Scottish Education and Evacuation.
Captain John McEwen (Berwickshire and Haddingtonshire)
That point will be noted. One of the other questions which the hon. Member brought up was the evacuation from Queensferry and Inver-keithing. Arrangements were first made for the evacuation of accompanied school children, and the numbers which have gone up to date are 106 from South Queensferry, 44 from North Queensferry and 55 from Inverkeithing. Subsequently, the question of evacuating free schoolchildren and mothers was raised, on 8th November. The Department had a meeting with the representatives of the sending and the appropriate receiving areas, namely, West Lothian and Fife. It was decided that the areas should find out how many sending areas were willing to send children under three years and how many mothers wanted to be evacuated with these young children. The point is that agreement cannot be given to the idea of the evacuation of mothers with school children. This was allowed in the original scheme, but it was one of the main difficulties of that scheme, as has been mentioned in this Debate. The numbers up-to-date who have registered for evacuation from South Queensferry are very small. They are 12 mothers and 25 school children. That is going back to the somewhat startling simile which the hon. Member produced about the evacuation of Sodom and Gomorrah, and one might say that they are similar at least in the smallness of the numbers.
I should like to deal with one of the main questions that has been raised, that of the reopening of schools. The opinion has been pretty generally expressed that hon. Members would like to see the schools reopened. My right hon. Friend in his opening remarks put the matter very clearly as to what was being done and as to the object aimed at by the Government in this regard. The object aimed at by the Government is to have the schools reopened at the earliest possible moment, but there are two provisions to be taken into account—the provision of adequate shelter where possible, and that the school should not be in a particularly dangerous area. That is the Government's policy, and it seemed to me that some hon. Members, in particular the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), were pressing at an open door when calling upon the Government to do what in fact they are doing extremely hard at the present time.
The other point raised in that connection was the question whether the obligation should be placed on parents to send their children to school, or whether it should be left optional. I was somewhat surprised that many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House seemed to think that the obligation should not be laid upon the parents. On the contrary, it seems to me that it is the parent's responsibility. He is informed of the risk, and surely it is up to him to decide, as head of the family, whether the child should or should not go. It seems to me that it would be placing a great deal too much on the parent to tell him that he is forced to send his child to school in any case, whatever he might think the risks were.