HC Deb 02 August 1972 vol 842 cc592-607

4.52 p.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

I wish to raise a quite different matter and, I think, a much greater scandal than we have heard about during the last hour.

So far I have initiated two or three debates in the House on Corsbie Hall School, in Fife, a private fee-paying school, for handicapped children, and I said in the House and privately to the Minister that I did not wish to make any party political capital out of it. At the end of the last debate the Minister responded in similar terms, but the time has now come to blow the lid off what I think is one of the most squalid and disgraceful stories of incompetence, indifference and callousness on the part of the Scottish Education Department, the Minister responsible and the local education authorities who sent or allowed their children to be sent to this wretched institution.

The last debate which I initiated on this subject took place on 4th May of this year, and I then outlined what I can only describe as this Dickensian scandal. I pointed out that the fees at this school were higher than those at Fettes College in Edinburgh—which was attended by Mr. Speaker—a top, snobby public school. The fee is £800 a year, at a school which had been a dilapidated, abandoned pre-National Health Service fever isolation hospital for which Fife County Council and the South-East Regional Hospital Board in Scotland could find no use. It was bought by a private enterpriser who, although he had no academic qualifications whatsoever, decided to provide facilities for handicapped children—not necessarily mentally handicapped; they could be socially handicapped—with IQs varying from 60 to 100. The fee is £800 a year, or £1,200 if a child stays at school during the holidays.

I pointed out that the fees were paid not by the parents of the children but by local education authorities from the North-West of England—Oldham, Manchester and Bury—right up to those in the Shetlands. Dundee sent 15 boys there and the Minister quoted the Deputy Director of Education for Dundee as saying that he had seen worse places than Corsbie Hall. My God, I wonder where he had been to see worse places!

These children, shut off from the public gaze at a cost of £800 a head per year, are in the hands of a principal who admitted that he had no professional academic qualifications, who is employing staff who are not properly qualified, and who issued to all education authorities in England and Scotland a brochure which was fraudulent and which was never fulfilled. It talked about fully-qualified psychiatrists, and so on, but the school never had that kind of staff.

In my speech on 4th May I tried as best I could to keep the temperature down. As I say, I saw the Minister privately before the debate and made it clear that I did not want to make any party political capital out of it, but the Minister's reply to that debate reeked of complacency and indifference. He spelled out, quite properly, the statutory position. Any person can set up an institution of this kind in Scotland with more than five children, and almost automatically it can be provisionally registered by the Scottish Education Department. The Minister said on that occasion: This is solely a check on the proprietor. What kind of a check was made on Mr. Taylor-Bryant? I do not believe that his name is Taylor-Bryant. Did the Minister find that out? In this class-ridden, rotten society in which we live, a hyphenated name has some social status and therefore he has a hyphen in his name. I do not believe that it is Taylor-Bryant. I do not know whether the inspectors found out whether that is his name. Having said that what was done was solely a check on the proprietor, the Minister went on to say that it gives no indication that the premises or the instruction is adequate in the eyes of the Scottish Education Department. … Final registration is a different matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1972; Vol. 836, c. 767.] Of course it is. Her Majesty's Inspectors must be satisfied before it is finally registered as to the adequacy of the premises, the instruction and the staff.

The Minister said that I had said in my speech that my second visit to the school gave indications that physical improvements had been made to the school. It had been established in September, 1970, and in early 1972 there were those physical improvements. There had been a splash of paint here and there, and the dormitories for the residential kids were probably better than the homes they came from. Certainly, there were improvements in that direction, and I said so. So there should be. The £800 a year paid for each of more than 50 boys—more than the statutory limits imposed by the 1962 Act—was bringing in an income of more than £40,000 a year to the proprietor. He has said in the past week or two that one of his great mistakes was that the fees were not high enough. I shall come to that in a minute of two.

However, Corsbie Hall was provisionally registered in 1970, catering for boys with IQs of 60 to 100. Many of them were sent by the social work departments of local authorities. They were not all educationally sub-normal. Some came from broken homes. I have met them and talked to them. Some of them were intelligent boys who just happened to be unfortunate in their family background.

The Minister pointed out that nine subsequent visits were paid to the school, seven by the inspectors and doctors of the Scottish Education Department and two by the catering advisers. Two of the visits of the inspectors lasted three days. They were made by great mandarins in the Department, the great specialists who would not send a child of theirs to the school. It is good enough for the children of inarticulate parents in Oldham, Bury, Manchester or the Shetlands, but not for them. No Minister of any Government would have sent his child to this kind of school. The Minister said that the visits were made by highly-qualified inspectors. He described them as having exceptional experience in special education and qualifications in psychology".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1972; Vol. 836, c. 738.] There were visits by the district inspector in Fife, who also had great experience.

After a sixth inspection in November, 1971, it was decided that the school would soon be fit for full registration. Full registration was approved by the Minister on 24th April, 1972, less than four months ago. The school was declared hunkydory, perfect, wonderful. It was said that there was nothing wrong with it, that anyone could send his child there. The Minister said that on 24th April there were six teachers, including a fully qualified, very good head. He was. I was impressed by Mr. Jack. The others consisted of two fully qualified teachers, one university graduate, one teacher trained at Jordanhill College in occupational centre work, and one unqualified teacher ready for teacher training. There were three instrutors—two fully qualified in technical subjects and the third involved in Outward Bound, sports and games activities. On 4th May, less than a fortnight later, the staff of nine had been reduced to seven. I wonder why.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office (Mr. Hector Monro)

The hon. Gentleman had a lot to do with it.

Mr. Hamilton

I am glad the Minister said that. I want to put it on the record. I did have a lot to do with it. I am not happy that I did, but I felt it my duty. The Minister has failed in his duty to see that it did not happen. The Department is responsible for crass inefficiency, crass callousness and crass incompetence.

According to the Minister, everything was marvellous at that time. He made the point that it was not the duty of the Education Department to look into the financial structure of this type of school, because it is not laid down in the 1962 Act. Well, it damn well should be laid down in amendments to that Act, because the institution was crooked financially.

The Minister said in the debate to which I have referred that the debt was exaggerated. Where did he get that information from—from Mr. Taylor-Bryant? If he did not have access to the accounts, how did he know that the figures quoted of the debts the school had incurred were exaggerated? Mr. Taylor-Bryant himself said a week or two ago that they were understated, that he owes more than had been said in the Press. The Minister said that there was no immediate problem over heating, the telephone or insurance. At the very time he was saying that, the national insurance cards of the teachers had for months and months not even been stamped. Not a single card of any teacher in the school had been stamped for insurance purposes.

I have this very day received an answer to a Question I put to the Lord Advocate, asking what criminal proceedings are being taken against Mr. Taylor-Bryant because of his criminal activities. The Lord Advocate said: No case against the former principal has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal. If such is reported the question of proceedings will be considered on the merits of the case. There is no argument that the insurance cards have not been stamped. I telephoned the social insurance office in Kirkcaldy a few weeks ago and was told that if the teachers went to their employment exchanges and said that their cards were not stamped they would not be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit if they said that they had been at Corsbie Hall School, because they were innocent victims of crooked activities.

The same might apply to income tax. Some of the teachers have told me that, although when they received their monthly cheques income tax was deducted, it might well be that, although they had no firm evidence, Mr. Taylor-Bryant was not paying the deducted tax to the Inland Revenue.

In the debate in May the Minister also said: I ask the hon. Gentleman"— he was referring to me— to give the school a chance and to cease attacking it week by week … if we give the school a chance to settle down, it may well provide a very much happier home for 55 children than they would otherwise have. I reject the hon. Gentleman's demand for an inquiry. If the situation were as bad as he alleges or even approaching the conditions he has described tonight and as he described it in his speech on his Ten Minute Rule Bill, I should invoke the closure procedure. We will watch the situation carefully. I am sure that we shall see it develop to the advantage of these handicapped children. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel that I have taken immense trouble, as I must, and as I intend to do in the future, to look into the case as he put forward. I must tell him that he has over-stated the difficulties that face the school at the moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1972; Vol. 836, c. 770.] That was 4th May, less than three months ago. Someone said a while ago that a week is a long time in politics; four months is a hell of a long time.

Within a few weeks of registration of Corsbie Hall, Mr. Jack, the highly-qualified, dedicated head, had quit, and he had quit [...]he told me, because he was not satisfied with the way the school was being run. He was not satisfied with the finances of it, and Mr. Taylor-Bryant the principal, told him to mind his own business, that it was nothing to do with him. The summer holidays came. Mr. Taylor-Bryant had sold the mini-buses of the school. A boat that it had bought for the boys on hire purchase from a firm in Wandsworth, London, had disappeared. The payments had not been kept up.

Mr. Johnson, a teacher who had left a few months before, had bought a model railway for the boys for £100 at his own expense. When he left, last April I think, Mr. Taylor-Bryant said "You will not be allowed to take your train with you", and he kept it in his own room and Mr. Johnson never saw it. Mr. Johnson came to me in the House a few weeks ago and said "Please try to get my train for me." But the sheriff had moved in. The sheriff had taken over the whole lot and was about to put it all into the auction rooms in Kirkcaldy because Mr. Taylor-Bryant had disappeared and sent all the kids away on their summer holidays. No one knew where Mr. Taylor-Bryant was.

The rumour was that he was on a caravanning holiday with his wife and children. He said later that he was down in London to try to raise some cash. He went to the surgery of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) because someone had told him that my hon. Friend was interest in education. I asked my hon. Friend what Mr. Taylor-Bryant had said. My hon. Friend said that Mr. Taylor-Bryant said "That man from West Fife is a bloody nuisance. He is not leaving me alone to get on with my school, and I am in difficulties. What can you do to help me?" My hon. Friend said that he could not do anything about it, that It was entirely up to the hon. Member concerned to deal with it as he liked, and that is what I am doing.

Come 19th July the police were there, the sheriff officers were there, the Inspector from the Department was there but no children turned up. Two teachers turned up because their school pay cheques had bounced. The teachers' cheques were bouncing like tennis balls at Wimbledon. Not one of them was honoured. Some were for £60 or £70.

In July I went to the school. My God! The gates were closed. I went through a little door. The place was deserted. I went straight through the kitchen, left in a hurry, and a little scruffy man came through. I said "Who are you?" He said "I am the chef." "Chef of what?" He said "I am here to feed the hens." He said "Taylor-Bryant gave me £4 to keep the hens and two pigs alive. But if you want to talk to someone, there is a house mother upstairs." I said "What are you doing for pay?" He said "I am not getting any but there is a roof over my head and I have nowhere else to go." That was Mr. Foreman.

I went upstairs to the house mother, a 24-year-old woman separated from her husband, with domestic problems. There was a six-month-old child gurgling in a little basket. I said to the girl "How did you get here? What qualifications have you?" She said "I am not saying a word. Who are these fellows?" A Press man was with me because he had telephoned to tell me about Mr. Taylor-Bryant and asked me to go along to the school with him that afternoon, along with my agent. I took very good care to take witnesses to this place.

The reporter and my agent were with me. We talked to this girl. I said to her "I am the local Member; I want the full story." She said "I got the job. I saw an advertisement in the paper. I have an Australian qualification in nursing. It was a roof over my head. I have my child with me and I was outside the English law and my husband was not in England." I asked her "What are you doing for heating and lighting?" The electricity was cut off, the telephone was cut off. He did not pay any ruddy bills. There was no heating. She said "I have a calor gas stove, and when that is finished I am finished."

I got on to Glenrothes Development Corporation, because it has empty houses just along the road, and within a week that girl was in one of those houses in Glenrothes. She was helped very well, and I pay my respects to the social security people, to the development corporation and the police. The police went along. I telephoned them at Kirkcaldy and told them about this girl. They made sure that the little child was properly cared for. A day or two after, this chef had to kill one of the chickens to keep himself alive. There was nothing else to eat, so he knocked off one of the chickens.

Mr. Taylor-Bryant turned up on the 19th while all this activity was going on there. The police, the sheriff officers and the inspector were all there, and Mr. Taylor-Bryant said "I am bankrupt, and it's all because of that fellow Hamilton. If I had been left on my own I could have run this racket completely undisturbed." I quote from the Scottish Daily Record of 19th July: The principal of Corsbie Hall School went to a lawyer to declare himself bankrupt yesterday. But later, George Taylor-Bryant said: 'I discovered the creditors had beaten me to it. I had already been declared bankrupt.' Mr. Taylor-Bryant, 32, returned yesterday to Thornton. Fife, where he set up the 880-year"— I think that must be £800— school for maladjusted boys two years ago. He said: 'I have been in London trying to raise funds.' Woodwork teacher James Walker and junior schoolmistress Margaret Herbertson were waiting at the school to tell Mr. Taylor-Bryant their June pay cheques bounced. He said later: 'Now I am bankrupt I'm not allowed to pay the staff. But I understand they will be treated as preferential creditors and will get the salary due to them in full.' Also at the school yesterday were sheriff officers who have arranged a warrant sale of the furniture and equipment next month. And today Scottish Education Department inspectors will arrive to investigate. Mr. Walker and Miss Herbertson will be on hand in case any of the 55 pupils turn up. None of them turned up. The sheriff officers turned up.

I want to ask the Minister one or two questions. Where do we go from here? Has the Department taken steps to ensure that responsibility for the children who have been going there—four from Oldham, 15 from Dundee and others from Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Glasgow—is being shouldered by the local education authority? It is its responibility, and it should have been its responsibility throughout. Is the Department considering any amendment to the legislation to ensure that such schools are financially sound? Have the teachers who have not been paid and who are now unemployed any redress? Are criminal proceedings being taken by the Lord Advocate? I understood from the legal department of the social security office in Kirkcaldy that it was considering what steps it should take about the non-stamping of the national insurance cards. There are some lessons to learn here.

Mr. Taylor-Bryant told me on my first or second visit to the school that it was a non-profit-making institution but that he also owned a school catering for similarly maladjusted boys and girls in Newton Stewart, in Wigtown and that he had sold that school to the former headmaster of the school in my constituency, Mr. Sendall. What is the attraction of a non-profit-making institution? What figure did Mr. Sendall pay? When I talked to Mr. Sendall, I had heared that corporal punishment was used at Corsbie Hall and Mr. Sendall was then headmaster there. He said to me "These kids are savages. The only thing they will understand is a damned good hiding." Sendall is now the headmaster of the school in Newton Stewart. I want to know whether these great specialists, the inspectors in the Scottish Education Department, have been along to Newton Stewart and satisfied themselves that everything is all right and that Mr. Sendall is doing a philanthropic job.

The whole matter needs looking at. I shall not let it lie. I know that the Minister will castigate me, but that will not harm me. It will not influence me one iota. I believe that kids were sent to Corsbie Hall because local education authorities would not face up to their responsibilities and were willing to pay £800 a year to sweep their little problems under the carpet. Now they have been found out.

Months ago the English Secretary of State for Education advised education authorities in England not to send their children to Corsbie Hall because of a report by the inspectors of the Scottish Education Department. But the Education Department in Scotland was still allowing Scottish education authorities to send their children to the school even though the Minister said that it was not fit for English children. Oldham defied the English Minister and continued to send children to Corsbie Hall.

A society as affluent and prosperous as ours has no right to treat children in the way that they have been treated at Corsbie Hall because the parents were inadquate or inarticulate or did not want to parade the inadequacies of their children. This is a responsibility of society, which means, in this context, that it is the responsibility of the local authorities—the education authorities or the social work departments. It cannot be shuffled off.

I want to know what will happen to Corsbie Hall. I want the Minister to give an assurance that all the other private fee-paying schools which are supposed to be catering for children of this type are financially sound and that they are being run by fully qualified staff and inspected by people who will say that if it came to the point they would send their children to those schools. If they are not prepared to say that, they have no right to say that these institutions are fit for anybody else's child.

I hope that the lesson has been learned. I give the Minister due warning that this is not the last debate that we shall have an Corsbie Hall or on the way in which we treat handicapped children.

5.26 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office (Mr. Hector Monro)

The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is well known for over-statements. Today he has perhaps surpassed himself, using words such as "scandal" and "callous indifference" and making other statements which do not add credibility to his reputation. I certainly shall not continue in the vein which he set. I shall give a factual statement of the position. It is most disappointing that any hon. Gentleman should approach a debate of this type, particularly one dealing with children, in the manner adopted by the hon. Gentleman. I prefer to approach it in a more matter of fact and human way. The hon. Gentleman quoted at length from the Adjournment debate in April. I shall do the minimum of that, but I should like to put a few facts straight so that they are on the record.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the school opened in September, 1970, as a school for about 50 dull and difficult boys. It was given provisional registration. The hon. Gentleman indicated otherwise, but it received only provisional registration, which must be given under the law as it stands unless the proprietor had formerly been disqualified. Certainly that was not so in the case of Mr. Taylor-Bryant as prospective proprietor of Corsbie Hall. It received final registration in April, 1972, after the inspections—seven in all—by Her Majesty's Inspectors which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

I am sorry that the hon. Member continued his attack, by inference, on the inspectors, medical officer and catering adviser. Improvements suggested at previous inspections had been carried out—certainly some of them had. The staff was adequate at the time of registration. There was no question but that when final registration was given the school had achieved the necessary standard of staffing Satisfactory instruction was being given and the premises had been improved as requested by the inspectors.

I should say what the hon. Gentleman well knows, that the proprietor did not have academic qualifications, but there was no reason why he should. The far more important issue is that the headmaster should have full academic qualifications, and he had.

The subsequent collapse has been due to financial difficulties of the proprietor—and, I must say, as I said in an interjection, certainly not helped by the attacks by the hon. Gentleman. Of course, the staff began to leave when salaries were not paid or were paid late. As soon as this was brought to our attention the Secretary of State warned the proprietor—on 5th June—that the school must be properly staffed when it reopened after the holidays, which were to end on 19th July.

In the event, as the hon. Gentleman said, the proprietor declared himself bankrupt on the day the school should have reopened. The school is now closed, and has been removed from the register of independent schools as no longer in existence. So far as the present Corsbie Hall is concerned, it is closed and will remain so.

The hon. Gentleman has, of course, laid the blame on the Secretary of State. I, on my right hon. Friend's behalf, of course accept anything he said in so far as it is due to my right hon. Friend's responsibility, but that responsibility, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is limited to the Secretary of State satisfying himself as to the adequacy of the accommodation, of staffing, and of educational standards at independent schools. He is not concerned with the financial viability of the school or the proprietor.

Once a school is provisionally or finally registered, it can be struck off the register only by the formal procedure of notice of complaint, and that can be appealed against to the Independent Schools Tribunal. The grounds of complaint are set out in Section 112 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1962. Those grounds, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware, are that adequate instruction is not being provided; that the school premises, or parts of them, are unsuitable for a school; that the accommodation is inadequate; or that the proprietor of the school, or any teacher employed therein, is not a proper person to be the proprietor or to be a teacher in any school, as the case may be. Those are the only grounds on which a school can be struck off the register as the law stands at the moment. Financial difficulty, or failure to pay staff, are irrelevant unless and until they affect the efficiency of the school.

The hon. Gentleman says that he knows about the 1962 Act and, indeed, the 1969 Act, and that they do not give the Secretary of State financial responsibility for the independent schools. Well, the hon. Gentleman and his Government took the 1969 Bill through the House and I have no record of his complaining about this omission in the Bill. Indeed, I would to an extent have been surprised if he had because this had not arisen before.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

I am trying to be helpful, and I am wondering if before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point he will deal with a question. I accept the point he is making about the statutory duties of the Secretary of State, but my hon. Friend raised the point about advice given by the English Ministry of Education, so, even apart from statutory responsibility, why should there have been this lack of advice from the Scottish Office, or was there a difficulty about interpretation with the English Ministry of Education?

Mr. Monro

I think the hon. Gentleman knows from his long experience that the English situation is different, In that the Secretary of State for Education and Science can forbid a local authority to send to a particular independent school pupils requiring special education. The Secretary of State for Scotland used to have similar power under Section 5 of the 1962 Act, but it was removed by the 1969 Act, to which. I am saying, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, West did not object. So the law in the two countries is somewhat different because of the 1969 Act.

In relation to the responsibility of the Secretary of State, I should tell the hon. Gentleman of the action the Secretary of State has taken. I indicated that, before registration, the school was frequently and carefully inspected. On 6th June the proprietor was warned, as I said, that standards seemed to be deteriorating because of the resignation of staff, and when it became apparent that the school was unlikely to reopen education authorities were warned not to send pupils back unless they were sure the school could receive, accommodate and educate them. It became obvious to the education authorities and to the Department that the school was unlikely to reopen on the first day of term, 19th July.

So far as the Secretary of State is concerned, he has performed his statutory duties, and one is in no way being complacent in saying this. The hon. Gentleman has played up and gone into great detail about the complications which followed the failure in financial terms of the proprietor. A great deal of what he has said can only be put right by those who have been injured in financial terms taking the appropriate legal action, but I do think that the hon. Gentleman in telling his long and lurid story has quite failed to appreciate the responsibilities laid on the Secretary of State. It would have been quite wrong for the Secretary of State to have gone into the financial position of the school. He is not required by the Act to do so.

Mr. William Hamilton

He should be.

Mr. Monro

It would be quite wrong to have done so. The hon. Gentleman, in his usual style, says that my right hon. Friend shoud be required to do that, but if that is to be, there will have to be a change in legislation. The hon. Gentleman had his chance to do that in 1969, but he did not do it.

Mr. William Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman has got the chance now.

Mr. Monro

It is no good the hon. Gentleman's sitting and girning away when he has had his chance and failed to take it.

Mr. William Hamilton

I was not there.

Mr. Monro

He should have been there, and not just grinning away at a situation which he then felt to be wrong and which he feels to be wrong now. I wish that occasionally he would try to face the difficulties of lack of legislation, if the hon. Gentleman feels that matters are wrong.

He has implied criticism of the education authorities, because it is their duty to see that the children for whom they are responsible are looked after adequately at the schools to which the children have been sent. Frequently the local authorities have sent responsible officials from their education departments and social work departments to see the school and, generally speaking, they were satisfied. The hon. Gentleman may take off at that, but it is a statement of fact. Some have said that they are sorry the school has closed. That is strictly on the position as it was when the school was fully staffed and registered.

The hon. Gentleman wants to know what we are doing about providing places. The education authorities are providing new places. Over 100 residential places are planned in Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Fife, and over 120 day places, to add to the present total of 421 residential places available in Scotland. I know that the hon. Gentleman would like all these places to be provided by local authorities, and one day this may be so, but at present the independent schools are doing a good job and meeting a need. I am taking no steps to reduce the number of independent schools making this provision.

The hon. Gentleman asks what has happened to the pupils who were at Corsbie Hall. At the end of last term there were 48 Scottish pupils. One of these has reached leaving age, so 47 had to be placed. There are still 25 who have not been placed, but the hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that for most special schools term does not begin until the end of this month. Of the remainder, 10 will go back to ordinary schools, six to day special schools, four are at independent residential schools, one is in a list D school and one is in hospital for examination. A fair number of places have been provided for those who would have gone back to Corsbie Hall.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of a public inquiry in relation to what I said during the Adjournment debate in May. My right hon. Friend and I still see no need for an inquiry into this type of provision.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman has told us that four out of the 40 pupils are to be placed in independent schools of this type—

Mr. Monro

Four have been placed.

Mr. Buchan

Four have been placed and the rest have been fitted in elsewhere, some into ordinary day schools. It does not argue the case for the preservation of such schools if nine-tenths of the children have been placed elsewhere since the demise of Corsbie Hall.

Mr. Monro

The hon. Gentleman perhaps did not take the point that there are still 25 who have not been placed. If 10 pupils, at least temporarily and perhaps permanently, have been accepted into ordinary schools this shows that Corsbie Hall made some success of their education—one could not say the reverse.

I was saying that the Secretary of State and I do not feel that a public inquiry is required. The facts that I have given today are perfectly clear. As I have said, the financial difficulties are no concern of the Secretary of State and entirely a matter between the proprietor and his creditors.

I have also been asked by the hon. Gentleman about the position of the Lord Advocate. I cannot say more than my right hon. and learned Friend said today. He must look at the evidence before he comes to a conclusion.

The school at Newton Stewart has been inspected and is due for another inspection this month. So I ask the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. William Hamilton

—to keep quiet!

Mr. Monro

That is impossible. I would never ask him to keep quiet. The House of Commons would seem a very strange place without his contributions, however controversial they are. As I said at the beginning, it is necessary to keep this matter in perspective. Here was a small independent school doing reasonably satisfactory work with 50 children. The local authorities who sent the children there were reasonably satisfied about the education and the home life of the boys. The fees at the school were not out of line with those at any other independent school of this kind and were probably no higher than a local authority would have to pay for equal provision. Any school of this size is vulnerable to attacks such as it received from the hon. Gentleman in relation to its financial position. This aggravated the staff difficulties, and that is why my right hon. Friend and I warned the proprietor as soon as the staff dropped below the level at which it was on the date when the school was registered.

For the pupils' sake, I hope that all the education authorities involved will be able to make provision for these boys as soon as possible. Now that the hon. Gentleman has had his way and the school has been closed and removed from the register, I hope he will allow other similar schools to continue to give this valuable provision for children who are handicapped in one way or another, so that they may enjoy their school days in peace and quiet. I think that he has grossly overplayed the whole affair of Corsbie Hall, although he has achieved his objective.

Forward to