§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD CRAIGTON)
My Lords, I think it is true to say that this important little Bill has been welcomed, not only by the Scottish local authorities hut, indeed, by all who are concerned about Scottish education. The four clauses of the Bill deal with four entirely separate subjects, and each clause represents progress in its own field. Clause 1 sets up an examination board whose principal task will be to conduct the annual Scottish Certificate of Education examination. The board will take over this work from the Scottish Education Department, who have been doing it for the last half century. This change has been welcomed by educational opinion in Scotland because it will give a greater share in the policy and running of examinations to representatives of all the partners in our educational system. The Bill creates the board and leaves to regulations, which have still to be drafted, the details, such as the exact membership of the board and its method of working.
This transfer of authority from central Government to a widely representative board has two important side effects. First, the cost of the board will be paid 1160 largely by the local authorities, but here the central Government is giving them considerable assistance. Until May, 1965, all the cost will be met direct by the Secretary of State. From May, 1965, the part of the cost attributable to running the examination will be met by the local authorities, but the whole of their contributions for the first year—that is, 1965–66—will be refunded to them through general grant. So, from the point of view of the local authority, the full cost for their first year and that amount for subsequent years w ill be 100 per cent. grant-aided. After the first year they will have to pay only any excess cost, which will, of course, be grant-aided in the normal proportion. Secondly, from the point of view of the Scottish Office, the fact that they will no longer have to conduct these annual examinations will be a welcome relief to the inspectorate, who will have much more time to devote to their important duties of visiting schools and advising them on their work.
Clause 2, subsection (1), puts right a point of doubt raised by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, and confirms the Secretary of State's power to make regulations in the form in which they have been made for several years. Clause 2, subsection (2), allows the Secretary of State to back-date pay awards. His inability to do this under the existing law caused unnecessary difficulty and confusion in cases where salary negotiations had become unduly protracted. For example, this year negotiations went on so long that we could not otherwise make the award from April 1, as we wished to do.
Clause 3 refers to pensions for the widows and dependants of teachers, and attempts to solve a problem that has been worrying us since 1956. The 1956 Act 1161 permitted the preparation of a scheme for widows, but allowed the scheme to be financed only by a reduction of the lump sum payment on retirement. Negotiations on detail broke down. An inquiry was held, and this clause is the result. The clause now allows the scheme to be financed either in whole or in part by the teachers paying annual contributions. The clause is so framed that there is the widest possible latitude in agreeing a scheme before regulations are produced. I welcome the co-operation that the Educational Institute of Scotland are giving us in attempting to arrive at a conclusion that is fair to all concerned.
Finally, Clause 4 is concerned with the membership of education committees and sub-committees. Under subsection (1) a teacher employed by an education authority can, for the first time in Scotland, become a member of an education committee or any sub-committee—teachers can, of course, already be nominated to education management sub-committees. Strong and divergent views are held by various authorities on the wisdom of this policy. But the Secretary of State has wisely decided that this is a matter for each local authority to decide for itself, so the clause is permissive and not mandatory.
Subsection (2) deals with the management sub-committees of local technical and commercial colleges. Already more than twenty are being built or will soon start to be built in Scotland. These technical and commercial colleges will be in no sense of the word schools: rather they will be local technical institutions playing an active part in the industrial life of the locality. For such institutions the statutory school management committee is wholly unsuitable. To succeed, these institutions must be directed by a combination of local education authority members and prominent people engaged in business and commerce. We want the invitation to participate in what I hope will be called the council of management to be a high honour, a mark of the esteem in which the man concerned is held in his community. Subsection (2) therefore permits the local authority to invite these prominent men to join the council of management. We feel sure that the local authorities and industry will respond to this opportunity. I can assure your Lordships that the Secretary 1162 of State will consider with great interest the schemes as they are put up to him by the local authorities, and we shall do all we can to make the councils of management worthy of the important task they have to do. This, then, is our little Bill, and I commend it to your Lordships. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Craigton.)
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, it seems to be the good fortune of the noble Lord, the Minister of State, to bring to this House Scottish Bills with which I find the greatest difficulty in disagreeing. Those on which I could really "go to town," I find the Parliamentary procedure stops me doing anything about; because I always want to deal with financial matters, of which another place is very jealous. In this case I find it difficult in any way to disagree with the excellent statement of the purposes of the Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has just given us.
I think the proposals which the Government make in Clause 1 are excellent. In relation to the second part of Clause 2, (the power to make pay awards retrospective), I think the Government are wise in accepting the fact that, of all salary negotiations, none prove to be more protracted than those on teachers' salaries, because they cover a profession with such a tremendous range that it is impossible for a decision to be reached quickly. It is perhaps conducive to arriving at a wrong decision; because people are, in fact, under some constraint to arrive at what they believe to be wrong decisions in order to get something through quickly. It is both reasonable and generous that the Government should make it possible to back-date these awards. In regard to Clause 3, I am not quite sure whether the Minister implied, in referring to consultation with the Educational Institute of Scotland, that they were, in fact, in complete agreement with this proposal. If it has come forward as a result of agreement with the education authorities or, rather, with representatives of teachers in Scotland, then I should not wish to take any exception to it.
1163 Clause 4 is the one on which I find the greatest difficulty. I admit that I am not an enthusiastic supporter of permitting school teachers to be members of education authorities. There is not the slightest doubt that over a large field of the work of an education authority the teacher can make an excellent contribution to the deliberations of the committee. But the fact remains that he is an interested party and, human nature being what it is, he will be tempted to take a very great interest in the things which concern him personally. Also I doubt whether, once that trend has been started in education committees, it can be stopped in that direction. Are we to find that what are now called street orderlies (they used to be called scavengers in Scotland) are going to be members of the cleansing committee? Are police officers to be members of the police committee, and so on? There is just as good a case to be made out there. I shall not oppose the clause, because it is permissive. I doubt very much whether many education authorities in Scotland will seek to take advantage of this permissive power.
Finally the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, commended the second part of Clause 4 particularly to the goodwill of people of influence and importance in local authorities. I should like to echo that. I think this is a very worthwhile task. My only point of slight disagreement arises from my doubt whether it would be wise if this were regarded as a sort of honour, as a substitute for, say, a deputy lieutenancy, or even for someone who is too old to become a justice of the peace, and as a kind of mark of local esteem. The prime consideration is that they should be people of influence, but people who can make, and are willing to make, a contribution to and affect the working of this worthwhile field of further education. If the sort of person the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has in mind is prepared to accept membership of a management committee in that spirit, then he or she will be making a worthwhile contribution to educational progress in our country. I would assure them from my 1164 own experience in these and other fields, that they will find it rewarding work. Having entered only one very little note in demurring about the membership of education committees, I welcome the Bill generally.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, on Clause 4 of this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has expressed doubts with which I am in full agreement. Frankly, I am sorry that such a provision should have been introduced. It goes away from the old, long-established and well-tried idea that a member of a local authority should not be at the same time, in any circumstances, the servant of that authority. I feel with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that this is opening the door to something which may go a great deal further: because, as he asked, why should this movement be confined to members of the education profession? I think, with him, that a great many of the county councils of Scotland will be very loth to agree with what I myself feel to be a considerable mistake. Otherwise, I regard the Bill as excellent.
§ LORD CRAIGTON
My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome that this Bill has received and I note the points of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about Clause 4(1). I know that strong doubts are felt about the wisdom of putting this provision in the Bill. On the other hand he knows that there are equally strong views disagreeing with him. I feel that it is proper, democratic and the right thing for the Government to do to make this permissive and not mandatory, and to leave it to each local authority to make its own decision. Apart from that I am grateful for the welcome from Lord Hughes on Clause 3. No proposal has been agreed with the E.I.S. but they are co-operating with us now that the Clause gives the greatest possible latitude to find the right policy. On Clause 4(2) I agree with the noble Lord that we want people who will actively co-operate: we do not want passengers. We want people who feel it their duty and their pride to help the local community.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.