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Education (Scotland) Bill

Volume 411: debated on Monday 4 June 1945

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

CLAUSE 29.—( Attendance at junior colleges.)

5.18 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 19, line 20, leave out from beginning, to "is," in line 22, and insert:

"If a pupil satisfies the education authority that any religious observance or any part of the instruction at a junior college which the pupil is required to attend."
During the Committee stage representations were made from each side of the House to the effect that this Clause, as it stands, does not give sufficient protection in respect of religious beliefs. An undertaking was given that the Clause would be examined anew and that, if possible, a form of words would be inserted to meet the apprehensions which had been voiced. The Amendment contains the new form of words. The effect is simply that, if a pupil satisfies the education authority that any religious observance or any part of the instruction at a junior college is contrary to his religious belief or likely to give offence to his religious feeling, he shall be permitted to withdraw from such observance or instruction. I believe that that will fully meet the apprehensions which were expressed, and will give full protection to religious beliefs.

The merit of this Amendment lies in the words "or any part of the instruction." As the original Amendment was down in my name, and as the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), who is also interested in the point, is unavoidably absent, I would like to tender my thanks to my hon. and gallant Friend— whom we are delighted to see making his bow at the Box—for having so promptly come forward with a revised version of this Sub-section, to meet a difficulty which, he knows was a real one.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 19, line 23, leave out "and."

In line 24, after "shall," insert:

"permit the pupil to withdraw from such observance or instruction and shall."—[Commander Galbraith.]

SIXTH SCHEDULE.—( Enactments repealed.)

I beg to move, in page 82, line 48, column 3, leave out "three."

This Amendment is consequential on the dropping of Clauses 46 and 47 from the original Bill. Those Clauses dealt with the abolition of school management committees. In consequence of the Clauses being dropped, the school management committees remain, and, therefore certain Amendments are required. There was no time to make them during the Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 83, line 9, column 3, leave out:

"in Sub-section (5) the words 'or a school management committee under Section three of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918.' "

In line 15, column 3, leave out:

"and paragraph (iv) of the proviso,"—[Commander Galbraith.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

5.23 p.m.

Before we pass on this Bill to another place, for, I hope, the same speedy consideration as has been given it by both the Scottish Grand Committee and this House to-day, I think a tribute ought to be paid to the negotiating ability and work of the ex-Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston). But for that genial way of his and for his undoubted ability in overcoming obstacles, it would have been impossible, with a Bill of this magnitude, to have achieved so much common ground. There was a common desire among the people of Scotland that, notwithstanding its rather controversial administrative Clauses, we should at least get the Bill, even in the limited time at the disposal of the House. That common desire was reflected in the Scottish Grand Committee. There are people who say that the machinery of Parliament is slow and cumbrous, and that if you want difficulties you will find them in superabundance when Scotsmen get together to discuss Scottish problems in Scottish Grand Committee. But I think we have taught not merely England but the world a lesson as to how speedily we can do things when there is a common desire to get them done. In an hour and a half we were able to pass the 92 Clauses of the Bill and the Schedules.

I will leave somebody else to deal with the "Shame": I am proud of the achievements of the Committee in getting something on which we shall be able to build a real education system for Scotland. This Bill does not give everything that we want. I can deal only with the subject-matter of the Bill before the House, but it is a fair day's march towards an educational system which will provide equality of opportunity in accordance with the aptitude and the ability of our children in Scotland, provided always that the Regulations that are to be made under the Bill will give us the educational structure. The Bill is not an educational structure, it is merely the foundation on which it is possible to build the new educational structure for Scotland. The Bill contains many improvements on the existing Education Acts. Some of those Acts have optional Sections, and many of those options have now been turned into duties of the education authorities. It is the duty of the education authorities, under this Bill, to provide books and requisites for education, such as spectacles for those with limited sight, to enable the children to benefit by the educational opportunities that are provided.

Success will depend upon the Regulations and upon the new Code provided for in the Bill. Unless these Regulations are well framed, unless there is a keen desire on the part of those who have to direct the administrative work of the local authorities, the Bill may be merely some black hieroglyphics on paper and of no use whatever to Scotland. It is not the Act of Parliament that gives us the things that are effective, it is the will that operates the Act of Parliament, and the will of the administrators. There must be an adequate supply of teachers. Clauses49 and 50 make it possible not merely to get an adequate supply of teachers, but to get teachers trained to deal with the new problems. The Regulations must also provide for proper accommodation. Without teachers and without proper school buildings, it will be impossible to get the best results.

There must be the will and the desire among parents in Scotland to make a success of this Bill when it becomes an Act. There must be a determination on the part of the local authorities of Scotland, because the Bill places the responsibility for Scotland's educational progress not only upon the Secretary of State for Scotland but also upon the local education authorities. They must act with determination if we are to make a success of the Measure.

Finally, all these things can be of no real avail unless there is the proper oil for the machinery. It is more than possible that the local authorities may find the new burdens to be placed upon them almost too heavy to bear, and, consequently, if we are to make a real success of the Bill, not only will we require all those things to which I have referred, but further financial assistance from the Treasury. I have very much pleasure—real pleasure, because I can now see embodied in the Bill some of the ideals for which I have fought for almost 30 years—in supporting this Bill, and in hoping sincerely that it will become an Act before this Parliament goes out of existence.

5.31 p.m.

I have taken a very close interest in this Bill ever since the original version appeared before the end of last Session. I think it has been a very great relief to all Scots hon. Members that we have been able to save this Bill and to ensure its passing into law before the Dissolution, because it would have been a terrible misfortune if all the work done upon it at the Scottish Office, and the consultations with local authorities, had been wasted. The Bill is very important indeed to the future of Scottish education. I think the proceedings in the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills showed a very good example of the remarkable degree of co-operation that can be achieved among Scottish hon. Members of all parties in an emergency, but I should not like to take this unduly rapid procedure as being a good precedent. Unfortunately, a very great many important parts of the Bill were not discussed in any detail whatever, although many of us would have liked to make suggestions in regard to certain Clauses. For that reason, as the right hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) has said, the Bill is imperfect in some ways, but, nevertheless, it does mark a very useful advance on the present education arrangements.

For my own part, there are two points on which I would like to comment. The first is the Amendment to Clause 2 which strengthens the provisions in regard to technical education. This is, I think, a matter of the greatest importance, because I understand that Scotland has been rather lagging behind England in recent years in regard to technical education. Secondly there is the Amendment made to the original Clause 53 to ensure that the increase of salary for teachers was antedated as from 1st April of this year. This is very satisfactory, for it brings a measure of justice to a profession which is very hard pressed and which is not always fully appreciated in the country. I trust that the Bill will speedily pass into law in another place before the end of the present Parliament.

5.34 p.m.

I want to express the greatest regret that we had to pass this Measure with the speed with which we have passed it. It is all right to pat ourselves on the back and say we have done a wonderful job of work in putting through 93 Clauses in one morning, but we could only do that by what, I think, is a shameful sacrifice of democratic rights. There were many Amendments on the Order Paper put forward by hon. Members from all sides of the House, and great bodies of opinion outside—important bodies of opinion, too—thought the Bill could be considerably improved in the Scottish Grand Committee, and I agree that it could have been improved, but it would seem that the Tories have insisted upon having an early election—

The hon. and gallant Member says the Labour Party walked out. Well, that is something we can argue another time.

I do not think we can discuss that matter.

I think it is most regrettable that the hastening of the election has necessitated these sacrifices of our democratic rights, because it has meant that, if we wanted anything at all in the shape of a new Education Act for Scotland we had to withhold any criticism of the Bill as printed. It was stated clearly on Second Reading that, on this side, we would make a fight over the payment of fees. We thought that the payment of fees in local authority schools in Scotland ought to be completely abolished, but we could not insist on arguing that matter in Committee. If we had gone into arguments on it, we could not have had the Bill. There are other matters, such as the exemption of school children, on which we felt very strongly indeed, as was fully indicated by hon. Members on this side during the Second Reading Debate, but we had no opportunity of putting our opinions in the Committee. If we had insisted on making our views known in Committee we could not have had the Bill, and I very much regret that, in order to get this Bill through all its stages, we had to make that great sacrifice, which is what it was.

I hope it will not be taken as a precedent, and I hope, too, that we will not go out and say that we have a right to claim some pride for ourselves for passing this Bill in such a speedy fashion. There are other countries in which they put Bills through even more speedily, but we do not agree that their system of Government is a good one. We think it is good Parliamentary practice to have full opportunities for Debate in Committee, and, indeed, at all stages of the passage of legislation, and I feel all hon. Members will agree that it must be a matter of regret that we have had to push this Bill through Committee in the way we have.

5.38 p.m.

I do not want to argue here with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Fraser) as to who caused the General Election. I do know that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) were both very keen, with all of us, to get this Bill, or some Measure to improve Scottish education, on the Statute Book, but I would suggest, with all respect to the hon. Member for Hamilton, that we are not going to serve the cause of Scottish education very much by accusing either Socialists or Tories of delaying the Bill or preventing a proper discussion of it. The point is that we had to get the Bill through as it stood or not have it at all. I represent a constituency where they would have been quite prepared to do without it, and I have said so all along, but, in order to fall in with the majority of hon. Members on all sides, I am very glad that we did attain that measure of co-operation and succeeded in getting it through.

The right hon. Member for Falkirk expressed views in which I should like to join in his appreciation of the work done by the former Secretary of State. I am sure all hon. Members on this side will agree about the tremendous amount of work the right hon. Gentleman did and the great interest which he took in the matter. I would also like to include in this tribute the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Falkirk, who also put in a tremendous amount of work. I know, as he has said, that the Bill will be fulfilling some of the ideals for which he has worked for so many years, and I therefore pay my tribute to both the right hon. Gentlemen for the work they have done.

I want to ask the Minister who replies for some assurances. In Clause 27 we define what is to be a walking distance for children, and we have brought it down from three miles to a maximum of two miles. I imagine that everyone interested in the education of children is very glad to see that reduction, but it does mean a very considerable addition to the cost of transport in some localities. In a widespread area such as my constituency this question of transport is one of very great importance and difficulty, and it is a source of ever-increasing cost to the ratepayers. Again, there are the questions of school meals, and of a standard salary for teachers, both of which mean additional expenditure. In a county such as Argyllshire, which has a very poor rateable value, it may be, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Falkirk said, that we shall have to come to the Scottish Office and ask for very considerable assistance towards meeting these additional expenses. I am told by my own authority that we do get some considerable assistance from the block grant for purely educational purposes, but I believe it is argued by the Scottish Office that transport is not a purely educational matter and, therefore, does not qualify for grants. I would like to have an assurance from the Lord Advocate that, when these extra expenses are incurred in these difficult areas, and they become an unwarranted burden on the local finances, the local authority may go to the Scottish Office or the Treasury with some confidence that they will be given some measure of financial assistance in addition to that for purely educational purposes. I would like to say that I welcome the Bill and hope that it will become an Act before this Parliament comes to an end.

5.44 p.m.

I, like other hon. Members, wish to say that I think the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have worked very hard, but I do not think they have achieved what has been said this afternoon. There has been a disgraceful and incomplete discussion of a great Scottish Measure. For five years we have had many Bills before this House. So little does somebody care—who it is I do not know—about Scottish education that this Bill has come right at the very end, after we had been pressing and pressing and asking, as the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), with good humour, has asked time after time, when the Bill was coming. At any rate, it has come just before the Election. But I will not go into that, as I am not concerned with it. I am concerned with the fact that we have got to this pass. My right hon. Friend the late Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was obviously speaking in a good humoured way when he talked of the rapid passage of scores of Clauses, and it is as well to preserve a sense of humour at this time. But do not make any mistake about it—it is a very bad thing for a Bill to go through without a detailed discussion. We spent 16 solid days on the English Bill and we improved it.

I gave my views on this Bill on Second Reading and I am not going to repeat them, but I would ask why this has happened. Why was it that my right hon. Friend, who worked hard enough, could not get decisions in Scotland? Why were not decisions arrived at? What is there at the moment which is preventing agreements between local authorities and the Department in Scotland? We arrived at agreements on difficult questions with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education in England. The question of Part III authorities was very difficult, as was the religious question. I do not think that the present Minister of Labour has greater shrewdness and negotiating power than the late Secretary of State for Scotland. The whole basis of this thing is wrong. We ought to have a strong central drive by the senior partner in Edinburgh. Look at the revelations we had from the right hon. Gentleman the other day about authorities which have not even a director of education and education committees which are snubbed by county councils. What had the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) and the rest of them been doing as Secretaries of State for Scotland all those years? I can perhaps say now with greater freedom that I have tried to study the question during the last 11 years and have been trying to get at the bottom of it, to find out why there is this educational weakness. There will have to be a revival of education in Scotland, and I had hoped that it was going to be discussed during the Committee stage. The Debates on the English Bill were read throughout the world, because they threw new light on the subject.

I do not believe that the finance of this Bill is sound and I do not believe that the finance of Scottish education is sound. I doubt whether certain local education authorities can put through these large measures and whether we shall get junior colleges during the next five years. Un- less some radical steps are taken in order to get teachers, I do not see the school-leaving age being raised. Perhaps it is well that a Bill which has not had proper discussion should go on to the Statute Book, and that some further discussion should take place in the next Parliament. There will have to be further discussion on education, but administration has yet to be thought out. We had one day of real discussion in the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills and we unearthed in the very first Clause a great dispute about what was meant by secondary education. We unearthed later that Scotland was unable to deal with certain types of voluntary authorities. If these two things could be brought to light in one morning we might have unearthed more things with further debate. I make my protest, but I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend who has been many years on a local education authority will not take this as any criticism either of himself or of his chief. There seems to be some obstinacy or something still prevailing which prevents the getting of that agreement which is the only basis for an improvement in Scottish education.

5.51 p.m.

It is true to say that Scotland and Scottish Members suffer from a certain sense of frustration in not having been able to discuss Scottish education. There was a very interesting discussion on the English Bill, and if the English people required many days in which to discuss English education, half a day in which to discuss Scottish education does not satisfy Scottish Members. I had a dual capacity in connection with this Bill, having had something to do with the struggle to get agreement in Scotland, and happening to be chairman of a committee of our party which considered the Bill. There is no question at all that nobody could have achieved more than the late Secretary of State in getting what agreement he did in Scotland. If he failed it was not through any lack of initiative or tact on his part, but because, in certain parts of the Bill, we were up against a fundamental disagreement between town and county, on the one hand, and between certain counties and other counties. It would be impossible to get an agreed Measure on these matters of administration. In the final result, it was a question of either sacrificing the Bill or throwing out certain Clauses and leaving them until further time was available for discussion.

When we talk about a sense of time and a sense of frustration, we have also to keep our sense of proportion. When we regard the Bill as it is now being passed and the Bill as it would have been if we had spent longer time on it in Committee, we must admit that the overwhelming part of it is as it would have been had it gone through all stages with full discussion. Therefore, we had better welcome the Bill and do something about it later on rather than not have the Bill and be left hoping to get a Bill later.

We have one regret, and that is, that we did not make a clean sweep of fees in Scotland. That came up as a very difficult problem. In certain towns there are traditional schools where there is no population around them. But the tradition amounts to something. I am sure that no Scottish Member wants to do away with, for example, the tradition of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, or of the High School in Glasgow or of various other schools. It "gives pupils a kick" to feel proud of their school and their school tradition. In my own area, Dollar Academy has a long tradition, and I am sure that people all over the world would regret it if its tradition were swept away by a general abolition of fees. On the other hand, my hon. Friends feel that we have spoilt the ship for a "ha-porth of tar." When the Bill goes through there will only be 18 or 20 schools in the whole of Scotland charging fees, and I think some other method could have been found of selecting pupils for these schools.

I do not think it is right for pupils to go into the traditional school merely because their parents are prepared to pay the fees. A father who may be a book-maker or in some anti-social sphere of life may be able to put his son into one of these schools, whereas somebody who is doing a good job of work in some reputable industry is debarred by the fees. The test ought, to be selection by merit. Here we come up against the problem that the teachers and the educationists object to that on the ground that it would mean creaming the top of the scholars away from the ordinary schools and putting them into a central school. That is true, but my reply is that teachers do not object to the substrata being taken off and put into special schools. Bursaries and other things are, at the moment, creamed off to some degree. I think that of the two evils that is the lesser.

I suggest to the Ministers present to-day that when the time comes—if it happens to be they who are in charge, and naturally I hope it is not—they should give serious consideration to some other method of selecting pupils for these traditional schools in Scotland and make a final and clean sweep of this fee-paying business, and make education a matter of merit, of the aptitude and the ability of the child to assimilate education rather than one of the mere ability of the parent to pay for the privilege. The matter is left in the hands of the local authorities, who have power under the Bill to abolish fees. Fife have already done it and other areas can do it, and as soon as circumstances permit and a proper method is adopted, fee-paying should be abolished and Scottish education made free. I know it is said that England has no fee-paying schools, but that is a piece of humbug, because the great majority of fee-paying schools are outside the education authorities. We have not abolished fees in Scotland, but we have nearly done it, and I hope that at no great distance of time it will be done away with entirely.

5.59 p.m.

I am glad the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) has addressed the House on the Bill because, as he said himself, he occupied in the last Government and in respect of this Measure a somewhat important position in that he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland. The remarks which the hon. Gentleman has made are, therefore, to be treated with some care by the House. With regard to the last subject he raised, I think he will agree with me that the criticism he himself has offered, and which he indicated to the House was the view of his party, was not the view of his right hon. Friend. The late Secretary of State for Scotland told us here in this House, and many of us outside, that he did not agree with the criticism of fees and that he took a different view. I am not going to argue that now, but I think I am right in saying that the late Under-Secretary shared that opinion. I do not press that point, but I rather think I am right—

May I finish my argument? I will give way in a moment. The point I am trying to make is this. I do not wish to go into the pros and cons of fee-paying, but I want to record that this is not a matter upon which there is really a party view. This is a very difficult technical matter, and it is one for much further and closer examination than we have yet had.

My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State did not express his own views in regard to whether fees should be abolished or not. His view, which was also that of the Under-Secretary, as I understood, was that the matter should be left to the local authority, and should not be imposed as a policy from Parliament.

That of course is quite true. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman was saying, "I do not object to fees so much, and I am willing to leave it to the local authorities to decide." That was what I was saying. With regard to the matter raised earlier by the hon. Gentleman, I think on all sides we regretted that our Committee stage had to be so curtailed because, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) said, even in the one day's Debate we had, a great many things were revealed which some of us did not know, and undoubtedly, had the Debate gone on for the half dozen or more days that were expected, we should have learned a great deal about Scottish education, and might, perhaps, have greatly improved the Measure. However, I think we ought to be clear about this and fair about it. The Bill was delayed in its presentation to the House, I should say, almost entirely because of the Clauses proposed to be inserted, dealing with the machinery of administration. It was that part of the Bill which held it up from presentation to this House. The great remaining mass of the Bill, indeed that which remains with us now, was not seriously contested by anybody in Scotland. Minor points, I agree, such as fees, little points here and there were argued, but in substance all the rest of the Bill could have been presented to this House six months or a year ago and would have won general acceptance, and, of course, have been considered with great care in the Committee. So the only reflection I have to make upon the work of my right hon. Friends the late Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary—to both of whom I pay my warmest tributes because I know what they have done—is that for the sake of obtaining these administrative Clauses they held up this Bill, and I am sorry it was so. I think it would have been better if, instead of inserting these Clauses at all, we had produced the educational Clauses much earlier—

The fact is that neither of us had the slightest idea that this Parliament would have been ending before 5th July. Consequently, as we were willing to go on until November if necessary, in order to get in these points, we were of opinion then that there would have been full time to discuss these particular problems. It is true that the administrative machinery in operation to-day satisfies no one, and that is the reason why there was a possibility of a committee of inquiry to deal with the whole problem of educational administration as it affects Scotland.

I am sure my right hon. Friend is right and I accept what he has said, but I am entitled to express the opinion which I have expressed to the House as to the wisdom of the course taken. Nevertheless we have not lost everything, because the question of administration has just been postponed and one day it must be faced. One day we must examine the matter in Scotland, and this House. We will have to review the whole problem of local administration and it will be a very interesting discussion when it comes.

I have two other points to make. The first is a point which I made on Second Reading, and which I feel is of the utmost importance. We have here a Bill which gives large powers and holds out considerable hopes; but this is not education. This Bill does not begin to be education. This is only the foundation, as the right hon. Gentleman has said. Unless we can get, first, well-trained teachers, much better-trained teachers than there are now, and schools much better equipped than they are now, and much more numerous and the real enthusiasm of Scotland behind it, we shall not get education at all under the Bill. Therefore, do not let Parliament or the Scottish people think we have solved the problem this afternoon. It is not so. We have only taken the first tentative step, the only step which Parliament could take; the rest remains with the Department, the teachers and Scottish public opinion.

And this leads me to the last reflection I would like to offer to the House. We have paid our tributes, as we ought to have done, to the ex-Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary. They deserve those tributes. But I am sure we would all desire to pay a tribute to the Scottish Education Department itself and its officials. As a member of the Advisory Council, like my hon. Friend opposite, I have been able in these last two or three years to see inside the doors of the Scottish Education Department, and to watch what the officials do. A Measure of this kind is very largely the product of years of work by these officials gathering material, sifting, examining, collating and ultimately presenting it in a series of draft Clauses to whoever is the Secretary of State. That is long, tedious but vital work and that work is done by the civil servants in the Education Department in Scotland. No tribute from this House can be too great for the work these men have done. Therefore, in extending our congratulations to the two right hon. Gentlemen, I feel sure that all of us would desire to include the great work that the civil servants have done.

6.7 p.m.

I am probably alone in thinking that this Bill has been improved by its losses. A Scottish proverb says, "Little said is soonest mended," and I take the view that the Clauses taken out of this Bill have really been for the benefit of Scottish education. I dare say that some other system will have to be found, but I do not think it will be possible to find a better system than that suggested in the Bill presented in this House. I do not think one can find anything in the Bill which indicated what the special qualifications would have been, and I expect we would have had a lot of flaws in electing members for educational purposes. We should have had first-class members and second-class members. There would have been a tendency in the county council to say, "These people have been elected for education; leave it to them," and they would probably have been people who simply talked about education, with no children of their own, or very little experience of bringing up children. I am very pleased indeed that that part of the Bill has been dropped. On Second Reading I tried to catch Mr. Speaker's eye because the then Secretary of State for Scotland indicated that the constituency I represent was very penurious in the matter of education. He seemed to think, as probably many Socialists think, that the way to ensure success is to spend a great deal of money, but that is not so. I venture to say that the academic attainments of the children in the County of Angus will match and probably surpass those of the children in Kirkintilloch or West Stirling. They are not to be measured by the amount of money spent, and people in Angus get the worth of their money, for they know the value of money. Teachers say that it is far better to teach the children of Angus for a lesser sum than children in other constituencies who are so dull. The educational attainments of the children of Angus compare very favourably with those in many constituencies in Glasgow, or probably Kilmarnock.

6.10 p.m.

I meant to confine my remarks very particularly to two points, but unfortunately the hon. Member for that constituency whose name I cannot remember which is on the South bank of the River Forth has goaded me into saying something else. He suggested that we should be proud of the passage of this Bill. He suggested that it is due to some peculiar electioneering troubles in this Metropolis, but I would like to remind him and other Scottish Members that they have in their hands an easy way of getting rid of electioneering troubles for which they personally are, no doubt, not responsible. The suggestion that full agreement on such a Measure is of itself a great thing is surely a very extraordinary idea. The most classic example of full agreement in the biological world that I know of was the case of the Gadarene swine—there was not one exception to the rule.

I come now to the two matters on which I would like an assurance from whoever is to reply to this Debate. I am not satisfied with the assurance I have so far received on the subject of the size of classes. Will it be definite that teachers and materials will first be used in order to reduce the size of classes and not to put into operation the junior colleges? Because it is quite useless either to raise the school age or to establish junior colleges unless classes are of a reasonable size. I should also like to know the views of the Government on the question of early specialisation brought up on an Amendment to Clause 1. That Amendment was defeated, but I would like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to make early specialisation compulsory or whether they are going to leave it open to the children for some time after they enter secondary schools.

6.14 p.m.

I should like to begin by expressing the indebtedness, which, I am sure, Scottish Members in all parts of the House feel, to my right hon. Friends the Members for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) and for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) for the great efforts they put forth in the preparation of this Bill. They were good enough to take me into their consultations from time to time and, therefore, I speak from personal knowledge of the immense amount of work done and the careful consideration which was given to all manner of suggestions. Several hon. Members who, perhaps, did not have the opportunity to realise these matters, have complained about the delay in bringing forward this Bill. Indeed, it was suggested that that delay was chiefly because of difficulties about devising suitable machinery Clauses. That certainly is not so. There has been a host of substantial Amendments to other parts of the Bill, introduced between the first and the second editions. Indeed it would have been impossible, it would have been wrong, to rush this Bill through the Scottish Grand Committee if that earlier process of sifting had not taken place. But I can say, with complete assurance, that every suggestion made at any stage of the preparation of this Bill by any Member or any outside organisation of any standing at all was most carefully examined. It is highly desirable that in the preparation of our Bills that examination should take place. I agree that it could not take the place of examination in the Grand Com- mittee, and should not do so, but that examination in this case was so thorough that I think we can rest assured that further examination in Grand Committee would not have resulted in very substantial Amendments, other than substantial Amendments with regard to the machinery Clauses.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) dislikes a great deal of this Bill, and would have liked extensive alterations. But in that matter he is completely out of sympathy with the mood of Scotland. I think that in no quarter of the Committee was there any substantial desire for extensive alteration of these other Clauses. Although it certainly was unfortunate that we had to rush this Bill—and I do not object to that description—the result has not been disastrous. It has lost us very little, because of the extensive preparations which took place before the Bill reached the Committee stage. We had narrowed the issues a great deal, although it is true that there was one substantial issue which we had not got rid of, namely, the fee-paying issue.

It is true that Members were deprived of any opportunity of expanding their point of view, and I am sure that in order to save time to-day they have not quite expressed to those who are unaware of the contents of this Bill, just how far this Measure goes in the direction they desire. I am sure that it was only to save time that they omitted that, but it is right that I should put on record the great change which takes places under this Bill. This Bill lays it down that it is the duty of every local authority to ensure adequate provision for free primary and secondary education in public schools. That, I am sure, is not fully recognised in Scotland. Not only are boys and girls entitled to the fullest education of which they are capable of taking advantage, but if they want to go into a free, non-paying school, they have the right to go there. I should have thought that that would have met, at least nine-tenths of any criticism, the rest being more theoretical than practical. Therefore, I do not think that any hon. Members have been deprived of any opportunity at all except, if I may say so in a friendly spirit, the opportunity of airing their theories.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk that this Bill does not get to the heart of our educational problems. Those problems are not machinery problems at all; they are human problems which can be solved only by the co-operation, in the right spirit, of those whose duty it is to take part in this enterprise—and I use the word, "enterprise," deliberately. There are the local authorities and their officers; there are the teachers and the parents, and the children themselves—do not let us forget them.

Unless we can get co-operation among all those who are interested, we shall get nowhere, but if we can get that co-operation I believe that this Bill gives the tools with which the job can be tackled. I will not say, "finished," because we shall never finish the job of education, and it would be a bad thing if we ever thought that we had. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) interjected a reference to the Scottish Office. It is quite clear that, contrary to what certain hon. Members would like, the Scottish Office has deliberately kept in the background here. It has said that education if it is to be a real thing must be conducted on the spot by the people who have responsibility, and who know they have, and are capable and willing to carry it out. The Scottish Office does not want to direct practical education from St. Andrew's House. It wants to give local people the tools to do it, and so far as it can, to leave everything else to them. I think that is the right line of approach.

One or two points were raised, with which I wish to deal briefly. With regard to the question of increased expense of transport, I can give my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) this assurance—that the matter is being kept closely in view in the preparation of the new grant regulations. The question of small classes or the raising of the school-leaving age in the new junior colleges was also raised. I can give no specific assurance at this moment, because all this has to be worked out as a practical proposition, and the results may be slightly different indifferent areas, but obviously a reduction in the size of classes is the primary object of any educational policy. Every one of us agrees that there is nothing more important than the reduction of the size of classes to a manageable size. We are under a statutory obligation to pursue the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 at the earliest possible moment, and these two matters must have extremely high priority. But that is not to say that we are not going to get on with other matters as fast as our resources will allow. The question of teachers and buildings and other things have to be gone into, and I cannot now give an assurance about the speed at which it will be found possible to do what is required.

Would it not be possible, as I am sure it would, for the Lord Advocate to give us an assurance that the regulations in this Bill will lay it down that, in any new building, the classrooms must be of such size as to provide for no more than 40 pupils?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that that has been under contemplation. I cannot give an absolute assurance, but, obviously, if that is the main object of our policy, it would be an act of stupidity, unless there is a special case, to build any classrooms which would be too large for the numbers we intend to put into them. That point will be kept in mind.

I am a little disturbed about the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement about priorities. I hope that does not represent a cooling off with regard to the position of junior colleges, to which many of us in Scotland attach the highest value.

I deliberately said that I was not going to put them in any special order. It is true that junior colleges are extremely important and valuable, or rather, that we expect they will be, but I think I am expressing the views of Members in all parts of the House, and those who were in the Grand Committee, when I say that Members as a whole have tended to put in the highest priority the reduction of the size of classes and the raising of the school-leaving age to 15. I am not, however, in the least ruling out the development of junior colleges. That must proceed alongside the other matters. In conclusion, I commend this Bill to the House as one which takes not only a step but a great step forward in providing adequate machinery for the development of education in Scotland. I agree that there may easily be questions of finance to be considered as we go along. I have never shut my eyes to the likelihood that in the immediate post-war years, all manner of questions of local finance may have to be considered and solved by whoever occupies the position of Secretary of State for Scotland. That may well be so, but it is too early yet to foresee exactly what might happen. Apart from that, I believe this Bill gives us a great deal of useful material for working out the progress of Scottish education, and that Scottish Members, in co-operating throughout in the preparation of this Measure, have performed a very real service to our country.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.