§ 2.59 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. Noble Lords will have noticed that there are some Amendments to this Third Reading. It may be convenient for the House if we discuss them first. I should also like to say to the House, as I have said to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, how much I regret that, inadvertently, I passed over the Report stage of this Bill. I moved, "That the Report be now received", thinking then that one could consider the Report at a later stage. But, alas! that is not so. However, all is not lost and we now have the pleasure of having the opportunity of considering the Amendments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think it is customary that the Motion for Third Reading be put before I call the Amendments. The Question is. That the Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.— (Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
§ Clause 1 [Re-enactment with modifications of section 3 of Education (Scotland) Act 1962]:
§ LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 16, after ("management") insert—
" ( ) The term limited ' in subsection 2 above shall mean such number as may be approved by the Secretary of State following the submission to him of a scheme in accordance with section 7 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962, and the criteria he shall use in making his decision shall be defined in Regulations made by him and approved by both Houses of Parliament.
§ The Regulations shall include the absolute or percentage numbers in relation to
- (a) the incidence of grant-aided and independent schools within that education authority area;
- (b) the percentage of all pupils in that area attending all types of fee-paying schools; and
- (c) the pupil-teacher ratio within that area. and if any such numbers are exceeded then no local authority fee-paying schools shall he permitted in that area."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must first of all thank the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, for making it quite clear that the responsibility for this spate of Amendments appearing at Third Reading was not a matter which I had chosen deliberately. I must confess that I did not know that the Report stage had been eliminated until the day following the Committee stage, because I "beetled off" from the House when that stage was finished, and it was not until I started to consider the Amendments I was going to re-submit for Report that I discovered we had been deprived of a Report stage. However, as the noble Baroness has said, it does not make any difference at the end of the day. She has not sought to deprive me of the opportunity of moving Amendments. I can only hope that it might occur to her that the proper and simplest way to make amends, which would both save your Lordships' time and show how gracious and generous she is, would be to intimate in advance that the Amendments are all to be accepted. I am afraid, however, that although natural generosity might make her willing to do that, political considerations would compel her to be a little more cautious.
§ I do not intend to speak long to these Amendments. The principles are those upon which we spoke on Second Reading and on Committee stage. We do not like the purpose of this Bill at all and the Amendments seek to make it a little more acceptable in its operation. The Bill refers to a limited arrangement but does not define "limited" in any way at all. As the Bill stands, neither House of Parliament would have any opportunity of saying whether it considered satisfactory the arrangements being made by any local authority in Scotland—and of course we must accept the fact that it is only Edinburgh which is likely to be involved in this business.
§ The Amendment inserting these words on page 1, line 16, after "management", gives a definition of "limited" which does 789 not interfere unduly with the desire of Edinburgh Corporation to go ahead and make fee-paying arrangements, but makes certain that Parliament would have an opportunity of satisfying itself that it was really being done without detriment to the provision of free education in the City of Edinburgh. I am quite certain that on this matter two views are held in your Lordships' House. On the Government side, the fact that the Government like the principle of fee paying will probably make them all the more ready to believe that Edinburgh Corporation will deal with this in a very reasonable and fair manner. The fact that we on this side of the House do not like the risks that are involved in having fee paying in local authority schools, perhaps makes us believe that it is desirable and reasonable that there should be Parliamentary safeguards.
§ The Amendment is perfectly clear in its wording. It would be insulting to your Lordships if I were to go on to explain what it meant, because, unlike some aspects which come before your Lordships' House, this is something which one can understand simply by reading it and one does not have to explain what the words mean. With these words, therefore, I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, suggested that I might shorten the proceedings at the start if I were to accept all his Amendments. I hope he will not be too surprised if I say to him that I certainly cannot accept this Amendment. Like him, I will not weary this House by describing what is, I must say, very clearly set down in the Amendment. In a way I am surprised that the noble Lord has moved this Amendment because we had a discussion on the definition of "limited" during the Committee stage. I then explained that the term "limited" has been in use in the Scottish Education Statutes since 1918 and has been well understood by all authorities in practice. What it meant was that the local authorities had to decide themselves, in the first place, what a suitable limit would be. The result of this decision was then of course incorporated in the authority's scheme of educational provision, which was subject to 790 the approval of the Secretary of State under Section 70 of the 1962 Act.
The noble Lord said that he felt there were considerable risks in this procedure and that there should be Parliamentary safeguards. The only occasion on which it was made subject to Parliamentary Affirmative Resolution in the 1962 Act was under Section 70 where there had been a dispute between the local authority and the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State had sought to amend such a scheme; then indeed it must be subject to Parliamentary approval. I would suggest to the noble Lord that he need not be concerned about the Parliamentary safeguards because we are merely restoring the position to what it was when the last Government abolished fee paying in a limited number of schools in Scotland. Therefore, for this reason, I suggest to the House that we should not accept this Amendment.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I do not care to delay the proceedings in your Lordships' House, but the noble Baroness makes the argument that these words were used in the 1918, 1945 and 1962 Acts. This is absolutely correct. But of course at the time they were used these fee-paying schools were in existence. Now there has been a change; the 1969 Act removed them from the Statute Book. So we are dealing with a completely new situation. What applied in 1969 did not apply in 1948, 1962 and 1965. So we are faced with a completely new set of circumstances. My noble friend would like to know, as I would, what the noble Baroness has to say in reply to that argument. We do not ask that there should be any undue limit here, but we say that the argument is simply not the same. Indeed, in the Amendment which my noble friend has moved there is some opportunity left for the Secretary of State to be consulted in this matter and then the matter should be remitted back to both Houses of Parliament. So my noble friend is not being in the least dictatorial in the Amendment he has moved.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I admire the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, for being so wonderfully brazen-faced as he has been in trying to bounce us through 791 in this way. The completely new situation was one which was temporarily imposed, and very definitely expressed as temporarily imposed, by the last Government in their dying hours. We were quite clear that we regarded it as a very temporary expedient on the part of the last Government. Therefore, we were going to maintain the traditions of Scottish education by, at the first opportunity, restoring the status quo which has existed for centuries.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I do not want to continue this discussion unduly, but the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, uses the most extravagant language for the leader of the Boys' Brigade. Indeed, I do not know where he got the word "brazen" from, except maybe from the circles in which he moves. All I am pointing out is what was an Act of Parliament. Whether it is removed at a later or earlier stage simply does not matter; it is an Act of Parliament of this country. What I am saying to the noble Lord is that. even if he is speaking about an Act of Parliament which affects the whole of Scotland, he is a little brazen in using that term. This provision does not affect the whole of Scotland at all. It applies to only one city in Scotland; namely, Edinburgh. What it is sought to confer on the City of Edinburgh would not be claimed by one noble Lord opposite as a privilege for the part of the country from which he comes.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, may I just reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy? It is the freedom of the local authorities to make their own decision which is at issue here, whether that freedom is of one city or not.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, if I may say so, I am in charge of this Bill. I very much appreciate the contributions made by my noble friend Lord Balerno. I think it is only the mover of the Amendment who has the right to speak twice. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, although he did not move the Amendment, has his name down to it, and it was for that reason that I did not rise when he spoke for a second time. In any case I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Balerno for his contribution to the debate, 792 because we all know that he has had a lifelong interest in education and he has a deep knowledge of it. I agree with him that what we are trying to do here is to restore the right of local authorities to decide for themselves whether they wish to return to a situation which in fact existed up to 1970.
The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, says that this is a new situation, and in a sense he is correct. But I do not think it is so new that we should need to have the specific types of limitations which are put down in the Amendment, which concern the number of grant-aided and independent schools, the percentage of all pupils in the area attending all types of fee-paying schools, and the total pupil/teacher ratio within that area. The Amendment goes on to say that if any of these particular conditions, to a certain limitation which has not been specifically laid down, were exceeded then it would be impossible for a local authority to decide to restore fee paying in a limited number of its schools.
On that I would only say that this would appear to be a completely inflexible check on local authorities, whether or not one agreed that local authorities should have the responsibility to decide for themselves. If, for example, a couple of independent schools were created. it would not be within the power of the local authority to stop their creation, which would of course upset the balance. Therefore there would be a situation where the incidence of fee paying or non-fee paying in local authority schools would go up and down like a yo-yo. I would only say to noble Lords opposite that for a Party that believes so much in planning I find it an extraordinary method.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I can take the noble Baroness out of that particular difficulty. It arises only because of the fact that she has created the yo-yo in the first instance. I should be quite happy to cut the string, and the way to do that is not to proceed with this ridiculous Bill. I gather that even the City of Edinburgh may be getting cold feet on the matter, and it may turn out that all this Parliamentary time, both in another place and here, has been wasted, to no useful purpose whatsoever. However, I do not intend to divide the House on this Amendment, although I am not 793 greatly impressed by the argument that has been put forward against it. It is very much the argument that if it is wrong the Government are dealing with it in the easiest possible way and are trying to stop people from being too much wrong, and that nobody is likely to do things in the way that we on this side of the House may fear.
The noble Baroness said that by our proposals we should merely be putting things back to what they were before the last Act was passed or, as the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, put it, doing away with the temporary change in the situation. That may be perfectly satisfactory from the point of view of the Government, but it surely cannot be regarded as a suitable argument to advance to an Opposition—to say: "The reason we are doing it in this way is that we are putting it back to the position which you did not like before". If we disliked it so much previously that we brought in an Act to change the situation, why should it be expected for one moment that we should now like the situation? The noble Baroness said when she first spoke on this matter, that she cannot accept this Amendment. She may, of course, be leading me up the garden path, but in the hope that she is not, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 11, after ("authority") insert—
(" ( ) The adequate provision of free education shall be deemed to be prejudiced when charges are introduced under subsection (2) above in an area where:—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment seeks to give definition to another word in the Bill which obviously is capable of a whole variety of meanings depending on the desire of those who are applying it. The word is "adequate". Obviously "adequate" can mean one thing to one person and a totally differ- 794 ent thing to someone else. Again the Amendment is a very detailed one and it lays down certain things which should be considered. One need not expect to be accused of holding a terribly dogmatic view of this matter if one said that if any of the conditions laid down in the Amendment were in existence it would not be a proper thing for a local education authority to have fee-paying schools. If accommodation or teachers are in such short supply that part-time education is going on: if the supply of teachers is so short that the pupil-teacher ratio is higher than the average in Scotland: if the principle of selection within a comprehensive system has been introduced. or if there has been an adverse effect on the supply of school buildings for the provision of free school education, it would not be a proper thing to have fee-paying schools. This Amendment does not interfere with what the Government are seeking to do. It does not say that there shall not be fee paying. What it says is that if the introduction or the continuation of fee paying would make any of the factors mentioned worse than they are at the present time, then it ought not to go ahead. It seems to me that this is a perfectly reasonable way in which to impose a limit on the way in which a local authority can have fee-paying schools, and I hope that in this case the Amendment may commend itself to Her Majesty's Government. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I certainly should not like to be accused of leading the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, up the garden path, but I thought I should be more in order if I referred solely to the first Amendment that was under discussion. I fear, however—and I do not think he will be in the least surprised when I tell him—that I do not feel able to recommend to the House that we should accept this Amendment either. The noble Lord moved his Amendment in a very reasonable way, if I may say so, but it is similar to the last one. On the one hand he says that this is a ridiculous Bill and that it will affect only a very small number of schools, and on the other hand he says that it is so important that we really must try to have all the specified limits which are laid down in the Amendment. Well, 795 it must be one or the other. I should like to deal with the Amendment as it is.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, if I may intervene for a moment, I said that it affected only Edinburgh, but it affects a great number of children in Edinburgh.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, now the noble Lord has made himself clear. But it might affect not only Edinburgh, because although Glasgow has announced publicly that it would like not to restore fee-paying, nevertheless I understand that there are divisions of opinion. It may not be all that easy for them to rearrange their education in order for them to take advantage of this Bill, but we shall see.
To return to this Amendment, the term "adequate" has of course been in the Statutes for a very long time. That the noble Lord will certainly know. It has never been defined in the education Statutes in the kind of way in which he seeks to define it in this Amendment. If I may take the separate parts of his Amendment, first of all he says that if there is any part time education then there should be no fee-paying in local authority schools. One cannot prove either way that an authority's fee-paying schools would attract teachers to the detriment of the others. Secondly, he refers to the pupil-teacher ratio. Again there is the same argument in relation to part-time education, that the effect of the Amendment would he to deprive the authority of the opportunity of assessing all the circumstances affecting education in their area and then deciding whether or not to charge fees at some of their schools. The pupil-teacher ratio varies from year to year, and therefore if one were to put in a condition like this it would really give the local authorities an impossible task because many of the circumstances would be outside their control. It would mean that they would have to change from fee-paying to non-fee-paying from year to year.
The next condition of the Amendment concerns selection, and, if I may say so, it rather oddly uses the word "introduces." Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that comprehensive and selective schools exist together in some areas; I 796 refer not only to the fee-paying schools, the subject of this Bill, which are the responsibility of local authorities, but also to the independent and grant-aided schools. Therefore, presumably the aim of this part of the Amendment is to prevent authorities charging fees if they were to operate a mixed system of this type. I think this would be an impossible provision.
Then, of course, there is the condition about the effect on school building. If I may say so, again I think this does less than justice to the local authorities, because, as the House knows, school building. happily, has been taking place on a large scale over many years now, and I have no reason at all to regard the charging of fees as something which automatically means less attention being paid to the needs of building for non-fee-paying schools.
I would therefore suggest to the House that this Amendment is similar to the first one, which the House has rejected, that it does not place any confidence in the local authorities to decide their own scheme of local education provision, and indeed it does not recognise the fact that the 1962 Education (Scotland) Act gives the Secretary of State power to act as longstop if by any chance it was thought that an education authority had exceeded its powers. Therefore, I hope that the House will reject this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 3 [Effect of Act on rate support grant]:
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 3, line 10, leave out (" have power to take into consideration ") and insert (" reduce the amount of rate support grant payable to a local authority by an amount equal to")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are two parts of the same change in the Bill. The Bill as it stands says that
…the Secretary of State shall have power to take into consideration any income accrued or likely to accrue, to education authorities…
and so on. The Amendment which I am moving would make it mandatory upon the Secretary of State to take this into account. But the main purpose of my Amendment is not to change permission to mandatory instructions. As the Bill
stands, if a few local authorities (or one local authority, Edinburgh) have an income from fees, this may be taken into account by the Secretary of State and the amount of that income deducted from the amount of the rate support grant.
§ I made inquiries about this. I am informed by the Scottish Education Department that my interpretation is right, that the effect of the Bill as it stands is that the amount of the income which Edinburgh receives is deducted from the total amount of all rate support grants payable to all local authorities in Scotland, and what is left is divided amongst them. This seems to me to be grossly unfair. It means that Edinburgh is to receive the whole of the fee income and is going to have deducted from its rate support grant only a proportion of that sum; the rest of the money would be deducted from the other local authorities in Scotland, but they are not getting it. The effect of my Amendment would be that if Edinburgh, or any other authority for that matter, were to decide to go ahead with the charging of fees the amount of the income they receive would be taken from the amount of rate support grant that that particular authority would otherwise get; it is not going to affect the rate support grant payable to Aberdeen or Dundee, the county of Cromarty or the City of Glasgow, that Edinburgh is collecting fees.
§ We are told that the reason why this is done in Edinburgh is not just to raise the money; it is a means of fulfilling a demand which exists in the City of Edinburgh. It is said that the Corporation are doing this as a matter of principle, in order to meet the wishes of certain groups of parents in Edinburgh. It seems to me that Edinburgh could put that argument forward very much more strongly if they could do so in the knowledge that they are not doing this to get any financial advantage from the proposal, but strictly on merit and that they do not stand to gain by it. As it stands, Edinburgh will receive X income from fees, and X divided by 100 will be deducted, so that this is a very profitable exercise for Edinburgh, comparatively speaking, because the fees are not enormous in relation to the total income or expenditure of the local authority. It is a profitable thing for Edinburgh, and it is taking money out of the pockets of 798 every other local authority in Scotland which is not charging fees. It may be that for reasons of liking fee-paying the Government did not accept the previous Amendments, but I cannot see any justification for taking money from the authorities who are not embarking on this system of education. I therefore beg to move Amendment No. 3.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I imagine that it is for the convenience of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and of the House that we also discuss the second Amendment on Clause 3, because it is consequential. I must say that the manner in which the noble Lord moved this Amendment gave it a certain attractiveness, but once again I am afraid I must recommend the House not to accept these two Amendments, first for technical reasons which I will not labour, but, secondly, because of the way in which rate support grant is paid at the present time. I agree that the argument sounds reasonable, that you should restrict the effect of the reduction to an authority which has the benefit of receiving the income from the fee-paying schools. But in all the years of general grant and rate support grant, income from school fees has never been a factor in deciding the share of grant to be paid to any individual authorities.
This clause was a new clause which was added to the Bill on Report in another place. Its purpose was to allow the Secretary of State to adjust rate support grant only within the grant period of 1971 to 1973, to take account of any extra income or expenditure arising from the Bill. But once a rate support grant order has been made, as your Lordships will know, its terms can only be altered, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, to take into account unforeseen increases in the level of prices, costs or remuneration. The clause gives the Secretary of State a flexible power to take into consideration, in varying a rate support grant order, income or relief obtained under the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that he understands this. Indeed, lie knows a great deal about rate support grant himself, but he asked why cannot the reduction in the support grant be 799 applied only to Edinburgh, and not throughout Scotland. As he himself recognised, the sums involved will not be very large. At the last count when fee-paying existed in Edinburgh, the total income was £137,000, and that was taking account of fee-paying schools whose fees range from £10 a year to £40 a year. Even if we take into account increased costs and remuneration, we do not know whether or to what extent they would raise the fees. One can only refer to Press reports, which estimated that they might range between £55 to £80 at the top limit. In any case, if that £137,000 (or the equivalent in the higher range which I have suggested to the House) was spread throughout Scotland, the result would really be very small indeed. It is also because these Amendments are technically defective that I am afraid I cannot accept them.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, before the noble Baroness finally resumes her seat, may I ask her whether she would be good enough to inform the House how much, under the Bill as it stands, Edinburgh's rate support grant would be diminished, as its share of the reduction of £137,000, from the total rate support grant for Scotland?
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I do not think I can do that sum in my head without notice, because this Bill applies to other parts of Scotland. Consultations were carried out and the cities made no comment. As they made no comment I must assume that they agreed.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, can the noble Baroness say—or can she find out from the experts who are not so terribly far away—what proportion of the total rate support grant in Scotland is paid to Edinburgh at the present time? I would be quite willing to divide £137,000 by that figure and find out the answer for myself.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I am sure that the people who have long ears in certain boxes will be able to listen to the question and will no doubt pass on this information to me, and I will certainly convey it to the noble Lord. It would not make any difference to the point which we are discussing now; that is, that 800 the rate support grant never has taken into account specific school fees of this kind. Even if you took £137,000 and applied it to Edinburgh it would not be very much, but rate support grant has never been used in this way, and I do not suggest that this Bill is a suitable place in which to do it. For that reason, I suggest that the Amendments cannot be accepted.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I should like to say a word or two. I think the figures are about to arrive—at least I hope so—so that the noble Baroness will be able to convey them to the House. We are here placed in a rather difficult position because what we are in fact doing is enacting legislation which will allow the City of Edinburgh to charge fees in the schools in Edinburgh. These fees will not be paid by the city but will be paid into the City of Edinburgh; then, when the grants come to be awarded at the end of the year, the Secretary of State for Scotland will deduct them from every person in Scotland, so that while Edinburgh might receive up to, say. £200,000, or £250,000 in fees, this £250,000 will be offset against every other local authority in Scotland, and Edinburgh will only pay its proportion of that sum. It would seem to be iniquitous to ask every other part of Scotland, where they do not want these schools, to pay for Edinburgh having the privilege of having them.
I hope that by this time all the great experts in the Education Department at the Scottish Office will have handed these figures to the noble Baroness. I am a little surprised that they did not supply them with the brief, because then she would have been able to inform us what in fact this meant. This Amendment may present some technical difficulties, which I would not deny for a moment because one does run into these difficulties in administration, as I found for many years in another Department. You look at them and you think you have an easy way out, but it does not always work out that way because of the repercussions this easy way may have on other people. I should have thought that in this case we are not pressing for something that is new, because this Bill, even if it is a very small one and is passing very quickly through your Lordships' House, occupied 801 a very long time in another place. In fact, one thought that it was there for an impossible length of time, but the Scots like to examine these things very thoroughly, and they took a long time in another place doing so. I should have thought that in the circumstances the figures would have been available.
Before any Government Department comes and says to some particular body, "We are going to allow you to charge for certain services that you are to provide for your ratepayers, but we are not going to have it deducted from you but are going to ask every other local authority in Scotland to pay a share of it", I think the figures should be readily available. I do not know whether all the other local authorities have really appreciated that this is what is happening. For instance, I do not believe that the City of Glasgow understands that, having rejected fee-paying, they are now going to be asked to pay for fee-paying in Edinburgh. Surely, in these circumstances, the Scottish Office ought to have been able to tell the City of Glasgow what her share in Edinburgh's costs are going to be. That is not asking too much; I think it is a reasonable request. I hope that by this time the people who know all these things will have passed a note to the noble Baroness so that at least we shall be as well informed as she is.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I regret that the magical support which a Minister receives has not arrived on this occasion, for very good reasons; that is because, as I sought to explain to the House earlier, the rate support grants are made under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, and take account of the effects of unforeseen increases in the level of prices, costs or remuneration, and the reason why this clause was inserted was in order to give the Secretary of State a flexible power. As I said earlier, the income from school fees was never taken into account directly. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, wondered what the local authorities thought about it. The county councils were all quite happy about it: whether it is because they arc not going to bring fee-paying into their areas or not I could not say, but they seem to agree with this procedure. I also said earlier that all the cities made no comment—and I include Glasgow, to which 802 the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, particularly referred.
The clause is intended to give the Secretary of State power to vary the rate support grant order only from 1971 to 1973 to take account of income under the Bill. The clause, as amended, would lay an obligation on the Secretary of State to reduce the amount of this support grant, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, explained, if only Edinburgh took advantage of this Bill. If amended, the clause would become one about the distribution of rate support grant, and not about the variation of it. I am informed that it would then also contain an illogicality in requiring a reduction of income likely to accrue, or of relief likely to be obtained, because such an arrangement would involve the Secretary of State in making a cash deduction from money paid to an individual authority on the basis of an estimate.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will know very well, this is contrary to normal practice and would rule out what the clause allows, which is negotiation with local authority associations about the timing and amount of any reduction. There are other technical defects, but these are not so important as the question of principle, and we think that the 1966 Act made the correct assessment. I have given the House an account of the local authorities' reactions, and as they certainly do not appear to object to this I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am afraid that on this occasion the noble Baroness's hope is going to be frustrated, because I do not intend to withdraw the Amendment. On the contrary, I intend to divide on the Amendment because I think the answer was wholly unsatisfactory. The noble Baroness was, in fact, saying that the real objection to the Amendment is that it is technically defective. If that were the only objection, there would be nothing to prevent the Government from putting me in the position of correcting the technical defects. The fact that what the Amendment proposes has not been done before does not weigh with me in the slightest, because the Bill proposes to take income into account and there is nothing to prevent income from being taken into account afterwards. The noble Baroness seemed to think that the Amendment was made objectionable 803 because it was creating a new precedent. But, after all, there is another precedent. When something of this kind occurred under the previous Government, it did not take very much time for advice and information to travel about 25 yards across the House. It ought to have been anticipated in any event, because I told the Education Department what I was doing and asked for certain information which made it very obvious to them what I was seeking to do.
Let me put it in this way. The population of Edinburgh is about 500,000 and the population of Scotland is over 5 million, so Edinburgh has a tenth of the population of Scotland. We know that Edinburgh does not get rate support grant on the same basis as everybody else in Scotland; it gets a lower ratio than many other authorities, because Cromarty is up in the 75 to 80 per cent, ratio, Shetland is up to about 95 per cent., while Edinburgh will have a very low percentage, so Edinburgh could not possibly be getting more than a tenth of the total. Even on this basis, however, Edinburgh will receive £137,000 in fees, augmented by the higher rates which are going to be charged, and if the Secretary of State exercises his power it will have deducted only some £14,000 at most. So Edinburgh is going to be in profit to the extent of £120,000.
The noble Baroness said that local authorities did not object and so presumably were happy about the clause. I am quite certain that the average Glasgow councillor does not know, or did not know, that it would cost Glasgow twice as much in loss of income to have fee-paying in Edinburgh as it would cost Edinburgh to have fee-paying in Edinburgh; and that it would cost Orkney and Shetland money to have fee-paying in Edinburgh. One knows that these financial regulations are exceedingly complicated, and I would not blame the average councillor for not knowing that that was the effect. I should not be surprised if he had not even been told by his chamberlain that that was the effect, because, in their wisdom, financial officers sometimes decide that it is much better to let sleeping dogs lie than to have them barking in every council chamber up and down the length and breadth of Scotland—and I ask your Lordships to 804 remember that there are 300-odd of them at the present time.
For those reasons, I think that the noble Baroness has provided no argument at all against doing what we suggest, other than saying that it has not been done, that it will be difficult, that the Amendment is technically defective and that it is introducing a new principle. Yet, on the last argument, it is not introducing a new principle, because income is already being taken into account. The new principle would be to take the money in grant from those who are receiving it in income. This is the 1971 Conservative version of the old text, that:For he that bath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.I have never understood how you could take away from someone who hath not, but that is the way it is put in the Bible. We are now having it added to education in Scotland; and when it is Edinburgh Corporation that is going to be the direct beneficiary it certainly does not commend itself to this former local authority man.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, is there anything to stop Glasgow from charging fees as well as Edinburgh, putting itself in the same position as Edinburgh?
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords. It has a higher regard for the principles of free education than the City of Edinburgh.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I would ask your Lordships on this side of the House not to be overwhelmed by the spate which has come from the -Front Bench on the other side of the House. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the calmness of my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie when questions were being asked and the Box was unable to provide an answer. My noble friend had a smile on her face all the time, and the reason why she was smiling all the time was that, although this is a complicated subject, she already had the answer. It was a technical answer and was not one which could be produced right away, but she gave it and we then had to suffer a spate of words from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, in order to satisfy 805 my curiosity about something which has nothing whatever to do with the Bill, how he knows, sitting where he is and with the noble Baroness sitting where she is, that she had a smile on her face, unless she was wearing it on the back of her head?
§ LORD BALERNO: My Lords, my noble friend looked around.
§ LORD HUGHES: Surely she was not looking around all the time.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVLE
My Lords, I suspect that my noble friend Lord Balerno probably recalls the saying of the right honourable Ernest Bevin, that sometimes he faced a stab in the back. Unlike that, I did not. I have a great deal of support from
§ my noble friend. It is perfectly possible for him to know through the back of my head what I am feeling. I do not wish to detain the House, but I do not feel I can let pass the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who suggested that I argued only that the Amendment is defective. I did not do so at all. I said that it was defective, but, much more important, I said that rate support grant applies on a national basis and not to individual local authorities. For that reason I hope that my noble friends will support me in the Division Lobby in rejecting this Amendment.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 70; Not-Contents, 92.807
|Addison, V.||Henley, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Archibald, L.||Hoy, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hughes, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Jacques, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Blackett, L.||Kennet, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Silkin, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Leatherland, L.||Slater, L.|
|Burntwood, L..||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Byers, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Strange, L.|
|Champion, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Chorley, L.||Loudoun, C.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||McLeavy, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Masham of Ilton, Bs.||Wade, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Morrison, L.||Walston, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Moyle, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||White, Bs.|
|Faringdon, L.||Perth, E.||Willis, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Wise, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Platt, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyn, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Royle, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Clwyd, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Colgrain, L.||Glasgow, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Colville of Culross, V.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]|
|Alport, L.||Conesford, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.||Greenway, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Courtown, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Craigavon, V.||Hacking, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Crathorne, L.||Hailsham of St. Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Belstead, L.||Cromartie, E.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Daventry, V.||Hatherton, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Denham, L.||Hertford, M.|
|Boston, L.||Derwent, L.||Hives, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Hood, V.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Effingham, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Howe, E.|
|Buchan, E.||Ferrers, E. [Teller.]||Ilford, L.|
|Burton, L.||Ferrier, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Forres, L.||Kindersley, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Fortescue, E.||Leathers, V.|
|Long, V.||Oakshott, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Lothian, M.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|MacAndrew, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.||Strang, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Rankeillour, L.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Margadale, L.||Rhyl, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Rothes, E.||Teviot, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.||Thomas, L.|
|Milverton, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Monckton of Brenchley, V.||St. Helens, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||St. Just, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Morthchurch, Bs.||Salisbury, M.||Windlesham, L.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Sandford, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD MAYBRAY-KING)
I take it, my Lords, that Amendment No. 4 is not moved.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am very much tempted to have another go at it, but I will not. I do not propose to move Amendment No. 4.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Baroness Tweedsnutir of Belhelvie.)
§ On Question, Bill passed.