§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, this Bill passed your Lordships' House in 1923 in almost precisely the form in which it stands to-day. When the Bill was first presented to your Lordships by my noble friend Viscount Novar it contained three clauses only—namely, Clauses 1, 2 and 5 of the present Bill. Clauses 3 and 4 were added at the instance of the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, as being non-contentious and on the understanding that, if any opposition developed in the House of Commons, the matter would require reconsideration. In the event, the Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons, but the Dissolution of Parliament put a stop to any further progress.
The only difference in the present Bill is in Clause 2, which has to do with the minimum number of meetings to be held by the education authority. As matters stand to-day the education authorities in all counties are under an obligation to meet monthly with the exception of certain months in the summer, and the original intention was to reduce the minimum to four with a view to saving the cost of travelling. It was, however, represented to the Secretary for Scotland that this arrangement might not meet with acceptance in all quarters, and the arrangement has therefore been adopted, and is embodied in the Bill, that the minimum shall be six meetings in certain counties which are widespread and scattered and in which, therefore, travelling expenses are rather a serious item.
Turning to the remaining clauses of the Bill, I should explain that Clause 1 provides for the closing of the voluntary schools before the expiry of ten years where these are redundant and subject to the consent of the Church authority concerned. Clause 3 clears up the position under the Act of 1918 as between the education authority and the school management; committees and will remove certain ambiguities which have given rise to 1643 friction, and indeed to litigation, since the passing of the Act of 1918. Clause 4 has to do with the provision of travelling facilities for school children and enables the education authority to take advantage of that provision without having special regard to the circumstances of the parents, on the condition that such a course will be less costly than either the building of a new school or the maintenance of an old one and also subject to the proviso that it is educationally desirable. The whole matter is, of course, subject to the Scottish Education Department being satisfied. Clause 5 has to do with the maintenance and conveyance of defectives and defines rather more closely the powers of education authorities in that matter. The education authorities concerned are quite satisfied that all the necessary powers are contained in this clause. As your Lordships will see, the Bill deals entirely with minor points and is the result of experience in working the Act of 1918. I can confidently recommend it to your Lordships as a measure which will promote the cause not only of efficiency but also of economy in Scottish education. I beg to move that it be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That. the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Balfour of Buerleigh.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I have looked into this Bill with some care, because it came to us rather suddenly, and we had not been warned of it, nor 1644 did we contemplate taking it at this time. I find that the noble Lord is quite right. It imposes no new principle of any sort, it does not touch block grants or any controversial matter of that kind, and, in all the five clauses to which the noble Lord referred, improvements of an administrative kind are made which have been wanted for some time. In consequence there was, I think, a unanimous desire in the House of Commons that the Bill should pass, and, so far as I can discover, that is Scottish opinion, too. I shall therefore offer no objection to the Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.