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Education (Scotland) Bill

Volume 411: debated on Tuesday 29 May 1945

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asked the Prime Minister if he is prepared to make any statement regarding the intentions of the Government on the further progress of the Education (Scotland) Bill, now being considered by the Scottish Grand Committee; and whether he proposes any constitutional rearrangements to enable the Noble Lord the Secretary of State for Scotland to take part in the proceedings; or how, otherwise, he intends to ensure that the Government will be represented, with Cabinet authority, in the Committee stage of this Measure.

His Majesty's Government adopt the policy of the Education (Scotland) Bill. It is impossible to carry this in the interval before the dissolution, but should His Majesty's present advisers be concerned with the direction of public affairs after the polls, they will certainly carry it foward to the best of their ability. This gives me the opportunity of congratulating my right hon. Friend on the important conceptions and agreements which are embodied in the new Bill, and to assure him of our desire that his own great personal contribution may be embodied in a future Statute.

The question of legislation to enable Ministers to speak or function in either House of Parliament or in Committees of either House is one which raises issues long dormant. It certainly needs to be awakened in the period of stress which lies before us.

If it is proved, in the proceedings of the Scottish Grand Committee at its meeting to-morrow, that there is substantial agreement regarding the education Clauses of this Bill, and that it can be sent back on the Report stage to this House with general concurrence, will the Government give facilities for its further progress?

If such a happy state of things should arise, and if there is general agreement, that is a matter which can always be settled through the usual channels on both sides. It is possible for this House to legislate with extreme rapidity in matters where there is no difference of opinion.

May I ask whether it would not be much more desirable, rather than raising vexed constitutional issues on the powers of Lords and Commons, if the Prime Minister would recognise that the people of Scotland would not, for more than a temporary period, be ready to accept a Secretary of State who sits in the other House of Parliament?

That is raising very large constitutional issues in relation to matters which have not so far, for many years, been of a controversial nature.

Why does the Prime Minister raise this dormant issue in this appointment affecting Scotland?

I can quite see that my hon. Friend's Scottish soul has been outraged, but the reason why I am said to have raised the point was that I consider the appointment was the one best calculated to give satisfaction to Scotland—

—but it is certainly not expressed by some of those who are trying—[Interruption.]

Was the decision arrived at because of the lack of ability amongst the Tory Party in this House? [Interruption.]

The right hon. Member is in as good a position as I am to judge that, having so long enjoyed their support.

I think I ought to remind the House that we are getting a very long way from the original purpose of this Question, which was the Scottish Education Bill.

The important question in connection with the Scottish Education Bill is whether we are going to have someone there in the Scottish Grand Committee who is actually responsible for carrying through the Measure.

Might I plead with the right hon. Gentleman, who attaches to this Bill so much importance, to use such influence as he may have with his own Members to see that we can get Cabinet authority that would enable us to get this Bill?

Will the Prime Minister, in considering this problem of the Scottish Education Bill, take into account the fact that all parties in Scotland are almost unanimous, in desiring that the education parts of this Bill should go through, and it would reflect, I feel, the wishes of all Scottish hon. Members in the House if the effort could be made?