HL Deb 14 July 1981 vol 422 cc1185-226

7.57 p.m.

House again in Committee, on Clause 5.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 23: Page 28, line 41, leave out ("have regard to the desirability of securing") and insert ("secure").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 23 deals with that part of the new scheme, at line 41, which states that the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of securing an equitable distribution of assisted places throughout Scotland and between boys and girls". We have heard a great deal about parental choice: It is going to be open to everybody to do this, that or the other. However, it sticks out a mile to anybody who knows Scotland that in order to give parents a choice there must be a school there, or thereabouts, to which their children can be sent.

We have to take into account the position in Scotland. There are about 1 million children in the Scottish public schools—that is, the ordinary education authority schools. In the independent schools which are scattered all over Scotland—laughingly called "public schools" in England—and in the grant-aided schools there are, as against the 1 million children in the care of the local authorities and the Secretary of State, only 32,000 children. An opportunity is now going to be afforded, with the assistance of the Government, to certain children to attend and receive education in these independent schools. I am glad that now it is not said that they will benefit from this kind of education.

If so few pupils, 32,000, are attending private schools in Scotland, have they been built up so that opportunities are available for the parents of the other 1 million children to rush to get places in those schools? How many of them will get a place? It is not very much of a parents' charter if so very few children will manage to get places. We must remember that we have been told that the Government will pay tuition fees, and perhaps certain travelling expenses, but that the Government will not pay boarding fees. In other words, only day pupils will be accommodated by the scheme.

Apart from a Roman Catholic Church school in Fort Augustus, I do not think there is one other school in the whole of the Highlands of Scotland. So, how many people in that area will get the benefit of this great scheme? I do not know whether there are any in Argyll and when we consider the whole scheme we discover that mainly the schools which are going to take in these assisted pupils are in Edinburgh or around Glasgow, mainly, of course, around Edinburgh. We have the list of schools, I think there are about 41 because there has been a slight change. There used to be 42 but somebody has had second thoughts and now there are 41. We have the sums of money that are going to be laid out on them and no equitable distribution is possible. It says that the Secretary of State must: have regard to the desirability of securing an equitable distribution of assisted places throughout Scotland". As to all his paeans of praise about the value of this education and what the Government are going to do, it is not a question of having regard to; they have got to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of assisted places. Otherwise, the thing is a sham. It is whitewash to declare that it is available for everybody in Scotland; it is not.

I think a suggestion has been made that if you are within about 25 miles the Government will be prepared to pay the travelling expenses. If children travel 25 miles to school in the morning, at what time do they start out One should bear in mind that they are not all living beside a railway line which will take them directly to the centre of Edinburgh or of Glasgow, And, thereafter, of course, they have bus travel to the chosen school. Some of these schools tend to be rather out of the way.

So, when we boil the whole thing down it becomes a simple proposition to see that there is no fairness and no possibility of fairness as between parents living in certain parts of the country and others living in Edinburgh or Glasgow. This is not a scheme that will meet the needs, if needs there be. It may well be that certain parents aspire to have their children in independent schools, but with the best will in the world the Secretary of State cannot create schools which are not there, so from that point of view the scheme will fall down. It will not be equitable; it will not be just; it will not—owing to the pure geography of the situation—be open to the Secretary of State to meet his obligation. His obligation is so tied up that he will just have regard to it. Nobody will blame him if he fails, although I think from the point of view of how this has been written up in the press and the proclamations of the Government's party in Scotland as a great breakthrough to freedom of parental choice, it does not stand up to examination.

I want the Government to accept the challenge that they should not just have regard to it but should secure an equitable distribution; and if the Minister tells me that he cannot accept that, he means that there cannot and will not be an equitable distribution and this great new scheme is only for a limited number of people who live in a certain place and the scheme is unfair because the rest of Scotland will have to pay for it. People will have to pay for it by way of taxation and will not get any benefit from it. The people in the Highlands, the people in Argyll and the people in my part of Ayrshire will not get any benefit. All they will get is the opportunity, but there is no school there and the Secretary of State is not going to ensure that there is one near at hand. The whole thing is a bit of a sham, and for that reason I challenge the Government to accept this amendment and to prove that they are going to do something about the equitable and fair distribution of these particular places. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, answered his own debating point in almost the last sentence of his peroration, when he said that, even with the best will in the world, the Secretary of State for Scotland cannot create schools which are not there. That of course is the key to what lies behind this amendment. Even if there were a greater number of suitable independent schools spread evenly across the country this amendment would still be much too demanding.

There are in Scotland fewer than 120 independent schools of all types and some of those could not qualify for participation in this scheme. They include special schools, preparatory schools and so on. But 41 are participating in this scheme, which is quite a high proportion of the possible total. It stands to reason that most of these participating schools are in and around the cities where the bulk of the population lives, and to place the Secretary of State under an obligation to secure an equitable distribution of places throughout Scotland would be to demand the impossible.

Obviously the Government would wish the scheme to be as widely accessible as possible in geographical terms and that will continue to be our aim. I do not want to have a geographical argument with the noble Lord. I do not quite know what his definition is of the "Highlands". There are certainly two participating schools in the Highland region. I do not know whether he counts Crieff as the Highlands—Morrison's Academy is there. Gordonstoun in Morayshire is not physically in the Highlands, but it is not very far away—

Lord Ross of Marnock


The Earl of Mansfield

If I may just finish, Rannoch in Perthshire, where I spent a number of happy years during the war, is certainly not lowland country. Nevertheless, I must doubtless take the noble Lord's amendment as seriously as he means it to be taken and invite your Lordships to reject it.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Well, Gordonstoun is Gordonstoun; I had the impression that Gordonstoun did not take day pupils, but I am open to correction. It may well be that they are going to change the rules in respect of this.

The Earl of Mansfield

I did not give way to the noble Lord and there is no reason why he should give way to me, but I forgot to point out one of the errors of his argument. Of course, the fact that the scheme does not embrace boarding school fees does not mean that the children will not go to boarding school.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It only means that the Government will not pay and that the parents will need to pay. I think that is the conclusion. I am very glad to have that further support for my argument that the parental charges will be very strictly limited in those particular cases, because the parents will have to meet a considerable bill. I know that something has been laid down, to which we shall come later on, about the parental contribution according to the income of the parents and I believe there is support in relation to the tuition fees, up to an income of, I think, about £9,000 a year at the present time, although as school fees go up, doubtless this will be a movable scale.

So the Government now admit that they cannot make this scheme available to all the children in various parts of Scotland whose parents would like to avail themselves of it. So that a limited number of children from one area but none at all from great areas of Scotland will be able to avail themselves. It may well be that those are the areas of Scotland where there is less choice of education in the public sector, which we spoke about earlier, so that they will be doubly penalised. It is good to have this information from the Minister—that of course it is a sham scheme in the sense that it is open to everybody but not available to everybody because of the very nature of the location of the particular schools.

The noble Earl wondered what I considered the Highlands. I tend to consider the Highlands according to local education authority areas. I may be wrong. Maybe I should have included Perthshire. Even Stirling counts itself as the gateway to the Highlands. But I think the noble Earl knew quite well what I was referring to in relation to the Highlands generally and that was to the area covered by the Highland Regional Authority. Of course, I could have said the Islands as well, because they have their own educational policy. There is Orkney and Shetland. I do not know that they are within easy reach of such schools. If the noble Earl tells me that most of what they are going to pay is just tuition fees and that does not rule out somebody else paying the boarding fees, I would be interested in knowing just how people even on those incomes are going to be able to afford the boarding fees.

The Earl of Mansfield

I wonder whether I could interrupt the noble Lord again. I am much obliged. It is most important that we should not make a mistake on the record about this. Where boarding schools are offering places they, the schools, will find the boarding fees from their own resources. Those schools are Gordonstoun, Rannoch, Fettes, Strathallan, Loretto, Merchiston, Fort Augustus and Glenalmond.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am very glad we have got them on the record, because I want this to support further arguments later on in relation to what else they will need. I have a long list of prices supplied by Caird, not unknown to the noble Earl, because if he was at that particular school there are only certain particular places where you buy the uniform. Of course the demands in relation to clothing in respect of this are very clearly listed for that particular school. I have the detail of them all and what the cost of them will be. But what about all the others? How many boarding places are there going to be altogether in these few schools of the 41 that the noble Earl mentioned?

I do not think it affects my argument to any great extent. So far as I can see, the number of places that are going to be available are going to be very few indeed. I wanted it confirmed by the Minister and he has confirmed it, and I am glad it is on the record. The people of Scotland will know exactly what a sham this particular great new scheme of theirs is. I will not press it to a Division. I will not even ask for it to be negatived, out of kindness and generosity to the hard-pressed Scottish Office. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 24: Page 28, line 43, at end insert ("and in respect of the need for denominational education").

The noble Lord said: I feel that there is something else that the Government should bear in mind if they are going to be fair to everyone. They have not only to take into account the geographical spread of availability of places under this scheme. It does say boys and girls, and most education in Scotland is co-educational, which is, to my mind, a good thing. But they have not put in the other thorny question about places in denominational schools. There are denominational schools in Scotland. Most of them are ordinary local authority schools. That was decided well over 60 years ago, when the local authorities took over all the Roman Catholic schools, and all the Church of England schools for that matter, and any other denominational school that wanted to come in; from that time forward they have been treated for all practical purposes as local authority schools, though certain rights and pledges were given in respect of religious education and who controlled it in the Roman Catholic schools which had been taken over by the local authority. All that has been very considerably to the benefit of education in Scotland generally. Anyone who can cast their mind back far enough to those days would appreciate the very considerable difference there was in standards of schools and standards of education. It has been to the benefit of Scotland that we have reached, quite a long time ago, very high uniform standards of education in all the local authority schools, whether denominational schools or ordinary schools.

But if we are going to make provision for assisted places, you have to remember there is a large Catholic population in Scotland, and even on a numerical basis there has to be a distribution of the places to meet their needs. There are Roman Catholic independent schools. I mentioned the Fort Augustus one; there are others, some for boys and some for girls. From that point of view I think we should put this in, to ensure that everyone is being fair, everyone is being considered. It is not going to be open to all, but those that are open to some are going to cater for all the various demands and needs in respect of education. Where there is demand for education with a religious bias, then that, too, should be written in, if this scheme is going to be at all fair or reasonable or even meet some of the demands of some of the people.

My idea is that if we have to have this scheme let it be the best we can get. So far it has fallen down on distribution of places geographically available to parents who aspire to this sort of education for their children in Scotland. The same thing must be done in respect of denominational aspects. Elsewhere in this Bill the Government can realise their importance. They are important all through the educational provision. When they are providing assisted places at independent schools they must be sure that they give their fair share of places to the Roman Catholic community as well. This is why I suggest this amendment should be made. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

I confirm at once that one of the objectives that we have kept in mind in designing the assisted places scheme is the desirability of providing places in schools of as many different kinds as possible so as to cater for the wishes of as many different kinds of parents as possible. And this, of course, includes provision of places in denominational schools. But it would not, I suggest, be appropriate to place the Secretary of State under a statutory obligation to carry out that policy, and it certainly would not be appropriate to give him a duty to achieve this policy to the extent of 100 per cent.

The argument is similar to that in relation to the last amendment. The scheme can only extend to include the participation of such schools as exist. As I have said, the total number of independent and grant aided secondary schools in Scotland is small. In fact, we have enlisted the co-operation of most of them. The list includes all, or very nearly all, the denominational schools—mainly, of course, Roman Catholic—and we are very glad to have their co-operation. If new denominational schools were founded, we would be very happy to consider them also as participating schools; but, as I said, you cannot invent schools where they do not at present exist.

But let there be no doubt about Government policy in all this. We share with the noble Lord appreciation of the value and importance of religious education, whether in denominational schools or in schools that regard themselves as non-denominational. But we do not think that it is either necessary or desirable to include a statutory provision of the kind that is envisaged by this amendment. So bearing that in mind, I can only suggest that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The Government on the last amendment resisted certainly the very arduous task that I had placed upon them not "to have regard to" but to act—to "secure" the equitable distribution. The noble Earl resisted that amendment. He wanted the freedom to say, "I have had regard, but I cannot possibly because of the circumstances". He is further resisting the situation here. He thinks that the amendment is right to draw attention to the situation and he says, "We are seized of it and we want to do this, but we are not even going to put it in this time". Why is that so? He resisted the last amendment, so if we insert the present amendment it would read: …have regard to the desirability of securing an equitable distribution of assisted places throughout Scotland and between boys and girls and in respect of the need for denominational education". With all the pleas about the concern of the Government and of the Education Department for places in denominational educational establishments, why will the noble Earl not even put this in? It may well be that some other Government will come along with different ideas and the Minister will say, "There is nothing in the statute that says that I have to have regard to the need for denominational school places for children being assisted as regards that kind of education". It would have cost the Government nothing, but it would have shown once again the feelings in Scotland that were enshrined in the 1918 Act and in the transfer provisions in Clause 16(1) of the principal Act, and that concern and consideration will apply to the assisted places scheme.

I see no justification for the noble Earl not accepting this amendment. In fact, I thought that I was going to have the difficult task of getting up and thanking the noble Earl for accepting the amendment. No, he has disappointed me again. It would not have cost him anything; it would have been a proclamation and that is all. It says "distribution…between boys and girls" and "distribution…throughout Scotland". The noble Earl knows that that means nothing—nothing at all. So once again he has proclaimed the poverty of the whole thing and the fear of the Secretary of State and of the Government that people will see it for what it is—just a glorious sham. No, I cannot withdraw this particular amendment. I think that we shall need to move forward through a Division.

8.23 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 24) shall be agreed to.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 61.

Bishopston, L. [Teller.] McCluskey, L.
Blease, L. MacLeod of Fuinary, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Molloy, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Parry, L.
Collison, L. Peart, L.
David, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rhodes, L.
Hughes, L. [Teller.] Ross of Marnock, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
John-Mackie, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Lee of Newton, L. Stone, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Strauss, L.
Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. White, B.
McCarthy, L.
Auckland, L. Glendevon, L.
Avon, E. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Baker, L. Hives, L.
Balerno, L. Hunt, L.
Bellwin, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Belstead, L. Inglewood, L.
Bradford, E. Killearn, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lawrence, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Long, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Loudoun, C.
Chelwood, L. Lyell, L.
Cockfield, L. Mansfield, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Margadale, L.
Craigavon, V. Mottistone, L.
Crathorne, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Orkney, E.
de Clifford, L. Perth, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Donegall, M.
Drumalbyn, L. Rochdale, V.
Eccles, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Ellenborough, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Elles, B. Selkirk, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Sharples, B.
Elton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Faithfull, B. Soames, L.
Ferrier, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Glenarthur, L. Strathclyde, L.
Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Vickers, B.
Tranmire, L. Windlesham, L.
Trenchard, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 25: Page 29, leave out line 26.

The noble Lord said: This amendment leaves out line 26 which says: tuition and other fees the payment of which is a condition of attendance at a particular school"— that is what the Government are to pay— but excluding— (i) boarding fees". I suggest that we leave out the words "boarding fees". I suggest that if the Government really mean to give an opportunity to people all over Scotland to attend such schools, they should pay the boarding fees as well. We have just been told by the Minister of State that there are five schools, including Gordonstoun and Rannoch School, for which he has a special regard, which, out of their own monies, will provide boarding fees. That is good enough.

But what about the rest? What about all the other colleges? What about Fettes? What about the many that are listed in all these publications, which set out just exactly how much are the boarding fees?—anything up to about £1,000 a year, and some even more when you consider that the fees are payable by the term. Apart from those who will be helped in respect of these places, it means that no one from the Highlands and Islands, the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Argyls, the Galloways and all the far out places will have a chance. If the Government mean to make the scheme available to any one in Scotland, they must provide for this. It means that if the money is limited and they provide more money to cover the cost of one particular child, by having to pay boarding fees, fewer people will be able to take advantage of the scheme, because of the stinginess of the Government in pursuing their great plan, that they will do it but that they will have to limit the amount of money.

Perhaps the Minister could tell me how much these particular schools that he mentioned will get from the Government in the first year. I do not want to give him the information; I want him to give the Committee the information. If I have the information, as I have it here, he could probably inform the Committee about it. Then we would have an indication—and we could get the cost of boarding fees—of just how many people will be assisted in this way. We would get a rough idea. I think that we should be staggered at how few they are in number, which of course brings this whole subject down from shadow to substance, and we appreciate just how little it all means and how ill-advised the Government were to embark on this idea in the first place.

This is an English import, alien to all the traditions of Scotland and Scottish education. But a group of Ministers are prepared to accept the diktat from else-where and apply it to Scotland. We already know that it will not apply to a great many people, who will be ruled out because there is no school in the area. In answer to that the Government say that they can be boarders. The Government say that they will pay anything else, but that they will not pay that, which means that those people are ruled out. So the Government have created the great charter and the great myth of this scheme being available to all children in Scotland. Time after time they say, "No, not to them". No doubt the Minister will say that the Government could not afford it, that they cannot justify it. They will show that the whole principle is utter nonsense, because they deny the one thing that is absolutely essential for people who do not live near a school, that they should board at the school and that the Government will pay the fees.

The effect of my amendment is that the Government would pay boarding fees. It is not that people should not go to such schools, but simply that the Government should pay the boarding fees. If the Government mean what they say about places being available, they must face that fact. It is a natural consequence of what the Government say they want to do; what the Government say they should do. The Government say that it will be to the great benefit of all the people in Scotland who can achieve a place in these schools if the Government pay boarding fees. This may be a strange argument coming from me, but noble Lords must remember that I am only accepting this if it will be passed into law. If it is to be passed into law, let us make it as fair as possible. I shall vote against the clause when the opportunity arises later, but meantime, as we go through the clause and seek to amend it, I shall seek to improve it if it eventually is to go on the statute book. Could we have the Government's answer as to why they will not pay boarding fees? I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

I recognise the desirability in theory of paying boarding fees so as to make assisted places available in residential schools. The aim is to make the scheme available to as many Scottish families as possible. One must keep that in the forefront of one's mind. Given that travelling expenses can be paid for a distance of up to 25 miles—and we have heard a great deal from the noble Lord, Lord Ross, about, so to speak, the geographical features—it is perhaps fair to point out that there is a participating school within 25 miles of the homes of 85 per cent. of Scottish families.

On top of that a number of boarding schools have, of their own accord, offered boarding places on the understanding that if the scheme will make the appropriate contribution to tuition fees, they will, from other sources, meet the boarding fees. I gave a list of eight boarding schools which are participating. In fact, there are nine; I left out one, Keil. So the coverage of the scheme is, as I suggest, very satisfactory. If it were possible, we should be glad to increase it still further by making provision under the scheme for the payment of boarding fees for a certain number of places, but we must have regard to what is possible and to the fact that boarding places are much more expensive than day places. With the resources presently available for the scheme we consider that it is essential to concentrate on day places in order to cater for as many pupils as possible. On that basis the noble Lord's amendment is, I fear, unacceptable.

Lord Hughes

The noble Earl the Minister mentioned that nine schools were paying the boarding fees out of their own resources. Can he say how many of the remaining 32 schools, if any, are boarding schools or are schools taking only day pupils?

The Earl of Mansfield

I can give the noble Lord a list of all the participating schools if he really wants it.

Lord Hughes

But how many of the schools are boarding schools?

The Earl of Mansfield

I have told the noble Lord that nine of the schools are boarding schools, and so the remaining schools are not.

Lord Hughes

Unless I misunderstood the noble Earl the Minister, he told us that nine schools were providing fees from their own resources. What I want to know is whether there are any boarding schools which are not providing boarding fees out of their own resources.

The Earl of Mansfield

I think the answer is that, if there are, they are providing places on a day basis. I hope that the noble Lord follows me. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, asked how much money the boarding schools were getting in cash terms and how many boarding places there are. In cash terms the boarding schools are receiving approximately £100,000. I cannot answer how many places that represents because it will depend on the amount of money that is remitted by way of fees, and that will depend on the amount of the remission to which the parents in any particular instance are entitled.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Let us take, for example, Rannoch School, which was one of the schools mentioned by the noble Lord the Minister as making available a boarding place out of its own money. I presume that the bid in respect of Rannoch School related to tuition fees has been met. The school's bid for tuition fees was for £5,000. The senior school fees are £715 per term, and £665 for the junior house per term, although I presume that we are only talking about secondary pupils. The result is that Rannoch School will not be handling a great many pupils. I should like to know how many boarding places are being made available by Rannoch School. Will they be for all or only for some? At a figure of £700 a term—although the figure is probably nearer £1,000 now—does that mean that 10 pupils will be going to Rannoch School? These are the kind of figures we are talking about. Or will the number of pupils be less than 10? Will only some of the pupils be boarded? According to the Minister, many of the schools are going to make eight places available. Gordonstoun, which has no day places, is, I presume, getting £12,000, which relates to its fees. How many pupils will that be? Will it be 12 pupils? One can imagine that everyone will be racing to send their sons to Gordonstoun, but there will only be 12 places. Is that parental choice? It is parental nonsense. Why it was ever smiled upon by the Scottish Office or brought into Scotland at all I shall never know. This was a political decision. It may well have been because this measure was being taken in England it was dictated that it should also be done in Scotland.

I do not doubt that people will be found to apply for places, but they will not be parents who are unemployed and on national assistance. I am perfectly sure that will not be the case. If the Government really mean what they say, they should be giving this opportunity to people who could only send their children to such schools if their boarding fees were met. Those boarding fees are not going to be met other than through the charity of the school in respect of some places. This is a shoddy deal to put up; to say to the Scottish public that there will be assisted places at independent schools for anyone who wants them—there will not be. There are going to be a very limited number of places indeed. The fact there will be no payment in respect of boarding fees will limit it further except for a few, although I do not know how they will be selected—perhaps in those cases the parents will have to be unemployed in order to qualify for a boarding school place for their child. But we do not know because the Minister cannot tell us. The Minister cannot give us any numbers. There is very little that he can tell us.

I am not going to divide your Lordships over this amendment, but I hope that I have convinced some people that this is not such a golden opportunity for Scottish girls and boys as the Government would have us believe. It is far from it. It is not going to fill the need that is so vociferously and obviously there. It is just going to lend a bit of a prop to independent education. The facts are that in the past three or four years for which I have received figures the number of children attending independent schools has decreased. Now the number will go up again, thanks to the financial prop that is to be provided by the Government. But if the Government were to be fair to the pupils, and fair in what they have said about giving pupils a real opportunity, then the Government would support those children in respect of holding those fees. If the Government really believed in this scheme they would do that, but they know it is really a bit of a sham and they want to run the scheme as cheaply as possible. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.48 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 26: Page 29, leave out lines 27 and 28.

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the next line in the clause. The Government are going to pay the tuition and other fees the payment of which is a condition of attendance at a participating school but excluding—

  1. (i) hoarding fees; and
  2. (ii) such other charges, if any, as may be prescribed by regulations".
Here again we come to regulations which are going to be laid down by the Secretary of State but about which we know nothing, and I doubt very much whether the Secretary of State knows anything about them either. Or it may be that he does, because I believe the regulations have already been passed. We do not have them readily available here, but I have seen them and it is rather interesting when one does examine them. For the benefit of anyone who has not seen these regulations, it is wonderful, for example, to read the demands made by Rannoch School. A pupil there must have a blazer, he must have grey flannels, and he must have a kilt. Once the pupil is at school, regular wear will be the kilt. Not to mention a sporran and all the other accoutrements, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, as he well knows, when he gets himself suitably accoutred for a Burns' Night at the Caledonian Club or elsewhere.

The amount of money given in respect of clothing would be an interesting point if we get that from regulations, so that the Committee will know exactly what the Government are going to give towards these uniforms, and the rest of which has to come from the parents. It will be fascinating to find out what the whole bill will be in respect of someone who is boarding in Rannoch School. The last time I saw the sum of money estimated as the cost of those articles which were exclusively demanded of people boarding it came to well over £400.

I know that the Government are going to give something in the first year which is higher than that in the succeeding years, but could the Minister give us an idea as to the other charges they are going to meet, the cost of uniforms and the rest of it, and what they are not going to meet? When people go to these schools they are expected to turn up for rugby and to have a pair of boots, at least one pair of socks, and at least one shirt, probably two. It all means money. Who is going to meet this if the Secretary of State is not? The school out of their generosity are not going to meet this as well. Surely they are not going to fob them off with second-hand rugby boots? They may be all right with a cricket bat, or something like that that has been left over by somebody, but what about sweaters, T-shirts, all the other things that are going to be demanded if they are to play a full part in the life of these schools to which they are being assisted by this generous Government?

Later on I have information that must be given to the parents. Parents who are going to apply will require all this information. I hope that the Government here will be able to tell us, and through us everyone in Scotland who is avidly waiting for this information, as to the other charges that may be prescribed by regulations which the Government are not going to meet, and which will have to be met by the parents, or be assisted, or by the grannies. It may be they are going to take a collection round the family for those lucky enough to get an assisted place in one of these renowned establishments. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

I will deal with the amendment. The fees to which the scheme applies are in subsection (7). Fees, the payment of which is a condition of attendance. One of the things which has become apparent while this scheme has been prepared, and which has become apparent from our contacts with the participating schools, is the wide variety of fees that could come under that description. Schools by their nature tend to be complex organisations and they impose charges on pupils for all manner of things which vary; for instance, restoration fund for the school organ, or a fund to provide some kind of gratuity or memorial for a teacher who has retired or died. In certain circumstances the payment of contributions of that kind could be legally regarded as a condition of attendance at the participating school. While we would not necessarily object to that we want to have the power to keep control over that kind of thing.

Another aspect of this is that at some schools various charges get tied up with tuition fees although they are not for tuition at all. They might even be for school meals. Apart from the limited provision we are making for low income families we do not intend any general assistance with school meals, and we certainly want to have power to exclude them. Some of these exclusions may be done without resort to regulation, simply by dealing with them in the individual determination with the schools to be made under Section 75A subsection (2), but it may be that there will be a need also for general exclusions by means of regulations.

So far as the cost of uniforms is concerned, which is not strictly within the terms of this amendment, Regulation 13, as the noble Lord well knows, of the regulations in fact covers it. What in fact it says is that there is a grant of £80 in the first year if the parental income falls below £4,600; £60 in the first year if it is between £4,600 and £4,800; £40 if between £4,800 and £5,000; and £20 if it is between £5,000 and £5,200. I shall come back to this if and when we have a debate on clause stand part, but it is very easy to pour scorn on this scheme. Of course it is. One can find lots of quite witty holes to pick in it, but if one regards it really as a form of state scholarship which enables children of families, who otherwise would not be able to afford it, to attend these types of schools which their parents choose for them, the whole thing falls into perspective.

The object of the Government, which is modest enough, is one which is entirely praiseworthy. If we devoted more money the noble Lord would be the first to complain, and complain that we were, as it were, robbing the poor to pay the rich, as I am sure he will later on. But the fact is that it is not costing the taxpayer a penny more than at the moment is being paid to the grant aided schools, and gradually being phased out. In that context the scheme should be seen for what it is, as a kind of scholarship to a number of families who otherwise would not be able to afford this type of education.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It is not my scheme; it is the Government's scheme, and they are going to claim great credit for it. But how it is going to be done and how it is going to meet the needs of the poor I do not know. There are certain things that the Government are not going to pay for. It may well be additional music lessons. It may not be music; it may be teaching them an instrument. Even in the local authority schools that I know in Strathclyde we supply the instrument as well as supply the teacher. We have a splendid youth orchestra in Scotland. Many of the members learned their music in the ordinary schools, but if they go to one of these schools then because music is not one of the compulsory subjects in respect of tuition it is guaranteed that they are not really going to meet the needs of the child.

I look at this as to what they do. They might as well do it now when we talk about fees and things that the Government are going to pay. We have not got the legislation but we have the regulations. In actual fact the Government have already introduced and passed the regulations under powers of another Act. They do not really need this. The education allowance for assisted places in secondary education schools was made on 26th March, laid before Parliament on 29th March, coming into operation on 15th May. So there we already have it. We are told that the highest payment in the first year in respect of clothing is going to be £80.

I have before me the demands of Rannoch School. We are talking about a school the Minister knows, and let us consider some of the items. A kilt—"tartan of own choice"—will cost anything between £80 and £100. And the kilt does not go alone because, irrespective of any mystery that is made about it, the next item on the list for this school is a pair of trews, £1.50, and a sporran of plain leather, about £5; and so one goes on through the list of items demanded or suggested. I said earlier that it would cost about £400, but I think the minimum for day pupils would be about £500. Remember, too, that many of these items must be renewed year after year; yet in the first year the maximum is £80 and in the second, £40. Anybody who tries to clothe a child today knows that these are very unreasonable figures indeed.

When one takes into account the special demands of this kind of school, not to mention all the optional items, the figures are quite unrealistic. For this particular school, the optional items comprise a bicycle, skis, ski boots and ski pants, and they are all available through Caird Sports, Aviemore Centre, Inverness-shire, not forgetting ice skates, sledge, cricket bat, fishing rod and lifejacket. If I were to read out all the expedition gear, one would begin to realise that the child who goes there and does not meet these needs would not be able to play his part in the school. He would be seen to be a child who is different—he would be out of it—and unless the Government are more generous, that will be the position.

I am trying to prove to the Government what a sham this is. They are introducing something, probably with the best will in the world, but they are completely ignorant of how ordinary people live and react. Those people will not be able to meet this sort of bill, and I hope the Government will tell the people who apply and make inquiries, plainly and straightforwardly, how much it will cost them to take advantage of this great new parents' charter for Scottish children; that is, the very few who get there.

What is it that I am trying to prove with all these amendments? First, regarding geographical distribution, there is none; in relation to denominational schools, that does not exist; and as for tuition fees, the sums that will, or could, be left for parents to pay will be such as to rule the thing out of court for a tremendous number of parents.

The Earl of Mansfield

Has the noble Lord appreciated that this is not a free places scheme but an assisted places scheme? Does he also realise that there are parents who are prepared to make a financial sacrifice to buy the kilt, the trews, the sporran, the skis and deprive themselves of, say, a foreign holiday or two in order to advantage their children?

Lord Ross of Marnock

Of course I know there are people who do that; but I also realise there are people who, with the best will in the world, would like to do it but cannot. I hope the noble Earl appreciates that it was not I who started this scheme. Nor was it I who paraded it, saying it was available for every child of all classes and of all abilities. It was the Secretary of State who did that on Second Reading. Will every child be able to meet these commitments? Is the noble Earl aware that today in the ordinary schools parents are having to make a considerable sacrifice to make provision to keep their children at school? My parents did it when they could ill afford it. The element of sacrifice is still there for parents keeping their children on at ordinary schools over the age of 16.

I assure the Minister that when all the extras are taken into account to purchase the items on the sort of list I have read out, they will not be met by the Government, and therefore demands are being made that people will not be able to meet. It will be the people at the top end of the scale who will more readily be able to meet this bill and not, for example, parents who are unemployed, a growing number of them, who already are making sufficient sacrifices to keep their children decent.

The noble Earl should not lecture me about sacrifice. I do not know what sacrifices his parents had to make to educate him. I know the sacrifices my parents had to make to educate me, and I shall receive no lectures from him on what working-class parents in Scotland have to do for their children. I assure noble Lords opposite that lists of items of that sort put the whole thing way beyond ordinary folk. I think I heard the noble Lord, Lord Denham, say something. Does he wish to intervene?

Lord Denham

I am sorry, but I did not hear what the noble Lord, Lord Ross, said.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I did not hear what the noble Lord said and wondered whether he wished to intervene.

Lord Lyell

The noble Lord was not meant to hear it.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I know I was not meant to hear it, but it is very bad manners indeed, especially for a Minister on the Government Front Bench, to come in, sit down and mutter away, obviously complaining about the time we are taking over this Scottish business.

Lord Lyell


Lord Ross of Marnock

Let us remember that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, was one of those who wanted the affairs of Scotland to be kept here at Westminster, where it is all nice and cosy and where everybody takes part in the debates. We must not let Scottish education be discussed in Scotland; it must be dealt with here. Yet now he grudges us every minute we take.

Lord Denham

I am extremely happy that the noble Lord should be discussing this matter, but I think that 18 minutes is rather a long time in moving an amendment, and I think the Committee is feeling that.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Unfortunately the noble Lord was not here when the Minister replied to my rather curtly-put amendment. If he would train his Ministers to be precise and provide us with the information we want, instead of it having to be dragged out of them, we should get on very much faster. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, comes in to see us only every now and then. He must not judge the importance of a subject by the amount of time it takes.

Lord Denham

I do not.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I assure the noble Lord that he has not heard anything yet. Judging from the replies we have received from the Government today, it is going to be a very interesting Report stage, if we are to be allowed a Report stage; but perhaps I had better leave that matter.

I have been satisfied with what the Minister said, since in the amendment I have been trying to prove how useless is the whole scheme from the point of view of the ordinary people in Scotland. It is a sham. I thank the Minister for his reply. I thank him for the information that was given to us by Parliament. We have been told about the sum of £80 in the first year, £40 in the second year, with the parents having to meet the rest, with all the optionals that might be demanded of the child. If these are not met by the parents, the child will feel very much out of it. It is quite ridiculous that this scheme should be put forward as being a genuine great advance in Scottish education. It is nothing of the kind! However it is there; we have seen how empty it is. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.9 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 29, line 38, at end insert— ("( ) the kind of information which the participating school must, on request in writing, supply to parents of an applicant e.g. the school rules regarding school discipline; the latest estimates of cost of required clothing; and of expected expenses not covered by grant or remission of fees.").

The noble Lord said: This is an important amendment because here we come to the question of parental rights. We have laid down today what rights as to information the parents should have even where the child is going to a local authority school and I want the parents to have the same kind of rights in respect of the private, independent schools. They should have all the information that they require in order to make up their minds whether they should send, or seek to send, their child to the school. I do not think that the Government will object to that, and indeed it might well be that, having seen my amendment on the Marshalled List, and having heard what I said on Second Reading, the Government, too, are thinking about the question of whether parents should be given a certain amount of information. I notice that an amendment has been tabled by the Minister—I think it is the next amendment on the Marshalled List—intended in certain respects to meet the point that I am raising.

In my amendment I suggest the kind of information which the participating school must on request in writing, supply to parents of an applicant…the school rules regarding school discipline; the latest estimates of cost of required clothing; and of expected expenses not covered by grant or remission of fees". That is the kind of thing I have been talking about. A parent ought to know all these things, he ought to know the obligations that he is likely to meet; he might not want to send his child to the school. I have heard of some of these schools descriptions so horrifying that no self-respecting parent in Scotland would want to send their children anywhere near them. The descriptions have usually come from people who have attended these highly expensive schools.

Parents should have the right to a certain measure of information. My amendment contains only suggested items of information. Many people are concerned about the code of discipline in the private schools. We do not have caning in Scotland in our local authority schools; there is very little corporal punishment at all nowadays. I should like to know exactly the nature of the discipline at the selected schools. Surely this is not useless information; it is desirable information. I should like to hear what the Government have to say about my amendment and whether they think it a good or a had idea. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

I have a fairly large family of both boys and girls who have attended various schools in Scotland and in England, and I have never at all had any difficulty in obtaining from the schools all the information of the kind that the noble Lord opposite proposes should be made a requirement in the Bill. I hope that such a requirement is not included in the Bill and that we are allowed to collect the information, which is readily given to us when we ask for it.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I appreciate the concern of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. He should have been here earlier. We inserted in the Bill a provision requiring this kind of information from local authority schools. The noble Lord was not interested—that is what is wrong.

Lord Strathclyde

That is quite incorrect, and the noble Lords knows it. He and I served together for many years in another place, and he knows very well that I got all the information that was required and that I asked for in connection with the ordinary schools in the country, of which I am very proud so far as Scotland is concerned.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Hear, hear!—so am I; and I suggested it was not necessary to put it into legislation, but that wicked Government, those people sitting in front of the noble Lord, with his support said, "Yes, the local authorities must provide it". That was whether or not the parents ask for it; and that was done today. I am sorry I missed the noble Lord's support, but there you are. It may be that the next time, when we come to Report stage, he will be in his place at the right time and we will have a stout Galbraithian speech from him in respect of what is required.

But his speech here was mistimed, I am sorry to say. He had better look at the next amendment that the Government are going to move. He will find that, once again, this wicked Government are paying no attention to his point of view and are going to demand that the schools give information. Their amendment is nearly the same as mine, but not quite. Their amendment is general; mine is one that gives certain details of the kind of information that might be required. I know a lot of information is available. All you have to do is to get the advertisements and the list of school places. It is all here; I have got it already. They are not all participating, and the list is not always up to date. It may not tell the parents exactly what they want to know.

It may well be that when the school replies to the parent all they will do is send this brochure, but if the noble Lord is interested in any of these schools I will gladly give him the information that they presently provide. But it is the information which is not in here that the parents want, and I hope that that is the kind of thing which, when we come to the next amendment, the Government say they are going to provide.

The Earl of Mansfield

I am very grateful to my noble friend for his support, but I have to confess, I suppose, that in this instance, at least, the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has a point; and it was because of that, in fact, that we tabled Amendment No. 28. I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, would have moved his amendment reasonably shortly, and we could then have put mine into the Bill without more ado.

I do not think that, strictly speaking, either amendment is necessary because the Bill already contains a general power enabling regulations to be made about—and I quote— such other matters as appear to the Secretary of State to be requisite for the purposes of the [assisted places] scheme". Having said that, I think that the intention of the noble Lord is desirable; but his amendment would correspond with the regulation-making powers contained in the new Section 28B(3) relating to the provision of information with regard to schools in the public sector, and that, of course, depends on a previous provision creating a duty to give information which is missing in the assisted places provisions. Furthermore, if I may say so, it is unusual drafting practice to give examples, as the noble Lord does in his amendment.

Therefore agreeing, as I do, with the principle that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has put forward, and wishing to achieve it, I have tabled my own amendment which will achieve the effect that we both want, and perhaps I could invite him to withdraw his amendment. I might conclude by saying that it is the Government's intention to make the same provision as to the supply of information by participating schools as is made for schools in the public sector, with only such differences as are necessary or appropriate because of the different circumstances of the two cases.

Lord Hughes

I appreciated the extent to which, in his amendment, the Minister was covering the ground stated by my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock, but omitting the specified items which my noble friend gave as examples—because, as he said, they were only examples; they were not meant to be an exhaustive list. But what I wonder is that, the reference having been made to the regulations which are to be made for the local authority schools, in the local authority case the information has to be made available, but, for some reason, in relation to the second group, the assisted places, the words are added "if requested in writing". In the one case, therefore, there is the degree of compulsion, that the information should reach the parents, and in the other case it will reach only those parents who ask for it.

It may be perfectly reasonable, if the parents are not sufficiently interested to ask for the information, to say that there is no point in giving it to them; but why the difference, then? Because in the one case it is going to be thrust at them whether or not they want it, but not in the other case, where the sums of money involved, if my noble friend is right (and I have no doubt, as he was not contradicted about Rannoch, he is right at least so far as that school is concerned), the expense, for one thing, may be very considerable. So why are these words in the new amendment: on request in writing"?

The Earl of Mansfield

The difference is that in the public schools the parents are exercising a choice. It is a choice which can be exercised and it can be changed after 12 months. It is rather a different matter when parents are considering whether they wish to enter their child—if that is the correct phrase—on an assisted places scheme. The two schemes are entirely different and different considerations apply.

Lord Hughes

I would have been happier about the Government amendment if it had been the information which participating schools supply to the parent of a pupil who is eligible for an assisted place so that there would be a very broad similarity then between the requirement in the two different parts of the Bill.

The Earl of Mansfield

I do not think that I can improve on the answer that I originally gave. It is the distinction, if you like, between the public sector and individual applications for assisted places.

Lord Hughes

I know that the Minister has already said that he cannot improve on his original reply, but that is not a commendation of it.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think that a mistake the noble Earl the Minister made was to relate it to schools in the public sector. It is entirely different. The whole question of fees outside of those that are compulsory, the whole question of many aspects of discipline and the like, are very different because individual schools in the independent sector have their own ideas, whereas, generally speaking, there is a code of conduct which applies to all schools in Scotland so far as, say, corporal punishment is concerned. He should have concentrated on the difference. It was wrong to say that they want to apply the same kind of principles to the information that is applied in respect of independent schools as in respect of public sector schools. That was the mistake that he made and he muddled us about it.

The kind of information depends entirely upon the parents. It is not every parent who is going to apply for it. This is one of the differences. It is only the parent who wants their son to go to that particular school and it may be one of half a dozen to whom he is applying for information. There is nothing to say that he can only apply to one school for an assisted place. He can apply to a dozen schools. It may well be that from different schools he will be asking for different information. What I am concerned about is that, generally speaking, he will get it.

The Minister was right in saying that generally when we put this kind of amendment down we put in a few examples which are not exhaustive: Without prejudicing the generality of the power…they shall provide information about A, B, C and D". This was my shorthand way of dealing with it.

I am reasonably satisfied with the reply I received from the Minister. His aim seems to be the same. The trouble is that now it is left entirely to the Secretary of State and there is no guidance in it about the information whatever. It is only what the Secretary of State himself comes up with. I do not know with whom he is going to discuss this matter. I do not know whether there is any organisation of parents or whether one has been set up since the Bill has been introduced: an organisation of parents who seek to send their children to independent schools through the assisted places scheme. It may well be that there is such an organisation and he would then probably talk to them about it.

He is obviously going to talk with his department about this. But do not think for a minute that it is exactly the same information that is supplied in respect of the ordinary schools. It is relevant information that we want. I shall now withdraw this amendment and gladly support the Government in the next amendment, Amendment No. 28.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Drumalbyn)

Amendment No. 28: I think this should refer to "Page 29, line 41".

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 28:

Page 29, line 41, at end insert— ("( ) the information which participating schools, on a written request from the parent of a pupil who is eligible for an assisted place, shall supply to that parent;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.25 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 29, line 45, at end insert— ("(c) a right of appeal by parents to him against the decision of a specified school not to admit a pupil to an assisted place.").

The noble Lord said: Once again we apply ourselves to the merits of this great assisted places scheme to which every Scottish child will aspire and every Scottish parent will wish to apply to their children. There is one right that the Government should stipulate by regulation, and let the schools know: that is, that the parents whose child is turned down by any such school should have the right of appeal. I do not specify to whom the right of appeal would be: it could be to the Secretary of State. Could it be to the sheriff? I see that the sheriffs have all disappeared from the Back-Benches: the hour is too late. I do not know, but I am sure they would agree with a right of appeal for parents who have got all the information and have sized up the position and said: "Yes, we could do this or that", and they are prepared to make the sacrifice the Minister lauded—and then the application form is filled in and the school sends it back and says: "Sorry: we are not accepting your child".

If the parents need to have rights in this wonderful new scheme, surely they should have a right of appeal. Why not? Why should they not have the right of appeal? The money is going to be expended and somebody is going to get the assisted place, I presume. I think parents should have the right of appeal to someone to satisfy themselves that they have not been unfairly treated in respect of what has been laid down in Parliament, and indeed what will probably have been in the next election manifesto of their Tory candidate when they laud this scheme as a great advance in Scottish education. The parents apply for it and they are turned down with no right of appeal. Let us have common justice for these ordinary folks. Let us see what the Government say about that. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

The effect of the noble Lord's amendment would be to give any parent whose child had been refused admission to an assisted place a right of appeal against non-admission to the Secretary of State. The noble Lord mentioned the sheriff but, as drafted, it would not be to the sheriff or anybody like that; it would be to my right honourable friend.

I can appreciate that the noble Lord is suggesting that, in accordance with the policy of giving as much parental choice as possible, parents who try to get their children into schools which are participating in the assisted places scheme should have a right of appeal, on the same basis that parents who are refused their choice of school in the public sector have a right of appeal. However, I shall try to show that the two cases are not really parallel.

One of the essential principles of the assisted places scheme is that the schools which take part in it are free to operate their normal recruitment procedures; and that, I suggest, is really one of the attractions of the independent sector to many parents—the very fact of its independence and the freedom and diversity of practice that grow out of that independence. It would be quite wrong for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to take to himself a right to overrule schools and tell them that they must admit this or that pupil. Besides being wrong, it would be impracticable. The scheme is at this stage a very small one, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, does not tire of telling us. Nevertheless, I expect that it will grow in the years to come. But, at present, it is inevitable that schools will not be able to admit all the pupils who would like to have assisted places. It would, I suggest, be logistically quite impossible for the Secretary of State to set himself up as some kind of appellate body.

Some might say that schools should not be allowed to pick and choose among their applicants, in ways which might be foreign to the spirit of the scheme. I suppose it could be said that they might discriminate against applicants from the lowest income groups. I do not myself believe that this will happen, or that it is a serious danger. But if there were evidence of such discrimination, there would be a remedy without the necessity of an amendment of this nature.

The new Section 75A requires the Secretary of State to make determinations with participating schools and these determinations may contain such conditions as he thinks fit. Therefore, it would be impossible for a determination to contain conditions about the admission of pupils. Any school which does not abide by the conditions of a determination can, in accordance with Schedule 4, be expelled from participation.

As I have said, I do not think that such is likely to be necessary. I can assure the Committee, however, that the situation will be kept under review and, if any corrective action is necessary to see that the scheme continues in a fair way, that action will be taken. But I hope that the Committee will see that it will be not only wrong but impracticable to saddle the scheme with an appeal system such as the noble Lord advocates.

Lord Ross of Marnock

We must make up our minds whether we are going to mean what we say about giving parents rights in this respect. The noble Earl said that they do not need a right of appeal; it would be unfair and wrong. I do not think it would be wrong. I think it would be right. He said that it would be impracticable. Why would it be impracticable? The people who will pick and choose the children—we do not know how they will pick and choose the children—are the people in the school. It is the school that will say how many it will take; it is the school that will say whom it will take, and it is the school that will be paid. Where do the parents come in? They apply, they get some information and too many of them, alas!, will discover that, even with the best will in the world, they cannot face it.

But suppose that they are prepared to sacrifice, and are prepared to do it. Their child could be the brightest one in the town, for all that matters, and the school could say, "No; we don't want you". As things stand now, the school does not need to do anything more than send a letter saying, "No". The parents have no recourse at all to any appeal. They have a right to be told exactly what happened to their application and why it was turned down, and they should have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. That is the only way in which the Secretary of State himself will get to know whether or not the scheme is working, and working to his satisfaction or otherwise. The noble Earl says: "Let us rely on it. There has to be a regulation in respect of determination, and the Secretary of State can put in conditions". He does not think that any such conditions will be put in. Yet he asked me to accept that this is something on which we can rely, and that everything will be done fairly.

This right of appeal has become part of the great charter of freedom in education. We have it in Clause 1—not only one appeal but two appeals, finishing up with the sheriff. We have it in relation to special education. We can appeal about the assessment; we can appeal about the placing. But when we come to the great new Tory scheme to provide a handful of children with assisted places, even though a child may be deserving of a place—indeed, it may be the most deserving—it can be turned down by the school. And the parent must accept it and say nothing. It reminds me of Burns: The tenant farmers They must stand wi' aspect humble And hear it all and fear and tremble". They have no come-back. I do not think it is fair. Nor do I think that it is right. I did not put in the word "sheriff ". I was prepared to leave it to the Secretary of State. It is his scheme.

One of the ways to find out whether or not a piece of legislation is working is to get on to the Minister. If appeals go to him, he will get to know whether his favourite scheme is working. When we introduced the new Inland Revenue department at East Kilbride, with new computers and the rest, I sent every complaint which I received to the Minister. He came to me and said, "Please don't send them to me; send them to the manager". I said to him, "No, I'll send them to you; then you'll know whether it's working or not, and you'll take action to make sure that it does work". If appeals go to the Secretary of State and there are far too many of them, he will realise that something is wrong with his scheme and he will take action. It is a discipline upon the Secretary of State as well as upon the school.

That is why I insist upon this. If the Minister will not change his mind about it, I must ask the Committee to record its dissent in the Division Lobbies.

9.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 29) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 56.

Bishopston, L. [Teller.] Lovell-Davis, L.
Blease, L. McCarthy, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Peart, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Collison, L.
David, B. Ross of Marnock, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gregson, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hughes, L. Stone, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Auckland, L. Cockfield, L.
Avon, E. Cork and Orrery, E.
Balerno, L. Craigavon, V.
Bellwin, L. Crathorne, L.
Belstead, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Bradford, E, de Clifford, L.
Brookeborough, V. De La Warr, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Campbell of Croy, L. Donegall, M.
Drumalbyn, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Eccles, V. Norfolk, D.
Ellenborough, L. Orkney, E.
Elles, B. Perth, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Elton, L.
Faithfull, B. Rochdale, V.
Ferrier, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Glenarthur, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Glendevon, L. Selkirk, E.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Sharples, B.
Hives, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Inglewood, L. Soames, L.
Lawrence, L. Strathclyde, L.
Long, V. Trenchard, V.
Loudoun, C. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lyell, L. Vickers, B.
Mansfield, E. Vivian, L.
Margadale, L. Windlesham, L.
Mottistone, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.45 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 30 to 32 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 5, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ross of Marnock

There is much I could say about this clause and please do not tempt me. Much has been said, and noble Lords will have gathered that we on this side of the Committee do not approve of this clause. We think it is an utter waste to spend money in this way. It is probably this year about £5.4 million between the grant aided schools and the independent schools. The Minister has told us that he expects to see it rise. I think this aspect of it this year is going to cost us about £800,000. As the grant aided fades out and more and more people come into this, this scheme is going to cost us many millions. If the hopes of the Minister of State are attained, which I hope will not happen, it is going to cost us many millions more.

To do this at a time when you are depriving the local authority schools of vital money, to support the hoped for progress to attain higher and higher standards, really is quite sinful and cannot be justified at all on educational grounds. From that point of view I feel that this is a clause that really should not be in a Scottish education Bill, and those who put it in have very little true feeling for Scottish education as it is and as we hope it to be. I would ask my noble friends on this side to vote against the clause standing part.

Lord Hughes

Very briefly I wish to support my noble friend in this. Like him, I do not think it is necessary for much to be said at this stage to justify our opposition because he has spoken so forcefully on so many different aspects of the scheme that it would be a waste of the Committee's time to repeat those arguments. All I want to say in justification of my own vote on this matter is that if we were going through prosperous times, if the economy was in good shape, I could see justification from a Conservative point of view for an experiment of this kind being carried out, because the Minister has made it perfectly clear that the scheme is so limited in its financial aid that it cannot be regarded as anything other than an experiment, or to give it an even more favourable description from the Government's point of view, a small start. But to do this at a time when educational expenditure generally in Scotland is being cut in the way it has been, particularly during this past year, and the way in which it is to continue to be cut, at least in the year ahead, seems to me to be nothing less than obscene. I could not in all conscience bring myself—even in the knowledge that the Government are still going to carry the clause on a Division—to refrain from voting against it.

Viscount Simon

I should like to say from these Benches, after consulting my colleagues who are more directly concerned with this Bill than I, that I would merely recall that on the English Bill we opposed this scheme. We think it is a bad scheme, and we shall certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Ross, in voting that this clause do not stand part.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

We on these Benches have tried to assess the various amendments and have tried to encourage the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in supporting general principles rather than what we regarded as minor amendments. However, this is a matter of fundamental importance and we on these Benches would certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Ross.

As has been said already in this debate, we are facing a crisis in local authority financing in Scotland. It is extremely difficult for local authorities to spend money within the rigid cash limits that have been set. As a result, very important services, particularly in education, are having to be cut in order to meet those limits. In the middle of that situation, for the Government to spend money outside of the normal educational provision in what we call the public schools is, I think, unfortunate at this stage. We on these Benches would certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in the Motion which he has already put forward.

The Earl of Mansfield

The debates on these amendments have certainly not been devoid of a certain amount of passion. I have been very interested to try to read the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and his reasons why he opposes the assisted places scheme. Of course, the schism between the parties is complete. Of course noble Lords opposite do not want, whatever they may say, the independent sector to flourish. They do not like the idea that parents from lower income families can avail themselves of what generally is regarded as a high standard of education. During the last matter over which I faced the noble Lord, Lord Ross, across the Dispatch Box the noble Lord accused the Government of dragging the country down into the bargain basement. Of course the contrary is the truth. What the Government are trying to do is to provide a ladder so that people can climb up it.

I was very interested on Second Reading to try to find out what the Social Democrats thought of the independent sector, because various wings have given various different public expressions. I was under the impression, at any rate, that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, was not totally averse to the independent sector; I still do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe is, because he apparently is against the assisted places scheme on the matter of finance and will be with the noble Lord, Lord Ross, in the Division Lobby, if we go there.

This year the assisted places scheme will cost £800,000 out of a total of £900 million which will be devoted to Scottish education. Doing the best I can, prepared as I was many years ago at Rannoch School (which then cost some £65 a term, which my father thought was outrageous), that strikes me as being 0.11 per cent. of the amount which is to be spent on Scottish education. If the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is condemning the scheme because he thinks, under those circumstances, that it is outrageous to take money out of one sector and put it into another, then I shall be content that he takes that point of view, but I think that it is one that we should all know about.

So far as the Liberals are concerned, we have not been treated by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, with any reasons, but I gather that because in England they did not like it, so in Scotland they do not like it either. It would be a regrettable step if Clause 5 were to be excised from the Bill. The assisted places scheme is an innovation in Scotland. It is certainly being welcomed already by those for whom it is primarily intended: lower income families who would like their children to have the same chance as children from better off families for entering fee paying schools. Many of these families are single-parent families. Whether noble Lords opposite regard the choice as being wise, is, in my submission, neither here nor there. It is their choice and it is their opinion that matters, and that is what the Government are trying to assist.

We think that the scheme is a real step forward in social justice and I can justify that by saying that I think even the noble Lord, Lord Ross, had a good word at the beginning of this debate for the independent schools. If that is so, if they have their role to play in the educational scheme of things, why not remove the right only of the rich to go—that exclusive right? Why not enable children from poorer families to go there? Anyone who is sincere in wanting to see a social mix should, I suggest, see that it must be beneficial to start that social mix in our schools. So what is the Opposition afraid of?—because if the scheme is as bad as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, says it is, it will soon wither away in Scotland for want of customers.

We have had a series of debates on this matter. At one time the grant-aided secondary schools were referred to as the bridge between the public and the private sectors, and they can no longer maintain that role, mostly because of rising costs and falling grants. Therefore, the fees are beyond the reach of the lower income families. The assisted places scheme represents an effort to rebuild the bridge which once existed. I suggest that it is an effort which should be praised and encouraged. This is a scheme which will be an exciting experiment. Of course it will cost the parents of children who send their children to these schools money. It will represent a real sacrifice on the part of some of them, but I am quite certain that already a large and growing number of families in Scotland will think that those sacrifices are very well worthwhile.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Earl said it was a ladder. Then it became a bridge. It is a nonsense.

9.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 5, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 51: Not-Contents, 22.

Avon, E. Faithfull, B.
Balerno, L. Ferrier, L.
Bellwin, L. Glenarthur, L.
Belstead, L. Glendevon, L.
Bradford, E. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Brookeborough, V. Hives, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Inglewood, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Lawrence, L.
Cockfield, L. Long, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Loudoun, C.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lyell, L.
de Clifford, L. Mansfield, E.
De La Warr, E. Margadale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mottistone, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Eccles, V. Norfolk, D.
Ellenborough, L. Perth, E.
Elles, B. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B.
Elton L. Rochdale, V.
St. Aldwyn, E. Strathclyde, L.
Sandys, L. [Teller.] Trenchard, V.
Selkirk, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Sharples, B. Vickers, B.
Skelmersdale, L. Vivian, L.
Soames, L. Windlesham, L.
Bishopston, L. [Teller.] Mackie of Benshie, L.
Blease, L. Peart, L.
Collison, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
David, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Hooson, L. Simon, V.
Hughes, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Hunt, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Stone, L.
John-Mackie, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wilson of Langside, L.
Winstanley, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 5, as amended, agreed to accordingly.

Clause 6 [Consultation on, and consent for, changes in certain educational matters]:

10.5 p.m.

Lord Lyell moved Amendment No. 33: Page 32, line 30, leave out ("or any part of such a school").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment on behalf of my noble friend, perhaps I might explain that it is intended to correct a small point which has been raised on the present drafting of new Section 22A(2) in the Bill before us tonight. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggested that the provision as drafted requires the Secretary of State to prescribe proposals for closure or change of site of a part of a school—in the sense of a physical part of a school.

On that particular interpretation or view, a proposed closure or removal of such a thing as temporary hutted accommodation would become a matter upon which the education authority would be required to consult in terms of new Section 22A(1). It is not our intention that such proposals should mandatorily attract the requirement to consult, and to clarify the matter the amendment seeks to delete the reference to part of a school from the provision specifying the kind of proposals which the Secretary of State must prescribe in the regulations to be made by him.

I should like to make it clear to the Committee that my right honourable friend's practice under the present legislation has been to require education authorities to submit to him for his approval proposals to close part of a school in the sense of a stage of education, such as senior 5th or 6th in secondary schools. But he has not required education authorities to seek his approval for such proposals as the removal of temporary hutted accommodation or similar buildings within the school.

If the Committee were to accept this amendment it is the intention of my right honourable friend to prescribe in the regulations to be made under this new section that a proposal to close part of a school in the sense that I have described—that is, a stage of education—will be subject to the new consultation requirements, but it is not our intention that the regulations to be made under subsection (2) of the new Section 22A will extend to closures or changes of sites of part of a school—in the physical sense—like this temporary accommodation. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Marnock

This new clause lays down that there shall be consultation in respect of prescribed proposals. I do not know how many people have read subsections (1) and (2), but we have proposals— of a prescribed kind, they shall, in such manner as may be prescribed". Then they: consult such persons as may be prescribed". Then: In this section 'prescribed' means prescribed for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State by regulations and in so prescribing kinds of proposals the Secretary of State shall include …"— and so on. We have about six references to "prescribed" and "prescription", and the rest of it. No one could read that and understand what it means. We start off with the prescribed kind, but that is for the Secretary of State and we have not been told anything about it. In any case, what are they? Then we have the manner in which they are to be published; that has to be prescribed and we have not been told about that. In fact, we have been told nothing about this and it is very difficult to understand what it is all about and why the provision is there. Please will the Government tell us?

The Government want to leave out "or any part of such a school" and we are told they want to do that because of something said by COSLA about something being misleading in the phrase which, the Minister said, could refer to the "stage of education". Could it be the cutting out of a primary department altogether? That has been done in the past. Or might it apply to limiting the intake from secondary up to the third or fourth year? That happens when schools are aspiring to become sixth-year schools. It could mean that, or it could mean all sorts of things.

If, on the other hand, the Minister wants to delete these words, but they mean something else, then what other words will he have to put in their place? Nothing makes a great deal of sense from the explanation we have had so far. I suppose that, "part of such a school", could refer to nursery classes, and there would be considerable need for consultation if it was the intention to cut out nursery classes in a particular school. We have already passed a great new clause relating to special educational needs and it was said when we debated that that there might be classes in ordinary schools to meet special educational needs. That, then, would be part of a school. Could that be construed with this amendment and, if so, what would be the effect?

Would it be easier or more difficult to achieve what the Minister has in mind, or do these words mean nothing at all in respect of the procedures that will have to be gone through with the Secretary of State? Or does the Secretary of State not come into it? Once he has made his prescribed list, is that the end of it? Frankly, I do not know what this means. That may be due to the lateness of the hour; I suggest it is about time we adjourned and met another day to complete this stage of the Bill. Please could someone on the Government Benches have another try and tell us what the amendment means?

The Duke of Norfolk

Perhaps I could give some explanation, though I give it without knowing fully the exact technical details. The situation is one which concerns the Catholic schools, the Church schools, and if the noble Lord, Lord Ross, looks at Clause 6(6) he will see that it refers to the Acts of 1918 and 1962. The 1918 Act was when the Church schools of the Roman Catholics in Scotland and, I understand, the Jews, were handed over to state control.

Lord Ross of Marnock

And the Church of England.

The Duke of Norfolk

I apologise if I am putting this badly. Would the noble Lord care to intervene?

Lord Ross of Marnock

I was referring to the Episcopal Church in Scotland.

The Duke of Norfolk

I apologise deeply for any error I have made in describing the Episcopal Church.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It has nothing to do with what we are discussing, anyway.

The Duke of Norfolk

Under the Act of 1918 the schools of the Roman Catholics in Scotland were transferred to the state and under the 1962 Act the new schools that were subsequently built were treated similarly. The prescribed words relate to the fact that the schools want to be under the control of the Roman Catholics of Scotland and not under the control of the local authorities of Scotland.

I ask the noble Lord to forgive me if I am using the wrong words, since no one is more respectful than I of questions concerning Scottish nationality, bearing in mind that my wife is Scottish. If I have used the wrong words, I apologise deeply. But the matter is about what I have just mentioned, and that is really why I am here. Very often I am here for other things, but I feel that the noble Lord must know of these points. I think that other noble Lords and other noble Baronesses opposite know what I mean.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Not only has the noble Duke used the wrong words, but I think that he is on the wrong amendment. We are dealing with an amendment to the new Section 22A relating to, Consultation on certain changes in educational matters". The matter that concerns the noble Duke, and which equally concerns me, conies under Section 22C, relating to, Consent for certain changes affecting denominational schools".

The Duke of Norfolk

I think that I am not wrong. We are on Amendment No. 33: Page 32, line 30, leave out ('or any part of such a school')". The noble Lord was asking what the word "prescribed" meant and I had hoped that I was telling him.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Duke will see that the word "prescribed" is defined in subsection (2) of new Section 22A. The subsection states: … 'prescribed' means prescribed for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State by regulations and in so prescribing kinds of proposals the Secretary of State shall include proposals to discontinue or change the site of any school under the management of an education authority or any part of such a school". So far as I can see, the word "prescribed" as used in that subsection has nothing to do with any particular type of school. It refers to the type of proposal that is to be laid down by the Secretary of State. With all due respect to the noble Duke, I suggest that he has been a little premature.

The Duke of Norfolk

I have to admit that perhaps I was a little premature, but I was informed about this matter, and I must confess that I am not an authority on this particular clause.

Lord Hughes

I can understand why the noble Duke made a mistake; one must read the Bill very carefully. The Bill includes clauses which create a number of new sections to be inserted in an existing Act of Parliament. The present amendment relates to new Section 22A, which will become part of the principle Act. The amendment deletes the last few words of new Section 22A. In relation to the definition of the word "prescribed" it is specifically stated that, 'prescribed' means prescribed for the purposes of this section … and, as my noble friend Lord Ross has said, the term "this section" refers to Section 22A. We would almost need to be a Committee composed entirely of lawyers in order to understand the way in which the Bill is drafted.

Lord Mottistone

Perhaps I may suggest that the reason why my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk was in advance is that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, is so ponderously slow, and we all want to go faster than he does. We should like to get gathering. He said, "Let's bring this to an end". But he has slowed down the whole process of the Bill in a ridiculous fashion. If the noble Lord would be more abrupt and make his points sharply, as is the custom in your Lordships' Chamber, we would get on with, and complete, our business. The noble Lord's slow, ponderous way, in which he says, "I must call your attention to this matter" is out of keeping with your Lordships' House, if I may be allowed so to say to such an eminent noble Lord. If only the noble Lord would get on with the business, we would deal with the Scottish Bills much more quickly.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am sure that if I were not here your Lordships would deal with the Scottish Bills very quickly indeed, but in such circumstances I doubt whether this would be a proper investigative Chamber in terms of looking into Scottish Bills. When the noble Duke does not even know that the matter with which he is concerned is not covered in this particular new section, I ask the Committee please not to blame me. I doubt very much whether there is an English Peer here who has read the clause. Was he complaining the other day, when a whole Bill which is incorporated in this as part of this Bill was dealt with in more time than has been given to the Scottish business? I am sorry if he does not like the amount of time we take on Scottish business, but I can assure him that it is not always my fault. He should hear some of the explanations we are given. We have not yet had an explanation of this. Has he read this clause? I ask the noble Lord: Has he read the clause that I am complaining about at the moment?

Lord Mottistone

I hope the noble Lord will give way to me. Yes, of course I have read the clause; but what I am talking about is the slowness with which the noble Lord conducts business. That does not apply particularly to Scottish Bills, Welsh Bills or English Bills, but to the pace at which he handles things, which is incredibly boring to other noble Lords. That is the thing that matters. The noble Lord may have been very eminent in another place, but if he would only hurry things up everybody would be happier. All that matters is that it is important to get to the point, and you must get to the point quickly. You do not have to drone it out and make sure that everybody goes half asleep before you make your point. It is important to make the point.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not know what the point of that remark was, but the noble Lord did not come to it very quickly. My opinion about Scottish business in this House, so far as I can find, is that people just cannot be bothered with it. I have suggested before that if you insist on having Scottish business here instead of at an Assembly in Edinburgh, then I want to see that the clause is thoroughly debated and thoroughly understood. Clause after clause of this is never properly understood. Does the noble Lord realise that within one clause there are 11 sections? He asks us to treat the thing gently, to go on nicely, let us get it through quickly and everybody will be happy. If we are given time we shall do the thing properly; but I can assure the noble Lord that, so far as I am concerned, the clause will be understood, at least by the Minister. If he does not know it at the start he will understand it at the finish, and so will I. But I still have not had an explanation of this clause, and I should like it.

Lord Mottistone

To answer the noble Lord quickly, there would be many more Members in this Chamber at any time of the day if we were not so bored with what came on this subject from the noble Lords who debate Scottish affairs.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I can assure the noble Lord that Scottish education is a very boring matter. It is a very boring matter indeed to go into the details of it. It is very different from the English; and, of course, you do not understand it.

Lord Mottistone

It need not be.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It will be if this kind of debate goes on, I can assure the noble Lord. We have not seen him all day. He has not contributed a single sentence to any Scottish legislation that I have known come before us, although he has taken his time on other matters. But he has not shown the slightest interest in these things. I am sure the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, does not think that the consideration of denominational schools is a boring matter. When we were here discussing denominational schools in relation to assisted places and I moved an amendment to ensure that consideration was had for denominational education in that respect, the noble Lord was not here. But when I was not satisfied with the reply I received, was I wrong to divide the House? I am sure the Roman Catholics in Scotland thought I was right to divide the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10.24 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 34: Page 32, line 37, leave out from ("regulations") to end of line 39.

The noble Lord said: Now we come to Amendment No. 34, which is to omit the words, and the Secretary of State may prescribe different kinds of proposals in relation to different education authorities". All I want to know is: what kind of different proposals? I want to know why, because there is nothing that concerns people more than when they are not being treated alike. There must be some justification for it. We do not yet know what the proposals are; they have not been explained to us. It might have been very boring to the noble Lord to find what the Secretary of State is going to do, but it is not for the Scottish local authorities and it is not for anyone interested in Scottish education. We do not know what they are going to do, but we are told that they might do different things for different authorities. Are we not entitled to be enlightened? That is what I want to know—why and what. I beg to move.

Lord Lyell

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, said that he wanted an explanation. I hesitated to intervene in the volley of comments that were flying across the Committee, but in Clause 22A(1) and (2), and similarly in Clause 22B(1) and (2), it is crystal clear to me that subsection (2) seems to explain in part what goes on in subsection (1) of both the clauses. The noble Lord, Lord Ross (and I think this is very relevant to his Amendment No. 34), asked what changes would be prescribed. These particular changes are set out in a consultation paper which has been issued by the Secretary of State. This is a procedure which will be familiar to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, of all people. There are copies of the consultation paper which will detail the regulations. These are available in the Library.

I think that I ought to give a brief explanation of the Government's feelings on Amendment No. 34 which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ross. Whether it will satisfy him or not, I do not know. At least I must have the courtesy and make an attempt to do so. The amendment could deprive the Secretary of State of a power which in certain circumstances I am sure Members of the Committee—and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock—would wish him to possess. The part of this subsection which the noble Lord's amendment would remove enables the Secretary of State to prescribe by regulations that his consent will be required for different kinds of proposals in relation to different education authorities. The provision was originally incorporated in the Bill as part of the safeguards which the Government sought to provide for denominational education in Scotland. However, as a result of further discussion with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland the Government decided that such safeguards should be couched in different terms, and these are now to be found in new Clause 22D.

But the provision enabling the Secretary of State to prescribe different proposals in different areas did not thereby become otiose. The situation could arise in which the exercise of that power might be necessary. For example, one out of the 12 education authorities in Scotland might decide, for expenditure reasons, to abolish all nursery education within their area. That was mentioned in an earlier amendment. The provision which the noble Lord proposes to delete would enable the Secretary of State to prescribe that in relation to that particular authority any proposal to close a nursery class or school must come to the Secretary of State for approval. In this situation there would clearly be a need for the Secretary of State to exercise some power of intervention in the proposals by one authority, but no need for him to exercise a similar power of intervention in relation to other authorities.

The provision is, therefore, part of the overall pattern of checks and balances which the Government have incorporated in this Bill in order to secure the maximum possible freedom of action for authorities to decide on local arrangements in the light of local needs—and that is very important—while preserving safeguards for parents and other interested bodies.

That has been perhaps a fuller explanation than Members of the Committee would have wanted, but I believe the Committee wanted an explanation—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, would want a full explanation—on why we find that this particular amendment is unnecessary, I would not say otiose.

Lord Hughes

I am beginning to sympathise even more with the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, because I am myself confused now. The amendment which my noble friend has moved— Page 32, line 37, leave out from ('regulations') to end of line 39"— proposes leaving out words in the new Section 22B, which has nothing to do with denominational schools. All the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, have been in relation to denominational schools, which are referred to in the next new Section 22C. So why was he talking about denominational schools when they have nothing to do with this amendment?

Lord Ross of Marnock

Can we have an answer?

Lord Lyell

My remarks were possibly a little long for the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, but I did point out that 22B and 22D hung together, that 22B was specifically at the behest of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland and that 22D spelt out everything in far more detail. However, 22B is very definitely concerned with many matters, and one of them is denominational schools.

Lord Hughes

My noble friend has put no amendment down, so far as I can see, relating to 22D, which is the bit relating to denominational schools. However, I do not want to prolong this in case both the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and I join the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in the bad books of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think really what we should do is to ask the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, for an explanation of the explanation that has been given. He has guaranteed to be precise and not to be boring. If he heard anything more boring than the explanation we have had, I do not know what it was. But, having listened to the explanation, he might realise why we are not making a great deal of progress.

Lord Mottistone

It might be the case that in order to make quite certain that the Government can provide a satisfactory answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, they have to have that sort of answer because it might prevent his responding to it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 35: Page 33, leave out from beginning of line 3 to end of line 47 on page 35 and insert ("related to the closure of any nursery school, nursery class, primary or secondary school in respect which agreement to the closure plan has not been fully agreed to by parents of children who are pupils, or would become pupils of that school.").

The noble Lord said: May I warn the noble Duke that this is the amendment in which he is really interested and it is one that I am interested in, too. It concerns page 33, line 3. The words at the top of the page begin: (2) A proposal to which this section applies is one which"— and then the rest that follows relates to the denominational schools which were taken over by agreement in 1918. It was one of the finest things that happened in Scotland, both for education in Scotland and for the education of the Roman Catholic children. It was a good bargain. I hope this is not too boring for the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone.

Lord Mottistone

Not yet.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not know whether he knows what happened. There was for long enough a battle in England as to how much the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Anglicans could get in relation to financing their schools. It was not necessary in Scotland because of the agreement made very sensibly in puritan, Protestant Scotland in 1918 to take over Roman Catholic schools and treat them for all practical purposes as local authority schools. But in relation to religious education certain guarantees were given to the hierarchy, which remain today, in respect of religious education. There has never been any complaint about it as far as I know, and for eight years as Secretary of State I upheld that position. So let the noble Lord not think that in the amendment I am moving I am trying to do down the Roman Catholic system. But the Government are making changes. Until this Bill is passed, the Government have to approve the closure of any school in Scotland, whether it be a Roman Catholic school, a Protestant school or a non-denominational school. Now a change is being made in the law and the Roman Catholics said, quite rightly, "If you are going to change the law, you are not going to change it so far as we are concerned." That is the position in the Bill.

I do not think it is fair. It is not popular to close schools, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, said earlier today. There has been a very considerable row going on about a proposal to close a school in the Gorbals in Glasgow. It is a school for which the school at which I taught was a feeder. It is a secondary school at Adelphi Terrace. I gather a decision has been made that it will continue as a school and have community arrangements as well.

But, beside that school, there is another one which is a Roman Catholic school, and when this Bill is passed the position will be that the local authority could close one school without reference to the Secretary of State, but not the Roman Catholic school. Is there anything better guaranteed to create lack of harmony? Why change the position at all? I hope that the Secretary of State will continue to shoulder the burden. It may be a tough one. What he is doing is passing the dirty jobs on to the local authority. He is saying "Look at how relaxed I am. I am giving the powers." But he is giving the powers he does not want to the local authority.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy are quite right to insist on their rights, but, at the same time, in respect of all the other schools, from the point of view of harmony and everything else, the same rights should apply there. That is my purpose and that is why I put in the words: related to the closure of any nursery school, nursery class, primary or secondary school in respect which agreement to the closure plan has not been fully agreed to by parents of children who are pupils, or would become pupils of that school."; in other words, back to the status quo. That would satisfy the Roman Catholic hierarchy, I am sure. They were aroused to action only by what the Government proposed. That is why I suggest that the amendment be made. I beg to move.

The Earl of Perth

I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has said, but I am very worried that what he proposes will change the status quo in relation to Roman Catholic schools. If he does not want that, then the fact that the others are going to get different treatment should not involve for Roman Catholic schools different treatment from what has been hammered out since 1918 and in every Education Act since.

What he is saying is that it has not been fully agreed to by parents. As he knows, at the present time the arrangement is not for the parents to do it. It is for the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church to do it. I can only tell him that this amendment, as it stands, would be very worrying and would be opposed by the hierarchy and by most of the Roman Catholics there. So I hope that he will think again from the angle of the hierarchy and of the Act, of which he, very rightly, is proud.

He suggested earlier an amendment which specifically mentioned denominational schools. I did not vote with him, because I understood from the Government that the whole included the lesser part. Therefore, it seemed to me to be unnecessary. But, in this case, what worries me is that if his amendment goes through the fat will really be in the fire in relation to this matter, and the 1918 Act will no longer stand. So I hope that he will think again.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It was not my intention to make worse the position of the denominational schools. The reason for my amendment was that the Government made the changes. In order to circumvent these changes, the hierarchy eventually persuaded the Government to put in these new clauses. That may help the hierarchy. It may help the Roman Catholic schools. But it still leaves the other schools in a worse position than their present position.

I hope the noble Earl is not going to suggest that the situation is satisfactory. It is satisfactory from the Roman Catholic point of view, and I applaud them for what they have achieved by the pressure they have exerted upon the Government. I can assure the noble Earl that it was not done willingly. But what about the position of the others? In a city like Glasgow, in an area where school rolls are falling, it will be possible to close a non-denominational school without reference to the Secretary of State for his eventual approval or disapproval. That will be the situation for one lot of schools but not for the next.

One of the things I am proudest of in Scotland is the maturity which the people there have shown in relation to sectarian troubles. I was worried, as everybody else in Scotland must have been, about sectarian troubles, because Northern Ireland is not far away. We have not had that kind of trouble. Instead there has been a very considerable measure of discipline, co-operation and understanding which many people thought would never be found in the West of Scotland. But it is there, and I do not want it to be endangered in any way. This is just unnecessary meddling. That is why I do not like what is being done. I cannot vote against the clause. If I did, there would be nothing left, apart from what the Government have already done. I should like the Government to think again. I do not know whom they consulted. Latterly they had to consult somebody. But the fear which I am expressing was expressed in another place, not by me (I am not there, so I could not) or by any Church of Scotland adherent but by a very staunch Roman Catholic from Glasgow who saw the difficulties and the dangers.

This may be boring the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, but I can assure him that it is very important in Scottish terms and in educational terms. The trouble stems from what the Government have done. I admit that there may be a weakness in my amendment. I do not intend to take it any further tonight. I shall withdraw it. However, I want the Government to realise what they are doing and the dangers they are running into. The break may not come now. It could almost have come in a part of Glasgow which I know very well; I taught in it. I sincerely hope the Government will think again. It is not a necessary change which they have made. I think it is a dangerous one.

The Earl of Perth

May I answer one point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. These are not new conditions, new clauses. They already exist, and they are being repeated. This has happened again and again. To that extent one must not say these are new conditions for the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is something which has always been accepted. I agree with the noble Lord that we do not want to create differences over something we are all very proud of; namely, that all the schools in Scotland are treated in the same way. But the amendment as it stands would not have that effect. It would cause a great deal of trouble, something which the noble Lord does not want, any more than I do. In saying this I know that I am speaking for the hierarchy of the great majority of Catholics in Scotland. If the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, is agreed to, it will cause great upset. I was glad to hear him say that he does not intend to press it to a Division in its present form. I can well understand that he may want to obtain further information from the Government. So long as the noble Lord accepts what I am saying in relation to the Roman Catholic and the other denominational schools—there are others, as he and I know—then I shall not press the point any further.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Earl need not worry about that, but—

Several noble Lords

Order, order!

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, because this is a matter of great importance not only in the educational field but also because of its repercussions on the whole of the social structure in Scotland. I do not share the view that there should be separate schools for Roman Catholics and other denominations in the Scottish educational system. Where over the years since 1918 we have been able to live with that system it has created within our community, right from the outset, substantial divisions not unlike the divisions which exist in Belfast, where Catholic children are segregated from Protestant children at a very early age. That is at the root of a great deal of the troubles that follow therefrom, but that is another side to it.

All I am saying is that the Roman Catholic hierarchy should be extremely careful about seeking certain privileges, such as are provided in this Bill. It is an uneasy relationship. The Roman Catholic community in Scotland is still a minority community and the hierarchy have been very jealous of their rights in the educational system, even pushing those rights to an extraordinary extent. I have known of cases in the City of Glasgow where there is a Roman Catholic school and a Protestant school side by side, the latter not yet completed, but children in a new housing estate were unable to attend at the Roman Catholic school because although there were places vacant the Roman Catholic hierarchy insisted upon the complete segregation of their schools.

I suggest that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland should be extremely careful about pushing their special or privileged position in this case, and so far as possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has endeavoured to do in this amendment, we should ensure that where the closure of schools is concerned their schools should be treated like the other schools in the educational system in Scotland. I hope the noble Lord will be supported.

Lord Hughes

I also should like to join in briefly on this. My former home town of Dundee probably has the highest proportion of Roman Catholics in its population, after the city of Glasgow. I am speaking of proportions—not numbers. If I remember rightly, one in six of the population of Dundee was a Roman Catholic, but there has never been any trouble there between Catholics and Protestants. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, the position in Scotland is that we have not had trouble of this kind. The noble Earl said that he was speaking for the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland, and the other day the noble Duke referred to his relations with the hierarchy south of the Border. I suggest that it might be worth their while, before the next stage of the Bill, to discuss with their religious colleagues whether any change in the position of schools in Scotland, either denominational or non-denominational, is necessary and what is wrong with the situation which has obtained up to the present time, because if it has worked until now it would be much better if this Bill left the position in relation to all of these schools totally unchanged.

Lord Lyell

Once again I find it somewhat startling to intervene in the rising tide of religious and denominational schools. Possibly I should declare an interest in that I went to a denominational school, I suppose, from the age of eight until 12, but I must be one of the few people, certainly on these Benches, speaking on this matter who, according to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, must take care. He said the figure was one in six in Dundee; I do not know what it is in Scotland as a whole.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and the Committee will accept that this amendment would delete from the Bill those provisions which safeguard, in certain circumstances, the position of denominational schools and education, and instead it would provide that every proposal to close a nursery, a primary or even a secondary school, whether denominational or non-denominational, would require the consent of the Secretary of State if the proposal was not fully agreed by the parents of pupils at the school, or indeed parents whose children would become pupils at the school.

Perhaps we should not at this hour dwell on the drafting of the amendment and the definition of "fully agreed" and those who "would become pupils of that school". I mentioned that the amendment would be scrapping safeguards for denominational education. These safeguards have been thoroughly discussed and, I think very importantly, agreed with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. Also consultations were held at detailed level with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, together with the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Jewish Board of Education. I think the Committee and the noble Lord would accept that there have been very detailed consultations with anybody who would have any interest in denominational education in Scotland.

The main arguments against the amendment which the noble Lord has moved is that it would do no more than maintain the present position in which the Secretary of State's consent is needed for any school closure. The Government's policy on the other hand is to relax controls over local authorities, and to allow education authorities to make their own decisions in the light of local circumstances and local knowledge, subject always to certain safeguards. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has suggested that his amendment would free authorities from central control because closures which have the agreement of parents will not be subject to the Secretary of State's control. Things may have been slightly different when the noble Lord was Secretary of State, but in the present Session 80 per cent., which is a substantial proportion, of all closure proposals have been opposed. In earlier years the figures have been as high, if not higher. This is not to say that the Government think that objections to closures proposals should be disregarded. Many objections lodged by parents are deeply felt. On the other hand, it is clear that the decision as to local provision of education is one that must be made locally.

Decisions of this sort, closing schools or any part of any schools, or major changes, are not easy, especially given the falling school rolls which will point in the direction that some schools will inevitably have to be closed. But in the Government's view it is important that the granting of freedom to education authorities should not deprive parents of the opportunity of a full and effective hearing of their views on closure proposals. We intend to provide a statutory obligation on authorities to consult parents and other interested bodies not only about closure proposals but about other proposals, and to have regard to any views expressed before they take a decision on those proposals. Noble Lords will have noticed that the proposed new Sections 22A and 22B enable the Secretary of State to prescribe both the persons who are to be consulted, the proposals on which they shall be consulted, and the manner of consultation. The consultation paper setting out my right honourable friend's proposals for these regulations was issued to a wide range of bodies, and copies are available in your Lordships' House.

I hope the Committee will not form the view that the consultations will be a mere sham. That is a word that has been bandied about this evening. We hope the Committee will not think that authorities will merely decide to proceed with their original proposals after consultations have been carried out. We do not believe that education authorities will behave in this way. On the contrary, we expect that authorities will think deeply and seriously before coming to what will be their decision on any proposal. As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will know from his own experience, decisions like this can never be taken lightly.

Lord Mottistone

Before my noble friend sits down, does he not think that that could have been said in about a third of the time if he had been suitably briefed? Perhaps the Scottish Office could receive the type of advice which I have been trying to indicate to the noble Lords opposite.

Lord Lyell

The Scottish Office does, in fact, read very carefully the comments that are made from all parts of your Lordships' House, and I have no doubt that they will read the comments of my noble friend as well as the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and others through the ages.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I accept all the criticism of the quality of my drafting. It was done very quickly. Having taken out something that I thought was unfair, I had to put something in its place. It obviously was not sufficiently accurate. The noble Lord can make inquiries, because somebody will tell him that it was never my intention to press this amendment, for, of course, it would have removed the protections that Roman Catholics had fought for and that were there. Why did they have to fight for them? They had to fight for them because of the changes that the Government are making. They were perfectly happy the way things were. My noble friend was right. They should have left well alone. Now we are told that it is right that they should make this change. Local decision on education should be with the local people. That was not exactly the argument which was put forward a short time ago when it was finally left to the sheriff to decide what the local decision should be.

There is no appeal here—in fact, the appeal has been taken away. He spoke about being sure that local authorities will think deeply and seriously—all this has nothing to do with the amendment by the way; it is not within the amendment. He spoke of men of property and so on. It was his noble friend sitting beside him who, about three hours ago, talked about bogus decisions being made by the education authorities. It has not been boring all day. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, should come more often; he should be less selective. He should not come in late at night—we have been at it all day. Indeed, we have missed him. Mind you, I have missed an awful lot of his boring speeches too. I was proud of myself when, having read it, I thought of the people who had to suffer from it. No, the trouble stems from the Government; they meddled unnecessarily.

The Roman Catholics did the right thing; they put these clauses in. I should like to take them out and return to the status quo. That is all. I cannot do it with this amendment. I do not propose to press the amendment, but I shall look at the matter again, as I hope will everyone who is concerned about the discriminatory position that now arises because it is there. It is unsatisfactory, and it may well be that the Government will regret what they have done. Of course they want to get rid of the closure of schools. It is the most unpopular thing that you can do. Remember the riot that we had in here about the treatment of rural schools. I think that that was the last time I saw the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. I remember the speech he made on that occasion. We were in the same Lobby no doubt and we defeated the Government. We shall do it again sometime, and fairly soon I hope.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7 [Removal of certain controls in connection with denominational schools]:

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

House resumed.