HL Deb 25 May 1971 vol 319 cc1029-47

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Tweedsmttir of Belhelvic.)

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ROYLE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Re-enactment with nzodifications of Section 3 of Education (Scotland) Act 1962]:

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 16, at end insert (" after such schools have been designated in an order made by the Secretary of State and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.")

The noble Lord said: I cannot help feeling that this Bill is in a totally different position from the one which we have stopped discussing for a short time, because at least the Government believe that that Bill is necessary. I find it difficult to believe, after the municipal elections in Scotland earlier this month, that the Government believe that any useful purpose can be served by carrying this Bill any further. In fact I was tempted to confine my Amendments to a single one, to alter the title from the Education (Scotland) Bill to the Education (Edinburgh) Bill, because it has no relevance outside Edinburgh, and, given the disarray of the Progressives and Conservatives—who, if they are together, form a majority on Edinburgh Corporation, but who have recently demonstrated their inability to remain together—there is not even any guarantee that there is a majority in Edinburgh for resuming fee-paying in schools.

However, whatever may be the position in Edinburgh or outside, I think we are entitled to be certain that what is done is approved by Parliament. It is for that purpose that I' have put' down this Amendment, which is to the effect that if the Secretary of State wishes to approve fee-paying in Edinburgh or elsewhere he should make an Order and lay it before Parliament, and it should be subject to approval in each House of Parliament. I beg to move.


We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, because if this Amendment is accepted the Government—not only your Lordships' House—could be saved from a very embarrassing situation. Quite clearly, Scotland is not going to be turning its back on the future: it is going to be turning its back on some of the more regrettable features of the past. The usefulness of this Amendment is that it gives more time, and I am sure that if time is provided, and if both Houses have opportunities to consider this matter fully when they are asked to give their consent, they will by then have recovered from the mad fits of the recent past, and the Scots people, in particular, will be back to their own good, sound, democratic common sense. Therefore, I very warmly support the Amendment.


However quietly the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, purrs over this matter, however much fun he may get out of certain disruptions among the Right wing of the Party in local government in Edinburgh, what he is doing in this and the next Amendment is to reject the whole purpose of the Bill. If your Lordships were to adopt this Amendment and the consequent one the Bill would virtually he rendered null and void because of the amount of red tape that would have to be gone through, and a great deal of your Lordships' time would be taken up by it. I think it utterly iniquitous that institutions which have educational systems that work so well should be destroyed and replaced by systems which have still to prove their value and which in some instances are not doing very well. The traditional Scottish system of education, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde pointed out on Second Reading, is a fee-paying system, and the reason why the fee-paying schools have been successful and why we wish to continue them in certain parts of Scotland is that they are thoroughly supported by parents who are keen for their sons to succeed.

Many of the new State schools are failing because of twenty or so ragamuffins for whom the headmaster can do little. The reason why the headmaster can do little is that he is not supported in those cases by his education authority. I do not say by any means that all the comprehensive schools in Scotland are like that, but there are certain numbers of them. What this Bill wants to do is to enable parents, rather than sending their children to such a school, to have an alternative outlet for their children's education. That is the purpose of the Bill, and I think the whole idea of the Amendment, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hughes knows well, is to wreck the Bill as it stands. I hope that your Lordships will reject this Amendment.


I just do not understand what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has been talking about. He talked about this as a wrecking Amendment. It may be an untried experiment. I may be an untried experiment as I came from a comprehensive system, long tried way back into history. What we are talking about is privileged schools which people were able to introduce and which were never part of the democratic system in Scotland. We are not talking about the rejection of something accepted as the tradition of Scottish education. Fee-paying schools may have been a useful experiment for parents of children who had the money for them, but we are saying now that this is no longer valid I do not know what my noble friend Lord Hughes feels, but if he is trying to wreck this Bill I am with him.


First, I should like to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who said that he was surprised that the Government still thought this Bill necessary. We believe in this Bill, in its own limited way, as much as we believe in the Industrial Relations Bill, and we believe in it because the system which this Bill seeks to restore was abandoned only last year. It is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, suggested, something which exists only for the rich or only for those who go to grant-aided schools; it is for what I would call the middle sector of education. We are also very proud of our comprehensive system of education and no doubt we can see that the noble Lord is a very admirable example of the comprehensive system, but in Scotland we believe that we can provide for all the wishes of parents, and that is the point in having this type of education.

I say this only because that was how the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, began when he introduced his Amendment. Of course, what the Amendment does is to require the Secretary of State to make an Order designating schools in which fees could be charged by an education authority, and to require that Order to have the approval of each House of Parliament. The Committee will not be surprised when I say that I cannot accept that Amendment, not because I think that it would be a wrecking Amendment, but because it would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Bill itself if the traditional discretion of local education authorities in managing their detailed affairs were to be made subject to the making of Orders and their approval by Parliament.

The Education (Scotland) Act, 1918 provided in Section 6 that authorities should submit for the approval of the Scottish Education Department a scheme for the adequate provision of all forms of school education and, if the authority thought fit, for the maintenance of a limited number of schools where fees were charged. Therefore, since 1.918 the selection of schools as fee-paying has been left in the first place to the local authorities. The system of submission of schemes for approval by the Secretary of State has also existed since 1918 and it has not been thought necessary since then to bring before Parliament details of such schemes related to schools in which the authorities charge fees.

At the time when we are about to bring great legislation before this House for the reform of local government which is designed to give greater powers and responsibilities to local authorities, it would be ironical indeed if we now sought not to give greater responsibilities to the authorities but to ensure that they had greater supervision over their affairs by the Secretary of State. It is not as though there were not a longstop engaged in this exercise. As I pointed out during the Second Reading debate, no scheme of educational provision under Section 7 of the 1962 Act can contain provision for fee-paying and an authority which wishes to restore fees will have to submit a revised scheme or a modification of an existing scheme. That, in itself, will identify particular schools. Therefore I suggest to the Committee that this Amendment is unnecessary. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will withdraw the Amendment.


I am afraid the noble Baroness is indulging in a vain hope. I am surprised by some of the things that have been said. I had hoped that I should be able to rest on a comparatively short statement of the position. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, however, for saying that she did not accept that this is a wrecking Amendment. I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Balcrno, should think that it is. Obviously it could be a wrecking Amendment only if the noble Lord thought that if it were accepted it would be likely that one or other of the Houses of Parliament would be so outraged that it would reject the Order. If the noble Lord thinks that anything which would be placed in an Order would be of such a nature, he would be correct in thinking that it is not desirable that Parliament should have an opportunity of that kind. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks about comprehensive schools, but if I could apply the rather unsatisfactory word which appears in the Bill, it would appear to me that Lord Balerno's approval of our comprehensive school system in Scotland must have added to it the word limited ". He certainly expressed some limited approval of those schools.

Coming to the main point made by the noble Baroness, that the objection to the Amendment is that it reverses the procedure which has existed since 1918 and that this is a matter which is left to the discretion of local authorities, she went on to say that it was not in fact completely left to the discretion of the local authorities because it had to be part of a scheme approved by the Secretary of State. As long ago as when I was still in local government the Party opposite had as one of its main themes that the man in the town house knows better than the man in the White House—




I am anticipating Mr. Heath's taking over of Presidential functions if we go into Europe and turning 10, Downing Street into the White House. I meant to say the man in the town house knew better than the man in Whitehall. But in fact she is not following that out, because what she is saying is that the Secretary of State should be the one to decide whether or not a scheme should be approved. I want to go further than that. I agree that this is a case where we should not be continuing or adding to the powers of the Secretary of State, but in a matter of this kind, which is so fundamental to the educational system of Scotland, such a proposal is worthy of consideration by both Houses of Parliament.

But I have an even greater objection to what the noble Baroness said. She said that this is a matter which the Government wish to leave to the discretion of local authorities. Is this a principle to be generally applied in educational matters, or is it one which is going to apply only in the case of fee-paying schools? Because I gather that some local authorities (of which one has already made a statement in England, one other may follow, and one Scottish local authority is contemplating it) think that they are in a better position than the Government to determine whether milk should continue to be given free to their pupils. If the Glasgow Corporation decide that this is what they want to do, will the Government say that this is a matter which is best left to the discretion of the local authority, or is this a case where the Government will go back to the argument that the man in Whitehall knows better than the man in the town hall? It seems to me that it is only on matters of this kind, like fee-paying, that the Government respect the discretion of the local authorities.

Now I have many objections to this system, but I would conclude at this stage by saying that there is no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, are perfectly correct when they say that the parents who send their children to fee-paying schools approve the system and want it to carry on. What I am not so certain of is that the parents of the children who have to go to, say, the other schools in the centre of Edinburgh, and who perhaps suffer by the extent to which the Edinburgh Corporation concentrate their activities on improving fee-paying schools, are as much in favour of it as the parents of those children who go to the fee-paying schools. I am quite certain (and this month's election results, even in Edinburgh, would seem to indicate it) that there is at least a possibility that the majority of the parents of children in Edinburgh would be glad to see an end to this system, whatever the parents of the children attending the fee-paying schools may think about it.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I do not quite understand why he wants this, what he calls an Edinburgh Bill, which has been debated in the other place and is now being debated here, to be again debated, and so on ad infinitum. It is because he wants to do that that I call it a wrecking Bill—I mean a wrecking Amendment.


No. It is certainly a wrecking Bill: that was a useful slip of the tongue. This is an attempt, at least in part, to wreck some parts of Scottish education. But when we come to the

other Amendments it will perhaps be made more clear. To have such vague terms as " limited " and " adequate " appearing as qualifying words in the Bill is a reason why Parliament should examine the results which may appear in a scheme, and that is why I say that it is appropriate that Parliament should consider the matter again. I know the noble Lord does not like it. He can see nothing wrong with the fee-paying system. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was saying on the previous business, there are complete differences of opinion on some of these matters, and I am afraid that this is one upon which, no matter how long anyone may talk, we shall not convince the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, that there is anything wrong in what he is thinking.


I would just say once again to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, if I may, perhaps to allay his fears (although I am absolutely certain he knows the system inside out himself, and that therefore he has put this Amendment down just in order to raise a debate upon it) that he knows perfectly well that there is a provision whereby a scheme can in fact come before Parliament, but only where there is a disagreement between the local authority and the Secretary of State. Everything else has been very well tried over a large number of years, and therefore I would commend to the Committee that they should reject this particular Amendment.


As I am quite certain that in this matter there is little likelihood of a disagreement between the present Secretary of State and the present Corporation of Edinburgh, the noble Baroness has directed my attention to something which for my purposes is completely worthless.

7.35 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 82.

Addison, V. Brockway, L. Champion. L.
Airedale, L. Brown, L. Delacourt-Smith, L.
Archibald, L. Buckinghamshire, E. Diamond, L.
Beswick, L. Burntwood, L. Evans of Hungershall, L.
Blyton, L. Byers, L. Gaitskell, Bs.
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Lloyd of Hampstead, L. St. Davids, V.
Henderson, L. Maelor, L. Shackleton, L.
Henley, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. Slater, L.
Hilton of Upton, L. Nunburnholme, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Hughes, L. Popplewell, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Jacques, L. Ritchie-Calder, L. Wade, L.
Janner, L. Royle, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Lee of Asheridge, Bs. Sainsbury, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.
Ailwyn, L. De Clifford, L. Milverton, L.
Albemarle, E. Digby, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Alport, L. Drumalbyn, L. Mountevans, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Dundee, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Arran, E. Dundonald, E.
Auckland, L. Falkland, V. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Balerno, L. Ferrers, E. Oakshott, L.
Balfour, E. Fisher, L. Pender, L.
Barnby, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Beauchamp, E. Gray, L. Ridley, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Grenfell, L. Rockley, L.
Belstead, L. Gridley, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Berkeley, Bs. Grimston of Westbury, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Bessborough, E. Hailes, L. St. Helens, L.
Boston, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) St. Just, L.
Bridgeman, V. Sandys, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hanworth, V. Savile, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Harris, L. Sempill, Ly.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Inglewood, L. Somers, L.
Buchan, E. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Stamp, L.
Burton, L. Kemsley, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Caldecote, V. Kilmany, L.
Conesford, L. Lansdowne, M. Tweedsmuir, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Latymer, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Craigavon, V. Lyell, L. Verulam, E.
Craigmyle, L. McFadzean, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Cranbrook, E. Mansfield, E. Windlesham, L.
Daventry, V. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wolverton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.40 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert— () In subsection (2) above limited" means that the proportion of all pupils within an education authority area attending all types of fee-paying schools shall not exceed 5 per cent, of the total number of pupils within that area.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2. I do not intend to say much at this stage, because I should like genuinely to find out what are the views of the Government not on the Amendment but on this matter. I should like the Amendment at this stage to be regarded as a probing Amendment. I do not intend to divide the Committee on it, but it will depend largely on what the noble Baroness has to say whether at the next stage I may put the matter down again and divide on that occasion.

The Bill uses the word " limited ". There is no definition of " limited " in the Bill. My Amendment would restrict it to a figure not exceeding 5 per cent. of the total number of pupils attending all types of fee-paying schools within the area. I have already been criticised by one of my noble friends who asked, " Why put in so high a percentage as five? I should have put 0.0005 per cent.". Having regard to the purpose of this Amendment, I should like to know just what the Government have in mind by the use of the word " limited ". Do they believe that what they have in mind would be what the courts interpret as the meaning of the word? It could be argued 'that anything less than 100 per cent, of the schools in the area complied with the term " limited "; while some people might think that " limited " was not complied with unless the number affected was only a minority of the schools in the area. I do not know the legal interpretation of the word, and in moving this Amendment I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say about the Government's ideas on it.


I am interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that he considers this Amendment a probing Amendment. He would like to know what is in our minds about the word " limited ". The term " limited ", as 1 am sure he knows, has been in use in the Scottish Education Statutes since 1918 and has been very well understood by all the authorities in practice. Quite apart from that, it seems to us that it would be wrong to quantify the meaning of the word " limited " in the way proposed, to the 5 per cent. which he has chosen, because it would in fact introduce a statutory and inflexible check on the authorities' discretion in running their own affairs which hey have been able to do with great success until now.


I confess that I was rather shocked when I saw the figure of 5 per cent. I would rather have had " 0.0005 per cent. " as my noble friend has indicated, because I do not want the Committee to underestimate the importance of what we are now discussing. My grandfather was the one Labour Member, along with the old Liberals—alas! who in Scotland in the county of Fife introduced towards the end of the last century free books and free schooling. Therefore, there is an old and deep tradition in Scotland of the children flowing out from their homes together, going to the same schools and growing up together. I believe that that tradition, that democratic tradition in Scotland, is one of the sources of our strength. I think it means that you do not often find a servile Scot though you might now and again. But in all our poetry (you do not need to be drunk on a Saturday night to start quoting " a man's a man for a' that ", whether it is Robert Burns or another) there is a deep tradition, a dignity and a feeling that we want to be one family. I think it is a disgraceful thing to mark down 95 per cent., or any other percentage, of children. I do not feel that I can compromise at all on this Amendment in my sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Hughes is seeking to do. He is seeking to make a very bad proposition a little better. As he indicated, we are not voting on this Amendment. But the fact that we are not voting ought not to be taken to assume that we do not feel very deeply about it. Earlier to-day I had to do a recording on Scottish music. I found to my delight that the young fellow in charge of the programme had been to my old school and my old university—Beath High School in the heart of the Fife coalfield, and Edinburgh University; which means that he and I started off with advantages that very few people can hope to share.

This is not a trivial or a superficial thing. Of course parents want to buy privilege for their children; it is only natural that they should. But I think that we have to protect the parent as well as the child by seeing that we have an adequate and proper school system so that parents are not subject to what often is the very great anxiety and hardship of trying to find fees that they cannot afford. It is not snobbery that made Scotland great; it is not class distinction. Scotland's vitality, shown in the type of people we send out to the world, many of them doing a worthwhile job, is the product of this deep, independent, democratic spirit. I am sorry indeed that noble Lords on the Benches opposite should want to turn the clock back.


I want to reinforce what my noble friend has said. I think that all of us on these Benches, certainly everyone that I know in Scotland, who have any respect and genuine respect for the traditions of education in Scotland would be with us on this. Like my noble friend Lady Lee, I very much object to putting down even a figure of 5 per cent. I should like to make fee paying so eccentric that nobody would tolerate it. Apart from that, we must have a limitation. The word " limiting " does not mean anything in this context. You have to have something which says that you are not going to divert from the free schools, the public schools. Our pride in Scotland is to say, " I went to a public school ", by which you do not mean public schools as in England, which are private schools. We cannot have a diversion at the expense of the free schools by an exaggeration of the emphasis on the fee-paying schools.


In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, the position which Scotland has in the world comes to a great extent from her education, but the spirit of freedom comes greatly from the diversity that there is in Scotland and that there always has been. There has been great diversity of race in Scotland. Different races have come in, have clashed with each other, and it is that diversity that has made Scotland great and not just uniform education. We have diversity of climate to a great degree and we are encouraging diversity of universities. A country without diversity becomes a dead country. That is the answer I would give to the argument that the noble Baroness has put forward.


I should like to reply to the noble Lord and noble Baroness, Lady Lee, who took the trouble to speak in this debate. I thought that the noble Baroness gave herself away. She said that she would like to see this percentage as 0.005 per cent.; in other words, she would like this to be a wrecking Amendment. I could not agree more with my noble friend Lord Balerno. It seems to me that we are talking in this debate as if Scotland has not had local authority fee-paying schools for a very long time. Scotland had them up to last year, 1970. We are not, I repeat, talking about independent or grant-aided schools; we are talking about local authority fee-paying schools. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said, we do not want to have any diversion from the local authority non-fee paying school, I think it should be borne in mind, if we look at the figures for 1970. taking Edinburgh as an example, that 67.2 per cent. of all secondary pupils attended non-fee paying schools; 8.8 per cent. attended authority fee-paying schools; 13.6 per cent. attended grant-aided schools and 10.4 per cent. attended independent schools. Therefore, I would certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, that the Scots are happily independent. They are democratic. This means that they like choice and it is for this reason that we wish to restore to them the choice that they had last year.


I have very little more to say. The noble Baroness explained her reasons for not wishing to define the word " limiting". She said that it was unnecessary because it has appeared in Scottish education legislation since 1918. That is so, but hitherto it has at least been understandable in that " limited " was capable of a demonstration by seeing the schools to which it applied. The word was being applied to something that existed. It is now being applied to something which does not exist, something which was abolished last year and which may or may not have been kept on in part by at least doubtful methods as, for instance, was adopted in Glasgow.

My objection to it, however, and the objections of my noble friends are very well summed up in an editorial in the Guardian to-day. I wonder whether the noble Baroness has seen it. I do not intend to read it all because some of your Lordships are desperately anxious to get back to industrial relations. I will read part of it: The Government will to-day try to persuade the House of Lords that local education authorities in Scotland should be allowed to charge fees in some of their schools but not in others. The Education (Scotland) Bill is in many ways the pettiest, most doctrinaire and the least logical measure that this Government has asked this Parliament to approve. Englishmen like Mr. Heath and Mr. White-law "— I am not sure that Mr. Whitelaw will appreciate being called an Englishman— preoccupied as they are with destiny and turning points in history should waste Parliament's time with legislation such as this. It makes the mistake of forgetting about what has taken place in Glasgow in the article, but then it goes on: In practice the Bill will simply restore an insignificant clement of financial selection into an education system which is highly selective in any case. The seven schools "— that is in Glasgow and Edinburgh— will remain selective. The Bill's effect would be to exclude the very poor. The Lords will be asked to-day to agree that this would widen parental choice. I should have hesitated to have used these words originally, because they are in condemnation of things which the noble Baroness has said, but I cannot bring myself to disagree with a single word that appears in it.

One reason why I will allow this Amendment to be negatived—I have no intention of withdrawing it—is because it would take my noble friend Lady Lee out of a difficulty. If I were to press the Amendment to a Division, she would have the choice of voting against the Amendment, which is the Government's point of view, or voting for an Amendment which includes a figure which she honestly believes is far too high. I have a sneaking suspicion that I agree with her.


I want to assure my noble friend that I regard him as the lesser evil.


Yes. I do not wish to be regarded as a lesser evil.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

7.58 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 3, after (" exercised ") insert (" in addition and ")

The noble Lord said: I think this Amendment needs a little explanation. The best way to do it is to read the effect of the change. The subsection as it stands reads: An education authority shall not exercise the power conferred by subsection (2) above except where it may be exercised without prejudice to the adequate provision of free school education for their area et cetera. If the Amendment were made, the subsection would read as follows: An education authority shall not exercise the power conferred by subsection (2) above except where it may be exercised in addition and without prejudice to the adequate provision of free school education for their area…

I should like to come back to the position in Edinburgh, because whatever may be said about all the wonderful effects fee paying has had on education in Scotland at least for the foreseeable future the only place which may have other than an academic interest in it is Edinburgh. If I quote some aspects in relation to Edinburgh that is the best way of showing the need for the addition of these words. It might be construed that the intention of the Bill as it stands would be that a local authority should not provide fee paying schools if in the process it had to deny the opportunity for education to any number of children who were not to be paying fees. Quite obviously, if that was the test to be applied, the Government would have no difficulty in showing that any child in Edinburgh who wanted to have education other than in a fee-paying school was given the opportunity.

But I submit that is not what " adequate " ought to mean. I am told that in the centre of Edinburgh the number of fee-paying schools is probably out of all proportion to the number of people who live in that area. I am also told that there is a comprehensive non-fee-paying secondary school which is suffering very badly because of the extent to which the Edinburgh Corporation concentrates its attention on these fee-paying schools. I believe the schools concerned are the Boroughmuir School and the James Gillespie School. The position is, I am informed, that the Boroughmuir School is in three separate buildings; one of which is a reject of the James Gillespie School. It was not good enough for James Gillespie but it is good enough to be part of Boroughmuir. I am told that Boroughmuir may be placed in the position that it may get yet another of the Gillespie rejects.

I want to make perfectly clear that I am not personally knowledgeable about the Edinburgh school situation and am relying on information given to me. But I have no doubt that what I am stating are the facts. Therefore it is undoubtedly the case that an undue concentration of attention on giving good facilities to fee-paying schools may result in less than adequate facilities being made available for the children who are going to non-fee-paying schools. That this is possible I have no doubt, because I can quote from something in my own experience in my home town of Dundee. Many years ago it was decided that we needed a new secondary school to replace the Harris Academy, which was on a central site in the city. It was outdated, inadequate in size, in facilities, in play areas and in almost everything that, even at that time, was required of secondary education. The education authority decided to build a new Harris Academy further away from the city centre. That was built, and is at present the set of buildings occupied by the Harris Academy in Dundee.

With that argument I have no possible dispute. At that time, of course, the Harris Academy was a fee-paying school; it has not been for many years. What happened? The Roman Catholic community did not have a satisfactory secondary school, and the building, which was not good enough to continue to be the Harris Academy became the St. John Secondary School for Roman Catholic pupils. It remained in use for, I think, more than 20 years, until it was replaced by a new Roman Catholic secondary school within the last ten years. This is the sort of thing which is encouraged where a local authority regards its primary responsibility in certain directions as being to pupils in fee-paying schools.

This is what is happening in Edinburgh, and this is why something is needed to make clear what a local authority has to do to meet its obligations. It has been suggested that the Corporation may at the present moment be in breach of its legal obligations because of the way matters have developed in the Edinburgh central area. I do not know whether that is the case, or what steps will be taken to test it. But I doubt whether any person, looking at the thing from an impartial point of view, could say that in central Edinburgh the Corporation has discharged its responsibilities fairly to the fee paying and non-fee-paying pupils.


I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has somewhat overdrawn the picture of the schools situation in Edinburgh. True, there is one fee-paying school which has recently been moved to a new site, the Royal High School, and it has very fine buildings. But the buildings from which it was taken were perhaps the oldest school buildings in the City of Edinburgh. In any case they were of value for other purposes. I have some acquaintance with the Boroughmuir School, to which the noble Lord referred, as the last headmaster was a friend of mine. I do not think I ever heard him complain that the Education Committee of Edinburgh was discriminating against his school. There were always things that he would have liked, but I think that the picture which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has drawn is exaggerated. I think of all the new schools that the Edinburgh Education Committee has built in recent years. They are very fine schools and they are not fee-paying schools.


It appears that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is making a laboured effort on purely ideological grounds. I submit that he has not produced one scintilla of evidence that the present proposals will in any way have a deleterious effect on the education of any child. I repeat that the opposition seems to be entirely on ideological grounds.


As my noble friend Lord Balerno has so well answered the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on particular schools, I think that my task is to address myself to the particular Amendment. I thank my noble friend Lord Mansfield for having taken part in this discussion. I agree that there is a great deal of ideological dispute over this small Bill. But if we address ourselves to the Amendment, I think it will be clear to the Committee that I cannot possibly accept it, for the reason that the wording in lines 2 and 3 on page 2 was inserted during the Report stage in another place, in response to an Amendment moved by the Opposition in Committee. The wording now proposed would involve a reversion to the wording of Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1918. As we made the Amendment for the benefit of the Opposition I cannot possibly take the words out again.


The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that all that was coming from the Opposition Front Bench was ideological objections. I do not accept that for one moment. If the noble Earl, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, would like to improve my knowledge of the Edinburgh situation, perhaps the three of us should visit Boroughmuir and some of the fee-paying schools in the centre of Edinburgh. That might prove who is being ideological, and whether it is this side of the Committee or the other. I strongly believe that the ideology in this —I might almost say the " idiocy "—is on the other side of the Committee.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, chooses his words with care, and I noticed that when he was talking of the fee-paying schools he talked of his " knowledge " of them; but when he talked of Boroughmuir School he talked of his " acquaintance " with it. That is the root of the problem. So far as fee-paying schools are concerned, whether in Edinburgh or elsewhere, noble Lords opposite have only an acquaintance, but when it comes to other schools they talk from knowledge.


Perhaps the noble Lord will excuse me if I say that I did serve for 16 years on an education committee.

8.10 p.m.


I served for many years on an education committee, but that does not mean anything because I never liked a minute of it. I do not know that I am terribly liking this procedure either, but it is quite obvious that having regard to the business which remains before your Lordships there is no prospect of my dealing with these Amendments in an adequate form in the time that remains to us. If we were able to go on for a long time, yes. I therefore do not intend to press this Amendment. I shall beg leave to withdraw the other Amendments; but I shall put them down for discussion at the next stage when I hope we may have more adequate time to discuss them. Perhaps through the usual channels it may be arranged that this rather important Scottish subject should, unlike the business last night, not be regarded as a suitable sandwich between two parts of the Industrial Relations Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause I agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed; Bill reported without Amendment.