§ 3.10 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND (LORD HUGHES)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Secretary of State pointed out, when the Bill received its Second Reading in another place, that the last major measure of educational reform in Scotland was the Education (Scotland) Act 1945, consolidated in the Act of 1962. Having regard to recent developments in education the Government are satisfied that changes are now essential. The changes in the Bill were discussed in advance with the local authority associations and the main teachers' organisations.
There are three themes in the Bill. First, the Statute is brought into line with recent developments in policy and practice, especially the development of comprehensive education; secondly, obsolete provisions are removed and some existing procedures are simplified; and, finally, greater responsibility is given to education authorities by removing unnecessary requirements for the Secretary of State's approval. I propose to deal with the clauses in two main groups, corresponding to the first two themes. The first is the recognition in educational legislation of recent developments in policy and practice—Clause 1 is a good example of this. The new Section 1(1) repeats the general duty of education authorities to secure adequate and efficient provision of education, but it does so in terms of "school" and "further" education instead of in terms of "primary, secondary and further" education.
The new Section 1(2) defines the new term "school education" which is introduced because the division between primary and secondary education has become less important. This distinction of course, is still valid in some contexts—for example teachers' qualifications and salaries—and this is recognised by the preservation of the terms, redefined, in subsection (2) of the clause. The sharp 854 division between primary and secondary education has become less clear-cut, as virtually permanent selection at the age of 12 is disappearing and as subjects like French and mathematics, which used to be regarded as suitable only for secondary education, are now being taught in primary departments. One result of the introduction of the new term is the removal of the restrictive and outmoded provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of the 1962 Act, which require the prescription or approval of individual subjects n the primary or secondary course by means of regulations.
The new Section 1(3) is also important since it gives education authorities a new power to provide facilities for social, cultural and recreative activities for the general public. At present the Statute permits the provision of facilities of this kind only for the use of persons receiving education, which may include groups organised for recreative activities. In future swimming pools and other facilities provided by education authorities can be made available to individual users, and not solely to organised groups.
The new Section 2 reproduces the substance of the present subsection (2) of Section 1. The new Section 3 provides that school education and compulsory further education should be provided free of charge. This proved to be the most controversial part of the Bill in another place. Briefly, what we are proposing is the removal of an anachronistic practice under which a few Scottish authorities charge fees in a few of their schools. We are doing this for two main reasons: to further equality of educational opportunity and to make it possible for the present fee-paying selective secondary schools to be included within a comprehensive system. There can be no equality of opportunity when under methods of selection used at twelve, or even at the age of five, some children are selected to go to the fee-paying schools. Selection at twelve is generally recognised to be both unfair and unreliable. How much unfairer and less reliable is selection at five which gives virtual assurance of a place in the fee-paying secondary department after twelve! Parental choice scarcely enters into the argument since the real choice is made by the school and not by the parent; and the methods 855 of selection used by these schools are of a kind which are being abandoned in our non-fee-paying schools because of their unreliability.
We have made tremendous advances in the introduction of comprehensive secondary education in Scotland. The existence of fee-paying selective schools is obviously incompatible with the comprehensive system. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh, which next year will be the only authorities in Scotland with fee-paying secondary schools, have been asked on several occasions to make proposals for the integration of the fee-paying schools within a comprehensive system. I hope very much that when the Bill becomes law my right honourable friend will be able to consider proposals from the two cities which can be implemented without undue delay. The opposition which met this proposal in another place is even more difficult to understand when it is remembered that fee-paying in authority schools came to an end in England and Wales with the passing of the Education Act 1944. That Act was piloted through the House of Commons by someone who is now a very respected Member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden.
The new Section 3A converts into a duty the present power to provide a child guidance service. Since every education authority except one now runs such a service or arranges to use the service of a neighbouring authority the new provision does little more than recognise a development which has already taken place.
Clauses 3 and 4 can be considered together since they both deal with educational building and the procedures to be followed by education authorities. The important new provision made here is that the Secretary of State in future will have power to prescribe different standards for different classes of educational establishments. At present the regulations setting out standards for school buildings are framed in terms of new buildings only. The prescription of different standards for different classes of building will ensure that standards can be set realistically for every type of building.
856 Clause 7 substitutes a new Section 30 for the present Section 30 of the 1962 Act. The new section will enable the Secretary of State to ask an education authority to submit a scheme describing the arrangements for the transfer of pupils from one stage of school education to another instead of, as before, from primary education to secondary education. Education authorities are experimenting with different types of school organisation, and it seems right that the Secretary of State should be able to call for schemes describing the arrangements for transfer from one to another—for example, from a junior high school to a senior high school—as well as transfer from primary to secondary education.
Clause 8 amends Section 33 of the 1962 Act which governs the number of commencing or leaving dates which an education authority may have. At present the Act allows an authority to have two or more dates on which children begin school and two leaving dates, or, with the Secretary of State's approval, three dates on which children who have reached the age of 15 may leave school. In practice most education authorities have two commencing and two leaving dates. The clause provides that there will be in future only two leaving dates for all authorities, and makes it possible in future for any authority, with the Secretary of State's approval, to have only one commencing date and/or one leaving date. No education authority has in fact any present intention of seeking approval for one leaving date, and it is certainly not the Government's intention to impose any such arrangement, but some authorities may wish to experiment with a single commencing date. In framing our new provisions we must take account of the possibility of future development, and experiments will be possible in terms of Clause 8.
Clause 10 substitutes ten new sections for Sections 62 to 66 of the Act of 1962. These deal with the ascertainment of children requiring special education, and of children who have to be reported to local authorities as being unsuitable for any kind of education or training. Under the clause, education authorities are given a power to ascertain handicapped children under the age of five. At present 857 they can act in respect of children between two years and five years, and then only if the parent asks them to do so. But in the case of some handicaps, particularly, deafness, it is essential that children should be identified and appropriate training begun from a very early age. The parent is given a right of appeal against the education authority's decision that his child requires special education, instead of, as at present, only against the medical certificate on which the decision was based. This recognises that, important as the medical evidence is, the decision is essentially an educational one.
Education authorities are given the duty to keep under regular review any case in which it has been decided that a child requires special education. Parents are given a continuing right of appeal which will enable them to appeal to the Secretary of State following a review as well as after an original decision. Authorities are required to obtain the views of parents at each appropriate stage, and they are also required to inform the parent of his right of appeal. By setting out in close detail the procedure to be followed, we hope that the effect of the clause will be to extend to all authorities the best practices which some of them have already adopted.
Clause 15 is a further example of the way the Bill recognises the changes in Scottish education. Section 81 of the 1962 Act deals wholly with the training of teachers and it is outmoded in several ways. The new section gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations with respect to central institutions as well as colleges of education. Colleges of education and central institutions are now in many ways alike. They provide courses of further education of high standard; indeed, both may provide degree courses. Apart from the fees which they receive from their students, almost all their expenditure is met by the Exchequer. They are run by independent boards of governors. The Secretary of State already has powers in regard to the constitutions and duties of colleges of education. The new section will enable him to make regulations dealing with the central institutions. Assurances have been given by the Secretary of State that the existing governing bodies will be consulted before any new regulations are made.
858 Clause 18 recognises, for the purposes of Section 85 of the 1962 Act, that registration has replaced certification as the mark of a qualified school teacher. The clause limits the protection against dismissal by employing authorities to registered teachers in schools and to registered and certificated teachers in further education centres.
I turn now to the second group of clauses—those which remove obsolete provisions and which simplify some of the procedures under the 1962 Act. Clauses 6 and 12 can be considered together, since they both deal with financial powers. Clause 6 restates the power of education authorities to make payments for the provision of education. Clause 12 restates and simplifies the powers available to the Secretary of State to make grants for educational purposes. As the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum makes clear, it is not expected that the rewording of the relevant sections of the 1962 Act will of themselves add to expenditure either by authorities or by the Government.
Clauses 13, 14 and 17 all repeal sections of the 1962 Act which are no longer necessary. The Highland schools grant, for example, was originally introduced in the early part of the 19th century and is quite inappropriate in modern circumstances. The annual payments are commuted for lump sums. Similarly, the post of the accountant and the annual report of the accountant are no longer necessary in modern conditions. I need hardly say that accounts will continue to be audited, that the collection of financial information by the Education Department will continue, and that the part of it which is useful to education authorities and outside bodies will be published in other reports of the Department.
Clauses 19 and 20 simplify the provisions dealing with the reorganisation of educational endowments. The procedures laid down in the 1962 Act are exceptionally complicated and have proved, in practice, cumbersome and costly. We are simplifying procedure in a number of ways, while at the same time maintaining the esssential safeguards for the interests of the governing bodies of the endowments and for those who benefit from 859 them. Clause 20 provides that the shortened procedure will apply to endowments of an annual value of less than £500, instead of £50 at which it was fixed in 1882. Having regard to the changes in the value of money which have taken place since 1882, this will probably commend itself to your Lordships as being a reasonable change. Clause 19 introduces some changes in the longer procedure for the endowments of higher value. No criticism whatever has been made in any quarter about our proposals, which have the support of the Scottish Committee of the Council on Tribunals.
Clause 23 is also one which is intended to simplify procedure by bringing the Secretary of State's regulation-making power for educational purposes into line with the practice followed under other Acts since the passing of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946. Consultation with interested bodies will take place before regulations are drafted. Clauses 24 to 29 in Part VI of the Bill are supplementary and largely formal provisions, and I do not propose to detain the House by discussing them.
My Lords, I said earlier that I wanted to draw attention to some parts of the Schedules which free education authorities from the necessity to seek the approval of the Secretary of State. One example is in paragraph 9 of Part I of Schedule 2. This paragraph makes it unnecessary for an authority to seek the approval of the Secretary of State before making special arrangements in unusual circumstances for a pupil to receive education elsewhere than at an educational establishment; for example, in a hospital or at home. The amendment to Section 18 in paragraph 11 of the same Schedule removes the need for an authority to seek approval from the Secretary of State before proceeding to erect a safety barrier near the entrance to a school. I am quite certain that your Lordships will accept that the fabric of the State is not likely to collapse by removing the necessity for the Secretary of State's consent to matters of this kind. I am also quite certain that the House will welcome the greater measure of discretion given to authorities by amendments of which these are but two examples.
The Bill, as a whole, is very far from controversial. Nearly all the changes 860 are welcomed by the main interests concerned, and I commend the Bill to the House as a useful reforming measure. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the careful and clear way in which he has explained the purposes of the Bill to this House. I am bound to say that I agree with him at the outset that, in the main, this Bill is non-controversial, but, as he is well aware, there is one point at least on which there is a strong difference of opinion.
It is entirely right and proper that changes should be made in our educational laws to meet changing circumstances and changing needs, and in so far as this Bill does that we welcome it. Over the years since the war very considerable progress has been made in methods, in school buildings, in educational opportunities, and, perhaps most important, in the extent to which the public are willing to take advantage of those opportunities. The steady rise in the proportion of pupils who stay on beyond the minimum school-leaving age, and of those who are successful in obtaining the qualifications necessary to enable them to continue their formal education or to obtain entry into the professions, is most welcome. The 1967 Report (which is the most recent one in our hands) showed that the numbers in the three upper secondary classes of education authority schools have risen by over 70 per cent, in seven years.
The more school education can not only be regarded as a single continuing process but made a single continuing process, the better. We welcome the proposed changes in the wording of the Acts in their recognition of this objective, although it is fair to add that changes in the wording of Acts of Parliament, certainly those that do not impose definite requirements, do not in themselves achieve very much. In fact, the physical distinction between primary and secondary education will remain for the majority of pupils, and the problems and difficulties of ensuring continuity are bound to remain in large measure under 861 the present system. That is a constant challenge.
Secondly, we welcome the recognition given in the Bill to the desirability of education authorities—and I quote the words used by the Secretary of State on the Second Reading of the Bill—having:greater freedom and greater responsibility in the detailed running of the education system".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 21/1/69, col. 275.]Her Majesty's inspectors are there to ensure by their counsel that standards are not only maintained but raised, but it is right that each education authority should judge for itself the needs of the community which it serves. Here again, so far as the subjects to he taught in schools are concerned, the Bill merely recognises that this is a matter for the education authorities to decide since, as was said in another place, for a number of years it has not been the practice of the Department, despite what is said in the Acts, to require the approval of curricula.
I should like, however, to ask the noble Lord to explain the significance of one change that is made twice over in the Bill. Both Clause 2, which deals with the functions of education authorities, and Clause 3, which deals with premises and equipment of educational establishments, give the Secretary of State power to prescribe by regulations not only standards, as at present, but "general requirements". The power to prescribe general requirements could be used to circumscribe very considerably the freedom and responsibility of education authorities. I hope the noble Lord, in replying to the debate, will have something to say about this change.
The functions of education authorities and the premises they provide are of course closely interrelated. I am glad that a duty is now placed on education authorities to secure for their pupils adequate provision—not necessarily by making it themselves—for social, cultural and recreative activities, and for physical education and training. I am sorry that the Bill does not lay on them explicitly a duty to secure such provision for all their pupils, but I recognise that we cannot expect to do that overnight: we have to proceed gradually. It also gives them power, as distinct from a duty, to secure such provision for people in their area other than their pupils.
862 This leads me to ask a question about the actual provision of such facilities by education authorities. Plans for the provision of premises have to be approved by the Secretary of State not only to maintain standards but to control expenditure. Strict limits of expenditure used to be (and I think still are) laid down in relation to the number of pupils, at any rate, where new buildings are concerned, and can be exceeded only on very good grounds, such as the difficulty of the site or the level of building costs in remote areas. Where ii is a question of providing optional facilities, such as a swimming bath or a stage for theatrical productions, I should Ike to ask how a proposal will be judged if the proposed facilities are to be made available for other schools as well as for youth clubs, or even for the community at large. Plainly it would he irrational to judge them in relation only to the number of pupils to be accommodated in the school itself. It may well be possible to accommodate within the financial limits a small pool in which swimming can be taught, but it is unlikely to be possible to include one for more general use. Some may doubt whether we should even be contemplating such expenditure at the present time of financial stringency. But the chance to legislate occurs but rarely, and it is right to look forward to better times in the future.
There is one facility of an educational nature, though part social, which might be more widely provided by education authorities, in my view. Senior pupils often have difficulty in finding anywhere to study at home. They may be living in cramped and crowded condition. Yet the school, and even the school library, may close its doors firmly at 4 p.m. The provision of somewhere on the school premises where those who wish could do their homework would often be a very valuable facility. It might even be appreciated by some teachers, too.
My Lords, I welcome the new sections which are to take the place of those in the 1962 Act dealing with the allocation of pupils to special education and the rights of appeal of parents where an education authority decides that a child should or should not have special education, or that the child is unsuitable even for special education. There are not a great many appeals of this kind to 863 the Secretary of State each year: the 1967 Report says that there were 32 in that year. Each of them, however, is a matter of deep concern and anxiety to the parents and of great importance to the future of the individual child. It is right, therefore, that careful provision, dovetailed with the Social Work (Scotland) Act should be made, and I personally very much welcome these changes.
There are one or two detailed points in the remainder of the Bill which I should like to ask the Minister to elucidate, but that can wait for the Committee stage. Endowments are always a prickly subject, and tedious for Ministers, I remember. I am glad to know that these provisions represent an improvement, as I believe they do. As to school-leaving dates, I would only comment that it has always seemed to me highly illogical that two or three school-leaving dates should be laid down for pupils, but that a teacher can go at any time in the middle of a session—and, indeed, sometimes must do so. This is an old story of mine, and as the years pass no improvement, or very little improvement, seems to be made in the position. With regard to regulations for central institutions, perhaps we can refer to this question again on Committee stage.
My Lords, the one matter in the Bill on which there is likely to be a conflict of view is the removal of the power of education authorities to charge fees in their own schools. We on this side regard this as a major blemish on an otherwise acceptable Bill. It may surprise noble Lords who belong to England and Wales to learn that there are still some education authority schools in Scotland—public schools, as we call them there—at which fees are charged, for, as the noble Lord said, since the 1944 Act local education authorities in England and Wales have had no power to charge fees in their own schools. It would not surprise noble Lords, though, to find that there are differences between education in Scotland and that in England, and I do not think anybody would seek to bring the two systems exactly into line. In Scotland, circumstances are different. According to a reply given to a Parliamentary Question in another place on November 13, 1968, less than 2 per cent. 864 of school pupils in Scotland are educated in independent schools, and a further 2.2 per cent. in grant-aided schools.
Even after a number of education authorities have come into line with the wishes of the Secretary of State to integrate their fee-paying schools with the comprehensive system, there are still eight secondary schools—five in Glasgow and three in Edinburgh (one for boys, one for girls and one co-educational)—belonging to the Corporations and run by the education authorities, at which fees are paid. There are about 6,000 places in these schools. The fees range from about £14 to £44 a year. There are also some primary schools at which fees are still being charged, some forming part of or associated with secondary schools, whether fee-paying or not, but I believe that these are also going to be discontinued. Out of these 6.000 places, according to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Millan, some 380 are provided free. The total of fees which will be paid next year is about £200,000 at these schools. If fees ceased to be payable, this amount would fall on the public purse—part rates, part rate-support grant —and would be augmented by the cost of books and stationery, which at present is met by parents in these schools; say, £250,000 in all. My Lords, I thought it right to tell the House what we are actually talking about in this regard.
In 1967, all education authorities were required to submit schemes for the reorganisation of secondary schooling, in accordance with Circular 600, on comprehensive lines. The Secretary of State wanted fee-paying schools to be fitted into the comprehensive system. He also wanted fee-paying to be discontinued in local authority schools but he had no power to require discontinuance. What he had power to do, and has done. was to withhold approval from the reorganisation schemes submitted by Edinburgh and Glasgow; and I understand from what the noble Lord said that he has done it in regard to several schemes which were put up by them. Some education authorities have already decided to discontinue fee-paying: the noble Lord's own city of Dundee, and Paisley, Renfrewshire and Fyfe. I recognise also that the Educational Institute for Scotland is in favour of abolishing fee-paying in education authority schools. No doubt the 865 Corporations of Edinburgh and Glasgow took their views into consideration—they could hardly do less; nor should they do more; for the responsibility is theirs. The fact remains that the Corporations of Edinburgh and Glasgow decided not to accede to the Secretary of State's request, as they are perfectly entitled to do. We therefore have the provision in the Bill designed to compel them to abandon fee-paying by the end of the next school year, 1969–70.
The first and most obvious point is that whatever he the pros and cons of the argument on merit, this is a most peculiar time to be adding quite unnecessarily to public expenditure. The only defence on this is the housemaid's: that it is only a little one—only a little more than 1 per cent. of total public expenditure on education in Scotland. That has never in my view been a respectable argument. The Government have time and time again put it forward on different issues and by doing so have stimulated others to do likewise, thereby greatly aggravating our national difficulties. One cannot argue that our difficulties are marginal and that by only, say, 3 per cent. more effort, or whatever it is, we should be on top of them and at the same time add absolutely gratuitously to public expenditure in this way. Though some may think this provision is desirable, nobody can pretend that it is necessary.
There is no complaint about the merit of the schools. Indeed, their offence is that they are too good, that too many parents would like to send their children there. The noble Lord said that it is not the parents who exercise the choice. The trouble is that too many parents exercise the choice, and then the school has no option but to select the pupils. Admittedly, this appears to conflict with the uniform system which is designed, in theory, to give education authority schools throughout the land equality of opportunity. In practice, the system will do nothing of the sort. Pupils in one education authority area will still be better off than pupils in another education authority area. Pupils in one education authority school will still be better off than those in another school in the same area. Schools with a high reputation will attract good teachers and these teachers will become better teachers in congenial and stimulating surroundings.
866 My Lords, I do not intend to argue the case for retaining fee-paying schools fully at this stage; I can do that on Committee. But I should like to indicate the kind of questions we have in mind. The object of any educational system must be to provide as equal opportunity as possible but to give the greatest number of pupils the best possible education. We do not believe that it is right to carry the conception of equality of opportunity in education to impracticable extremes. Since the quality of schools depends primarily on the quality of the teachers and of the pupils, there will always be differences in the opportunities available to individual pupils at different schools and in different areas. Is it then right to seek to change the character of schools of proven reputation and achievement in the name of equality of opportunity? Is it right to seek to make such changes in defiance of a decision of the elected majorities in the cities concerned and regardless of the wishes of the parents in the schools? Is it right for a Party long committed to the destruction of fee-paying schools to force through this change in the last few months o the life of a Parliament—the proposed date for the abolition of fee-paying is August, 1970—and to do so against the opinion of the political opponents who have committed themselves in another place to reverse their decision in the next Parliament? Should schools which have lasted for centuries be altered without general agreement and by the unilateral decision of an ephemeral Party majority? Of these schools, Glasgow High School and the Royal High School at Edinburgh are among the oldest schools in the United Kingdom.
We may be told that these are not the only questions to ask. We shall debate on Committee whether they are the most fundamental and important ones. Fashions in educational thought change. In matters of this kind which deeply concern the communities involved, is it not right rather to trust the instincts and aspirations of those communities? We on this side will always look with grave suspicion on uniformity, especially if it is imposed by Government. We believe that choice arid diversity are of the very essence of freedom and that in the interests of freedom it is worth while accepting some anomalies. I do not advise my noble friends to oppose the 867 Bill, even though it contains this very serious flaw; but I give the noble Lord notice that we shall press him very strongly in the next stage of the Bill in what we regard as the unwarrantable interference with the decisions of those concerned, the locally-elected councils, as to where lie the best interests of these great cities.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I was able to get a copy of the Bill on Thursday because I happened to be in the House; and it is only in unusual circumstances that I have been enabled to be present here to-day. I have addressed myself to the Bill as best I can, although I have had no access to the 1962 Act. I have been able to skim through much of the proceedings on the Bill in another place and I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was possibly drawing the long bow when he said that the Bill was non-controversial—as the closing parts of the speech of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn will have made him aware.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lord does me an injustice. What I said was that the Bill was largely non-controversial.
§ Loan FERRIER
My Lords, I did not hear the word "largely". I was surprised when my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn used the words "in the main," because in my view the Bill is, on the very point at which my noble friend closed his speech, extremely controversial. But before proceeding further, I feel in duty bound to complain in no uncertain terms from the Back Benches about the manner in which the Bill has been brought to Second Reading in this House. For the Record, may I say that it was available, as I have said, in the Printed Paper Office on the morning of Thursday, June 12. Demands for papers presumably went out on that day, and would reach Peers in Scotland on Friday or Saturday, making it quite impossible for them to receive copies of the Bill before to-day. Indeed, as the notice of the debate was given only as a sort of warning notice with the Minutes of the June 10 (which were in the Printed Paper Office on the 11th), it was only on the 12th that it was down in the Paper for Second Reading to-day; although the 868 note on the Minutes of the 10th was an indication.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, would my noble friend remind the Minister also that this is the week of the Royal Highland Show, which is of great importance and interest to many Members of this House?
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I had it in mind to mention it to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I sometimes wonder whether he would not rather like to be there himself. But there is Scottish business on Thursday. I must confess that I had it in mind to skim over the Royal Show, because I was going to inquire why this Bill could not have been put down for Second Reading on Thursday, after the other Scottish Bill which is on the Paper. That would have enabled some of the Peers who would like to attend the Royal Highland Show also to come here on the Thursday. But my point is rather different; namely, that, Royal Show or not, they could not have attended the Second Reading of this Bill to-day. For that reason I feel it proper to make this protest.
We must remember that to the uncharitable it might appear that to-day's situation was part of a plan to snub your Lordships' House in general, and Scottish Peers in particular. It certainly shows lack of consideration for the rights of Scottish Peers. I wish the Bill could have been down for debate on Thursday. The Government are fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to speak for them, but he will need all his eminent debating powers, all his wits and all his wit, to get away with this one in the way in which he generally manages to do. It is not as if the usual channels were not warned, and I feel that I should be failing in my duty to the Whips' Office and to the several Scottish Peers who would have liked to be here to take part in this debate, and with whom I spoke on Thursday, if I did not make my protest.
I now turn to the Bill, my Lords. I shall be brief, because, as both the previous speakers have pointed out, we shall, we hope, have ample time to discuss it in Committee. In my view it is a bad Bill because of one blemish, to which reference has already been made, and despite some of the very good things in 869 it—for example, Clause 10 to which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, referred. The Bill is, in terms of its main purpose, another step in the Socialist plan to turn the nation into a nest of termites. The abolition of the old Scottish practice by which local authorities have the right to charge fees is directed towards the negation of the right of parents to choose, within their means, the type of education for their children. It is a levelling down and not a levelling up. The doctrine seems to me to be that because fee-paying schools are widely and freely acknowledged to be excellent, and many people would like more pupils to go to schools like them, therefore they are undesirable and a divisive influence in the life of the nation.
My Lords, the differences between myself and the policy outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in this matter are quite irreconcilable and I feel certain that we may look forward to a good many Second Reading speeches during the Committee proceedings, particularly in relation to Clause 1. I hope that the problem of the closed shop for teachers will be gone over in Committee in discussions on Clause 18. I believe that the complications and the cost of transport alone are sufficient to make comprehensive schools as planned undesirable, certainly in the larger cities. I am not altogether happy about the provision for religious education, though I gather from the debates in another place that the Church of Scotland seems satisfied. As has been said, the Committee stage will be of real importance, and it it is to be regretted that arrangements have precluded any more Peers from Scotland from taking part in this Second Reading debate. This is one more instance of the unwisdom of putting down Scottish business on a Monday.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, may I intrude to speak for a moment in support of what my noble friends have said in relation to the fee-paying schools? I hope that in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will deal further with that flatter and tell us more fully what results are anticipated. I thought it was a little "easy-oasy"—if I may put it that way without meaning to be impertinent—merely to say that it was to further equality of educational opportunity. That 870 seems to indicate, at least to me, that the Government and the noble Lord are well aware that the education provided by the fee-paying schools is better than that obtained elsewhere. In those circumstances one would imagine that the better course to take would be to try to raise the standard of education in the other schools to that of the fee-paying schools.
So far as I know, and I am dealing with Glasgow alone, the schools which will be concerned in relation to this matter are the High School, which I have heard it claimed was founded even before, or at least about the same time as, Eton; the Alan Glen, The Hillhead High School and, I believe, the High School for Girls. I do not know which is the fifth one, but those are four of them. Over the years these schools, and others like them, have been turning out men and women of the highest academic distinction and character who, through their efforts and ability, have risen to the highest positions in the professions, in trade and in industry, and indeed in every walk of life, to the great benefit of our country. The High School has given two Prime Ministers to the United Kingdom so far during this century and there may be others to follow.
With their traditions of service and their proud records, are such schools merely to be faded out in favour of a completely untried system? These fee-paying schools have proved that in general they turn out men and women who, at the very least, are of consistently high quality and the best types of citizens. I hope that the Government have plans which allow these schools to continue their good work, not only for the benefit of Glasgow but for the benefit of young people who attend them from the surrounding counties of Dunbarton, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Lanark. They come from even further afield than that; I remember that in my younger days boys travelled from Bute to attend the High School at Glasgow. These are not local schools at all. In large measure they may be said to provide for the whole of the South-West of Scotland. I lope, therefore, that the noble Lord will explain more fully the intentions of the Government regarding the future of these schools. My noble friend indicated that, from his point of view, it was somewhat improvident to turn down a contribution of some £255,000 in fees towards the 871 education provided and a further £25,000 for the cost of books and other material which is presently paid by the parents of the pupils. I hope that the noble Lord may persuade his right honourable friend to give up this idea and to allow these schools, which have given such great service to our country, to continue the good work which they have carried on over the centuries.