non-fee-paying schools, will the Minister be flexible about this? Second, if Glasgow puts forward a proposal for schools which are not entirely territorial, but which cover much wider areas, will he consider such a proposal? Third, if Glasgow says that it accepts this proposal but it wants to have within its school accommodation for single-sex schools, will the Minister be flexible in his approach to that proposal?

The Minister said in Committee—and we were grateful for the assurance—that those who were in the schools now would be allowed to work their way through them. Will this concession apply to those attending the Glasgow fee-paying schools but who live outside the local authority area? Will they be allowed to continue at these schools? If they are in the primary sections of these schools, will they be permitted to go into their secondary departments?

If the Government intend to bring the date forward, we must be told how the mechanics will work. I hope that the Minister will answer my questions, even if only by saying "Yes" or "No". Will he accept any form of selection? Will he accept a school which is non-territorial? Will he accept single-sex schools? What will be the position, legally and financially, of children who come to these schools from areas outside the local authority area? Will they be allowed to work their way through them?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot on this Amendment deal with that. We are dealing with whether it should be one date or another.

Mr. Taylor

This is a question of fees and outwith fees. Reference has been made to the abolition of fees paid in the normal way. What will be the position of outwith fees?

We cannot go into detail, but in his excellent speech the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey)—and I know that he was speaking sincerely—said that the Government were entitled to fix the date at 1st August, 1970, in the same way as he had fixed a date for Lanarkshire when he played a prominent part on the local authority because it had a mandate for what it was doing. If there is one reason for postponing this date until at least 1971, it is that the local authorities directly concerned were given a clear mandate only yesterday. They were told that people wanted the kind of policies promoted by the Progressive Conservative Alliance. Our policy is to fight to the end for our own form of education, which is known to us, and is accepted by—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not drift back to the elections. I know how keen he is on them, but he must come to the date proposed in the Amendment.

Mr. Taylor

I have asked my questions, the Minister has heard them, and I hope that he will answer them.

Mr. MacArthur

I think that the House will agree that we have had a very useful and reasonably wide-ranging debate on this question, and I hope that the House may before long be able to come to a conclusion.

Before making my speech may I, on behalf of my hon. Friends, and I am sure on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, too, welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) to the Opposition Front Bench. This is the first occasion on which my hon. Friend has spoken from this Front Bench, and he continues the distinguished tradition which he established on the Front Bench in Committee upstairs.

The proposal to write a definite date, 1st August, 1970, into the Bill is entirely new. We had not heard of this before. When he moved the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State suggested that it would be convenient to have a precise date in the Bill so that local authorities would know what the Government's intention was, so that they would know what was to happen to them and to their schools on a definite date.

The Government's intention was made known during the Second Reading debate in January. The Secretary of State made it clear then that fee-paying would be abolished by Order, to take effect in August, 1970. There was no suggestion then of an Amendment to alter the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) said, forcefully as always, there was no suggestion during the Committee stage, which went on for weeks, that a specific date would be written into the Bill. Why, then, was it that only two weeks ago we saw this Amendment on the Notice Paper? Why was the Secretary of State overwhelmed by this sudden brainwave just two weeks ago?

I suggest that the reason for the Amendment is not only to jump the gun twice over, as my noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) suggested, that is, jumping the gun of the General Election, and jumping the gun on local government reform, but to attempt to spike the guns of the next Government. The House will recall that we have pledged to restore to local authorities the right to charge fees at these schools, and I shall return to this in a few moments.

Clearly, the reason for the Amendment is to try to embarrass us by making it more difficult for us to honour our pledge. This cheap and disgraceful attempt to hamper the next Government is an abuse of power, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) so rightly said in his intervention. But it does not embarrass us on this side of the House in the least, as the House will shortly hear in detail.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Hannan

The hon. Member has given an assurance that the Conservatives will restore fee paying. Has he the permission of the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Cabinet to say that?

Mr MacArthur

If the hon. Member would be good enough to await the statement which I have indicated that I will make shortly, he will hear the answer to that question. I would not make a statement of that kind without full agreement.

We are also debating Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 and I understand, Mr. Speaker, that it would be convenient if we divided once on the three Amendments.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member asked me, and I gave a half promise on the subject, but, on examining the Bill, I cannot allow a Division on either of those two Amendments. Once the first Amendment is carried, the other two fall.

Mr. MacArthur

I understand the point, Mr. Speaker, and I am obliged to you for considering it.

The other two Amendments are different in scope. Amendment No. 2 in the name of my hon. Friends and myself, proposes that the Order which would be introduced under the Clause as it stands should not take effect until two years after the passage of the Act. Our reason for making that proposition is to provide added protection for local authorities and for the parents of the children in these schools.

If the Prime Minister decides to go on with his goings on, he could continue—I am sorry to depress the House—until the spring of 1971. Our two-year period was carefully chosen to take us beyond the time of this, the Prime Minister's dream—and the country's nightmare. We certainly do not accept the principle of the change, and our Amendment would be a way to avoid the change altogether. I say that because a Conservative Government would not be lunatic enough to abolish fee paying in these schools and totally to change the character of these excellent schools, as the Government propose to do. That is the difference between us and hon. Members opposite. The difference is that we are not wedded to this narrow and thoughtless political dogma. The difference is that this crazy change would not be forced on local authorities by a Conservative Government.

The debate has shown yet again that the Socialist Party is bound by dreary dogma in the questionable cause of a bogus egalitarianism. In moving the Amendment the Secretary of State said that when the Bill was enacted it was his intention to "press" local authorities for their proposals—a sinister word. He has already tried to beat local authorities to their knees to make them comply with the Government's instructions, whether they agreed with the Government or not. He said that he intended to press them further. I tremble when I think of what that pressure might involve.

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) implied that all that would happen on 1st August, 1970, was that the fees themselves would be abolished but that for the moment the schools would continue unchanged in every other way. Perhaps that will be so on 2nd August, 1970, and 3rd August, 1970, but what will be the position in August, 1971, August, 1972, and the years thereafter? It is clear that the character of these schools will be totally changed if the Government have their way.

The Secretary of State said that he will press local authorities for their proposals. In his weak and ineffective replies to our questions in Committee, the Minister said that he expected local authorities to come forward with their proposals, but that they had not yet done so. But the local authorities in Edinburgh and Glasgow have come forward already with their proposal—vigorously and vocally. Their proposal is, "Leave our schools alone". That is what they propose.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is drifting into the merits of the Clause. We are discussing whether the Clause shall come into operation in August. 1970, or two years after the passing of the Act.

Mr. MacArthur

I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. The local authorities would cry, "Leave our schools alone on 1st August, 1970".

Many questions were asked in Committee about the difficulties which would face local authorities on 1st and 2nd August and thereafter, and they were not answered. Questions have been put again today. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) asked what the position would be of the Royal High School in Edinburgh. That is the kind of question which must be answered.

It is all very well for the Government to say that on 1st August fee paying will be abolished, but their intention is to go far beyond the abolition of fee paying. They expect the local authorities to change the character of these schools completely and to bring them within the comprehensive system. How do the Government expect local authorities to be able to carry out that instruction? How do they think that the Royal High School can become a territorial comprehensive school?

The Government are asking for the impossible. If they are requiring the local authority in Edinburgh to change the character of the Royal High School to remove this illusion of privilege and social divisiveness about which we have heard, I point out that they will not achieve their objective in that way. If they turn that High School into a territorial school, they will be making it more socially divisive and removing totally from the school the wide social mix which exists in it and in the other fee-paying schools under the present fee-paying system.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman says that certain things are impossible. A few minutes ago he said that the question was whether this action should be taken on 1st August, 1970. As he has confined his scope to that date, will he say whether these steps are impossible on 1st August, 1970?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. I have advised the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) to confine his remarks to the Amendments.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) misses the point. What we propose should happen on 1st August, 1970 is that the schools should be left alone to carry on the fine contribution which they are making to the variety of education in Scotland. We have equivalent problems in Glasgow, some of which have been mentioned today. Some of my hon. Friends referred to the problem which confronts the Notre Dame School in Glasgow. What are they to do on 1st August? What sort of proposal can they make to the Government? The Government are asking the impossible.

I suggest to the Minister—and I put the suggestion in the form of a question—that he is placing that school and that local authority in a very difficult position. Reference was made in Committee to a contract drawn up between the corporation and the religious order which teaches in the Notre Dame School. The Minister was specifically asked what were the terms of that contract and how he expected the corporation unilaterally, at the Government's request, to break a contract of that kind. This question relates directly to 1st August, 1970, because an answer must be given to the local authority.

In Committee, after some days of questions, the Under-Secretary of State said: I understand that there is some kind of agreement between the education authority and the trustees of the Convent of Notre Dame. I am not clear about the details of that legal agreement, but I make the same point about it as I have made in relation to other schools. If there are special difficulties in schools, I expect the education authority to let us know about them."—OFFICIAL REPORT, First Scottish Standing Committee; 18th February 1969, c. 283] But, with respect, the Government have been apprised of this problem by us and the local authorities repeatedly and all that the hon. Gentleman can do is repeat in his parrot fashion, "I expect the local authorities to come forward with proposals". He is asking for the impossible and it is shameful that he should persist in this sort of argument.

I take a contrary view to that of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)—

Mr. Willis

Thank goodness.

Mr. MacArthur

I believe that the quality of this proposal is quite the reverse of that which he described. I regard it as wrong, improper and socially unjust. If this change is made on 1st August, 1970, the disappearance of these schools will widen social divisions in education and weaken the varied character of education in Scotland. We oppose the Amendment also because it removes freedom of choice from parents—not from privileged people, as has been suggested, but from parents who cannot afford to send their children to independent fee-paying schools. The Government are removing choice not from the rich, who can look elsewhere, but from the many poorer parents who send their children to these schools—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is still talking on Clause 3, which is already part of the Bill. All that we are discussing is whether this provision shall come into operation on 1st August, 1970.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. MacArthur

I am obliged, Mr. Speaker.

If the Government persist in asking local authorities to produce impossible proposals by 1st August, 1970, they will deny those authorities the right which they should have to determine the shape of education in their areas. I warn the House that in this Amendment we see the beginning of an assault on freedom and independence in education.

I referred earlier to the pledge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) on Second Reading, which I repeated in Committee—that we would rescind any Order made under the Clause as it stands, abolishing the right of local authorities to charge fees in these schools. I wish to state now that, if the present Government succeed in their aim in this Amendment, the next Conservative Government will introduce the amending legislation which will then be necessary in order to restore to local authorities the right to charge fees if they wish to do so.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

We have heard, from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), the usual speech, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Unlike hon. Members opposite, I have had some impatience with the Government. In this matter of the abolition of the fee-paying schools, they have acted in a Hamlet-like fashion. Impressed by the opportunity for doing what needed to be done, they have not seized it. My only reluctance has been to support them in their original intention to bring forward the date by Order. I therefore entirely welcome their decision to make this action effective on 1st August, 1970.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have tried to attribute a political motivation to the Government's action, have tried to have the benefit of two arguments which are mutually incompatible and inconsistent. First, they have said that this is unpopular and therefore it is to be rushed through. They cite as evidence last night's results in the local government elections. But, at the same time, they say that, just before another General Election, we are bringing forward the Bill to prevent the Opposition from undoing it. If hon. Members opposite are right and this is unpopular with the electorate in Scotland, surely they will stand to benefit from this, if they are right in assuming that the election will follow immediately after. This is a bogus argument and has nothing to do with the issues.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that it is up to the Government to suggest what form of reorganisation will be necessary after the implementation of this Measure. On the other hand, he suggested that we should be censured for depriving local authorities of the right to decide their own fate in this matter. These arguments, too, are inconsistent. It is up to the local authorities to come forward with proper proposals to implement the principle which the Government have outlined. It is not that they have not been given time to do so. This principle has been a plank of Labour Party policy for years and it has been known for years that the Government intended to give legislative effect to it. Discussions have taken place, opportunities for representations have been given, and these opportunities have been cast carelessly aside by the very authorities he mentioned. Hon. Members opposite have sought to have the best of completely inconsistent arguments.

This firm date will help to concentrate the minds of those local authorities on which we rely to bring forward a satisfactory and equitable solution to this outstanding problem, which has been the cause of dissatisfaction and heartfelt discontent in those areas with fee-paying schools. I ask hon. Members who have objected to the date: what kind of forward planning have these authorities already done? Surely in the light of the Government's declared intentions—this Government are not known for their pusillanimity, whatever else—they must have done some forward planning. Or do they prefer not to bring forward the planning because that would expose the utter weakness of their objections? It is now clear that the time has come to act.

Mr. Milan

The Amendments are comparatively narrow, but, as you have noticed, Mr. Speaker, they tend to merge with rather wider arguments involved in the proposition of the Clause for the abolition of fee-paying—now with a fixed date. I will not attempt, even if that were in order, to go over all the strands of this argument about fee-paying, because we considered them exhaustively in Committee. But the difficulty of answering, even the kind of points put by the Opposition to-day is that they still have a completely ambivalent attitude towards comprehensive education and the processes of selection.

It is their inability to bring themselves to firm conclusions about these matters which gives rise to the confusion that was demonstrated, for example, by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) and which was exposed so devastatingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar). If only they would clear their minds about the basic issue, we might have a meaningful argument about comparatively minor matters concerning the precise date on which this decision should be made.

The confusion is not helped when we realise that, despite the high sounding views that we had even today from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) there are only two education authorities in Scotland involved in this—Glasgow and Edinburgh The hon. Gentleman's own education authority has no fee paying schools and not the slightest intention of having any, whatever the next Conservative Government, if there is one, legislate about fee paying in local authority schools.

It is also remarkable that the hon. Gentleman has been able to say that the proposition that fee paying will be reintroduced has the support of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the English members of the Shadow Cabinet. It was an English Conservative Minister of Education, Lord Butler, who introduced similar legislation in 1944. The period of notice which he gave to the English local authorities was considerably less than that which we are giving to the Scottish local authorities in this legislation.

Mr. MacArthur

We went over all this in Committee. It is impossible to compare the Scottish position today with the English position some years back. What is critical is that two of the largest authorities in Scotland oppose the Government's policy utterly.

Mr. Millan

That adds nothing to what he has already said today, and what he said today added very little, in any event.

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.

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that there is something dastardly in a Government frustrating the wishes of a future Government made up of hon. Members who are at present in opposition. Apart from the assumption in that argument that there will be a change of Government, which I think it is foolish to make, this Government and any other are perfectly entitled to produce certainty in their legislation and to say, "We have made this decision. We have debated it exhaustively. We want it to be a firm one and not one which may rest on the good will of any Government who may follow us". If hon. Gentlemen opposite ever form a Government they can introduce different legislation. But there is no reason why we should not have absolute certainty in the Bill, and that is what we are doing by the Amendment.

In any case, the cost of the abolition of fees has been taken into account already in the recent rate support grant regulations and in the negotiations leading up to them. Therefore, the authorities concerned are compensated for the abolition of fees in the regulations on rate support grant which we have already put into operation.

There were a number of positively bizarre reasons produced by hon. Gentlemen opposite for deferring the date beyond 1st August, 1970. The most extraordinary was the proposition that we should do it because the Royal Commission on Local Government is sitting at the present time. The hon. Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) said that the boundaries of local authorities in Scotland—indeed, she said, the boundaries of Scotland—would all be changed before 1st August, 1970.

I know that this Government act with great speed on the recommendations of Royal Commissions, but even this Government will not be able to change all the local authority boundaries in Scotland before 1st August, 1970. Some hon. Members opposite were wondering whether we should have the Royal Commission's Report before 1st August, 1970, let alone whether legislation would be put into effect.

Miss Harvie Anderson

The hon. Gentleman does me some injustice. I read an extract from the remit, which was to redraw the boundaries. I did not suggest that any legislation following that would be in force by 1st August, 1970. I merely said that it was relevant, which I believe it to be.

Mr. Millan

I do not think that it is relevant. In any event, the hon. Lady said what I have just attributed to her.

The argument which she drew from the Royal Commission situation does not stand consideration. From the arguments that we have heard coming from the Opposition benches on this Amendment, one would think that there has never been a case of fees being abolished in local education authority schools in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) demonstrated that it has been done in Lanarkshire over the years, in respect of a very large number of schools, It has been done in Glasgow. More recently, it has been done by the Renfrew-shire education authority with effect from the end of the current session. The hon. Lady seems unaware of this or has not taken it into account. Incidentally, Renfrewshire is not even Labour-controlled.

All these impossible practical difficulties have been overcome by Renfrew-shire, by Glasgow and by Lanarkshire in the past, and they will be overcome by the authorities concerned when this legislation is enacted.

That is the general answer to the points made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) about the situation at schools in Edinburgh. I have met the education authority in Edinburgh on more than one occasion. I asked its members at my first meeting with them whether they wished to discuss individual schools in Edinburgh to see if it was possible to integrate them into a comprehensive system. The then convener said that he had no intention of producing proposals to that end and that, if the Government wished to do this job, they would have to legislate. That is precisely what we have done.

Exactly the same position applies in Glasgow. I offered members of the Glasgow education authority the opportunity of discussing all the individual schools in detail. They were unwilling to do that, and the situation remains that, once the Bill is through, we shall in the first instance expect to receive proposals from the education authorities. We shall discuss the proposals with them. We shall discuss the practical problems involved and, if there are any which are difficult of solution, I hope that they will be dealt with sympathetically. If that has not got through to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), it is clearly understood by the education authorities concerned. They are expecting the abolition of fees on 1st August, 1970. They know the position, and nothing that we are doing today or have done in the Bill has surprised them. Therefore, the practical difficulties that have been mentioned will not arise.

I commend the Amendment to the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 136.

Division No. 197.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Malley, Brian
Archer, Peter Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Orbach, Maurice
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Hamling, William Orme, Stanley
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Hannan, William Oswald, Thomas
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Harper, Joseph Padley, Walter
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Paget, R. T.
Barnett, Joel Haseldine, Norman Palmer, Arthur
Beaney, Alan Hazell, Bert Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bence, Cyril Heffer, Eric S. Pardoe, John
Bessell, Peter Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Park, Trevor
Bishop, E. S. Hooley, Frank Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Blackburn, F. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pavitt, Laurence
Booth, Albert Howie, W. Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boston, Terence Hoy, James Pentland, Norman
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Huckfield, Leslie Perry, Ernest C. (Battersea, S.)
Boyden, James. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hunter, Adam Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Buchan, Norman Janner, Sir Barnett Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Probert, Arthur
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rankin, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Chapman, Donald Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Richard, Ivor
Coe, Denis Judd, Frank Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Coleman, Donald Kelley, Richard Robertson, John (Paisley)
Conlan, Bernard Kenyon, Clifford Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Ryan, John
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Sheldon, Robert
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lawson, George Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Leadbitter, Ted Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Lestor, Miss Joan Silverman, Julius
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Slater, Joseph
Delargy, Hugh Lomas, Kenneth Small, William
Dempsey, James Luard, Evan Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Dewar, Donald Lubbock, Eric Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Dickens, James Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Symonds, J. B.
Dobson, Ray Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Doig, Peter McCann, John Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Driberg, Tom MacDermot, Niall Tinn, James
Dunn, James A. Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Tomney, Frank
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Mackintosh, John P. Urwin, T. W.
Eadie, Alex Maclennan, Robert Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) MacPherson, Malcolm Wallace, George
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Manuel, Archie Watkins, David (Consett)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mapp, Charles Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Marquand, David Wellbeloved, James
Fernyhough, E. Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Whitaker, Ben
Finch, Harold Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mendelson, John Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Millan, Bruce Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Forrester, John Miller, Dr. M. S. Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Freeson, Reginald Milne, Edward (Blyth) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Galpern, Sir Myer Molloy, William Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Gardner, Tony Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Ginsburg, David Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Grey, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Gregory, Arnold Moyle, Roland
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Neal, Harold TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Newens, Stan Mr. Alan Fitch and
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Ogden, Eric Mr. Neil McBride.
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Astor, John Black, Sir Cyril Bruce-Gardyne, J.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Blaker, Peter Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Bullus, Sir Eric
Batsford, Brian Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Brewis, John Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Brinton, Sir Tatton Carlisle, Mark
Berry, Hn. Anthony Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Clark, Henry
Biggs-Davison, John Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Clegg, Walter
Cooke, Robert Hunt, John Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Costain, A. P. Hutch:son, Michael Clark Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Irvine, Bryant Cadman (Rye) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Crouch, David Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Currie, G. B. H. Jopling, Michael Royle, Anthony
Dalkeith, Earl of Kershaw, Anthony Russell, Sir Ronald
Dance, James Kimball, Marcus Scott-Hopkins, James
Eden, Sir John Kirk, Peter Sharples, Richard
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'h'gh & Whitby)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'le-upon-Tyne, N.) Knight, Mrs. Jill Silvester, Frederick
Emery, Peter Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sinclair, Sir George
Errington, Sir Eric Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Eyre, Reginald Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Foster, Sir John MacArthur, Ian Speed, Keith
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Stainton, Keith
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) McMaster, Stanley Stodart, Anthony
Glover, Sir Douglas McNair-Wilson, Michael Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Angus Tapsell, Peter
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gower, Raymond Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Grant, Anthony Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Grant-Ferris, R. Mills, Peter (Torrington) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Gresham Cooke, R. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) More, Jasper Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Murton, Oscar Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Nabarro, Sir Gerald Wall, Patrick
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Heave, Airey Ward, Dame Irene
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wiggin, A. W.
Harvie Anderson, Miss Osborn, John (Hallam) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Hawkins, Paul Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Page, Graham (Crosby) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Hiley, Joseph Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wright, Esmond
Hill, J. E. B. Peel, John Wylie, N. R.
Hirst, Geoffrey Percival, Ian Younger, Hn. George
Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Pike, Miss Mervyn
Holland, Philip Pounder, Rafton TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hordern, Peter Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Hornby, Richard Prior, J. M. L. Mr. Hector Munro.
Howell, David (Guildford) Pym, Francis

It being after Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.

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