§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Dugdale.]
§ Mr. Westwood
I desire to take this opportunity to raise certain problems affecting Scotland. I propose to deal with some aspects of our educational, evacuation and hospital problems all arising out of war conditions, problems which have caused much discussion, questioning and heart-burning amongst large sections of our population. In that most vital of our social services, education, some of us have looked forward to 1939 as the beginning of another forward march in educational progress. I am sure that this hope would have been realised, in many respects, but for the war. The raising of the school age, hemmed around though it was with all kinds of irritating limitations and shortcomings, would have taken us another step on the slow march towards those educational ideals which many of us have visualised for the last 25 years. The new day-school regulations would have 1089 brought us nearer to the time when our educational system would be adapted to the capabilities of the child, instead of compelling the children to fit into one or two cast-iron moulds. Now, almost at its beginning, the war numbers among its casualties education which is one of the most important of our social services.
An outstanding and disturbing feature associated with our education, or rather lack of education, at the present time is the fact that, after 12 weeks of war, primary schools in the areas designated as vulnerable are still closed. There is no need to stress the tremendous loss which the nation will suffer if the children today are denied opportunities for receiving education. That is recognised, I think, by everyone. The reoccupation by children of our city streets means immediate and real danger to them from the traffic, reduced though it is. But there are also to be considered such factors as the lack of discipline, the loss of opportunities to utilise the school medical services, and the denial of even that elementary physical training which our schools provide. There is also the loss of educational facilities particularly for those children between the ages of 11 and 14. All this must have disastrous results, both for the individual child and for the nation.
We are now getting ahead with air-raid precautions work and there seems to be no justifiable reason against the opening of our schools, possibly not on pre-war lines but at least in a modified way. It is a tragedy that so many children who were evacuated to areas which were considered comparatively safe, should have returned and that large numbers of them should be running wild in our streets without guidance or discipline, without educational and physical instruction. We have to face the fact, however, that large numbers of them have returned for a variety of reasons. One has only to go round on Civil Defence work to be convinced that something must be done and done speedily, to arrest the damage which is being caused in this way to the child life of the nation. I earnestly suggest that further and urgent consideration should be given to this problem.
Just as there are varying degrees of vulnerability and danger as between one district and another so, within the districts themselves, there are varying degrees of danger. It might not be advis- 1090 able to open the schools in certain parts of our evacuation areas such as those which are near docks, shipyards, steelworks and the like, yet modern transport, particularly in large cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, is such that there should be no difficulty in bringing children from one part of a city to another for the purposes of schooling. This, coupled with a policy of providing the maximum shelter accommodation at or near the schools, ought to make it possible, in some cases at any rate, to open the schools.
This could be done in various ways. In some cases it would be possible to have one opening for the day. But in many cases school accommodation has been reduced because of the buildings being used as first-aid posts. I suggest incidentally that this has been overdone. In many cases in providing for a danger which was thought to be imminent at the beginning of the war, we have been sacrificing the best interests of the children. The nation is wealthy enough to provide, in a crisis like this, the necessary accommodation for air-raid precaution purposes. It is true that at the beginning there had to be speedy requisitions owing to the urgency of the work, but that should have been a temporary phase, and it is now time that we were making the necessary permanent arrangements for our air-raid precautions work. But, as I say, in many cases the school accommodation has been reduced owing to the use of school buildings for first-aid posts and for the billeting of military forces or owing to the degree of vulnerability. There is an alternative, however, to the one-shift system which I have already suggested. That would be to have a two-shift system with a school week of six days, which would provide at least three days' schooling for all children.
This would be a tremendous advantage. It is not an ideal arrangement, but I wish to deal with the problem in a practical spirit, and while it is not ideal, three days schooling would be infinitely better than the present disastrous policy of having no schooling for large numbers of our child population. It would minimise the time occupied by the children in travelling between home and school and would enable all to go home before the hours of darkness in the winter. It 1091 would enable that discipline, the slackening of which is so noticeable to the observer, to be restored, and it would prevent our having a generation of our children growing up illiterate and untrained for the work of life which must be faced when the war has been brought to a successful termination. Incidentally, either of those suggestions would enable shelter accommodation of Home Office standards to be provided in a short time and at the minimum cost. I earnestly suggest that further consideration be given to this one of the many serious problems arising out of immediate war conditions.
Everyone, I am sure, wants to see this problem tackled at once and with that end in view I would suggest an immediate conference between representatives of the Scottish Education Department, representatives of the Home Office who are directly responsible for air raid precautions work in the districts, representatives of the education authorities immediately affected and the regional and district commissioners of the areas affected. These conferences, I submit, should be held at once in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. I hope that proposal will receive the favourable consideration of the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view to securing consultation among those who are on the spot and who understand the problem. Knowing some of them as I do, I am sure that while they would not be willing to open the schools in real danger areas, they are desperately anxious that the maximum number of schools should be opened and that the maximum provision for the education of the children should be made, together with the maximum provision of shelter based on Home Office standards.
As regards the evacuation scheme, I am almost afraid to refer to it as a social experiment, although I have heard those words used about it time and again. It certainly has been a social upheaval, and I think it has, in the main, worked fairly well. [An HON. MEMBER: "How well?"] That is a matter of opinion. I have seen both sides of the problem and I want to be fair in dealing with it. It is open to everyone in this House who has the opportunity of taking part in the Debate, to give his own views on the problem. Some of the difficulties and the cause of many of the complaints undoubtedly arose 1092 from the hurried way in which evacuation was carried out. I suggest that it reflects the greatest credit on those responsible for the transport and billeting arrangements that so few difficulties were created in connection with that phase of the work. The weakness in the scheme was the failure to assemble the children at the schools immediately, when the crisis became apparent, and to make use of the time between then and the actual evacuation to find out and as far as possible remedy the various difficulties before sending the children to the receiving areas. I have a feeling that no Civil Defence authority in Scotland was responsible for that panicky action which helped to cause much of the irritation, annoyance and complaint, which arose out of the first phase of evacuation.
Evacuation has disclosed serious defects in our health services, and many who previously grumbled at the cost of those services, particularly the school health services, are now, I believe, converts to the need for improved health and clinical services for our school population. This is one of the problems which cannot wait until the war is over. It ought to be tackled now with a view to remedying the defects which have been shown. Mistakes have been made and difficulties have emerged. We have heard a great deal about the misfits and the irritations, but I suggest that little has been said about the wonderful tolerance and the great helpfulness of those who provided homes and so much human kindness in many instances, for the children who were moved from the areas designated as vulnerable. Now is the time to set about adjusting the misfits and to see that the burden is equitably borne by the community so that it will not be borne by some all the time, while others, sometimes their next-door neighbours, bear none of it at any time.
The further development, in the receiving areas of the community feeding so successfully experimented with in areas like Tillicoultry and Alloa would be of real value in meeting the problems arising from evacuation, while the welfare work which has been done in places like Kilsyth, could usefully be initiated in many other receiving areas. The development of this kind of work should be encouraged by the Secretary of State and 1093 financial provision made to further it. As I say, mistakes have been made. It is not always criminal to make mistakes, particularly in connection with a great scheme which has never been tried out before. But it is criminal, I suggest, to repeat mistakes or to fail to learn the lesson of previous mistakes. It is the duty of the central authority, the evacuation authorities and the receiving authorities, not to repeat the mistakes already made but to learn from them and to remedy them as speedily as possible. Another point to which I would draw the attention of the Secretary of State relates to our hospital services. It would be useful if before the close of the Debate the right hon. Gentleman would say a few words upon the hospital arrangements. It is only too well known that the number of hospital beds in Scotland was by no means excessive, even for peace-time purposes. I should like to be assured, as I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House would, that substantial progress is being made with the provision of the extra beds that will be necessary if air raids occur on an extensive scale.
There is another problem that faces us as a result of the evacuation of hospital patients. It may have been the right thing to do, because almost everybody was under the impression that air raids would start immediately war was declared, but at the present time, there are thousands of vacant beds in the hospitals in Scotland. I would argue that the greater number of these beds should be made available to people who require them at the present time. Another problem that has been created as a result of the evacuation of patients from the hospitals is that a very large personnel who have offered their services as auxiliary nurses cannot be trained, owing to the fact that the patients have been sent from the hospitals to their homes, where they are not receiving proper attention, because people cannot give the necessary attention in the homes, and where, indeed, in many cases, there is not sufficient accommodation for the sick persons. Therefore, I trust that before the Debate ends we shall receive some assurance from the Secretary of State that many of those beds will be made available to the sick and needy who require them now. Those are the three matters to which I want particularly to draw 1094 attention. As far as our great social services are concerned, we cannot possibly continue to expand some of them on the lines on which they were being expanded before the war began, but they must not be destroyed, and we must make our plans now for their development when the war ends.
§ 5.19 p.m
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)
I think it would be convenient to the House if I intervened in the Debate at this early stage, and left my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to wind up the Debate. I think I shall be able to give a number of facts which will be useful to hon. Members in considering the subjects under discussion this evening. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) introduced subjects which are very much in the minds of all Scotsmen at this time. I will deal first with the question which he raised in relation to education. Hon. Members know that, up to the outbreak of war, we were engaged in carrying through a big programme of educational reform. We were bringing our schools more up to date, improving buildings and equipment, preparing for the higher leaving age, adjusting the teaching more closely to the needs of modern life, and generally trying to broaden out the educational organisation of the country. This is the kind of work which really counts in the long run for individual happiness. That work has been interrupted by the war. It is not one of the least of our grievances against those who are now our enemies that they have caused us to interrupt this great movement in Scotland, which hon. Members of all parties desired to see brought to a successful conclusion. That movement has been interrupted by the war, and big problems of readjustment have been presented to us.
The first overriding consideration was the safety of the children. As the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk said, most people believed that serious air raids might occur almost immediately after the beginning of the war, and steps were taken in many parts of the country with that consideration in mind. All schools were closed in the dangerous, neutral and reception areas. Plans for the evacuation of the children from the dangerous areas and their reception elsewhere had been made in advance, and 1095 about 100,000 children in Scotland were transferred under this plan. That was a much smaller number than was anticipated, and the fact that so many children stayed in the vulnerable areas created new difficulties and led to new adjustments of the original plan. I will speak on evacuation generally later on, but from the educational point of view one of the difficulties we had to meet was that a much smaller number of children went out than was expected, and therefore, in the sending areas, we had large numbers of children remaining with whom we had to deal. I think I can best sum up subsequent moves in regard to education in Scotland by giving a time-table of events. On 7th September, in a Departmental Circular, it was urged that all schools in the reception areas should be reopened as soon as possible. On nth September, schools in neutral areas were authorised to reopen, subject to adequate air-raid protection being available. On 23rd September, the secondary departments of senior secondary schools in the sending areas were allowed to reopen subject to three conditions, that the school was not in a specially vulnerable neighbourhood, that adequate air-raid protection was made, and that attendance should be voluntary, that is to say, that the parents should have the option of saying whether they wished the children to go to school.
§ Mr. Colville
No, Sir. It was put to them that they might do so. Subject to the conditions which I have mentioned, the schools could reopen.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean
Are we to understand that the education authorities had power, if they cared, to reopen the schools? Does that power still exist?
§ Mr. Colville
On 23rd September, the secondary departments of senior secondary schools—I was not speaking of primary schools—in the sending areas were allowed to reopen, subject to the conditions I have mentioned. On that date also, schools in the sending areas were authorised to reopen for medical inspection and treatment. The next date I will mention is 16th October. On that date, the secondary departments of 1096 junior secondary schools were permitted to reopen on the same conditions as those which I have mentioned. On 1st November, we decided to permit primary schools in the sending areas to reopen on similar conditions to those for other schools. Hon. Members will see the stages by which the reopening of schools in the sending areas has been authorised. The degree to which reopening has taken place is a matter on which I shall speak later. I hope to see an acceleration of the programme.
§ Mr. Colville
It covers them all. In the reception areas, the same sequence was followed. All available schools in the reception areas are now open, and arrangements have been made for the education of the children whose schools have been requisitioned for other purposes. I will mention later the numbers that have been requisitioned; there are not very many in the reception areas, but quite a number in the sending areas. In nine of the 12 neutral areas, all the available schools have now been wholly or partly reopened; in the other three neutral areas—Dunbarton, Fife, and West Lothian—there are still 19 schools that have not yet been reopened. In this figure of 19, there are included several schools that are being wholly or partly used for defence purposes. I may say that I am hoping that in a week's time the figure of 19 will be considerably reduced. The problem in the reception areas and neutral areas is really solved. but in the evacuation areas it is a different matter. In the evacuation areas, many of the secondary schools have now been open for several weeks, and work is going on, in the way of air-raid protection, to enable other schools, including the primary schools, to reopen where that is at all practicable. At the moment, I cannot give the total number of the schools not yet opened; the position is changing every day for the better. We have urged the authorities concerned to do all they can to take advantage of the permission that has been granted.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk suggested that it would expedite matters if conferences were held in the three main areas between the local authorities, the Scottish Education Depart- 1097 ment, and the Air-Raid Precautions authorities, that is to say, the Ministry of Home Security and the Commissioner's Office. Certainly, I will consider that suggestion, and act on it if I think it will help matters. The hon. Member will realise, of course, that contacts have been maintained between the Departments and these authorities for the purpose of getting the schools reopened, but if I felt that a conference would expedite matters, I should not hesitate to call one. About a fortnight ago, I attended a meeting in Glasgow, at which I met the representatives of the Glasgow education authority, after our recent announcement about primary schools, and discussed with them how best we could get the schools reopened.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Who will decide in Glasgow regarding the opening of schools? Is it the Secretary of State, the Home Office, the local authority, or a combination of all of them? I cannot get any responsibility fixed.
§ Mr. Colville
A school may open subject to certain conditions, among which are the conditions that it is not in a specially vulnerable spot, and that satisfactory air-raid protection is available. The local authority has to be in touch with the Scottish Education Department on the subject, and on the question of air-raid protection, expert advice is taken from the officials of the Ministry of Home Security as to the amount of protection that is required. That is to say, the A.R.P. authority have to be satisfied before a school can be reopened, and I am sure that that authority will do all it can in the light of the policy we wish to see carried out. In the event of air raiding in Scotland the schools would be closed for the time being, so that it is not intended to insist that they should have the degree of protection that would be necessary if it were intended to keep them open under all conditions. That should expedite the opening of the schools. I cannot give the number of schools open in those areas, but I can say that they are coming into use day by day. In the case of the larger authorities, such as Glasgow, the reopening of schools presents a considerable problem.
§ Mr. Colville
I cannot give a complete figure just now, but I might be able before the end of the Debate to give the number of secondary children in attendance.
§ Mr. Colville
In Glasgow there are a large number of school children, and I am doing all I can to get the authority to expedite the reopening.
§ Mr. Buchanan
They deny that they can open the schools. What I am annoyed at is this battledore and shuttlecock as between one authority and another, each one saying that it has no power. Who says that a school can be reopened? I do not want this shuffling off by one authority to another.
§ Mr. Colville
There is no shuffling off. I have explained that the schools can reopen subject to certain conditions, and the authority which has made a study of the problem of protection has to be satisfied.
§ Mr. N. Maclean
One of the conditions mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman is vulnerability. Is it not the case that Glasgow, particularly along the riverside, is considered an extra vulnerable spot, and there is no attempt to open the schools? Will the right hon. Gentleman give us a straight answer to the question whether in these places the schools can be opened if he gives authority for it, or will they remain closed in view of the conditions he has mentioned?
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member refers to "these places." There are certain schools in Glasgow which, in my view, and my view is shared by the Ministry of Home Security, it would not be safe to reopen. I cannot give a list of them just now, but there are certain schools which, on account of their position, which might be next to a factory of a particular description, or next to a shipyard, it might not be thought advisable to open. Therefore, I cannot generalise. I will do my best to get the largest number of schools open that is possible in the earliest possible time, but the location of a school in relation to some object which might attract attack must be taken into consideration. The hon. Member may hold a contrary view that any school can be 1099 reopened. I believe that there is room for some latitude and that we ought not to be too stringent with some of the places which are considered to be rather near possible points of attack. There are places, however, where the line must be drawn if we are to have regard for the safety of the children.
The number of schools available has been affected by requisitioning for various purposes. Here we did not suffer very badly in Scotland. Friendly co-operation between local education authorities and the Civil Defence and military authorities was established, and provision was made so that the Scottish Education Department should come in where there was failure to agree. In the few cases in which an appeal was made to the Department and the Department took the matter up, the military authorities found it possible to arrange for the early release of the school premises. At present 77 schools are wholly occupied for military or Civil Defence purposes, and 222 are partly occupied and are available only in part for their original purpose. Many of the schools that were requisitioned are in the vulnerable areas from which it was thought a larger number of children would be transferred than in fact took advantage of the scheme at the start. Now, however, that schools are to be reopened in these areas, it will be necessary to review the position and we may have to ask for the return of some of the schools that have been given up for defence purposes. I am sure we shall meet with a reasonable response in that regard.
The problems of the education authorities in the receiving areas are different, although they are considerable. They had to provide for large numbers of children far beyond their normal requirements and they have risen to the task with resource and spirit. Teachers and children have had to be accommodated, and there have been all the troubles of billeting, of adapting buildings and of devising suitable time-tables, sometimes on a shift system. All the problems have not been solved, but they have been tackled and solved very successfully in most areas. The double-shift system has had to be widely adopted and other expedients brought into use; but means of education, in accordance with the Scottish Code, have been provided for the 56,000 school 1100 children who came from the vulnerable areas and have remained in the receiving areas. There has been a drift back, but teachers and children who have remained are settling down, and according to the reports I am receiving the children are definitely gaining in health from their transfer from the city to the country-The more regular hours and the sound sleep and good food they are enjoying are beginning to tell in certain signs as regards their health and physique.
There are other possibilities of gain to set against the disturbance. The new interests that country life has brought to the city child may stand him and the nation in good stead in future years. In all this work of adaptation the teachers who accompanied the children have helped loyally, and the education authorities and teachers in the reception areas have done their work well. There is a great debt owing to the public generally in the reception areas. Help has come to them from various schemes for the recreation of the children. To give an example, a scheme for a travelling cinema was initiated by the Scottish Region of the Ministry of Information, and carried through with the help of the Scottish Film Council. It has been well received in the country areas, where films ranging from the most highly educational to Micky Mouse have been shown, not only to the evacuated children, but to the local children. This type of thing must be encouraged if we are to keep the children in the reception areas. Another recreational activity in reception areas is that carried through by the Scottish Football Association, who are raising funds for the organisation and equipment of football teams.
The new interest open to the town child now in the country has been apparent in several directions. One of them, which in war time is very valuable, is the movement to encourage the growing of vegetables in school gardens or on other available ground. This movement applies not only to schools in the country, but to schools in the towns where ground can be secured. The Scottish Education Department have urged this scheme on all education authorities. Several authorities anticipated the Department's recommendation. For example, in Ayrshire proposals came from the authority and a committee, representing the teaching 1101 staffs of 60 schools, the education authority, the West of Scotland Agricultural College and the Department, are working on a detailed plan. In Moray and Nairn the planting of crops in all school gardens has begun, while leaflets prepared by the North of Scotland Agricultural College have been distributed to the schools. I hope this movement will spread rapidly, because it will not only help our national effort, but will do nothing but good for the health and education of the children.
A word about the feeding and clothing of the children. Most of the schools have reopened in the neutral areas and the needs of necessitous school children have been met on the normal lines. In the sending areas the normal arrangements will be resumed as the schools are reopened, which will be as quickly as possible. The three large sending authorities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee have provided meals or clothing for 11,000 children in the receiving areas. In the receiving areas communal feeding is being developed. The hon. Member who opened the Debate referred to the work being done at Tillicoultry and Alloa in that regard. Communal feeding is not always well received. In some districts there is a prejudice against it, and it will have to be demonstrated that it is successful and popular before it becomes more general, but I am anxious to see it develop. Milk under the milk in schools scheme has been available throughout, although the lack of the usual distributing centres, that is to say, the schools in session in the sending areas, has militated to some extent against the operation of the scheme for children who have not been evacuated. With the reopening of the schools I hope the supply of milk will shortly be resumed. It is important that children should have this facility as quickly as possible. In all the other areas where the scheme was in operation before the outbreak of war it has continued, although transport difficulties have had an effect.
Let me mention another aspect of our educational life in Scotland, namely, the work of the technical colleges and continuation classes. A recent statement about the position in England may have caused some misunderstanding. The fact is that all the central institutions under my jurisdiction in Scotland have been 1102 reopened and are reviving day and evening classes. In the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science day classes only are in operation. The number of students in these central institutions are down. That is to be understood in view of the black-out, but I hope it will not be a permanent feature. The day students are only about 50 per cent. of the normal in these institutions, and evening students about 46 per cent. Since 16th September all education authorities have been free to resume continuation classes and adult education classes, subject to adequate air-raid protection, up to 10 p.m. Advantage has been taken of these arrangements to some extent, but not to the extent that I should like to see. The progress of reopening is rather slow. At the most recent date for which I have information the number of centres opened was no, as compared with 856 last year. I hope that progress will be made, because these continuation classes are an essential part of our educational system, and during this abnormal period they can play an important part in maintaining the essentials of our community life as it affects our young people. I am anxious to do whatever is possible to get a larger number of these continuation classes opened. The lack of schools and things of that kind do present difficulties, but we are pushing on with the matter. As in the day-school system, the abnormal conditions have led to some interesting experiments in continued education. Hon. Members will know of the Newbattle Abbey scheme. Although the house has been taken over for emergency purposes Newbattle Abbey tutors are working in conjunction with the Workers' Educational Association on a long-term scheme of rural pioneering work. The lectures they have organised so far have had a very encouraging start, and I hope there will be a successful development here.
To sum up, I think we can say that our educational system is adjusting itself to the abnormal conditions in which we are living. It has had to sacrifice a good deal, but there is no suggestion of wreckage. We hope even shortly to introduce a Wartime Senior Leaving Certificate to take the place of the certificate which, mainly because of the difficulty of securing a fair assessment of the merits of pupils living under widely different conditions, we have had to suspend. I 1103 hope to be able to introduce this Wartime Senior Leaving Certificate, for which there is a good demand.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Can the Minister say whether it will be accepted by the Scottish Universities as equivalent to matriculation, as in the case of the former leaving certificate, and can we be sure that the students will not have to start studying some different subjects after they leave school?
§ Mr. Colville
Yes, that is understood and agreed to. I have not made my announcement about it yet, because I am in touch with several authorities on the subject, but the point which the hon. Member has raised is being looked after. Although I have not made the announcement yet, I will see that the point is attended to before I do so.
§ Mr. Colville
Very soon. I am going into the question with certain authorities now, and as soon as I can I will make the announcement—I hope in about a week.
The new code has been preserved intact, and with a continuation of the good work of education authorities and teachers we shall lose very little, and probably gain a good deal, from the necessities of our time and the spirit of invention which they are producing. It will take a good deal to shake Scotland's grip on the essentials of her educational system. The big problem is to get as many children as possible back to school in the sending areas, and in that object I shall welcome the co-operation of hon. Members on all sides of the House. They can rest assured that I shall make no unnecessary restrictions, though I might join issue with certain hon. Members as regards the vulnerability of particular schools.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
In cases where school buildings are held to be too vulnerable for use, what arrangements will be made to draft the children who attend there ordinarily to other schools, or to provide alternative accommodation?
§ Mr. Colville
It will be for the local authorities to put up the scheme. As the hon. Member who opened the Debate 1104 said, it may involve the adoption of the two-shift system in order to get children accommodated elsewhere. The local authorities will have to do their best if a particular school is taken out to provide accommodation elsewhere.
Now I want to say a word upon evacuation, because that is an important part of the subject. The problem in Scotland was to provide for the transfer to safer areas of about 500,000 persons in what are known as the priority classes from the five Scottish sending areas—Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Clydebank and Rosyth. Others have been added since— North and South Queensferry and Inver-keithing. They were to be prepared to move in such a way that the evacuation could be carried out at 24 hours' notice, and we had to find room in the receiving areas for the persons transferred. This last task was by no means easy. It is well known that Scotland has not a superfluity of houses. If you look at a map of Scotland you might think it was easy to spread the population of these cities over the vast areas of Inverness-shire and Ross and Cromarty-—until it is remembered that in those parts there are only five houses to the square mile. Therefore, in many parts of Scotland the problem of finding housing accommodation for those transferred was very great. When evacuation was actually carried out about 175,000 persons, or only 34 per cent. of the total numbers in the priority classes, took advantage of the Government scheme. The position to-day—and this is of special interest—is that roughly one-half of the school children are out of the sending areas. That is due not only to the Government scheme but also to a good deal of private effort. There has been a drift back to the sending areas. Taking Scotland as a whole we find that about 50 per cent. of the persons evacuated have come home up to the present time.
§ Mr. Colville
Yes, under the Government scheme; but a great number more had moved under private arrangements. 1105 In point of fact, about half the school children are out of the cities. Taking the Government scheme, about half of the persons, including mothers as well as children, who went out under that scheme have come back.
§ Mr. Woodburn
If the half includes the mothers, then the proportion with regard to the children will be greater?
§ Mr. Colville
I was coming to that point. Of the unaccompanied children 60 per cent. of the Government evacuees are still out in the receiving areas. The drift back was greater in the case of the mothers. The percentages I have given are average percentages, but I think the House may be interested to hear some of the variations between counties. Take the extreme contrast. Of the mothers and children who went out from Dundee 74 per cent. have returned, whereas only 21 per cent. of the unaccompanied children who went from Edinburgh have come back. Those figures corroborate the general reports that unaccompanied children have, on the whole, been easier to accommodate or have settled down more readily.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Can the right hon. Gentleman compare like with like? He compared the accompanied children in Dundee with the unaccompanied children in Edinburgh. Cannot he give us the two figures for Edinburgh or the two figures for Dundee?
§ Mr. Colville
I may be able to do so before the end of the Debate. My object was really not so much to compare like with like as to illustrate the fact that the unaccompanied child has stayed in many more cases than has the mother. Here are some figures which compare like with like. The following counties have retained over 80 per cent. of the unaccompanied children—Kinross, Midlothian, Nairn, Peebles, Clackmannan, East Lothian, Inverness and West Lothian. In the following counties the percentage remaining is under 50—Angus, Argyll, Perth and Wigtown. I have been trying to see whether I can draw conclusions from these figures, but I cannot. Still, it is a matter of interest to note that in certain parts of the country the unaccompanied children have stayed and that in other parts of the country, owing to various circumstances, they have not stayed to the same extent. I have been told that statistics may be made to prove any- 1106 thing. I am not going to attempt to make these figures prove anything, but rather will pass them on to hon. Members for digestion and consideration.
§ Mr. Westwood
Is it not possible that the great distances to which some of these children were sent and the fact that there was not the same opportunity of parents seeing their children may have resulted in more coming back from the far away places?
§ Mr. Colville
It was not that. Edinburgh evacuated to Inverness and Inverness has retained over 80 per cent.
§ Mr. Woodburn rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must ask hon. Members to allow the Minister to make his speech.
§ Mr. Colville
I think I am a little to blame for throwing out rather tantalising figures and inviting the House to draw conclusions. I think that when hon. Members read my speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT they will have food for thought in these figures.
So much for the statistical picture. The human picture is one of light and shade, and, unfortunately, the shade has been stressed rather more than the light. So far as can be made out from the most reliable reports, there has been a good deal of exaggeration in the account of the condition of the children on arrival in the reception areas. The result of this has been to create a quite unwarranted prejudice against the scheme. On the other hand, there is no room for complacency. Far too many of the children were found to be dirty and badly trained. We have to preserve a balance and a common sense view. Many of us know that the reasons for these troubles are to be found in the slums. We should be deluding ourselves if we blamed the inadequacy of our social services. It is a much bigger problem than that. A reasonable attitude is expressed in the following extract from a recent letter in the Press, and is humorously put. The writer, after referring to the difficulties with which she has to struggle in dealing with the evacuated children—and she did not mince her words—seems to me to put the thing in a common sense way. She wrote: 1107—now, with the remaining unattached children, I frankly admit that I am beginning thoroughly to enjoying reaping some reward. I know few greater satisfactions than to see these children from the slums getting some colour into their cheeks; putting on weight; growing daily less noisy and better mannered; to see their minds opening to new interests and healthy forms of fun; and to watch them discovering that life can hold lots of excitement apart from gangster fights, petty thieving and escapes from the cops. Of course, like all children they are often exasperating little devils and strain one's temper to breaking point. But, surely, in war-time we at home should not grudge straining our tempers while our young men are risking their lives, especially when we realise that what we have the chance of doing is a really fine national service on behalf of the rising generation.That letter may not be expressed in very parliamentary language, but it brings out the point of view of a great many people.
§ Mr. Colville
Some of these people came up against conditions which they did not know existed and they got a shock when they found out. Then they readjusted themselves, and they are now rendering good service, realising that this service is in the national interest. Undoubtedly the children who have come from the crowded city areas have benefited from the fresh air. In one large house where there are over 50 children, under the very competent care of a Glasgow domestic science teacher, there has not even been a single cold in the head among the children. The only illness reported was one case of impetigo—curiously enough the one case of a child who would not eat his porridge. There may be a deep meaning behind that.
Let me give one or two statistics on the question of recovering billeting payment. By agreement with local authorities, this scheme is being carried out by local officials. Thanks to them, it is working very smoothly, on the whole. The full figures are not yet available, but fairly complete figures have been obtained. These figures show that, of the parents whose cases have been dealt with, 48 per cent. are paying 6s. or over, 28 per cent. are paying sums ranging from 6s. to 1s., 6 per cent. are not required to make any contribution under the scale and 18 per cent. are in receipt 1108 of unemployment assistance or public assistance and make no contribution, since deductions are made from their allowances in respect of their children. I have beard of some cases where parents have brought children home without taking the trouble to find out how much they would have to pay. They believed they would have to pay the whole 6s. I hope that any parent who thinks he cannot afford the assessed amount will have a talk with the assessing officer before he decides to bring his child home. This may often clear up misunderstanding that may be in his mind.
What is the most hopeful line of development in future in receiving areas? Everyone recognises the real sacrifices that have been made by the receiving householders. No one on the home front has done more than the housewives who opened their homes to the children. Our aim must be to lighten their task, which will not become easier as time goes on. It is a task to which people may have given themselves unselfishly, but nevertheless the strain may tell over a longish period. Can we lighten their task? A circular issued last week suggests methods of doing this. For instance, a redistribution of billets may be needed, because one woman may be struggling with four or five children while another will have none. Probably most can be done by communal activities. The most important thing is to organise occupation for the children.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk referred to communal activities. We are trying, by means of play centres and in other ways, to make their burden easier. At Christmas time, particularly, an effort should be made in this matter. In certain areas, excursions will be run for parents, but not at the New Year, for the reason that at that time transport will be taken up largely with soldiers returning on leave. We must also bear in mind that it is advisable to avoid a great arrival of parents in the reception areas on Christmas day. This is a matter on which it is impossible to lay down the law, and it would be very stupid to try to do anything of the kind. It must be left to the consideration of the parents themselves but if they go down on Sundays they must not be surprised if householders do not in all cases provide for them on arrival.
§ Mr. Colville
I would remind the hon. Member that the Good Book says that there are certain things that one can do on the Sabbath and one of them may be to pay a visit to the children.
The hon. Member who initiated the Debate asked me to say a word or two on the hospital scheme, and particularly about the emergency hospital scheme. He said, quite rightly, and 1 cannot disagree with him, that there were none too many beds. He will be glad to know that we are really making progress with regard to the provision of beds for casualties in war time. He asked whether a larger number of beds earmarked for casualties could be free in order to provide for the sick and to give opportunities for training. I am glad to have this opportunity of assuring the House that we are making real progress with our emergency hospital service. While no-one with a sense of responsibility would wish to be overconfident in a matter of this kind before the: event, I feel that we can meet any strain that is likely to be put on our hospital and casualty services, if our programme, which is going on fast enough, reaches completion. We have secured for the treatment of casualties some 12,000 beds in existing hospitals. We had a larger number, but we allowed a number of the beds to be filled again by specially sick cases. The number can be increased at short notice to 14,500. Adaptation of mental hospitals and three large hotels should give us, in a few months' time, some 5,100 additional beds. The hutted hospitals and hutted annexes that are being built will give us 10,000 more. In all the programmes will give us some 31,000 beds. I have spent a good deal of my time whenever I have been visiting in Scotland going round these hospitals and I have been very much impressed with the way in which these hospitals are rising up.
The needs of the ordinary sick, as well as the special war-time problem relating to military cases, are not being overlooked. Hospitals included in the scheme will be expected to admit all persons who may fairly be said to be in urgent need of institutional treatment. I stress that point. A certain proportion can be used for that purpose. We must keep in mind the possibility of air-raid casualties, but, 1110 as I told hon. Members some weeks ago, arrangements are being made under which the additional hospital accommodation that is being provided in the different parts of the country will be available for the ordinary sick if they cannot obtain treatment elsewhere, so that our war-time work of providing these additional beds will have its bearing on the needs of the ordinary sick as well. In the limited time at my disposal I cannot go further into this matter now, but I am issuing a brochure on the subject of the hospital services which will give information in some detail. I will send a copy to all Scottish Members. I am sorry I have not it in my possession to-night but I will have it shortly. It will provide a good deal of information about this hospital scheme.
Army personnel in urgent need of institutional treatment are admitted to hospitals in the emergency service in the same way as civilian cases. In addition, arrangements have been made in Scotland, at the request of the Deputy-Director of Medical Services, Scottish Command, under which accommodation is being made available for 500 Army sick who require light hospital treatment which cannot be afforded in hospitals under the control of the military authorities. The patients are being admitted in the main to base hospitals on the understanding that they will be evacuated as rapidly as practicable if the hospital beds are required for the emergency service. An extension of this arrangement to cover some hundreds of additional patients is under consideration.
The scheme in Scotland of which I have just given a thumbnail sketch is that there are 12,000 beds in existing hospitals. That number may be raised by 2,500 by adaptation of mental hospitals and in other ways to give an additional 5,000 beds. I have in mind a programme of 31,000 beds. A number of these can be made available to help the ordinary sick in the localities in which they have been provided when they are not immediately required for casualties. They are also being made available in some degree for other cases. The point was raised earlier in the day about providing for training for the nurses and the medical personnel. We have the raw material to train but so far we may be thankful that our raw material to train on has not been brought about by casual- 1111 ties from air raids. We must be prepared for them and we can make use of this nursing service meantime and train them to the greatest degree possible. I have taken longer over my review than I intended, but even now I have only been able to sketch the hospital service scheme. It is very important to have had this Debate in the House of Commons, in order to examine the problem, and I am sure that the Debate will still continue to raise a number of important points.
§ Sir J. Train
My right hon. Friend said that 12,000 beds would be available, but is he taking account of the shortage of beds in the hospitals of which there are thousands apart from the war in Glasgow? He must be well aware that in the Royal Infirmary, the Victoria Infirmary and the Western Infirmary there are hundreds of people on the waiting list. Where are those beds to be found in such places as Glasgow except by taking out some of the people who are in them?
§ Mr. Colville
I do not want to go back over ground which I have covered. Existing hospitals are concentrated in the big cities, but we are putting hospital annexes on the fringes of the big cities. At Rob-royston the other day I saw a very big annexe scheme being put down. There are others elsewhere and in addition to these there are ad hoc hospitals which add a great deal to the number of beds already in existence. We are in the initial stage, but already a number of beds are being allowed to go back to use.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Leonard
With the general picture displayed by my hon. Friend from the Opposition Front Bench, I agree, because it sets out in its main details my own attitude on this matter. I was very interested in the speech of the Secretary of State especially in the passages about the future and with the part dealing with the schools. Particularly was that the case when he went in some detail into the formula, that had to be applied when application was made to determine the school which would be available for the children. I am at variance with some of my colleagues with regard to this scheme. My attitude is related to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement 1112 that we may in the future have a very heavy bombardment to sustain, especially in view of the fact that it is not contemplated to create shelters of a very heavy character. If a heavy bombardment takes place in Glasgow, I do not think schools, protected or otherwise, are places for the children of that city.
Therefore, and especially in view of what has been stated, that fresh air has made such marked differences to those who have had the advantage of it, I have looked with favour towards any scheme which would guarantee that to the children. I have been kindly disposed to look at the dormitory system of schools which could, in my opinion, be erected very speedily. I have seen them in operation in the Midlands of England, and I have seen the result upon the children; this and the fact that education was not interrupted in any sense leads me to think that more should be done in that direction than is being done at the present time if it were adopted as a policy. With regard to erection, I notice that there are many of these dormitory hutments being erected for civil servants who are having difficulties with regard to their evacuated locations, and if it is possible there, something can be done for the children, provided that they were put in locations round our cities which would be easily accessible to the parents of the children. That is one of the main points, because many of the difficulties that have arisen in some cities have been caused by the inaccessibility of the parents to the children.
My next point is with regard to allowances to parents who cannot contribute anything towards their children's upkeep. If this thing called war continues, we may have more of these difficulties. I have been informed that in some cases the children were on holiday prior to the given date, and the date on which they were left in the homes at which they were on holiday can be countenanced for a grant. I am also informed—and cases have been given to me—that if similar conditions apply to children who, instead of being on holiday in Scotland, were on holiday in Ireland, no grant can be given to them, although it must be realised that if parents are prepared to leave children in the homes in which they are on holiday and look upon them as satisfactory homes, and if a proper check can be kept 1113 on the amounts expended and also an assurance received from both sides that payment should not be excluded as a point to which benefit would accrue to parents, there is no reason why a grant should not be made.
I would like the Minister to give some special attention to child welfare centres. In the city of Glasgow they are at present closed. Generally, I think, they are one-storey buildings, not very heavy structures, and could be adequately and rather cheaply protected. I wish to stress the importance of the work which they perform. These child welfare centres take the child of a mother who has no other support and who must go out to work. At the present time those mothers have to find alternative accommodation and pay for it, while they have still to perform the task of providing for their livelihood. In my own division there is one such place lying absolutely empty, and the children who usually occupy it are in tenement buildings round about it. I see no reason why those children should not go back to that centre and obtain the care and guidance that such a place provides.
With regard to the reception areas, I regret to say that rather an awful spectacle took place in the main square of Glasgow this last week-end. There was a family called Ross; the man, who was receiving assistance from the Unemployment Assistance Board, and his wife and eight children had been taken to Fairway and there placed in a home. They were very happy, with the children out of danger and within reasonable access of the city. Unfortunately, the place they were put in belonged to a person who desired to occupy the house. I am not blaming anyone now.—
§ Mr. Leonard
I am stating the facts as they were given to me. The person desired the house and visited the family, who agreed with the reception officer that they should go to another place. They went into another house, but, unfortunately, they were faced with the fact that they had moved without the consent of the officer. The officer, it is alleged, sent this family back to Glasgow. They got to Glasgow without any guidance, and they were directed to the poor house, 1114 where they remained for the week-end. On Monday they were found in the main Glasgow square and had to be given attention by the medical authorities. When families are allocated to homes of any description, it is very desirable that there should be a reasonable surety of being able to continue in them during the period of danger, and it should be made clear to the officers in reception areas that they have no right to return evacuees to the cities from which they had been evacuated without adequate arrangements being made for their reception, as I am advised took place in the city of Glasgow.
With regard to administration, this is not a major point, but it appears strange to me that the three very important units —ambulance units, first-aid posts, and first-aid parties—have divided control. I am informed that the ambulance units and first-aid posts are under the control of the Department of Health, but that the first-aid parties are under the control of the Home Office. I am advised that this has caused slight difficulties, and it might be desirable to examine the possibility of getting those three units which all act in unison under one control. My final point deals with the regulations that apply in Scotland with regard to the first-aid posts. I have had the advantage of looking at the regulations covering England, and I see that in the English regulations concerning the personnel of the air-raid posts provision is made for 50 per cent. of the total being full-time appointments. Circular No. 35 from the Department of Health of Scotland reads:Circular No. 18 contained certain recommendations as to the organisation of the personnel allotted to each local authority's district in accordance with the terms of Home Office Circular No. 1 1939, dated 4th January, 1939. Briefly, the effect of these recommendations was that in those areas to which personnel had been allocated on the basis of 60 per post (ten men and 50 women) the full-time personnel should constitute 20 per cent. ‖I would like the Minister to tell us what factors make it necessary to differentiate between England and Scotland, allowing 50 per cent. full-time for England and only 20 per cent. for Scotland, and in particular I wish to draw his attention to the peculiar position in which Glasgow is situated. It is impossible to give adequate service unless the peculiar character of the Clyde and of Glasgow is considered, because there are the docks, all the engineering works, and the munition 1115 works to be considered, in addition to the congestion of the city. There are other parts of Scotland as well, but Glasgow in particular should be given recommendation of the basis which applies in similar circumstances in England. There is also the difficulty that unfortunately in many of the vulnerable areas it is more difficult to get volunteers than it is in the less vulnerable areas. Because those areas are very vulnerable and also because the inhabitants will not come forward for volunteer work, they should have an opportunity of elasticity with regard to the applications for personnel.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
I have been very interested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, but I was rather surprised that he left out one point when dealing with evacuees. All of us were struck by the fact that their health was not as it was expected to be, nor were their habits as clean as many people expected. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, but I want to put this point strongly. No steps seem to be taken at the present time to do anything to train these children to be more cleanly and to improve their habits. There was talk about opening more schools. When I hear about opening schools, I am rather inclined to think that that point is often raised by many of the teachers in the country who are more interested in their employment in the teaching profession than they are in the welfare of the children.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
It may be in the interests of the children if they obtained proper education. What I want to point out with regard to the question of cleanliness is that the teachers are not very willing to take any of the responsibility in this direction. I had the pleasure of working on the education authority in my own county for some years before I came into this House, and it was my duty to inspect country schools. In one of the country schools which I visited the children's hands were filthy, their faces were dirty, and they had no handkerchiefs and had to use anything in the 1116 form of a handkerchief. I said to the teacher, "You have soap, basins, and towels provided by the Government. Why are not these children's faces and hands clean?" The reply given to me by the teacher was that it was not his duty to look after the cleanliness of the children. When I brought that matter to the notice of the school management committee, the same reply was given to me, namely, that it was not the duty of the teachers to look after the cleanliness of the children. What is the use of having medical inspection of children if the teachers do not make sure that they use the soap and water provided? It is ridiculous to talk about throat trouble when the children have no handkerchiefs and are not taught to blow their noses.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
No. It may be better now—[Interruption.] Things do not seem to have been any better in some of the towns from which the children were evacuated. They came in a very dirty condition, and the right hon. Gentleman has not told us that he is going to do anything to put that right. The first thing we should do is to see that these children are clean and healthy. Our child welfare and medical school services have evidently been very deficient. We are told that being in the country improves the health of the children. Why not go further and see that while they are in the country the children are taught to be clean? I say, with all deference, to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Let us take the opportunity to train children to be clean. We often hear from the Secretary of State about infantile mortality. Everyone knows that that is largely due to lack of training and lack of attention when the children are small. The thing to do is to train the children to be clean, and then, when they themselves become mothers, they will know how to look after their children. We have an opportunity now, but nothing seems to be done to take advantage of it. The Government are going to spend money on films and on various other things. Why not first teach the children to look after themselves?
§ Mr. Colville
Is the hon. Member referring particularly to the country areas 1117 now, or to the town areas? It was understood that any children evacuated after the first evacuation were to be inspected, and that they did not go out of the towns unless they were clean. I take it that his desire is that in the country areas there should be the sort of teaching that he recommends?
§ Sir R. W. Smith
Not only in the country areas, but in the urban areas as well. Improvement is needed just as much in the urban areas. The children in the urban areas need to be trained to be clean, so that you will not have to have a medical inspection before they go out. The Secretary of State admits now that it is necessary to have a medical examination in order to see whether these children are clean before they can be sent out. and that is an indication of failure in this respect. I deprecate very much the practice of reading one letter from one person in order to prove anything, as the Secretary of State did just now. Let us deal with the big point, and not concern ourselves merely with one woman's opinion.
Then there is the question of emergency hospitals. That was raised in two articles by Professor Charles McNeil which appeared in the "Scotsman" on 3rd November and 6th November. Those articles contain a number of interesting points with regard to the health of children. He points out that in this coming winter there will be a certain amount of infectious illness and a certain amount of non-infectious illness, and that the treatment of illness in young children is often very different from that of illness in grown-ups. Therefore, in this emergency there should be places where the nurses and the medical men who look after them are accustomed to dealing with infant children. I think that is a very important point. You have brought into the country a large number of children, and our hospital accommodation for infectious illness is very limited in the country districts. If we have an outbreak of diphtheria, scarlet fever, or anything of that sort, we ought to have enough accommodation for the children to be properly segregated. I hope the Secretary of State will not think I am criticising what has been done. I think that in this matter of evacuation the country has done wonderfully. But we should be failing in our duty if, having found 1118 the weaknesses that exist in connection with the health of children, we did not take steps at once to put those matters right.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
I am sure that this Debate will have been useful in connection with the general question of evacuation and the problems that have arisen from evacuation. It seems to me that we are depending almost entirely for the initiation of Debates on Scottish problems upon the few fleeting visits we have from the hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench. [Interruption.] Well, it appears to me that the Debate has been initiated by him, and that he is here to-day taking part in an arranged Debate between the two Front Benches. After having taken part in the Debate, the hon. Gentleman, who is dividing his time very unequally between service to the National Government and service to his division, will no doubt be able to go home to-night and say, "Little man, you've had a busy day."
In spite of that, the Debate has been useful. When the Secretary of State said that many of us were annoyed with the enemy that has prevented the great progress to which he and the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway had jointly looked forward in this country, I am quite sure that we were not all agreed as to the "enemy" that was responsible for the continuation of this great human and social problem. We are suffering to-day from the effects of allowing the private interests of the world to be in the hands of a few persons whose economic rivalry and contradictions have forced this country into a war that has thrown up tremendous problems, which the human race has got to solve. If human beings can apply their minds not only to war, but to the great economic causes that produce war and produce all the contradictory problems that ensue from a great world war, we may look forward to great strides being made in human progress at the conclusion of this great conflagration.
It is no use for hon. Members to come to this House armed with facts regarding the conduct of evacuees. I am sure nobody wishes to utter any condemnation of either the evacuees or those who have received them, very kindly in many cases; those whose homes, I would say, 1119 have been invaded, in many cases against their will. I am human enough to believe that in similar circumstances I should not accept that position without a certain amount of regret. There is something to be said on both sides; both with regard to the people whose homes have been invaded and with regard to those who, through no fault of their own, have been compelled to leave areas where they have always resided hitherto. In many cases these people have lived in those areas since their childhood and become old people without ever having had a holiday. It is only at such a time as this that such people have been able to get out of their industrial compounds.
I agree with the Secretary of State when he says that it is not only a question of children who are badly trained or dirty in their habits, and of the intolerance of those who are receiving them. There is a background of probably a century or more of industrial life, of slum-dom, of people herded together like cattle in a byre in olden days, of children who have had little or no opportunity for culture, whose fathers and mothers have had to throw them out at the age of 11 into part-time employment and at the age of 14 into the industrial compound and into the mine. These parents are compelled to live under housing conditions that would shock any human being with any feelings of humanity, and they are compelled to drive their children out at an early hour in the morning in order to get living space in the home. It ill becomes those who have lived, by rent, profit, and interest, on these people, and, by a seizure of the unpaid wages of the workers, have themselves lived in riotous luxury, to utter condemnation of the victims they have created and the unholy social system under which they have compelled these people to live. The less that can be heard of that attitude towards these children and their mothers, the better.
I am not going to deny that there are children and mothers with dirty habits. I have had 28 years' experience in the building trade, during which time I have been going every day in and out of houses in the area that I represent, and on some days I have visited as many as 20 houses in the course of my occupation. I 1120 realise, therefore, the lack of opportunity and the lack of training that these children have had, and the environment in which they have been brought up, often in houses that no amount of effort could convert into home, because they were bug-ridden, vermin-infested dwellings. In these places, where many of them are compelled to live, as I have seen in various areas in Glasgow when I worked for the Glasgow Corporation, with 20 families to one W.C., and one sink on the stairhead with one tap, we cannot expect children, who are brought up under such conditions and are looked upon as slaves for the industrial markets or of cannon-fodder in war when they become 18 years of age, to have all the culture of the bishop's son or the Cabinet Minister's son and daughter. It is too outrageous, even in a discussion in this House, to imagine that these children should have that culture which they have never been allowed to develop because of the conditions in which they live and the economic circumstances surrounding their home life. Therefore, in my estimation, taking into account all the difficulties, it is surprising that so many children succeed in rising above their surroundings. A large percentage of the children rise above the surroundings in which they have been brought up.
Children have been evacuated from these areas into the country districts. It is a tremendous drawback in the eyes of those who have been taken from an industrial town to go into a country area, though it may not be so in reality. These children who have been with one another from infancy have been planted in a country area and separated from that kind of life. It is probable that after three months they might be so inspired with their new life and environment that there would be a certain reaction if they were plunged back into the industrial towns. They would have a new appreciation of country life and of its opportunities.
It is also true that people in the country areas have never had a proper appreciation of the life of these children in the slums and congested areas of the great cities. Therefore, I sympathise with those whose homes have been invaded. The sanctity of the home is a great thing, but to be compelled to accept another family when having only limited accommodation, and perhaps one bathroom and one 1121 cooking apartment, is very difficult, and is inclined to put the roughest edge on tempers on both sides.
There is the question of all the people drifting back again, and I do not wonder at it. When the mothers of the children go into these homes they have no home life there, and they are expected in many cases, we have been told, to go out of the house after they have had their breakfast. They can do nothing but wander through the streets or parks. In the coming winter there will not only be dampness but fog, and it will be a tremendous trial for older people. Children can overcome these difficulties to a greater extent than the older people. I am glad to hear at least from the Secretary of State that in the evacuation after the first period was a proper and more thorough inspection of children going out of the cities before they reached these areas where they were to reside. The breakdown and trouble in the first evacuation arose because the children did not go through a clearing centre to be examined by a doctor, and were not cleaned by some personal attendant where cleanliness was required. I remember, when 1 was 17 years of age, joining the Royal Navy, and when I went to Great Hamilton Street, Glasgow, the first thing they did was to send me to Queen head Baths for a bath. I was then sent overnight to London to Whitehall—that was my first association with Whitehall— and when I had passed I was told to take a hot bath. On the same Saturday evening I was sent to Chatham Naval Dockyard, and the first thing that happened there was that I had to have another bath. I had had no food, but had had plenty of water. I believe in feeding the man inside and cleaning him outside, but from 2 o'clock on the Friday afternoon to 6 o'clock on the Saturday evening I had had no food, but I had had three baths. The result was I was a perfectly clean citizen and was prepared for the ordinary occupations in the Naval dockyard. I have never had any great objection to baths, and I think that part of the trouble in this matter has been that in a large number of cases in the great industrial centres there have not been opportunities for people to obtain baths. There has been an improvement in this matter in recent years owing to the building of the newer type of house, but I remember that when there were five or six of us in our 1122 family each of us had to take a bath in a tub, in the only apartment we had, on Friday and Tuesday evenings.
§ Mr. McGovern
Yes, twice a week. Sometimes when I had been on a cycling tour it was twice a day. I have always believed that cleanliness is next to godliness. We had to bath ourselves in the one apartment, and if there is a desire on the part of fathers, mothers and children to escape having a bath because they have not a bathroom or proper accommodation, one can see how dirty habits grow.
This problem which has arisen in the evacuation is one which any person with vision might have known would take place. To move 175,000 people in a small country is a tremendous job. In spite of my views with regard to the war, I believe that those who have taken part in many of the efforts during the war should be complimented, although there may be faults to be found and things to be rectified. Evacuation was bound to produce a tremendous amount of failure. If there had been an earlier decision to go ahead with the provision of large underground shelters in industrial areas, there would have been no need for the large-scale evacuation which has taken place. If it was intended that there should be this evacuation, wooden housing centres ought to have been established in order to allow these people to enjoy the development of some sort of communal and social life.
I spent two years in Australia, and I went from North Queensland right down to Melbourne, touching every town, and I found that all the farming schemes in Australia broke down because isolated individuals were sent away from their home environment when the success of those schemes was dependent upon settling familities and allowing them to develop their social, economic and cultural life in a communal way instead of isolating individuals from those whom they had known all their lives. The hunger for association is a tremendous thing. I found it at times as a grown individual. I hungered for the home association of people like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and all my political associates in the Labour and Socialist movement in Glasgow with whom I had 1123 grown up. Therefore, I can understand the desire for association.
I cannot understand the question of vulnerability in relation to schools. My boy of II years of age attends a school on the Toll Cross area which is just over the border in the county. We live in the Glasgow area, but he goes to a county school with which Glasgow has an arrangement. There are county and city children in this school. My boy has been at that school since the first opening shortly after the outbreak of war. Attendance was part-time for a week or two, but it has been whole-time attendance for quite a time now. There are other children around there, and there is a school in Toll Cross which they are not now permitted to attend. My boy passes it on his way and it is not a quarter of a mile from the school he attends, but that school has not been opened because it is in a vulnerable area, but it is a great deal further away than the school which my boy attends. This will interest the Secretary of State for Scotland. The school which my boy attends is not a quarter of a mile from Colville's Iron and Steel Works, but the other school is half a mile away.
This shows the utter stupidity of the whole scheme. If the war should last for four years, which is not such an outrageous possibility, though it is one we would all deplore, what will happen? We have been told by some people that precautions have been taken for it lasting three years, by others for it lasting five years, while there are people who have gone to the extent of suggesting 10 years, but if the war should last three years, what is likely to happen to the education of the children of the nation? If you take six months out of the educational life of a child in many cases you will be putting it back almost to the A.B.C. period, because some of the children are not unwilling to remain outside school. I remember after raising the question of the opening of schools with the Secretary of State for Scotland some time ago, that on the following day a note was put through my letter-box on which was written in childish handwriting," No more school or we will raise a boycott of you."
I can understand that, because when I was at school I liked the outside of it better than the inside. I used to play 1124 truant, sometimes for two or three weeks, by getting various excuses sent to the school as the reason for my absence. I was a problem to my mother in relation to school, and I have great sympathy for school children. Nevertheless, I realise that this is a problem that ought to be solved and that the Minister to-day was not in the position that he ought not to have been in in facing this Debate. He ought to have come with more information as to those upon whom the real responsibility rests for the decision with regard to reopening the schools. If it is to be decided whether the schools are in a vulnerable area, why has not a decision been reached? Why cannot the children from certain schools in Glasgow be sent to other schools that are open? Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman mention the schools to be opened, stating that provision must be made in the schools to be opened for the children from the schools that are closed, even if there is to be a two-shift system in the schools? We should welcome that as a step towards the education of the children in these areas.
Mothers come to me from time to time, as they do to most hon. Members when they visit their constituencies at the week-end, and they say that children are being summoned to juvenile courts. There is an increasing number of children in Glasgow who are getting into the hands of the authorities, because of the fact that their energy is being diverted into channels which result in trouble for themselves and their parents. Mothers and fathers are, therefore, anxious about the reopening of the schools. There are children from 11 to 12 years of age in regard to whom it is essential that there should be a continuation of education in order that they should not lapse back and lose the progress that they have made during their period at school.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to have this matter of the reopening of schools taken up seriously at once. He tells us that it will depend largely on whether air raids take place. That may be true. I remember being in Barcelona when one day a school was bombed. I do not suggest that they attempted to bomb the school. They were bombing ships in the harbour, and near the harbour was a school for children who had developed physical troubles—invalid children. Forty-two of these children were 1125 blown to pieces by one bomb. One body next day was picked up from the roof of a building a considerable distance away, having been blown from the school by the terrific force of the bomb.
We cannot go on the assumption that these children are to have no education during the whole period of the war. Glasgow might be regarded entirely as a vulnerable area. We have Beardmore's at Parkhead in the midst of one area, and we have the shipyards in Govan, where there are also a large number of engineering shops. In almost every division in Glasgow you can find a large number of works, even in the middle-class areas. These might be bombed. If it is to be said that there is a possibility that all these places may be bombed, then I can visualise a position in which we should not be provided in any way with schools.
§ Mr. Colville
It is not intended that it should be said that Glasgow, for example, is an area where education will be impossible. What I said was that it would be inadvisable to open certain schools in certain areas. I could have mentioned a number of such schools, but I thought it would be inadvisable to do so, because I am trying to reduce the number, in consultation with the A.R.P. authorities. In the event of our not being able to reopen the schools it will be the task of the authorities, as far as possible, to get the children transferred to schools elsewhere, in order to keep education running.
§ Mr. McGovern
I am thinking at the moment of one school in my own area, St. Michaels, which might be regarded as a dangerous school, but what I am concerned about is, when is a scheme going to be evolved that will give these children an opportunity of education? It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that this or that is a vulnerable area, unless we know what provision is to be made for the education of children from those areas. The war has been going on for some time. The Government ought to have thought out these problems long before the war and have made preparations. The fact that they made no preparations need not be an excuse now for not going ahead and getting something done in circumstances of this kind.
1126 I want some clear understanding of what is going to be done. A conference of some kind has been suggested. I do not see the need for a conference. I only see the need for a discussion between the education authority and the Minister, so that we may know that certain schools will be opened immediately, that others have been placed on the danger list and that children from the evacuated schools will be accommodated in the schools that are to be opened, even on the two-shift system. That would give an opportunity for schools to open at once. There is tremendous feeling in regard to this matter in the City of Glasgow, not only amongst parents but amongst those educationists who have the interests of education and of the children at heart. Therefore, I suggest that in this respect the Minister has badly failed to-day in giving us no real definite understanding as to what is to be done.
In regard to other matters, such as hospitals, etc., I will leave other hon. Members to deal with them. I am concerned with this particular problem, which is the outcome of the selfishness of a small section of the community, whose economic interests have driven us into war, with the result that the great mass of the people have to sacrifice themselves, their comforts and their opportunities because of these rivalries that exist. Because the war has taken place these problems are thrown up and we have to be ready to face them as they are thrown up. We must ask that, in the end, the people will profit by the knowledge that as long as this materialist system of capitalism remains we shall have war, we shall have this aftermath of war, we shall have these problems, and that the only way to get rid of the whole of these problems is to begin to build a civilised system by taking control of the means of life out of the hands of the few and placing them in the hands of the many.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Morrison
It is a very ill wind indeed that has blown us two Debates on Scottish Education in six weeks. I refer, of course, to the war, and not to any initiative from the Front Opposition Bench. This is not an Estimates Debate, and it will permit the mention of some things which might require legislation. It has been said that education 1127 was an early casualty in this war. One of the blows was the suspension of the raising of the school-leaving age, which we debated in the House a few weeks ago. The other has been the commandeering of school buildings. I am assured by various correspondents that commandeering in some places has taken place quite unnecessarily. It is still going on. Only to-day I received from the South of Scotland a protest in bitter terms on this matter. I have been assured that in some cases other suitable buildings were available, but, as an hon. Member said in the Debate last week, education has evidently been too easily elbowed aside.
The decision to re-open schools in evacuation areas is undoubtedly right. It ought to be done at once. Very large numbers of children of varying ages have been idle for weeks and getting into mischief. The figure as regards Glasgow has been given as 100,000. I am not going to discuss whether the re-opening of schools in evacuation areas will induce parents to bring children back from the country; that risk must be taken. Whatever happens, a very considerable number of children will remain in the towns. The risk can be reduced by proper air-raid precautions and by running double shifts. The great point is that the process of reopening shall be expedited in every possible way. Will those who try to provide for the supervision of out-of-school activities of children in these areas please remember the unemployed teachers, unemployed temporarily or otherwise, unemployed, it may be, by reason of the evacuation scheme itself? I have rather a higher opinion of some of the temporary measures which have been taken to overcome the present difficulties than was expressed in the recent education Debate by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), who poured scorn upon educating children in private houses. As against his opinion, I would set the opinion of the late Secretary to the Scottish Education Department, who sees in it something with very great possibilities.
In the Debate on 9th October I mentioned the closing of the junior instruction centres. At that time I was not aware that so many of them had been closed, but I know now that thousands of young people, owing to the closing of the junior instruction centres, have nowhere to go. 1128 Edinburgh is justly proud of its day continuation classes. I am told that all these except one are at present closed. Add to this the disquieting fact that juvenile unemployment is increasing, and that the City of Edinburgh has 1,300 to 1,400 young people unemployed—a higher number than ever before. Some of these junior instruction centres would make admirable welfare centres. There are good premises, good equipment, and trained staffs ready to hand, and if the Ministry of Labour would co-operate with education authorities and teachers, much good would result, and result very quickly. I want to know whether there is any prospect of junior instruction centres being re-opened before long.
I hope that those who control the issues will pay careful attention to the two speeches which were made recently by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) on the question of continuation education. It has remained a dead letter for a generation, and I should be very glad to see some attempt made to put it into operation. Six weeks ago I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether education authorities which were in a position to set up some of these classes would be able to get a grant; and the answer was that he thought they would. I hope something will be done about it, because some of these centres might also form the nucleus of many welfare activities besides the actual instruction which is given in the daytime. The last war saw the provision for continuation education put on the Statute Book; I hope that this one will see it become a reality.
In the reception areas much still remains to be done. We have to retain and in some cases regain the good will of the people who live there, and make them feel that they are doing a valuable and highly appreciated service. At present some of them are feeling that they have been let down, as one of them said to me in the reception area which I know best. Mistakes have been made, owing largely to the hurry in which the original move was made. I heard that in one large urban area it had taken five weeks' hard work to prepare for a second and smaller wave of evacuation; and I am not surprised. It is a great pity that more progress had not been made with the erection of school camps. Even one or two of the seven which were to have been allotted 1129 to Scotland would have been useful in this emergency. Any further evacuation should be the subject of full consultation between the sending and the receiving area. The working of the scheme could be reviewed in the light of experience, and possible improvements indicated, and, best of all, both sides might get to understand each other's difficulties. There is no limit to the civic spirit and patriotism of our people, but they do like to be consulted, as indeed they have every right to be.
A word also on the need for providing organised recreation in evacuation areas. The Secretary of State has referred to what has been done by the Scottish Film Council. May I supplement what he said? There are two associations, the Scottish Film Council and the Scottish Educational Film Association. The latter consists of a number of teachers who have banded themselves together to explore the possibilities of the cinema in schools. They have done some valuable research work. Not only so, but in the beginning of the emergency, with the help and sympathy of Directors of Education in Glasgow and Edinburgh, teachers were seconded to go round with these film units as being familiar with children and with the kind of films used, and able to make use of them to the best advantage. I think a word of acknowledgment is due to the teachers who have done this service. That kind of thing can with great advantage, be widely extended. Another possible help would be the extension of the county library scheme. In the reception areas, with the increased population, more books are required and in some of the larger counties more centres. Hon. Members would be glad to hear that the Youth Committee is co-ordinating these activities in reception areas, and seeing to it that all get a share and that no district, however remote, is left unaided.
In the course of evacuating by families as against evacuation by schools, although both have their advantages, it may be that the pupils of secondary schools find themselves widely scattered. They may find themselves in an area where there is no secondary school or, if one exists, it does not provide the kind of (durational course which they have been pursuing. I am told that adjustments are being made. I hope they will be made extensively and very rapidly. Other incidental worries are, for instance, the 1130 change of text books, or the fact that children who are accustomed to get free books are transferred to an area where that is done only to a limited extent. These things can be very annoying, and one sympathises with those who complain of them. May I mention what has been done by the Education Committee of Glasgow in establishing, in a reception area in the South of Scotland, a secondary school where no secondary school ever existed before? That is a very interesting experiment, and it will be carefully watched. It is a residential school, and co-educational.
May I say a word or two on the position of the teachers? Many of them who are working away from home have to put up with insufficient time for their work, unsuitable premises, and lack of books and other equipment, but I think we can trust them to make the best of a difficult job. Generous tributes have been paid to their work, from the Front Bench and indeed from all parts of the House. The late Lord Haldane, in addressing teachers, once told them that there was no profession which made such a call upon idealism as theirs. I have found that no one understands that better than the teachers themselves. At the same time it ought not to be made too difficult or too expensive for them at any time to exercise that idealism. In reception areas, especially in remote and lonely areas, they are finding themselves on duty for 15 or 16 or even more hours a day. The burden ought not to be made too heavy. Many of these people have to maintain their own homes in the cities from which they have been evacuated.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the leaving certificate. The examination in the course of half a century has been gradually adjusted and improved until it occupies a very honourable and useful part in the educational system. It is, indeed, a high compliment to the Scottish Education Department's management of that examination that the mention of the possibility of its extinction, even its temporary extinction, caused such dismay in Scotland. We are all very glad to hear that some kind of certificate is to be given, and what we are anxious to know is whether that substitute certificate is to find acceptance in the universities and among the other bodies which exact such a certificate 1131 as an entrance qualification. It that information is available, we should be glad to have it.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan
I have been to a large extent disappointed by the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland on the subject of Scottish education. It seems to me that in some districts in Scotland education is almost coming to an end. It is for that reason that hon. Members on these benches make a strong protest, and urge that all possible steps should be taken to restore our educational system. It is evident, I think, that we shall emerge from this war materially poorer than we entered it. No attempt is being made to lead the country to believe that Germany will pay all, and more than all, the cost of the war. Materially we shall be poorer, and, therefore, it is all the more necessary that we should hold on to whatever cultural advantages we possess in this country. Scotland has always prided itself upon its cultural advantages. We feel that ever since the beginning of the war, steps have been taken to frustrate our educational services. First, there was the postponement of the bringing into effect of the extension of the school-leaving age. At the end of the last war, in 1918, there was passed the Scottish Education Act, which gave the Secretary of State power to name the appointed day for raising the school-leaving age. We thought that Scotland had made a remarkable step forward. For 21 years education authorities all over Scotland have demanded the naming of the appointed day, and now, 21 years later, we are again frustrated by having that advantage again taken away from us.
We have heard a great deal this evening on the question of evacuation, which has been disturbing the minds of the people of the country. I think that both the evacuation areas and the reception areas have carried out a very difficult and delicate task with a great amount of patience, tact, and sympathy. I am glad that little attempt has been made to-night to assess the blame for the breakdown that has taken place. It is important to remember that it is the war"which has forced the problem of evacuation upon us, and whatever we may think of the war, whether we agree with it or 1132 object to it, and whatever may be its causes, we must recognise that the paramount desire of the people of this country is that the women and children, and sick, disabled and elderly people, should receive all the protection that we can give to them. It was for that reason that there was evacuation. It must not be forgotten that evacuation is a new thing to us. We have never had to face it before, although I believe that, hundreds of years ago, the people in my county were evacuated when the Englishmen came across the border. That, however, is too remote to be taken into consideration now in discussing the problems of evacuation. In looking at the matter from the point of view of a receiving area, as my area is, I am glad that the evacuation problem has been dealt with in a very sympathetic manner. The problem was made all the more difficult, because it came upon us so suddenly. It must be recognised that the Government are largely to blame because of their vacillations and the time which they took to make up their minds, so that, when evacuation started, it came upon us like a thunderbolt. One morning we were told that there were thousands of people to be sent to our districts, and we had to make the best of a very difficult situation. It was an endeavour to solve a problem that cannot be solved so simply.
While one can appreciate the difficulties of the evacuation areas, the greater difficulties were encountered in the receiving areas, to which the children were sent. With regard to the difficulties that arose, I will quote a statement from Dr. Hepburn the Director of Education in my county, who said:The hurried nature of the evacuation prevented the sending authority applying any standards of medical scrutiny or selection. The result has been that some children—the number of whom has not yet been definitely ascertained—stood in need of medical attention before they left Glasgow. Some of them were dealt with on their arrival. So far there have been two cases of notifiable infectious disease, both unfortunately affecting children billeted on dairy farms in the county. It must also be recorded that a disturbing number of children—the precise figures cannot be given—arrived in certain parishes in an unclean state and inadequately clad. Some householders are reported as being upset by the unexpected responsibilities they have been compelled to assume, and although in most cases the situation appears to have been faced with imagination and good humour, resentment has been not infrequently expressed.1133 That is the sort of feeling which was prevalent. I regret that in many instances such isolated cases have been much exaggerated. To that extent difficulties have been created in dealing with this question. We have now to face the problem of future evacuation. We recognise that the matter is not closed and that in future this question will have to be faced in a more serious aspect. I do not think it will be anticipated that this war will soon come to an end, and if we are to accept the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon, it will become more brutal and bestial as it goes on. We had the word Hun resuscitated for the first time during this war by the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day, and we had the idea this afternoon that measures are to be taken both by Germany and ourselves that will bring more bestiality and brutality into the war than we have had so far. In these circumstances it will be necessary to evacuate the children from the vulnerable areas. We shall be making a fundamental mistake if we think that the present method of evacuation can continue. I speak as one who lives in a reception area which has treated this matter sympathetically and with care. It is one of the districts which went out of its way to make the evacuees welcome. The billeting officers, the voluntary workers. and the people who received the children into their homes did their utmost to make them feel at home.
Everybody must recognise, however, that this cannot continue for an indefinite period. We are traditionally a family people, and however enthusiastically our people may have entered into this matter to begin with, and no matter how big their hearts and how sympathetic they are, there will come a time when the ordinary man and woman and their family will want their house to themselves. Therefore, in the coming days, when the problem may become more acute, the Government will require to find new ways and means and new methods of dealing with this serious problem. We must face the question of receiving these children in some camp or dormitory system, for we have entered an entirely new phase. In past wars the duty of the civilian population was to cheer the troops to the station and leave them there. War was an impersonal matter to them. That cannot continue. The people of the 1134 country now live in a state of tension, and they demand that extreme safety measures should be taken.
It is necessary now to move our civilian population. They cannot be moved into people's private houses. The Secretary of State has already said something about housing accommodation in Scotland, and everybody knows that there is little surplus accommodation in working-class houses. As far as my observation has gone, the working classes have taken most interest in evacuation and have been most sympathetic. We have still two-and three-roomed houses in abundance, and there is no surplus accommodation in them. It will, therefore, be necessary to confiscate or requisition or acquire the mansion houses in Scotland and go in for a large-scale system of building camps. There is no question of our ability to do it. If we had spent the £60,000,000 which we lent to Turkey in building accommodation for our own people, we could have solved the problem almost immediately. If we had spent a tithe of the British capital that has been lost in Poland, there would have been no difficulty with regard to the evacuees.
I hope that the Secretary of State and the Government will give this matter their undivided attention and that steps will be taken to secure for our children places where they can not only be housed and fed, but where educational and recreational schemes can be set up for them. Some people think the war will go on. I hope it will collapse quickly and that in the near future we shall find ways and means of getting out of this horrible affair, but if we are to sit down, as seems likely, behind the Siegfried and the Magi not Lines, and if all the countries are to organise their economies behind those lines, the possibility is that the war will go on indefinitely. If that be so, we shall have to rearrange our economy and mode of life. We have to rearrange our education, and must take these women and children who have been evacuated out of the houses they are in and put them into a new atmosphere, and that can only be done by providing large camps and other centres to which they can be transferred.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Cassells
I think that, speaking generally, the House would, to a great extent, resent the personal note which 1135 was struck by the hon. Member hon Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in his opening remarks when he referred in somewhat embittered language to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood). His point was, as I understood it, that this was a Debate of joint agreement between the Secretary of State for Scotland and my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs. If one accepts that as being the case, it certainly redounds to the credit of this House that on such an acute problem there can be an agreement which stimulates both sides of the House to come out into the open and discuss the problem in an honest, decent, straightforward effort to arrive at whatever satisfactory solution is possible. In my opinion, one good purpose has been served by the evacuation, and that is that it has shown one section of the people of the country precisely how the ordinary working-class people have been compelled to live, and I hope that when hostilities cease—as they must ultimately cease—in our favour, the experiences of the past few weeks will not have fallen on arid ground.
Let us not forget that this is a war not on one front, but on two fronts. We are waging a war on a foreign battlefield in which, I sincerely trust, we shall be successful, but at the same time we have a very difficult war on the home front. When I speak about the home front I refer to the care and welfare of the women and children left behind, and I say with sincerity and a full sense of responsibility that if we are not careful at the present time and in the days to come we may well find that we have succeeded on the foreign front but have grossly failed on the home front. During the short time I have been in this House I have been repeatedly perturbed at the time spent on questions regarding foreign policy. Day by day, week by week, and month by month there have been questions and Debates on those problems, and sometimes I have been prompted to ask myself when we would pay soe little attention to the interests of our people at home, and when we should realise that the successful nation in the future will not be the nation of men endowed physically but the nation of men endowed with intellectual attainments. It is from that particular aspect that I approach this educational problem.
1136 Let us assume, as one is bound to assume from the tenour of the Debate, that the House generally desires educational facilities to be afforded to the children. What is the proposal? Frankly, I am very much disturbed by the lack of information in the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland. There was an abundance of information in it, but it was devoid of any practical proposition. He proposes that, as times goes on the schools in evacuation areas, shall be reopened. What is the concrete policy of the Government on the question of whether attendance in these evacuation areas shall be optional or compulsory? The circular issued by the Government was, in my opinion, couched in thoroughly nebulous language. It is indefinite and is, in my humble opinion, a document which will stimulate parents whose children are in the areas where it is assumed that danger will not exist to bring back their children to the danger areas. The wording of the circular is:His Majesty's Government have decided that such schools in evacuation areas as can be made available for educational purposes shall be reopened for the education of the children of parents who desire them to attend.I look at the problem in this way, that with war there goes risk. If parents whose children have been evacuated bring them back I say in all sincerity that there should be a definite obligation upon those parents for the education of their children and it should be compulsory. I am not saying that the average father and mother do not desire their children to be educated, but I am saying very definitely —and it is borne out by the speeches in this House this afternoon—that of parents believe, as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said, that the schools selected for their children are in a dangerous area they will not send them. That is why the Government should here and now decide what schools, if any, are in dangerous areas, and then segregate those schools and say that they will not be used; but the other schools should be immediately reopened and the education should be compulsory.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Captain McEwen)
§ Mr. Cassells
I was coming to the question of protection. To my mind it would be positively foolhardy, as things are at the present time, to send children back to school without some reasonable degree of protection being given to them. Who is responsible for giving that protection? The responsibility does not rest with this side of the House but devolves upon the hon. Gentleman's Government. If it be true—and I assume from the nature of the interjection that it is—that there are many schools in these areas who have not that protection, the sooner the hon. Gentleman's Government sets about doing it, the better it will be for everybody concerned. It is said that to take children back to, say, Glasgow, and put them in the schools would be dangerous, but let us analyse the position. Is it more dangerous for children to be in cinemas than to be in schools? No protection at all is given in the average cinema, but in the average school, of which I have visited a number in recent weeks, there is a greater degree of safety than there is outside.
If these children are to be left to run loose and wild in the streets, what will be the position in the years to come? The hon. Member for Shettleston visualised lack of education over a period of six months. What are the most receptive years of life, in the stimulation of the mind to better things? Everyone who has tried to study these problems knows that the most important years of life are from 10 to 14 years of age. I place before the House my experience, for what it is worth. During the last 14 years I have been going about from court to court in Scotland, dealing almost daily with questions relating to juvenile crime. Take the average case of the juvenile delinquent and trace it back to its origin, and you will find either that the environment has been largely responsible or that the child has not received the educational opportunities to which it was legally and morally entitled.
The only other criticism is this: If these evacuation schemes are to continue, I suggest we should open the schools immediately, selected schools, and compel education authorities to give education immediately. The Government should make it essential that the education should be compulsory. Maybe the Government explanation will be that there is not sufficient teaching staff, but who 1138 is responsible for that? The Government are generally responsible for it. Not a word has been said about the personnel in the Scottish Education Department. Inspectors have been taken away from the Department. I had one case of an inspector, a man skilled in foreign languages, who is in charge of a hospital. In my constituency I could name case after case of young qualified teachers. What are they doing? They are not teaching. I could give the cases of at least half a dozen teachers in Kirkintilloch who are qualified teachers, but have for several years been working in the moulding shops. Why cannot a census be taken by the Government to ascertain what is their teaching personnel at the present moment? I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman's Department would be astonished at the figures.
I wanted to see this evacuation scheme succeed, but I stand here to-night to say that it has been a shocking catastrophe. The figures which have been given by the Secretary of State for Scotland stated that 500,000 children were expected to be evacuated, and they followed by saying that only 34 per cent. were evacuated. At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman gave us those astonishing figures dealing with the city of Dundee, showing that 74 per cent. of the mothers and children who had been evacuated had returned. With regard to Edinburgh, the figure was 21 per cent. It may be that the proper explanation is that the children from Edinburgh were accommodated among people who were in a position of greater affluence than those from Dundee. Take Kinross, Nairne, Peebles, Inverness and Westlothian. The figure was 80 per cent. in those counties.
What do the Government intend to do to meet that position? Are they going to sit smug and complacent and allow these people to remain in the dangerous areas? What are the dangerous areas? I remember, on the Sunday when the war broke out, speaking on the Terrace to the Lord Advocate about this problem. I raised with him the question of Edinburgh and the City of Glasgow and pointed out that I could not understand why those cities could not have a balloon barrage. I told him that if you took a line from Wilhelmshaven you would go right over Edinburgh. He would not accept the suggestion I made. I have 1139 discussed my views with the Secretary of State for Scotland in regard to Grangemouth and other places, in relation to the Forth and Kincardine Bridges. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk and I were looking at an aerial photograph reproduced from a German paper and taken by one of the German aviators who passed over the Forth Bridge only two weeks ago. It shows the docks at Grangemouth, the Imperial Chemical Works and the shadow factories in the district and yet that district is not a scheduled area.
The Germans were in Orkney the other day; was that scheduled as a danger area? They dropped eight bombs but killed one rabbit. Really, the way in which the Government are approaching this problem baffles my understanding, at any rate. I am satisfied that we shall require ultimately to adopt the suggestion which was made by one of my hon. Friends. If this war continues for any considerable period of time, no matter how kind and good-hearted people may be, they will not allow children to come and live with them indefinitely. This problem will inevitably have to be faced in the way that it should be, by inaugurating what we on this side of the House have advocated not since the war started but before the war started, namely, a system of camps, or something of that order, to give the people an opportunity of living their own lives in their own particular way. I hope the Government will realise that they have a very serious and definite responsibility in this matter. We are fighting a battle on the foreign front and we are fighting a battle every bit as important on the home front. Do not let it be said in years to come that we succeeded on the foreign front but failed on the home front.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. N. Maclean
The Secretary of State for Scotland, in his opinion and, I believe, in the opinion of those on the other side of the House, made a very satisfactory reply to the challenges which we have made. I am convinced, however, that if he had been speaking not to the House of Commons but before a gathering of the parents of the evacuated children in any constituency in the United Kingdom he would have found a much more critical audience amongst those 1140 parents than he has found in this House this afternoon, because he would have found there the people who had the experience of the children having been evacuated, and he would also have found there the experience of people upon whom the children had been placed by the receptionists in the reception areas. I am also convinced, taking the whole thing into consideration, that from the very commencement there were no preconceived plans in existence in the files in any of the Government Departments. The matter was not considered properly; it was rushed at. All that was considered was dumping children from one town into another, which was asked to receive more children than there was either accommodation for in the houses or in the schools. Consequently, it was bound to break down at some time.
It is all very well to find fault with the cleanliness of some children, but I have in my pocket a letter about a particular case where the very opposite actually happened. A family, sent into a reception area, put up in a very decent house and were received and treated very well by an old lady. They lived there for eight or nine weeks and no complaints were made against the children; they were happy, they were cleanly and they were mannerly. The old lady who had taken them in fell ill and had to be removed to hospital. The children were sent down to another house in the same area and in that house it was they who received the vermin and not they who took the vermin with them. You get these cases happening all over; I notice that the Under-Secretary looks rather incredulous, but when I say "all over" I mean taking them by and large, because according to statements made in this House during previous discussions on this matter the general assumption seems to have been that it was only the evacuated children who were verminous and were carrying vermin into the reception areas. Had there been a proper evacuation plan conceived by the Government and put into operation those children would never have left the areas in the conditions some of them were in, particularly when in places like Glasgow they had to go back to school after two months' holiday with anything it might be possible to get in the areas in which they had spent their holiday.
1141 I want to ask a question of the Under-Secretary who, I expect, will reply; the question has been put to me by others. What about the schools, particularly in Glasgow and industrial areas, where you have on both sides of the Clyde constituencies in a most vulnerable area in the sense that most of the shipyards are busily engaged in naval production, most of the engineering shops are engaged in naval work and the docks are full of ships that either take goods from this country or bring goods into this country in order to maintain the welfare of our people? It is an area which shows itself to be most vulnerable. Of course, the schools in Glasgow ought to be evacuated and the children taken away. One would have thought that they would be sent into safety areas. One school was sent down to another school which is only half a mile away from the largest explosives factory in Britain; that was a reception area, a "safe area." I am naming neither the place nor the name of the firm whose explosives factory is there. There is another case of a reception area at Glen-garnock where there is one of Colvilles steel factories. We are asked to darken our windows, are warned by wardens, fined by sheriffs and by justices of the peace, but Glengarnock can throw its light into the sky for 20 miles around. No one suggests that there should be a darkening down there or that anyone should be fined for throwing a glare into the sky. That is a steel manufacturing factory, manufacturing steel for armaments, plates for shipping, metal for guns, and so on. That is supposed to be a safe area and the children of Glasgow are evacuated to that region where the factory gives all the directions that need be given to enemy aircraft that come over.
The same thing happens with regard to Glasgow itself. We have a works there generally known as Dickson's Blazes. We are told it can be shut down in seven minutes, but in seven minutes the modern aeroplane can come a great distance. A modern aeroplane takes less than 10 minutes to go from Edinburgh to Glasgow; it merely requires working out on the distance which is only 40 miles. I am confident that Dickson's Blazes could not be darkened down in sufficient time. Just outside the boundary of Glasgow we have between Rutherglen and Cambuslang another steel works on the Clydeside, giving its light to any enemy 1142 aircraft that comes over. These are supposed to be safety areas, although this does not apply to Dickson's Blazes because it happens to be within Glasgow.
§ Mr. Maclean
It is in Gorbals, and Gorbals is in Glasgow. There is another matter to which I wish to refer. That is the absolute lack of planning by the Government for the evacuation of the children. I am discussing the scheme as it applies to the district that I know best. One would have thought that all the arrangements between the evacuation area and the reception area would have been completed properly, billets arranged and so on, before a school was evacuated. But one school in Glasgow goes down to the area in which it is to be billeted. Over 900 scholars go down with their teachers. When they arrive they find that other schools have taken up the billets that they should have had. This school has then to be scattered over a distance of 30 miles in order to accommodate the children for the night. I do not blame the Government for that, except for bad selection of the officials responsible for the billeting. No blame can be placed on the teachers or on the schools at the Glasgow end. They were asked to send their children down, they sent them, and that is what happened.
What is to be done now about the school children who have returned. Most of the Glasgow children are still running about the streets in Glasgow. The Under-Secretary asked one hon. Member, "What about the provision of the necessary shelters in the schools?" Only yesterday I saw one of the most stupid arrangements I have seen. In Glasgow two surface shelters, each to accommodate 50 people, are being built just outside a school which has no shelter at all, not even a sandbag. That school could accommodate 1,000 children. Why should you waste money putting up surface shelters outside a school, and leave the school unprotected? Who is responsible? Are not the Government providing the money? In that case, either there is lack of supervision or the Government must take the responsibility.
§ Captain McEwen
I do not know the nature of the shelter, but it may be that the shelter which is being built outside the school is better than anything that could be provided in the school itself.
§ Mr. Maclean
I have not only seen this shelter, but during the past few weeks I have been going round Glasgow examining shelters and air-raid defences all over the city, and I can state definitely that these surface shelters which have been put up are not as good a protection as the school building itself, as it stands, without any additional protection. There have been lack of shelters, lack of accommodation, bad planning for evacuation. You cannot blame the teachers; you cannot blame the parents; the receptionists, in the main, cannot be blamed. All this planning was done in a panic, in a moment of scare, under the fear that aeroplanes were coming over on the first day of the war. While that is excusable, it does not exonerate the Government from blame for not having made plans further back. It has been the foreign policy of this Government during the last six or seven years that has led us into the mess into which Europe is plunged to-day. That, of course, we cannot discuss on a question of this kind, except to point out that this position has come out of the Government's own policy.
What is the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State going to do with regard to the schools and their reopening? The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells) pointed out that, even if the schools were opened to-morrow, it is optional on the parents to send their children to school or otherwise. That is no security. I know a Parliamentary constituency in Glasgow, running alongside the Clyde, close to the docks, with engineering shops all round it. There are 7,000 children in that constituency, running the streets and getting no education. You talk about certificates. How can those children get certificates when they are not being taught? I have been in schools in Glasgow and found them stripped of every piece of furniture necessary for the education of the children. Desks, seats and blackboards have been taken out, and practically only the bare walls of the classrooms are left. The children are running about the streets; the teachers are doing their best to draw up plans to teach the children in their homes. In many parts of Glasgow teachers have taken the children into their houses, and are giving tuition there. If that can be done, it is high time that something was done by the Government to provide education for those children 1144 who are running loose in the streets. The parents would welcome something of that sort.
It has been stated that the cinemas are not protected any more than the schools. That is quite true, but the parents take the children to the cinemas. In the afternoons in Glasgow you will find queues of children waiting outside the cinemas for the children's matinees. Why cannot those children be in the schools? They would be just as safe in the schools as in most of the cinemas. I suggest that the Under-Secretary should try- to convince his chief of the absolute necessity of an early reopening of the schools. Three months have passed. Most of the children in Glasgow are without education, and the same thing applies to children in practically every town in Scotland. Three months loss of education, and nothing in the statement of the Secretary for Scotland to-day to suggest that at any very early date there will be a possibility of those children being accommodated in schools.
But if you open the schools in Glasgow what are you going to do with that part of Glasgow which is regarded as vulnerable—as more vulnerable than the rest of Glasgow? Take the Clydeside, with the docks and shipyards. The schools there are close to the riverside. According to the statement of the Secretary for Scotland, these schools would not be opened. They would be left with no teachers or scholars in them. Are the schools further back from that area. in Dowanhill and Garnethill to be reopened? You cannot open the schools in Shettles-ton, Parkhead and Whitevale, because they are right up against Beardmore's Forge. That is a vulnerable area like the riverside. What are you going to do with the children there? To which school are you going to send them? The whole scheme of your evacuation and of trying to carry on with getting the children out of so-called vulnerable areas into other areas has completely broken down. Do not try to put the pieces together again, because it is too badly broken to mend. Evolve a new and more workable scheme and one which you can fit in properly.
I am not very much in favour of camps for children particularly with winter coming on just now, but I remember seeing in Invergordon during the last war the hutments that were erected there for the dockyard men. It was a hutment 1145 town, housing close upon 5,000 dockyard men. It was run up practically in a few months. Could not something like that be done for the children in the outskirts of Glasgow? Could not proper transport facilities be provided to take them out and to bring them back again? Your feeding arrangements in the evacuation area broke down and the medical inspection of the children broke down, but by adopting a scheme of that kind and building temporary schools around the area you would be able, at least, to solve part of the problem, even though it were necessary to do it for one class of school in the forenoon and another class in the afternoon, adopting the two-shift system for five days a week. At any rate, the children would be absorbing some education and would be kept off the streets.
Mention has been made of hospitals. We have a splendid hospital for tuberculosis patients outside Glasgow in a very healthy area. It is one of the finest and most up-to-date hospitals for the treatment of that terrible disease. When war broke out every patient was taken out of the hospital, and the children were sent to an island in the Clyde where they were put in a large house called the Garrison that had been vacant for many years. There was dampness in the house, which has stood there for over 100 years and has practically been empty for a large portion of that time. The hospital for tubercular diseases is standing vacant to-day. The beds are there, the nurses are there and most of the doctors are there. It has been idle for three months, and the tubercular patients were sent to a damp house where they have been for three months. That is another part of your plan which has broken down. The sooner you get together and bring forward some decent plans, not in a moment of panic, but with the application of some sanity, the sooner we shall be able to get out of the mess into which you have landed us and which has caused so much discontent in the country during the last three months.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I do not propose to deal with the past but rather with the future. It is true to say that the figures which have been given to us by the Secretary of State for Scotland to-day of something like 175,000 people having been transferred from the town to the country 1146 represents a feat not less commendable than the feat of transporting an Army of a similar number to France. When you look back and think that nearly 200,000 of the population could be uprooted from their homes and transported to the countryside, it is truly a remarkable feat, however much we may deplore the breakdown in one part or another. I have the good fortune to speak for a part of the country which has had a happy experience as far as the evacuation is concerned. Both Clackmannanshire, as the Secretary of State has noted, and Stirlingshire have had a very good record and happy experience as far as the children they have received are concerned. It ought to be said that no family is enthusiastic about receiving other families, and difficulties are bound to arise from congestion and from the normal difficulties of too many people being in a house. Nevertheless, on the whole, I have not received any complaints either of the children or of the evacuation in our area, and in general the people, though perhaps not enthusiastic, have been both patriotic and tolerant and have made the best of a bad job.
There is one aspect which I would like to commend to the Secretary of State regarding our evacuation, and it is one which is apt to be forgotten in these immediate difficulties. In Scotland, education is one of our staple industries. We export education from Scotland and have sent educated people all over the world, and I would like to keep that channel flowing freely if it is at all possible. Dollar Academy and Alloa Academy are examples, and in his own constituency there is a number of such schools that do not draw their pupils from the home population at all but from the Empire. Therefore, there will be a great injury to Scottish education if that channel is in any way choked during the war, and as far as possible pupils ought to be encouraged still to come to this country in order that the educational industry of Scotland could be stimulated and continued.
The question has arisen about what is a safe area. I represent an area which is receiving children. It is a safe area. But I have here one of the pieces of shrapnel which landed in that safe area, and I would suggest to the Secretary of State for Scotland, as did the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that 1147 there is no place in Scotland that is a safe area. Therefore, the question is not in deciding that some place is a safe area and some place is not, but in deciding how to spread the population in such a way that the smallest damage will be done if any bombardment takes place. In the same way, I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will take note of the fact that this shrapnel was found and that he will take steps to provide air-raid shelters or make some recompense to the people who have built them themselves.
There are one or two suggestions that I would like to make in regard to evacuation. One of the breakdowns in the past scheme was due to the fact that the evacuation took place through education authorities to county councils and not to other education authorities. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would find that his scheme would work far more smoothly if the children were passed from one education authority to the next education authority, and not to the county council, and that these education authorities should be made generally responsible for the success of the scheme. One difficulty is bound to arise in regard to the mothers and the children. I think that from figures of the Secretary of State we must realise that in most cases the mothers have gone back home. The idea of a wife being separated from her husband for three years raises tremendous problems. In many cases the wife is convinced that the husband will starve to death if she is not there to look after him, and in some cases the fact is that, out of the family income, so much goes to maintain the mother and the children in the reception area that actually there is not enough left for the husband who is working to feed himself at home.
In this connection I suggest to the Secretary of State that if there is any further question of evacuating mothers and small children, some arrangement must previously be made for the provision of canteens where the husbands can buy food at prices within the means which are left to them as the result of evacuation. I should like also to suggest, as has been suggested already, that the best way to deal with the mothers and the small children is to evacuate them not to long distances, but to safe areas near the towns. Scotland is fortunate in 1148 having within short distance of Edinburgh and Glasgow hills which are very difficult places for aeroplanes to approach, and round about and in the midst of these hills there could be built great colonies, which are called camps, to which the mothers, the children, and the teachers could be evacuated, where normal education and life could be carried on in fairly reasonable safety, but with certain important qualifications. The fathers would be able at the weekend to walk to see the mothers and the children, and those fathers who have bicycles would be able to reach the children in the Pentland Hills from Edinburgh, and many other hills from Glasgow. If the mothers and the children were accommodated there in colonies, we should get rid of the whole problem of putting them into other people's houses, and we should have the possibility of contented evacuation, which would be fairly permanent, because it may last for three years. It is certain that if the wives and the children are to be transported 30, 40, and 50 miles from their homes, the system is bound to break down, as it has already done.
The choice that faces us in regard to air raids is either to dig ourselves into holes or to evacuate from the towns. The much wiser way is not to dig great holes in the ground, but to spend money wisely in building these camp colonies, which would not only be of service to-day but would remain a permanent service after the war. The subject of tuberculosis has been referred to. Dr. Williamson, a former Medical Officer of Health for Edinburgh, assures me that tuberculosis in Scotland could be wiped out if sufficient open-air accommodation was provided for the tubercular patient. If we built these colonies, and the hospitals to which the Secretary of State has referred, then, after the war is over, the colonies could be used to provide open-air hospitals for the tuberculosis cases, and we could take them out of the congested areas and perhaps remove that dread disease from our midst. They would provide another great benefit. The Educational Institute of Scotland already runs a great holiday camp for school children, near Stirling. That camp has been run voluntarily by the teachers, who go there and look after the children. The Lanarkshire County Council has also a great camp at Leadhills, which 1149 has been extremely successful. The children go there every year very willingly in summer time. Such schemes have already been in practice to a limited extent elsewhere throughout Scotland.
If we think simply of the immediate problem, we might spend money like water and achieve no permanent purpose. It is wiser to take the long view and to build such colonies in the hills, which would provide health camps and hospitals, and would be of permanent service for the health of the population in years to come. Out of this dreadful business of slaughter there might emerge some permanent benefit to civilisation in our country, which give an opportunity for health which has not existed in the past.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Gibson
We have heard from the Secretary of State for Scotland a very interesting statement in regard to education and the cognate problem of evacuation. We have been reminded by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. A. Morrison) that this is the second Debate on Scottish education in six weeks. Therefore, the statement by the right hon. Gentleman to-day was by way of being a progress report. Mistakes have been discovered, adjustments have been made, and an endeavour is being made, very earnestly, as I think all hon. Members recognise, to grapple with the very big problems that are presented. It must, therefore, have been rather disconcerting for the right hon. Gentleman to find that the only speech delivered in this Debate from a Member of his own political party was a very hot attack on the Government policy. It may be that the speeches that he has listened to from this side of the House may give him some assistance towards the solution of the problems that have emerged.
The speech from the other side of the House came from one of the Aberdeenshire Members, the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. W. Smith), and it recalled in a somewhat emphatic fashion a speech from another Aberdeenshire Member, which occupied a pretty prominent position in the earlier Debate. When I heard that earlier speech I was filled with sorrow and resentment, sorrow at the fact that certain unfortunate things emerged, and resentment at the atmosphere surrounding the speech. That 1150 was reflected in the speech to-day that we listened to from the other side. On the previous occasion my reaction to the speech was somewhat anomalous, because although I am a Baptist, it brought to my mind the christening font in the Crypt below St. Stephen's Chapel, and the Latin inscription round the Crypt:Sinite parvulos venire ad me et ne prohibetis eos talium enim est regnum dei.I like the "parvulos" !"Permit the tiny wee tots to come to Me." That was my reaction to the speech of the hon. Member in the previous Debate. He brought in evidence the statement of an Anglican minister, which seemed utterly different from that inscription on the walls of the Crypt downstairs. I endeavoured at that time to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, because I felt a good deal of sympathy with the exasperation shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I did not, however, catch Mr. Speaker's eye, and I am glad now that I did not succeed, because only last week I got another picture of quite a different kind. My wife was staying in a village among the hills of her native Ayrshire, and she received a call from the local parish minister, of course, a Presbyterian minister of the Church of Scotland. There were evacuated children in the village. The minister had several boys staying at the manse. He did not have much help, although he was a bachelor. He told my wife that he had to wash the children. My wife said, "Did you wash the children yourself?" The minister replied, "Certainly. They could not wash themselves."
I recommend that story, which is a true one, to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire who has spoken to-night. I am sorry that he is not in his place. I hope he will pass it on to his colleague from Aberdeenshire who told us a very different kind of story in the previous Debate. The action of that Ayrshire Presbyterian minister was, in my submission, kindly and neighbourly, and a patriotic service on the part of a faithful minister of the Gospel. The hon. Member for Central Aberdeen seemed to be labouring under a misapprehension. He seemed to be speaking of the teachers as teachers in a public school who are house masters and consequently charged with duties that are of a domestic character. Teachers in our day schools in Scotland are not of that 1151 character at all. I call to mind some of the houses in some of our cities—nay, in all our cities—where artificial light has to be on at all hours of the day, and if one is at all careful, one will find houses where there is a smell of paraffin oil. It is not used for lighting purposes but to try and kill the vermin which are in the very walls of the building. It is impossible to get rid of the vermin; that problem has been attacked in eloquent fashion by the hon. Member for Shettles-ton (Mr. McGovern) this evening.
May I pass to a different topic? It is my privilege to represent a constituency which is neither an evacuation area nor a reception area. It is a neutral area and I do not quite know why. On this topic I agree on all points with the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean). During the by-election which sent me to this House in the year 1936 I was very much impressed with the vulnerable character of my constituency. Yet it is classed as a neutral area, but because it is a neutral area some of these problems with regard to education present themselves in a less complicated form than they do elsewhere. It may be that because of their less complicated character they indicate more easily methods of solution. It has been pointed out by the Secretary of State that in neutral areas schools are to be reopened subject to adequate protection being available. As I understand it, a school that is reopened in a neutral area must therefore be a school which has passed the standard of safety so far as the Department is concerned. So far as my constituency goes, there appears to be adequate safety provisions in the newer secondary schools, but doubts are expressed with regard to some of the other schools. In particular the newer secondary schools have very good provision with regard to safety. I was speaking to the headmaster of a Catholic secondary school about a week ago, and he was thoroughly satisfied with the protection at his school. I learn that the same is true with regard to the high school.
But the question arises of alternative accommodation for school children. That question arose in the Debate on Thursday, and the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) spoke about the conflict between the education authority and other departments for accommodation. 1152 I submit that, so far as Scotland is concerned, education ought clearly to have priority. There is an historical reason for that. John Knox left one legacy to Scotland, the value of which cannot be in question. He saw to it that every parish had its school. There is, I submit, a correlative duty that where necessary in any area in Scotland, so far as accommodation for educational purposes is concerned, church premises, either the church hall or the church itself, ought to be available for the purposes of education. I can remember in my own school days in the '90s of last century the junior department of Hamilton Academy suddenly becoming uninhabitable through a sudden subsidence of the building, and the alternative accommodation which was at once available was in the parish halls. In another case there was a fire at one school, and the children were accommodated in a church. These are precedents, and I think that they should be kept in mind and that such accommodation should be made available where it is necessary.
During this war-time emergency I submit that we ought to insist that specialised school accommodation should not be diverted from its educational purpose. For example, science departments, art departments and manual instruction departments should always be available for these respective purposes. In this connection, in Greenock we have one special school which, unfortunately, has been taken possession of for air-raid precaution purposes. There are many educationists in Greenock who take an interest in this special school, and it has been put to me very forcibly by constituents in Greenock that it is most unfortunate that this special school has been taken for air-raid precaution purposes. I have been asked by several why a church hall is not made available, why it is not utilised for airraid precaution purposes, and this specialised school with its specialised equipment kept available for the children for whom it was designed and who most require it. I suggest to the Secretary of State that he should look into this matter of the special school at Greenock and see whether some other accommodation ought not to be available for air-raid precaution purposes. It seems to be an unjustifiable alternative use of highly specialised premises in this special school.
1153 I do not wish to detain the House, but there are two other topics upon which I should like to touch. The point has already been raised by several hon. Members, and in particular by the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), as to whether or not education is compulsory in the case of children in evacuation areas where there is school accommodation available. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should make it clear that, once school accommodation is available, the compulsory condition of our education subsists and emerges as soon as the accommodation is available. It should not simply be optional for children to go to school, or for parents to send their children to school. A really determined effort to get alternative accommodation should be made. I suggest very strongly that all our churches and church halls should be at once available for the purpose. It is most unfortunate that at this time churches should be used on Sunday mornings, and occasionally now on Sunday afternoons, and for the whole of the rest of the week should be closed and not available for educational purposes, which, so far as I can gather, was an historical use to which our ecclesiastical buildings were put.
The right hon. Gentleman said something about the war-time leaving certificate. There is a large number of students who have prepared themselves for Civil Service examinations. In one case, the Customs and Excise examination was in two parts. The first was taken in June or July, and the second was to have been taken in November but is not being taken. Could the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of these students, get in touch with the Civil Service Commissioners and see whether something can be done to ensure that some of these candidates may be recruited into the Civil Service? During all this time there must be normal and in some cases abnormal recruitment going on, and the whole lives of these young people, which were devoted to these studies, should not be thrown away altogether. There is a very clear sense of grievance with regard to the matter, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into it, because my hon, Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Woodburn) was undoubtedly well founded when he said that education had always been, certainly since the days of 1154 John Knox, one of the principal exports of Scotland, and it ought to remain so.
A point that ought to be emphasised is that the real solution of this evacuation problem must be sought on the lines of a communal system. A year ago I discussed this matter with a very distinguished citizen of Edinburgh, who had held a very high position and is a man of wide experience and very broad sympathies. Looking at the matter on broad lines, he said, "This country may be involved in war. We are now so vulnerable from the air that it will be necessary to evacuate the population. The only way to do it is on communal lines, to get the people out into the country." It will not do to get the population out as individuals, as has been done under the schemes of the Government. I quite understand that these schemes were rapidly prepared under the stress of an emergency, but there is the broad view that many thinking people have, and the sooner we get a grip of the problem along these lines the sooner shall we see real progress made in this very difficult work.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to see the schools re-opened but I also want to see, with their re-opening, adequate protection for the scholars. In my constituency there is a village, Valleyfield, which is classed as a neutral area, yet it is within a stone's throw of the Forth Bridge and Rosyth. When the attack was made on the Forth Bridge the aeroplanes were right over the top of it. When there is an air raid the children have to run to their homes. Any who live at a distance have to be accommodated with some of the householders near the school. That is all that has been arranged as far as their protection is concerned. Nevertheless, it is desirable that education should go on. It is very necessary that something should be done for the protection of the schools. In the provision of shelter it is necessary to show some intelligence, and this is one quality which is obviously completely lacking so far as this Government and those who represent it are concerned. At North Queensferry they have built two public shelters right at the side of the Target-Forth Bridge. They could not have been placed in a more deadly and dangerous position. If a bomb misses the bridge and lands at the side of it, the 1155 mothers and children who are sheltering are all caught. It shows an utter lack of intelligence.
I have heard some remarks about carrying on the education of the children by making camps. I am not very concerned about this question of making camps. If you go back into the history of Scotland you can read of the Highland clearances and other clearances. The people who had castles and big mansions were able to clear the common people from the land. Now, when we are facing such an emergency, it is about time that we began a clearance of another kind. There is not an area round about any city but where there are mansions of one kind or another which could easily be used as educational centres. There are magnificent institutions, houses and mansions around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Who is occupying them?
§ Mr. Colville
Does the hon. Member suggest that you would house 75,000 people in houses of that character?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am talking of educating the children. There has been talk of building huts around Glasgow and Edinburgh for the purposes of education. Why should we build huts when there are mansions of all kinds. Go around the outskirts of Glasgow or Edinburgh and see the magnificent houses, where children could be taken to be educated. Why should we not clear the families out of these large houses and use them for this purpose? Go round about the Clyde area, go into the Highlands round the Firth of Clyde and you will see magnificent houses where the children could be educated. Why should we not use those houses?
Of course, when this question of evacuation is discussed we must remember that it is only the workers who are to be affected. The other people can evacuate themselves. We had an exhibition of that in the very first days of the war and of how they blocked the railways getting away. But anything is good enough for the workers. That is the basic idea and that is what is at the bottom of the breakdown of evacuation. Some Members say that the people who have been evacuated have been very well treated and very well looked after, that is true in general but a number of 1156 cases have come to me this morning, showing the appalling conditions under which women and children have been placed. I have sent those cases to the Minister and he can look into them. I would be in favour of taking over all the large houses round the cities in order to accommodate the children or to provide them with educational facilities.
I would also direct attention to the fact that education in many areas is completely stopped. Our education system is in process of being destroyed. This is another example of the destructive power of monopoly capital. It destroys all round it. We have had the burning of the books in Germany, but consider the parallel between the burning of the books in Germany and the closing of the schools and the destruction of education in this country. It has often been remarked with a certain bitter cynicism that more is spent on the means for blowing out brains than on the means for educating brains. That was never truer than it is to-day. I make this proposition, to which Members here cannot object. If civilisation is to live and advance, it is more important that the children should be educated than that the slaughter of humanity should continue. No exception I am sure will be taken to that proposition. I suggest, then, if it is a question of education or war, we should stop the war and open the schools. I think that is worth considering if we are at all concerned with education and the advance of civilisation.
Let me come to the question of evacuation. Some terrible stories have been told in connection with evacuation on one side and the other, but the whole character of evacuation has been affected, simply because the Government never gave serious consideration to the question beforehand. That was due to the fact, as I have already said, that it was only the working class who were to be evacuated and that anything is good enough at any time for the working class. Time and again, I and other Members here urged the necessity of experimenting with evacuation. Here was a problem which was liable to arise and about which nobody knew anything. Repeatedly I put questions to the Home Secretary on the necessity of making experiments. I remember the Under-Secretary, now Secretary for Mines, asking me what I meant by an experiment in evacuation. I wrote 1157 a letter to the Home Secretary endeavouring to explain what I meant and the Home Secretary said from that Box that it was not possible to make experiments. He said that an experiment on a small scale would be of no use and that an experiment on a large scale would cause too much disorganisation. So, nothing was done to prepare and no attempt made to get an understanding of the problem of how these thousands of working-class children and mothers were to be protected. But who on the Government benches is interested in them? The Government's idea is, I repeat, that anything is good enough for working-class women and children. That is why there were no experiments. Had this been a matter affecting Members on the other side of the House the experiments would have been made no matter what the cost was.
What are we getting now as a result of the absence of experiment and preparation? I remember in the old days the anti-Socialists used to try to frighten the lives out of people by telling them that Socialists were out to break up homes. What is monopoly capitalism doing now. Is it not breaking up homes? I should say it is. Was there any need to break up homes? None. If the problem had been faced from the point of view of protecting the interests of the working class, the homes could have been saved. If adequate preparation had been made the evacuation could have been carried out in such a way as to give the maximum of protection to the people and to their homes. To-day, homes are being broken up and children are being sent away long distances from their parents. Not only are their mothers not with them, but every effort is made to prevent the mothers visiting them. The question has been raised in this House on two or three occasions and when questions have been put to Ministers about cheap fares, and so forth, to enable mothers to visit the children, we have been told that it is not desirable that the mothers should visit the children. Hon. Members who support the Government, and especially the cavemen up at the back, have declared that it is not desirable, and that it disturbs the children and leaves them discontented and dissatisfied. Therefore, their whole desire is to discourage the mothers from coming into contact with their children. That is really a breaking up of the whole spirit of the home, and that 1158 situation exists now because no real consideration was given to the problem, and no preparations and experiments of any kind were carried out.
We have to consider not only the effect upon education and upon the homes, but the sufferings of the children because they are parted from their mothers and fathers, and the sufferings of the mothers and fathers because their children have gone; and we have also to remember the position of the fathers when the mothers and children have gone. I was having a cup of coffee over the road one evening, and a young man was sitting at the same table. I have never seen a more miserable specimen in my life. I had not been there long before he spoke to me, and I found out that his wife and two children were away somewhere in the country, and he was desolate and hopeless. There is a great deal of that. In education and the breaking up of their homes, the workers have already paid a terrible price for a war that is none of their business, although it is nothing to what they will have to pay later on. So I declare here that those who are interested in the working class will be prepared to fight by every means in their power to stop the war, to advance education, and to restore the homes of the people of this country.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
I am sure it will be agreed on all sides that we have had a very interesting Debate. I question whether we have got full value out of it, owing to the fact that we staged the Debate in order to discuss the questions of education and evacuation, and we have so linked these two things together that we have kept them running parallel in our minds all the time, and that has coloured the whole discussion; whereas if we had taken the opportunity of discussing education and evacuation separately, I feel sure that we should have had a considerably better Debate. The Debate began in a London fog, and I am very anxious indeed that it should not finish, so far as I am concerned, in a Scottish mist.
I do not intend to deal to any extent with the question of education. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), who opened the Debate, made some very useful observations on that subject, and he made the important suggestion that a conference 1159 should be held of all those in Scotland who are charged with duties and responsibilities in relation to education. I am sure that the points which have been made in the Debate since my hon. Friend spoke have emphasised the need for such a conference to take place. I believe that all those points could be solved by the consultation which such a conference would provide, and it would indeed mean that we should get fairly near to the home rule which so many of us desire to see established for Scotland. We should be discussing in Scotland things relating to Scottish affairs, and in consultation, instead of having these things dictated to us by a Government Department, we should have them solved by a reasonable discussion, meeting all the points involved and having those points met by those who are in daily contact with them, and therefore best able to discuss them in a practical way. I believe that such a conference would serve a very useful purpose. My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has made reference to certain matters which cause me to say that there is one conference, of course, which could very well supersede a conference such as my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk has suggested; that is to say, a conference that would be dealing, not with the problems arising out of the war, but the problem of disposing of the war itself and getting it out of the way. We are bound at some time to come to such a conference, and I am very anxious to see us come to it before we spend more of the life and wealth of this country in an armed struggle, as we shall if there is not a lead given for the holding of this conference at a very early time.
With regard to evacuation, I have been interested to hear Member after Member indicating whether he represented a sending area, a neutral area or a reception area. The county I represent was first classified as a neutral area in certain parts and as a reception area in other parts. Since we had the first big air raid on the Firth of Forth there has been added another description to the area, and part of it has become a sending area. I, therefore, represent all types of area. I am keen to press home the point that has been made so strongly by the South Queensferry Town Council to the Secretary of State that there ought to be further 1160 consideration of the question of evacuation from that most vulnerable area. The latest urge that has been made to the Secretary of State is that mothers of school children as well as children of pre-school age should be evacuated. Since that air raid took place there have been endeavours to get it agreed by the parents that school children should be evacuated to safer areas. A certain number have taken advantage of the facilities offered, but there is a problem, which is the problem of the mother in the home to a great extent. She does not want to be separated from her children, and therefore the suggestion has been made that the mother should go with the children. Some school children are retained at home and are not allowed to be evacuated because of the help they can give in the home with the younger children. The mother with the growing family finds, if she allows the school children up to 10, 11 and 12 to be evacuated, that she is left with the small children, thus having the burdens of running the home greatly added to.
The Secretary of State has not seen fit to agree to the further pressure that has been brought to bear upon him by the South Queensferry Town Council, and I ask him not to close his mind to the ideas that have been put forward by the town council. He is well enough acquainted with the Bible to remember the story of the evacuation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Before certain evacuation took place from Sodom and Gomorrah he will remember how peradventure there would be 50—my hon. Friend the Member for Coat bridge (Mr. Barr) would be better able to finish the quotation than I am—and they got down in that peradventure to a very small number. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he also tries in his peradventure to get down to a small number. He will be very sorry to find in the days that lie ahead, if the war unfortunately continues and develops, that any action of his had prevented the evacuation from South Queensferry and that area of any who could have been by any means provided for as evacuees.
The problem of evacuation is a considerable one. There is far more to it than merely the official evacuation which was arranged by Government agency. I find myself much interested in voluntary evacuation. I have regretted to find how very rigidly the Government have adhered 1161 to their arrangements and given recognition only to officially evacuated children and others. At the end of September there were on the rolls of the schools in the county of Linlithgow 706 pupils who had been privately evacuated into the county. That is very considerably more than the number of children evacuated under the Government scheme. I cannot give the figures for that, because I cannot get them, but taking into account the numbers of mothers with young children, expectant mothers, children of school age and children of pre-school age, the total number evacuated officially into the county of Linlithgow was 963. Before the end of September I am quite certain that the total number did not stand as high as the 706 children actually attending the county schools who had been voluntarily evacuated. In dealing with this point I have had in hand with the Secretary of State for Scotland the case of certain privately-evacuated persons who, I thought, ought to have had more consideration than has been shown to them up to the present. In order to make the position perfectly clear perhaps I may read a report which I have with regard to two cases which I want to state to the House and again to press upon the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The report says:On Friday, 1st September, the first day of evacuation, a mother with four children, the oldest seven years of age, arrived from Edinburgh at her mother's home in this burgh. Not only did she come from an evacuable city, but she came to a reception area for that city, although had she reported at her nearest school she would have been sent to Jedburgh or Hawick, and would have been one of those unwanted mothers who created serious problems for billeting officers.That is an expression of opinion to which we need not pay too much attention to-night.Her case was considered sympathetically in the receiving area. It was recognised that this was the most natural and likely to be the most satisfactory type of billeting, and, moreover, in issuing a form entitling the householder to the regulation payments no known instructions communicated to billeting officers prior to evacuation were being infringed or contravened. Both parties involved are in poor circumstances…The father of these evacuee children is serving with the Army. The billeting officer has now been informed, however, that such billeting was irregular, and has carried out his instructions to cancel the form issued under a misapprehension and to instruct the parties that they must now return to the danger zone from which they came, report at the nearest school 1162 to be officially registered and officially sent out, or private arrangements must be made between the parties concerned. Both alternatives are now out of the question, because, in the first place, in the next evacuation only the one child of school age able to travel unaccompanied will be eligible, and poverty precludes the second. The bona fides of the parties concerned are not called in question, but it appears the Department concerned is not prepared to have such cases officially investigated and regularised at the reception end.That position still persists. I am told in a further report that the householder and the evacuees are in straitened circumstances and only self-denial and sacrifice on the part of all have made existence possible without Government assistance. There is a case where people came from an evacuation area and went into a reception area, with no trouble whatever to the officials concerned with the Government scheme. They made arrangements for themselves comparable to what could have been made by the Government, and I think that in the circumstances they ought to have had their position recognised and the appropriate billeting allowance paid.
Here is the second case. Again I read from the report:A second typical case in this area is that of an expectant mother, accompanied by a child, who arrived on Sunday, 3rd September, from Leith. Had she entrained with the official school party she would have gone to strangers who would have been confronted soon with the complications of her condition. She came to her aunt's, to have the care necessary under the circumstances, but officialdom has decreed that the recognition, given on sympathetic grounds, being unofficial, must be withdrawn, and that this expectant mother must make her private arrangements with the aunt or, alternatively, return to the city.The subsequent letter relating to these matters states:Arrangements for the event, expected at the end of December, have been made here. as the aunt has insisted upon her remaining in the country, even although her own husband is unemployed and no part of the expense is borne by the Government.There are clear indications that there should be more consideration given to such cases than has been given up to the present time. The cases in which real hardship arises should be more sympathetically considered than they have been by the right hon. Gentleman. When similar questions were raised with the Minister of Health, in the English Debate on evacuation, he seemed to give a more 1163 sympathetic hearing to cases of the kind. I believe that if the Minister of Health in England and our own Secretary of State were to approach the matter in the right way we could have it arranged that where hardship arose these billeting allowances could be made.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Gentleman has said that the Minister of Health has given sympathetic consideration. My hon. Friend will deal with that question of consideration when he replies but, in order to prevent misunderstanding, I ought to point out that such cases are not being paid in England at the present time.
§ Mr. Mathers
I do not want at all to overstate the case. I recognise that the Secretary of State was entitled to make his interjection, but I did not claim that the Minister of Health said that he was making these payments. I did not say that he was making the payments but that he gave a rather more sympathetic answer to the plea that was made to him along that line than the Secretary of State for Scotland has given in this matter. The only point I am making is that, between the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, they might be able to squeeze the Treasury to the extent of getting such a billeting allowance made.
Here is another case, of which I am sure there must be many. It is that of a child of five evacuated from the Edinburgh area to the Kelso district. The home to which it went was 4½ miles from the school, and for a child of five to make that journey to school was considered by the parents to involve a hardship on the child and to be too much for it. They brought the child home to Edinburgh and sent it to the county of Linlithgow. No billeting allowance is being made, although the child is in a better position in a place which is more suitable. Simply because the arrangement has been made privately no billeting allowance is made. Better consideration should be given than is the case at the present time. We should take into account that payments have to be made where there are private arrangements for the billeting of the child in the reception area. With regard to those children who were in the areas, it may be on holiday, prior to the outbreak of war, it was suggested that instead of sending them back 1164 to their home areas in order that they might be officially evacuated they should stay where they were because they were already in reception areas. I think that was a very sensible plan, but where you have side by side in the same village children who were not officially evacuated to that extent receiving the billeting allowances and the others who had made private arrangements a day or two later, it does create that feeling of hardship in the minds of those who are denied allowances.
I wonder if any complaint has been made to the Secretary of State about the amount paid in respect of billeting allowances. I have had only one complaint of this kind, and it was from a housewife in one of the villages in my constituency who had four children billeted. She told me that the 8s. 6d. per head per week allowed in respect of those four children left her 6s. per week out of pocket on food alone, and she was doing all the work in connection with the children for nothing. I would be glad to hear any comments that the Under-Secretary cares to make upon that particular point.
There is a point which has not been touched upon in this Debate to-day. I refer to the opportunities that are being provided for parents to visit their children in the reception areas, and especially the railway fares that are to be charged for those visits. It seemed to be a matter of importance when the announcement was made that facilities would be given under a complicated system of vouchers for the parents to visit their children, and it was made to appear that a very great concession was made by introducing a system of single fares for double journeys. No vouchers are necessary and no special arrangements are necessary by any Government Department to get special cheap single fares for the double journey; that can always be obtained, at least in normal times. I am not saying it can be done at the present moment. There is a normal arrangement for parties of eight travelling together, and you could always get a party of eight to travel from a sending area to a reception area to see their children.
As I heard the announcement made of single railway fares for double journeys and thought what those single fares would mean to many of the people who would try to take advantage of them,. I realised 1165 that it would be impossible for those people to afford those particular fares. There are many scales of railway charges for passengers that fall far below single fares for double journeys. The very kind of journeys that are desired to be made in these times for this purpose could be provided under what is known as the half-day excursion arrangement. I am certain that that would enable far more of those parents to make the journeys to see their children, and I am also sure that without over-taxing the railway companies in respect of the accommodation that they would be required to provide, it would pay them to make the concession of giving those half-day excursion fares instead of adhering to anything like the single fares for the double journeys. At the present time we consider we are using the railways for national purposes. This would be a good national purpose for which to use the railways; and I feel justified in pressing upon the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Transport the desirability of going back to the railway companies and asking them to give a better travel bargain to the parents who wish to visit their children.
This Debate has been a somewhat omnibus one. I should like to end by asking whether it is possible for an answer to be given now on a matter that I raised in the Debate on the Scottish Health Estimates on 20th July last year? It is time this point was cleared up. I pointed out on that occasion that the county council of Fife were denying to clerks— and I was particularly concerned about railway clerks—the lower standard rents for local authority houses, on the ground that clerks of any kind were not members of the working class. I looked upon that as a very serious slight upon myself, and felt indignant that it should be said that clerks were not members of the working class. I fail to understand how it is that the Fife County Council cannot be brought by the Scottish Office to see reason, how it is that it cannot be brought home to the Fife County Council that clerks are members of the working class and are entitled to the concessions in respect of house rents that are given to the working class. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able, at long last, to give me a reply on that point. We have had a very interesting Debate, and we shall listen with great interest to what the Under-Secretary has to say in reply to it.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Captain McEwen
I agree with the hon. Member, as I am sure we all must, that this has been both an interesting and an omnibus Debate. During the years in which I have been a Member of this House I have always enjoyed Scottish Debates, but I confess that I used to enjoy them more when I was sitting on the back benches than I do at this moment. A great many points have arisen from the speeches that have been made. I should like to start by dealing with some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). He brought up a point which he raised more than a year ago, about lower rents for local authority houses in the county of Fife. All that I am able to tell him is that we are fully informing ourselves on this matter, that it is, in fact, in course of negotiation, that it is true that there has been some delay in coming to a decision, but that it is hoped that at an early date he may hear more on this matter.
§ Mr. Mathers
Would it be possible for the Under-Secretary to go to the length of saying whether he agrees with my contention?
§ Captain McEwen
No, Sir, I am afraid that on this occasion it would not be possible to go even as far as that. As regards the question, which also came up, of cheap fares for parents of evacuated children who are paying visits, I do not think it is necessary to detail to the House the arrangement which has been come to in this matter, but the hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of the single fare for the double journey, and said that if several parents, say, eight or nine, were to collect together, they could go at a much cheaper rate than merely by paying single fare for the double journey. This single fare can be obtained only for a limited number of stations, even in normal times, and these stations are not included in the arrangements. The arrangements as they stand are, it is true, somewhat complicated, but such as they are, they are put forward in consultation with the Ministry of Transport as an experiment. Great attention will be paid to the results of the experiment, as to how many parents avail themselves of it, and how they find that it works in practice; following these, further steps will be taken. I need only mention one point, that trips to the more distant 1167 parts, which might require a journey overnight, raises a question of considerable difficulty and would require to be considered in consultation with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport.
§ Mr. Westwood
In all the arrangements that are being made for the purpose of parents visiting the children, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman see to it that there is co-ordination between the railway companies and road transport authorities? In a city like Inverness parents have to go miles out into the rural districts for the purpose of seeing their children, and unless there is co-ordination, there will be nothing but grumbling, complaints, and irritation.
§ Captain McEwen
Yes, Sir. The first journey which is being undertaken is, in fact, from Edinburgh to Inverness, and the road transport part of the journey has been taken into account. The hon. Member also brought up the question of private evacuation. Here again, this is a question of considerable complexity. A very large number of persons in what are called the priority classes have been evacuated privately, and the question is often raised why billeting allowances have been paid for such persons, and it is argued, as I think the hon. Member argued to-night, that it is much better that evacuated persons should go and stay with friends where they are welcome than be billeted with strangers. The answer is that when the Government evacuation scheme was being planned, it was necessary to assume that in Scotland alone, as my right hon. Friend has already mentioned in this Debate, anything up to 400,000 persons would have to be moved in emergency conditions from the sending areas, and it would have been impossible for transport authorities to take each family to the particular spot in the receiving area where they happened to have friends. Accordingly it was necessary to offer persons in the priority classes the alternative either of joining in the scheme and receiving the benefit of billeting allowances, coupled with being billeted with strangers, or staying out of the scheme and making their own arrangements. Obviously it would be unfair to these persons who could have gone to friends but chose to join in the scheme if we gave the benefit 1168 of billeting allowances to those who evacuated privately. That, in broad lines, is the case which the Government put forward. As the hon. Member said, and rightly, though I say it with hesitation, he possibly may have received from the Minister of Health a more friendly reception than he has received from other Ministers. If that be the case, it only shows that the matter is not being lost sight of. If he can find satisfaction in that assurance, he is very welcome to do so.
§ Captain McEwen
That point will be noted. One of the other questions which the hon. Member brought up was the evacuation from Queensferry and Inver-keithing. Arrangements were first made for the evacuation of accompanied school children, and the numbers which have gone up to date are 106 from South Queensferry, 44 from North Queensferry and 55 from Inverkeithing. Subsequently, the question of evacuating free schoolchildren and mothers was raised, on 8th November. The Department had a meeting with the representatives of the sending and the appropriate receiving areas, namely, West Lothian and Fife. It was decided that the areas should find out how many sending areas were willing to send children under three years and how many mothers wanted to be evacuated with these young children. The point is that agreement cannot be given to the idea of the evacuation of mothers with school children. This was allowed in the original scheme, but it was one of the main difficulties of that scheme, as has been mentioned in this Debate. The numbers up-to-date who have registered for evacuation from South Queensferry are very small. They are 12 mothers and 25 school children. That is going back to the somewhat startling simile which the hon. Member produced about the evacuation of Sodom and Gomorrah, and one might say that they are similar at least in the smallness of the numbers.
I should like to deal with one of the main questions that has been raised, that of the reopening of schools. The opinion has been pretty generally expressed that hon. Members would like to see the schools reopened. My right hon. Friend in his opening remarks put the matter 1169 very clearly as to what was being done and as to the object aimed at by the Government in this regard. The object aimed at by the Government is to have the schools reopened at the earliest possible moment, but there are two provisions to be taken into account—the provision of adequate shelter where possible, and that the school should not be in a particularly dangerous area. That is the Government's policy, and it seemed to me that some hon. Members, in particular the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), were pressing at an open door when calling upon the Government to do what in fact they are doing extremely hard at the present time.
The other point raised in that connection was the question whether the obligation should be placed on parents to send their children to school, or whether it should be left optional. I was somewhat surprised that many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House seemed to think that the obligation should not be laid upon the parents. On the contrary, it seems to me that it is the parent's responsibility. He is informed of the risk, and surely it is up to him to decide, as head of the family, whether the child should or should not go. It seems to me that it would be placing a great deal too much on the parent to tell him that he is forced to send his child to school in any case, whatever he might think the risks were.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is that the opinion of the Under-Secretary in regard to billeting? Would it be possible to get voluntary billeting?
§ Captain McEwen
It refers to what I was actually speaking about and must not be taken to refer to any other subject. A number of points were raised by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. A. Morrison). He spoke about the requisitioning of school buildings. At the end of August the Secretary of State delegated to county council and town clerks the power to requisition premises for the purpose connected with evacuation schemes. Only 35 requisition notices have been served by town clerks, of which 19 are still in force, and some premises in respect of which notices were served were found to be no longer required. This does not include a number of schools which have been requisitioned, in whole or in 1170 part, by the Civil Defence Authority and the Service Departments. A second point to which the hon. Member referred was the reopening of junior instructional centres. Under recent emergency legislation education authorities have been relieved of the obligation to provide junior instructional centres for unemployed juveniles. The question of reopening such centres is one for the local education authorities. The Minister of Labour would not place any obstacle in the way of reopening any of the pre-war centres if the education authority were of the opinion that the reopening of any of these centres was desirable, and the Minister of Labour would pay the normal grant in respect of any centres which might be reopened. This represents the attitude of the Ministry of Labour as regards junior instructional centres which existed before the war. Any proposal to establish new centres which would necessitate building operations would require careful consideration, but as regards the reopening of centres established before the war, education authorities have full discretion and no difficulties will be raised, I understand, by the Minister of Labour.
Then there is the question of the school-leaving certificate. This is a very complicated question, and I will only say that the Department have held two conferences with the Scottish Universities Entrance Board, and have arranged, subject to the approval of the universities, that estimates of a pupil's proficiency in the required subjects shall be supplied by the Department to the board and accepted by them for the purpose of deciding his fitness to enter a university. It will therefore be unnecessary for the pupils of schools which regularly present for the senior leaving certificate to sit for the preliminary examinations conducted by the four university centres in the spring. As soon as the scheme for the proposed senior leaving certificate, war time, has been finally adjusted, the Department will approach the examining bodies which recognise the senior leaving certificate and arrange to supply them with similar information regarding pupils' attainments, if they consider that the information given on the war-time certificate is insufficient for their purpose. The Entrance Board have informed the Department that this arrangement has been accepted by all four universities.
1171 A great many points have been raised in the course of the Debate, and if I do not reply to all, I can assure hon. Members that they will be carefully noted by the Department. The question of alternative billets has been mentioned and also the question of camps and mansion houses. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) raised that matter, and I may perhaps lay that particular ghost. According to the survey which was made in the case of large houses, those available last February would have accommodated about a tenth of the priority classes. Many of these have now been taken for hospitals, evacuation purposes, and military quarters, so that the contribution which large houses could make has been greatly decreased.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The suggestion was that round about Glasgow or Edinburgh huts of some kind should be built for educating the children and transport provided.
§ Captain McEwen
Having laid one of the hon. Member's ghosts, I now proceed to lay the other. There is a number of reasons why huts cannot be built. There are the questions of climate, of material and of cost. I can assure the hon. Member that the matter has been considered and that at this very moment there are five camps in the course of construction. I need not specify where they are, but it is hoped that one, at any rate, will be complete before the end of the year and that the other four will be ready by the Spring. But these camps are capable of holding only 350 children each. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) spoke of having seen during the last war a camp which housed 5,000. That was a very exceptional case, and the difficulties, especially in the matter of material and so on, in 1914 were not the same as the difficulties that we are faced with now. But even if we had a camp which would house 5,000, we still have to remember that there are 75,000 children to be accommodated.
The hon. Member for Govan kept on accusing the Government in very strong terms of having fallen into this evacuation plan and of having made no plans whatever beforehand. The fact is that the survey was made in January and February of this year, and in April every receiving authority knew the maximum 1172 number of persons to be sent into its area; in no case was more than that number sent. In May and June the Department discussed the detailed plans with the receiving authorities. The Department have been advised throughout by an advisory committee on evacuation, representing the local authorities, the teachers, and women's voluntary associations. So that the statement that there was no plan is, I fear, an untrue one.
The other question was with regard to dangerous and non-dangerous areas. I do not think I need be drawn into discussing this interesting and debatable question. It is one which could be used at a debating club with advantage. I still am not convinced that an area which has received a shell fragment is a dangerous area. A great part of my own constituency in East Lothian has appealed to me at one time or another precisely on those grounds, to be regarded as a dangerous area. But, believe me, there is a great difference in degree of danger between a place where a fragment of shell, or even a spent machine-gun bullet falls in the street—they always seem to fall on the police station—and a place which is liable to be deliberately bombed from the air. One is rightly counted as being a dangerous area and the other is not; and I think that differentiation stands. As I say, I had better not be drawn any further into that interesting discussion, although it certainly holds out many opportunities for debate.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has also left, but it is growing late. He made what I thought was an exceedingly fair speech about the evacuated children question. It has been debated in the House more than once, and I trust this is the last time we shall have to mention it. The hon Member talked of homes being invaded; on the other hand, he pointed out the reasons why, owing to housing conditions and so forth, these children, in some cases, were in no fit state to be billeted on other people. But when he said that they were looked down upon for their lack of culture, I thought he had forgotten his very fair opening passage. Let me say, once and for all, before we leave the subject, that it was not from any reasons of culture, or any superior attitude on the part of the unfortunate people who had such children billeted upon them, that there were any com- 1173 plaints to be made. We know perfectly well—it is not necessary to go into the matter—what the behaviour of some of these children was. It was not merely their condition of dirt but their behaviour which deeply shocked a great many people in the country districts of Scotland, and I think it only fair to point out that fact.
The evacuation scheme, handicapped by the impending shadow of unpredictable events, has undoubtedly constituted a lesser earthquake in the social life of Scotland. While I do not wish to minimise the hardships suffered by those families in which parents had to be parted from their children and in many cases are still parted from them in the sending areas, yet I think a special tribute is due —and a tribute has been paid already by the hon. Member who opened the Debate and by my right hon. Friend and others —to those in the receiving areas who so generously took in these children when asked to do so. In some cases, we must admit, it was a genuine hardship for them and worse than a hardship. As in the classic complaint of Othello:But there where I have garnered up my heart;Where either I must live, or bear no life…to be discarded thence.
That was the hardest thing to bear for many when the homes which they had tended with infinite care for many years were broken up and destroyed and defiled. That was a very great hardship, and to those people we ought to pay a great tribute. But let us not forget that in olden days the customary adjective for the Scot was "kindly." The "kindly Scot" used to be spoken of. We have seen, not without: pride, that this noble and eminently Christian quality of kindliness is just as conspicuous among our people to-day as it ever was in times gone by.
Sir R .W. Smith
I raised a point with regard to the training of children. As nothing has been said by the Under-Secretary with regard to that point, am I to assume that the Government do not consider it is a question which requires attention?
§ Captain McEwen
No, Sir, certainly not. My hon. Friend need not think that because this point has not been touched upon, it is not under consideration. It is, and it is a point that will be borne in mind.