HL Deb 10 May 1971 vol 318 cc701-19

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill restores to education authorities the power to charge fees in a limited number of schools. It has been one of the most controversial of the present Session and occupied 24 sittings of the Scottish Standing Committee which must be some kind of record for what was then only a three-clause Bill. The controversy was expected, however, because the Education (Scotland) Act 1969, which abolished the power to charge fees in authority schools, was one of the most strongly contested Bills of the last Parliament. The present Secretary of State for Scotland, then leading the opposition to that Act, promised that in due course there would be amending legislation to repeal the relevant part of the 1969 Act. Those Members of your Lordships' House who attended the Committee stage of the 1969 Bill will recall that some Amendments to the Bill were made which proved unacceptable to the other House. When the Commons Reason for Disagreeing to the Lords' Amendments was reported to this House my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn repeated the pledge given by the then Opposition in the following terms: When the Party to which I belong is returned to power we shall restore the position to what it is now, if it is practicable to do so and, of course, if the education authorities so desire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24/7/69; c. 1168.] That promise was made on July 24 1969. Since then there have been many discussions about the future of the former fee-paying schools, but they have remained selective and have not been included in schemes of comprehen- sive reorganisation. The first of my noble friend's conditions, that it is practical, is therefore met.

The second condition was that the education authorities should desire a restoration of the previous position. Consultations were carried out with the local authority associations in September last year. The Association of County Councils made no comment. The Counties of Cities' Association left it to individual cities to reply. The two largest, Edinburgh and Glasgow, made it clear that they would welcome the opportunity to charge fees. This Bill therefore honours the promise made in 1969. However, last week, its noble Lords will no doubt know, the composition of Glasgow's Council changed somewhat. Although this change may prove to be but fleeting, statements have been made to the Press that Glasgow Education Authority may not, after all, use the powers in this Bill, when it becomes an Act. But whether they do or not, the Bill restores in some measure the true relationship between the Secretary of State and the education authorities. The present Government do not with to impose any particular form of school organisation. We believe that education authorities must know local conditions best and, most important, the wishes of the parents in their area. Therefore this Bill restores the former right of authorities to charge fees if all concerned wish this to be done.

I turn now to the Bill itself. Clause 1 substitutes a new Section 3 for Section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 as set out in Section 1(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1969 which amended it. Section 1(1) of the 1969 Act substituted new sections for Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the 1962 Act. We have no wish to replace the new Sections 1, 2 or 3A which are set out in the 1969 Act. We do, however, want to repeal Section 3 and replace it by a very different one. This is what Clause 1 does. Subsection (1) of the new Section 3 qualifies the general statement that school education should be provided by an authority without payment of fees and makes it subject to subsections (2) to (5). Subsection (2) empowers an authority to charge fees for school education in a limited number of schools. Subsection (3) is a new provision which allows an authority to give remission of fees in whole or in part. Such remission is to be related to ability and aptitude. Remission on grounds of hardship can be covered by an existing power in Section 49 of the 1962 Act.

Subsection (4) lays down the condition which has to be satisfied before fees can be charged. This is in response to representations from the Opposition in another place, and it is similar to the 1962 Act in that the charging of fees should be without prejudice to the adequate provision of free school education. Free school education can be provided in an authority's own school, by agreement with the managers of grant-aided or independent schools, or, by agreement with another authority, in their schools. Subsection (5) which is a new provision, provides for the charging of a higher fee in respect of a pupil from outside an authority's area attending a fee-paying school and also for the charging of a fee in respect of a pupil from outside an authority's area attending a non-feepaying school. Subsection (6) repeats the substance of the latter part of Section 3 set out in the 1969 Act. This subsection enables an authority to make charges for the use of facilities for voluntary further education and for social, cultural and recreative activities.

Clause 2 of the Bill amends subsection 1 of Section 11 of the 1962 Act, as amended by the 1969 Act. The new amendment places a duty on the authority to provide free books only when pupils are receiving free education. Individual authorities will be able to decide whether or not to give free books to pupils at fee-paying schools.

Clause 3 gives the Secretary of State power to vary a rate support grant order made before the coming into force of the Act by taking into account any income accrued or relief from expenditure obtained by authorities as a result of the corning into force of the Bill when enacted. This clause was added during the Report stage in another place, and was a consequence of the meeting which the Secretary of State had with the local authority associations about the Rate Support Grant Order 1971. As the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill makes clear, the saving will be small; but it is right, of course, to take it into account for rate support grant purposes.

Clause 4 is mainly in standard form and does not require much explanation. I should, however, like to say a few words about subsection (4) and to describe the procedure that will be followed before the charging of fees can be restored. Under the 1962 Act, authorities are required to exercise the powers and duties conferred in the first few sections in accordance with schemes prepared under Section 7 and approved by the Secretary of State under Section 70. The schemes dealing with school education are known as schemes of educational provision. No scheme of educational provision can at present provide for fee paying in authority schools, and therefore before fees can be restored a revised scheme, or the modification of an existing scheme, will have to be submitted to and approved by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

My Lords, the Bill, if enacted, will not come into force until August, 1971. There is no reason, however, why authorities should not undertake the necessary preparatory work, after the Bill has been passed, to restore fees in the Session 1971–72. That is why Clause 4 allows the submission of modifications to schemes between the passing of the Act and August 1, when it should come into force, and allows the approval of the Secretary of State in that period although the approved scheme cannot take effect until August 1. This Bill restores the power to local authorities to offer to parents greater freedom of choice in the education of their children, and it is for this reason that I commend it to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, for quite a while I wondered whether the Government were going ahead with this Bill, because, quite frankly, after it is passed it is not going to have very much effect in Scotland, if any at all. But inasmuch as it has been introduced as a Bill into your Lordships' House, we have to deal with it as if it may become an Act of Parliament. I should like to take up the last point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir—in fact very nearly her concluding sentence—when she said that what the Government are doing in this Bill is to restore freedom of choice. Of course she knows as well as I do that they are doing nothing of the sort. There is no freedom of choice, first of all, because these schools are limited to very few pupils—very few indeed—and it can be only by a form of selectivity that pupils can gain admission to them. Even if they are sufficiently, good, they have to pay the fees, so that only those parents who can afford to pay will in fact have the choice of sending children to these schools. They will not be misled by the whole series of means tests which the noble Baroness mentioned, either as to school fees or school books, because we feel that this is against the whole system of Scottish education.

This Bill aroused considerable dissent when it was introduced in another place, and the noble Baroness was quite right in saying that it took some 24 meetings of the Scottish Committee to get it through its Committee stage—I think rightly so, because there is a considerable history behind the Bill. In fact it seeks to repeal legislation enacted as recently as 1969. The noble Baroness said, "Of course, your Lordships know that legislation was before your Lordships' House; we passed a series of Amendments which did not prove acceptable in another place." This is true, but I think the noble Baroness will concede that those in another place who rejected the Amendments have a considerable knowledge of corporation schools and education which apparently is denied to most noble Lords and noble Baronesses on the Government Benches to-night. I question very much—I do not say it disparagingly—whether there is a single noble Lord sitting on the Government side of the House who has had a comprehensive education in a corporation school. But that is the subject this House is discussing, and perhaps for that reason the other place rejected the Amendments of 1969.

The noble Baroness then presented what I thought was one of the weakest parts of her argument for the Bill. She rightly reported—I admit it—the opinions expressed by local authority associations in Scotland. One of them did not pay the slightest attention; I do not think they even bothered to reply. The second one said to the Government, "We are going to do nothing about it; we will just let everybody decide for themselves."

So the Government fell back on the argument that there were still two authorities left that might want to take advantage of these proposals. One was Glasgow. But the noble Baroness has had a very firm assurance that neither the Corporation of Glasgow nor the electors are going to have anything to do with this idea. This, I think, she will admit, and I am sure that there is no noble Lord who would care to deny it. Whether we like the local government election results or not, they have put paid to this particular proposal.

My Lords, I want to say something more about the Glasgow position. The noble Baroness said there was no reason why local authorities should not go ahead with their provisions now, in case this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. But she is bound to know, as well as any Member of your Lordships' House, that this is exactly what Glasgow have been doing, without an Act of Parliament, even before we had a chance to debate the Second Reading of this Bill. The Corporation, or the Council, of Glasgow, which has just been thrown out, had made all these preparations, despite the fact that there was no Act of Parliament, that no Bill had received a Second Reading in your Lordships' House. They did not wait for the gun. They went ahead, apparently with the approval of the Scottish office, preparing plans in accordance with an Act of Parliament which did not exist. I do not regard that as being very smart, though it is true they would have had to wait until an Act came into existence before they could put their plans into effect. They hoped, I suppose, that they would get away with it, but the Glasgow electorate thought otherwise.

That leaves one city, Edinburgh. I would remind your Lordships that there is not a single authority in Scotland who adopted this procedure—not one; and not even before Glasgow and Edinburgh were deprived of it were there any local authorities in Scotland who had this type of fee-paying school, or any other type. The noble Baroness will remember that clarion call from the Highlands of Scotland by the late Alasdair Mackenzie, who knew much more than most people about education. The one thing that he rejected out of hand was the very idea fees should be imposed if the children of Scotland were to be educated. He found the whole idea repugnant, and it is to his credit that he said so in very firm language. So none of your Lordships on either side of the House has thought this system such a good one that he wished to incorporate it in his own education authority.

If these are the facts, my Lords—and they are—what comes before your Lordships' House to-night is not a Scottish Education Bill but a Bill to deal with the problem of Edinburgh, which is the only place that can be affected. I suggest to the Government when they talk about a waste of time, that surely it is a waste of time to bring in a Bill—and call it a Scottish education Bill—when it can affect only the City of Edinburgh. If the Edinburgh City authorities are so enthusiastic that they want to introduce this system, they have a remedy; they can promote private legislation and say, "We, the Edinburgh Corporation, desire to impose fees, and we want the authority of Parliament to do so ". But Edinburgh is the only place that can be affected, and, I repeat: there is not a single noble Lord who can deny that. I would remind your Lordships that Labour is the largest Party in the City of Edinburgh, and that there would have to be a combination of what are known as the Progressives with the Tories—and they are not seeing eye to eye at the present moment—for any success to be made of this. Against that we have three very distinguished Liberal councillors from Merchiston Ward in Edinburgh, one of whom has just removed the City Treasurer from office, so I think that we could count on them. So the division in Edinburgh is very narrow indeed. I hesitate to think of Edinburgh even wanting to take steps to bring this into operation.

What is the reason behind the Bill? The noble Baroness said, "We gave a pledge". But Governments, of course, say things in the course of a propaganda campaign. The Prime Minister said he would bring down unemployment and cut prices at a stroke, but he has not done so; he has not honoured that pledge. I am certain that your Lordships would greet it with great enthusiasm if he did, and we should be unanimous in supporting him. What does the Bill do—if it does anything at all? Let me remind your Lordships, if you need reminding, that in another place the Bill was de- scribed from the Liberal Benches and the Labour Benches as a mean, petty, contemptible little Bill. What the Government are seeking to do is to take education years and years back, and to say to the parents of a certain number of children, "Unless you can pay, your children are going to be denied this piece of education".

There is something more than that, because what it does is to preserve selectivity in education; it is a blow to comprehensive education. That is the main purpose of it. If the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, is unaware of the fact, let me remind her that it was not the Labour Party, or the Liberal Party, but the Comprehensive Schools Committee which had this to say: Comprehensive schools get rid of selection. Children are no longer labelled a success or a failure at 11 years of age. I would remind your Lordships that this could mean selection not at eleven but at five years of age. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, would deny that. With his knowledge of these schools in our area he knows that selection takes place at age five. The Comprehensive Schools Committee Report puts it up to eleven. The Report goes on: Comprehensive schools offer children a greater variety of courses of subjects and a wider choice of educational opportunities than they have under the old system. It is the old system to which the noble Baroness and the Government wish to take us back.

This is a little Bill, and it is a mean little Bill. I do not think it will have any real effect in Scotland. Obviously it cannot have. The noble Lady must be aware of that, it simply cannot have any real effect. If it has got any hope of it at all—and that hope is very little indeed—it can only be in the City of Edinburgh; and if that is all it seeks to do, then let Edinburgh accept its own responsibilities. If we were not in the habit of not dividing on Second Reading I would certainly have asked my noble friends to show their contempt for this little Measure. I express my regret to the noble Lady that she should have the job of introducing this Bill. I am certain she is not proud of it, but she puts on a very good face as a Minister, as I have known throughout the years. But she is not proud of this one; she certainly is not. If it were not for the rule, then I would willingly go into the Lobby and throw this little thing into the river.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Scottish Lordships will forgive me for intervening. As I think you know, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, would have liked to be here, but he was unable to arrange to be here after business was changed to put this Bill in this place. He had intended to speak on it, and I feel I must say a word. I think, and hope, that what he would have said would certainly be in line with what my friend David Steel said in another place, and the late Alasdair Mackenzie said on the 1969 Bill, and I recommend to your Lordships his speeches on that occasion. I have been doing my homework and looking through them on Committee stage, arid I think they were probably the finest speeches of his career. I suppose there is one thing that we can say about the fact that the Conservative Party in this House are putting this Bill through: that, thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, they are not open to the gibe that was always made in another place, that all the proponents of the Bill actually went to Eton.

The truth is that this Government have no real mandate in Scotland to put this Bill through. It reverses an Act put through by the Labour Party when the Labour Party had a majority in Scotland itself, as well as in Great Britain as a whole, at the 1966 Election. In the 1970 Election the Labour and Liberal parties have a great many more seats than the Conservative Party—and although this is distorted—and I admit this to the noble Baroness—by our idiotic rating system, even on the basis of votes there is a majority against the Conservative Party in Scotland. Luckily, as the noble Lord has pointed out, the effect of this Bill in Glasgow is likely to prove nil. If the results in Edinburgh are anything to go by—and I thank the noble Lord for his kind reference to our success in Edinburgh—perhaps in Edinburgh it will not last very long.

The effect of it would be to keep certain schools, now in Edinburgh only, on a fee-paying basis, or to put them back to being on a fee-paying basis. These schools become schools which can be entered by paying, and also, for a few children, by scholarships, by passing examinations. They have a slightly higher teacher/pupil ratio than the other schools in Edinburgh. It is not very great, but I think it is significantly so. That must mean that in some sense the mere fact of putting these schools into a separate category, making them scholarship schools, does make other schools second-class schools—not that they are necessarily worse schools; but in the public eye it puts them as second-class schools. It produces a situation where you get selection at the age of 5. It produces a situation where you can buy your way into a school. England abolished fee-paying schools within the State system in 1944. Scotland abolished them in 1969.

We are told that the purpose of this Bill is to enlarge parental choice. My Lords, I cannot take this seriously. I may not be a Scot, but I am a spokesman on education. The whole problem of parental choice is an enormous and extremely serious one, and I would strongly welcome moves to tackle the problem of parental choice. To pretend that this Bill really extends parental choice, except in the tiniest little way, is not really fair to the vastness of the problem which needs to be tackled. It is a reactionary Bill, it goes against most modern educational thought. As it affects the younger children, I would go flat out and say it goes against all modern educational thought, and it is I think very sad that it has got as far as it has done. I do agree with the noble Lord that, if it was the custom of your Lordships' House, I would feel very strongly that we ought to divide.

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said about getting a mandate from Scotland for this Bill. True, the Labour Party polled more votes than the Conservative Party at the last General Election, but the reason they obtained such a disproportionate number of seats was a failure to redistribute the seats as should have been done at the right time. There was an element of gerrymandering which was extremely helpful to the Labour Party at the last General Election, but luckily just not quite enough. The assertion that the majority of the Scottish people are against the proposal in this Bill requires some examination, because it cannot be said that the Labour Party in Glasgow are unanimous on this point. There have been quite a number of members of the Labour Party in the Glasgow Corporation who in past years have voted against the majority of the Party in this particular respect.

I would like to take up the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, on the question of preserving selectivity at the age of 5. You may be selecting for something at the age of 5, but I do not think you are selecting or failing to select for the same things as you are trying to select for at the age of 11. It might have been more honest, if there were other reasons, than selecting for IQ at 5, which is what I take to have been implied. As the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, continued by saying that this was a blow at comprehensive education, I would suggest that my noble friends on these benches are not against comprehensive education as such—there should be some comprehensive education—but what we are against is universal comprehensive education. That is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, did not make.


Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? When he uses that argument, I hope he will remember that, out of all the thousands of school children in Scotland, this can only affect 12 at the most.


Did the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, say twelve school children?


I said, of all the thousands of children who go to school in Scotland, this can only affect 12,000.


Are 12,000 school children unimportant? Twelve thousand school children in Scotland are important, and they are worth paying attention to.

My Lords, I wish to approach this from a different angle from the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, and the other speakers. My Lords, variety is the spice of life. It is also the essence of education, and this is true in respect of the method or the system of education as well as for the individual scholar. Variety of methods and variety of ethos in different schools are essential for the discovery and elaboration of new methods and of new ideas. Experience has shown that many ideas in education do not work as the idealists claim. For bad ideas, there must be an opportunity to prove that they are bad; and good ideas must be tested against the different systems, otherwise the failure may be due to their being just ahead of their time. And that is what this Bill is all about—to maintain variety in education and so make progress in the methods of education.

Now for the other virtue of variety in education. It is a basic concept that opportunity be given to the individual boy or girl to develop his or her peculiar talents. While the local school usually caters pretty well for the majority of children, there is always a minority—it may be only 12,000—to whom it does not give fair opportunity. Where the local education authority agrees that there is such a minority, and that the opportunity for them can best be developed by continuing one or more of the old fee-paying schools, then this Bill permits the continuance of a very long-established policy.

This is the bicentenary of the birth of Walter Scott. Without decrying his natural genius, it is no exaggeration to say that what made it flower was his education at the Royal High School of Edinburgh, under the most enlightened and progressive educationist of his time in the whole of the United Kingdom. Unless Parliament passes this Bill, this great school, with its great tradition, not the least in experimentation in methods of education, will be levelled down. Not for a moment am I claiming any superiority for the Royal High School over any other form of schooling. What I claim is that it is different and that the difference should be preserved. And how different can a school be, which has produced on the one hand, Lord Chancellor Brougham, the most colourful of all Lord Chancellors—at least until the present noble and learned Lord who occupies the Woolsack—and at the other extreme, Alexander Graham Bell—three men of great genius and how varied ! It is just because the Royal High School is so different that it has made such a significant contribution to the welfare and the pleasures of mankind. I most proudly support my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie and ask your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading with acclamation.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, as I believe that the principle of diversity and experimentation in education is crucial, I should like to say to the House that I believe in many different types of school. I believe that there are children who have special talents in one direction or another and who are having their opportunities destroyed, to the great loss of society. I can remember being told by the Director of Education for Leicestershire about a youngster who was in the bottom class in a secondary modern school. It was not considered that the likes of them should have a string orchestra, but they were tried out with wind instruments. When the youngsters were asked if they would like to join the band, one hesitant hand went up from the bottom of the class, the hand of a boy who thought he might have a go at the trombone. He was given a start, and he proved to be an exceptional musician. Obviously, at a secondary modern school he was not going to have a chance, and so (I hope that I am not being indiscreet in saying this) the director of education and the headmaster of the local grammar school went into an honourable conspiracy to move the boy to the grammar school, in order that he could get ahead with his musical education. It was assumed that he was not able to pass his "O"-level examinations: they were not concerned about anything else. The sequel was that this boy became quite brilliant in all the other subjects, as well as in music, and he is now one of our leading musicians.

I feel strongly that we ought to be able to give children specialised types of education where they have specialised talents. That is one reason why I thought the public school system had a great deal to commend it. But I can also tell your Lordships what is wrong with it. It readily took in the bright boys as well as the dull ones, those interested in sport and those interested in academic subjects. It did not humiliate one or the other. They all wore the same uniform, had the same standard of life, came from the same sort of family, and they all went their different ways. The only thing wrong with the public school is that it is for a small minority of children of wealthy parents.

I believe strongly in diversity and experimentation in education—but that is not what this Bill is about. I am not only a Scot; I suppose that I am also a pedantic Scot, and particularly pedantic about constitutional matters. I think it is quite wrong for your Lordships' House to vote against the Second Reading of a Bill that has been passed by the elected Chamber, and therefore I agree with my noble friend Lord Hoy that we will not vote against the Motion. However, I hope that no one will underestimate just how strongly some of us feel about an attempt to perpetuate something which has nothing to do with experimentation and diversity in education, with trying to help children with special gifts or with special difficulties, but is simply seeking to perpetuate a monied and class selection, which is hard for the children who are selected for these schools and harmful for those rejected. Therefore, although we cannot win the votes in your Lordships' House, there should be no doubt whatever of our strong feeling. What we want is a broad highway, along which all our children can go forward together and then there should be diversification in their education according to the qualities of the children and not according to the size of their parents' purses.

7.29 p.m.


I did not mean to intervene in the debate, not having put my name down, but may one comprehensive school pupil from Scotland follow another comprehensive school pupil? I think we have misunderstood the term, because we thought it began with John Knox. Although I come from Forfar Academy, I do not want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, in citing names but I wonder what our roll can show against a Lord Chancellor, Sir Walter Scott and Bell—though do not let us Forget that Bell emigrated; he was a brain-drain. I think that this is a pretty futile exercise. After all, Robert Burns did not go to the Royal High School.

This seems to me, as my noble friend Lord Hoy said, one of the meanest Bills I have ever heard of. I had imagined that a battle was being fought on something to which we might have given our great minds; but in point of fact, as has been said, we are talking about a private education Bill for the City of Edinburgh. Therefore, as my noble friends Lady Lee of Asheridge and Lord Hoy said, in not voting against this Motion for Second Reading I should not like any noble Lords to have any doubt about the feelings of some of us who happen to have as high a regard for the highest ideals of Scottish education as anyone else in this House. If we do not divide the House, I hope that it will not be misundertood.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to intervene, but I shall do so quite briefly, due to the shortage of time. Without this Bill fee paying schools in Scotland would disappear altogether. There is an opportunity, at least for Edinburgh, to continue to have fee paying schools should they so desire. When my noble friend Lord Hoy (I call him my noble friend, because I have known him and debated with him for so many years) was speaking, it was as though this fee paying business was something absolutely new. But it has been going on for some hundreds of years. The High School at Glasgow has been in existence, I understand, since about the year 1200. These schools have produced many remarkable people. The Glasgow High School has produced two Prime Ministers this century. The school I was at—it was not a corporation school, but it was a fee paying school—has produced seven or eight Members of this House of my generation. That is a pretty good effort for any school.

It seems to me that when the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said—unless I misunderstood him—that fees were imposed on people, he was quite wrong, because they are not imposed at all. They send their children to the schools well knowing that they are going to pay fees. If you go back in Scottish education, the village schoolmaster used to be paid by the pupils. You went with your money and paid the schoolmaster on quarter day. I remember my own father telling me the amount of money (I will not repeat what it was) which he was given every quarter day to hand to the schoolmaster. You might think that this is a great innovation, but it is nothing new. Why take away from people the opportunity of doing something that they want to do? I do not understand it. I strongly agree that unless you have some difference in the schools of the country you are bound to get a kind of settled, stiff, unalterable syllabus put up year after year, and it seems to me that this would defeat the whole object of education. I strongly support my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir in putting this Bill before the House.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords on both sides of the House who have taken part in the debate. Although the speeches have been short because of the pressure of time, and however strongly views are held for or against the Bill on either side of the House, I think we should all agree that it has been a good debate. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, with respect, that I did not think he was quite on his usual form, because for him to say that this Bill was not worth while because it applied to only a very few pupils was unlike his usual sense of fairness. I should have thought that 12,000 pupils whose parents wish of their own free will to pay fees were worth caring about.


My Lords, I do not want the noble Baroness to misunderstand me. She was arguing that this left freedom of choice for the people of Scotland. All I was pointing out was that it did nothing of the kind, because at the most it could affect only 12,000 children out of the total school population for Scotland.


My Lords, it is perfectly true that at this moment of time only the two largest cities in Scotland have said that they wish to take advantage of this Bill and, as my noble friend Lord Balerno pointed out, the members of the newly-elected Corporation of Glasgow are by no means unanimous one way or the other. But the point is that this Bill provides an element of choice for everybody if at some time in the future they wish to exercise it.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said: "Why take us back to the old system?" The old system was in 1970. Therefore I do not think it was very old. He also suggested that noble Lords on this side of the House had not perhaps had the advantage of going to some of the comprehensive schools in Scotland or the fee paying schools. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde has just given his example. While I myself did not go to a comprehensive school—nor, happily, did I go to Eton—because I was unable to, having a father in the Army, nevertheless I have two girls who were at the Aberdeen High School for Girls now called the Harlaw Academy; and very good it was. Therefore, I have seen both sides of the coin, fee paying and non-fee paying.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said: "Why have the Government produced this Bill? They did it because it is the kind of thing that Governments do in a propaganda campaign." That may be something that his Government did, but when we say we will do something, we do it.


What about prices and employment?


That is coming. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, made an interesting point about the fee paying schools having been abolished in England in 1944. I should like to return to that in a moment. I think my noble friend Lord Balerno was absolutely right, with his great knowledge of education, to say that we want to have all types of education within the Scottish system. The noble Baroness, Lady Lee, said that she felt very strongly indeed, and said that this was a money and a class-selective Bill. But it is odd (is it not?) that there are still people who are prepared to pay the modest fees ranging from £10 to f40 with which we are concerned here to-day? There may be some that charge more, but I do not think their fees will be very much more, because many of these schools have kept their fees steady for about ten or twelve years. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, also spoke of the question of how this type of fee paying school had been abolished in England.

It is of course true that fee paying at local education authority schools in England was stopped in 1944 under the Education Act introduced by my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, whereas the Bill introduced in 1945 by the late Mr. Tom Johnston, which became the 1946 Education (Scotland) Act, provided for the continuance of fee charging at a limited number of education authority schools. Surely it is clear, therefore, that there must have been something in the educational systems of the two countries which caused these two distinguished men to appear on what would generally be regarded as the "wrong", or perhaps the unexpected, side over this issue of fee paying.

It is perfectly true that we have kept the system because we feel that it is what is called a middle sector of educational choice, which the education authority fee paying schools offered to parents in the Cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow right up to 1970. They were more than just City schools. They offered this choice to parents from a wider region surrounding the Cities. In my view, if I may say so, the Labour Party in Glasgow acted very responsibly and recognised the valuable part that these schools had to play in the city's and the country's education system in their consistent decision over twenty-five years from 1945 not to abolish fee paying school. It is surely on of the strengths of the Scottish education system that it has been allowed to develop without having to copy all the features of the English system. It would be a mistake to argue that what was right for England in 1944 must necessarily be right for Scotland to-day.

I would only say, in conclusion, that I feel strongly about this Bill. The positive argument for it is that it restores to education authorities the freedom to offer to patents of relatively modest means the opportunity to exercise some choice in their children's education in return for a modest financial contribution. We are not talking about the fully independent schools or indeed the grant-aided school. The 1969 Act, in taking away this freedom from authorities, did not affect the rich or the comfortably off who could afford the fees for independent or grant-aided schools. It was picking on the most vulnerable group who had chosen to contribute to the cost of their children's education and removed their choice to do so. It seems to me that where authorities decide to make use of the power in this Bill they will be opening up again the possibility of choice of school for a wider range of the population of Scotland, and it is for that reason that I commend this Bill to your Lordships' House.


Before the noble Baroness sits down, I think she said that parents would be making a contribution. Is it not a fact and did she not explain—perhaps I misunderstood—that, because these schools will now charge fees if they choose to charge fees, so automatically will the Scottish Office reduce the education grant to them?


My Lords, I made that perfectly clear. It is in Clause 3 of the Bill. It affects the rate support grant and this has been done after consultation.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.