Education (Scotland — Superannuation) Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 1st April 1919.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr Robert Munro Mr Robert Munro , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

In making this Motion, I would remind the House that the superannuation of teachers is no new thing in Scotland. We have a comprehensive scheme in existence to-day which embraces all classes of teachers and which has been in operation since 1911. That scheme is a contributory scheme, the contributions being provided by school boards and managers, by teachers, and also from the Scottish Education Fund. That scheme, so far as I know, has worked to the satisfaction of all concerned with it. What then, it may be asked, is the reason for this Bill, which proposes to change the scheme which is now in operation? The answer to that question is perfectly simple. Last year the Government introduced and passed a Superannuation Act for England, which I think comes into operation to-day, under which much more generous provision was made for English teachers than was made for Scottish teachers under the existing scheme in Scotland, and under which, moreover, that provision is made free of cost—that is to say, without any contribution whatever on the part of the teachers themselves. It therefore appeared to me to be quite obvious that the only course one could pursue, having regard to Scottish interests, was to introduce a Bill which would make as generous provision for the teachers of Scotland as the English teachers now enjoy, and which should, moreover, be made to the teachers of Scotland free of cost. This is a Bill to enable that to be done.

Then the next question which arose was as to the method to be followed in introducing such a Bill as this. There were two courses open. The first was to follow the lines of the English Bill of last year. But the organisation of the system of education in Scotland is so fundamentally different from the system in England that it was very soon found that it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to produce a Bill upon those lines which would be suited to the conditions of Scotland. Moreover, to put a Bill which applies to Scotland into an English mould is not only difficult but even distasteful. Accordingly, I resolved to follow the precedent of 1908. That was the other alternative, to follow the precedent set in 1908, when the contributory scheme to which I have referred was launched in the Act of that year. That scheme was drafted with a single eye to Scottish conditions, and after full conference and deliberation with all those who were concerned, including the teachers themselves. In the present Bill, accordingly, I ask the House for authority to carry out, in the same manner as the contributory scheme was carried out, a non-contributory scheme under such general directions as the Housie may think proper to impose. I am well aware that an integral part of this scheme is an Order in Council, and I am also well aware of the views entertained in the House with regard to Orders in Council. But I want to put one or two considerations which may convince my Scottish colleagues who are familiar with the conditions that this is the best and, indeed, the only proper way in which to proceed. In the first place, unless that procedure is to become altogether obsolete, and we are to do away with Orders in Council altogether, I cannot imagine a more suitable case for putting that system into operation than the one we are now considering. Further, in doing so, one is exactly following the precedent which was set in 1908. The scheme has worked exceedingly well in practice. It has been found necessary from time to time to amend the scheme in order to meet emerging difficulties and changes. That has been done, to the entire satisfaction of all concerned, by means of subsequent Orders in Council. But if anything more should be said on that matter, I would say that before the Committee upstairs to which I suppose this Bill will go—the Scottish Grand Committee—parts from the Bill, I hope to be able to lay before them a draft scheme—not a complete scheme, because I think that would be impossible—so that they should clearly understand the lines upon which it is intended to proceed.

May I just anticipate for a moment or two, in a most general way, the kind of thing we have in mind? First of all, with regard to teachers who retire after the prescribed date—the date which will be prescribed under this scheme; I hope that it will be an early date—the provisions, will follow, in broad outlines, those in the English Act—that is to say, the award of annual superannuation allowances, of lump sums, of gratuities, and of death gratuities will closely resemble the provisions of the English Act. But I should add that the conditions qualifying for these awards will be expressed in terms of the existing Scottish system, which has been tried in practice and found successful in practice, and under which, as the House will readily understand, certain vested interests have already grown up. That is all I desire to say with regard to teachers who retire after this scheme comes into operation. I want to say a word or two with regard to another class of teachers in whose welfare I know that my Scottish colleagues are deeply interested—that is to say, teachers who have already retired before this scheme comes into operation. I know that their claims have excited attention and sympathy, and I am sure that every Member from Scotland is familiar with the conditions under which they exist to-day. These are really the veterans of the teaching profession, and their position to-day requires most careful and sympathetic treatment. To-day, for reasons which I will not discuss in detail, there are many of these men who, after long and faithful service in the profession—some of them forty years and more—are in receipt of allowances which are not only entirely inadequate to the service they have rendered, but entirely inadequate to provide them with the bare necessities of life as things are to-day. Some of these teachers, owing to the generosity of the managers and for other reasons, have satisfactory allowances; but there are others, of no less personal merit and who have rendered no less efficient service, who are to-day endeavouring to exist on what I must describe as a beggarly pittance. Accordingly, one of the chief intentions of the present scheme is to bring that class of teachers within its ambit and to provide them with more suitable reward for their services. The problem is a complicated one for the reasons I have indicated. Some of these teachers are fairly well-off, owing to the generosity of their former managers, and some are not so well off. Therefore it would be impossible to deal with those cases in a Clause of a Bill such as the English Bill of last year. Hence I invite the House to proceed as was done in 1908, after close consideration of the particular circumstances of this class of teachers and after full consultation with all those who are interested.

I wish to say a word with regard to the finance of the Bill. The House may remember that the Treasury, in agreeing to Section 21 of the Scottish Education Act of last year, excepted superannuation. They undertook, however, to give for Scottish superannuation, if a scheme were devised for that purpose, eleven-eightieths of the expenditure in England for superannuation allowances. Clause 7 of this Bill sets out that arrangement. In short, the principle of the eleven-eightieths, which is at the foundation of the Scottish Bill of last year, is now made to apply to superannuation as well as to the other purposes of the Bill. The cost of superannuation, so far as we can judge, will not be materially different in the two countries. Accordingly eleven-eightieths will meet the requirements of the Scottish case, in so far as those can now be foreseen. If there should be a deficiency, that will be met from the Education (Scotland) Fund. If, on the other hand, there should be a surplus, then the fund will receive a corresponding benefit. Of course there are considerations which justify, if it were necessary to do so, the non-contributory principle. The real problem is what advantages by way of salary and by way of superannuation can one offer in order to induce into the teaching profession men of high education and of culture, whose efficiency will be of the first importance to the nation in the future. If substantial salaries are offered and substantial superannuation benefits free of cost, we may reasonably hope to attract into the teaching profession recruits of an even better class than hitherto—men who will devote their lives to the teaching profession with some hope that when their declining years arrive due provision will be made for them. There are other consequences which follow from the non-contributory system which the Bill proposes to set up. For example, teachers will be relieved of the necessity of contributing 4 per cent. of their salaries, as they do to-day. In other words, the salaries of the teachers all over Scotland will be increased, not nominally, but really by 4 per cent per annum. Moreover, the education authorities will be relieved of their contribution of 2 per cent., which is the contribution they make to-day, and the rates to that extent will also be relieved. Then the Education (Scotland) Fund will be relieved to some extent of the payments which are imposed upon it under the existing scheme. Therefore the free balance of the fund that will be available for distribution among education authorities will be larger than it is to-day. Accordingly, I venture to think that the non-contributory scheme which has been adopted in England and which even a sense of fairness would lead us to adopt in Scotland will also be found to be beneficial to the teaching profession and to the public as well.

The Bill is an urgent measure. We cannot afford to lag behind England in this matter. But apart from that, the need of the teachers, as I have indicated, is very real, and ought to be met promptly. The Bill also is a timely Bill. We are entering in Scotland, as the House knows, at the present moment on a new educational epoch. This month new authorities are to be elected, powerful and responsible authorities, both in the counties and towns of Scotland, and better conditions for teachers appear to me at least very fittingly to synchronise with this new educational departure. The efficiency of the teacher—I have said this before in the House, but I venture to repeat it—is in proportion to his freedom from financial anxiety, and the efficiency of the pupil is in proportion to the efficiency of the teacher.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

And his financial anxiety as well.

Photo of Mr Robert Munro Mr Robert Munro , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

It may be so, but I am not quite sure that I follow my right hon. Friend. The efficiency of the race, I would venture to add the efficiency of the youth of the future will depend upon the training which they receive in school to-day. Having regard to these considerations, I hope I have said enough to induce the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. After it has been read a second time and it goes to the Scottish Grand Committee, I hope, in conference with that Committee, to reach a solution of this problem which will be of advantage not only to the teaching profession but to the public as well.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

My right hon. Friend quite truly said that this measure, which he has introduced in a speech which is not only instinct with knowledge of the subject but with great sympathy, is one which will be welcomed not only by the Scottish Members but also by the teaching profession in Scotland and by the Scottish people. I am very glad indeed that teachers who have been superannuated before, the passage of the measure are to be included within what I hope will be its generous scope. In the second place, we all welcome the promise which my right hon. Friend has made that the scheme will be first submitted to the Committee, because hitherto the practice has been to have schemes of this kind simply laid on the Table, and then all that hon. Members can do is to accept or reject them. This is a new departure, as far as I know, and one which I am certain the House ought to welcome, and the Committee upstairs will now be able to discuss this in draft, and indeed to have that measure of control over its various proposals which Parliament ought to have. With regard to the already superannuated teachers, I should like to say how wise it is that they should be brought within the ambit of this measure, because, after all, what you want to do is to attract into the teaching profession the best class of young men and young women that is obtainable in Scotland. For the future their prospects will be better. But I am certain you will give an added inducement to them to undertake this great task of educating the young if they know that the old teachers are being at any rate justly dealt with. They will say that is something like justice. Generosity apart, all they want is justice, and if they see justice done to the old people that is an earnest with them that they will when their time comes, having finished their part of this undertaking, be dealt with justly too. These are days in which we all preach economy and do not practice it. But any sum, I am certain, which is allocated by the State towards this object will come back a hundredfold in the sense of security and of the meeting of the claims of justice which must react upon the teachers' work. Never was it so important that the youth of this country should be educated according to the highest standard, and you will get the best out of your teachers if you give them not only security of tenure but also justice in their pay. I am certain that the Committee upstairs will welcome very much the opportunity, in so far as lies within their power, to make an even better measure than is foreshadowed by the Clauses now contained in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Joseph Johnstone Mr Joseph Johnstone , Renfrewshire Eastern

I wish to congratulate the Secretary for Scotland on this Bill, which I am sure will be welcomed by all shades of opinion. The fact that now superannuation allowances are to be made non-contributory, and that you have a new education authority coming into, being very shortly, will mean that the example shown by the Government in giving this Bill to Scotland will be followed by the new education authority, and that will do something still more to elevate the teaching profession in Scotland to a higher place. I am sure nothing could be better in any country than that we should have the best men and women engaged in the teaching profession, and the fact that this Bill will give a better outlook for teachers in the future will tend to attract to the teaching profession in Scotland the best men and women. I am exceedingly glad the right hon. Gentleman has met the case of the retired teacher. In these evil days, when the cost of living is so high, he has been stressed by hard circumstances and this Bill will give him a measure of relief which will be greatly appreciated. I heartily welcome it.

Photo of Hon. Alexander Shaw Hon. Alexander Shaw , Kilmarnock

I wish to join in the chorus of congratulation which has been tendered to my right hon. Friend. I am sure the teachers of Scotland, especially that small class of retired teachers, who cannot organise, who have no voting power, who cannot make any great appeal to this House, have in my right hon. Friend a very warm friend and supporter. One is sometimes rather struck, in approaching on their behalf that great Scottish Education Department, which resides in a dug-out in the Scottish Office, by the somewhat cold attitude which is exhibited towards these teachers. I had a recent experience of that. The utmost that can be done, even under these abnormal conditions of the cost of living, for the retired teacher is to so increase his allowance that it is brought up to a total of £52 per annum, and I do not think in the existing state of affairs that is any too much. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend, under the scheme which he will submit in draft, will propose to increase it. But it is rather hard that when Scottish Members approach the Scottish Education authority on this matter there should be, I will not say a lack of sympathy but a certain tendency to say, "Well, at any rate, they manage to exist because they are still living, and you must remember that 5s. a week is all that an old age pensioner gets." I am quite sure that is not my right hon. Friend's attitude. I am sure he realises that the State is under a very special obligation to that class of men and women who have for so many years foregone other careers which would have been open to them. The education of the coming generation is one of the most important duties in the State. I, am glad the right hon. Gentleman is going to lay before us the draft scheme. That is an extremely novel and useful thing. I wish nothing for the Bill but a safe and speedy passage, and I would impress upon my right hon. Friend the special need of seeing that all those who are devoting their time to the education of the coming generation have something more to look forward to in their old age than trying to make both ends meet on 20s. a week.

Photo of Mr John Sturrock Mr John Sturrock , Montrose District of Burghs

I rise to support every word that has just fallen from the hon. Member (Mr. Shaw). I feel that all classes of opinion in Scotland are most heartily in favour of the utmost generosity being accorded to the retired teachers. I trust my right hon. Friend will do all in his power to expedite the passage of the Bill, for it has been too long deferred and circumstances are rendering it very necessary now. I should like him to have in view Clause 4, which seems to me to place an unfortunate class of retired teachers in a peculiarly hard position. Clause 4 deals with those who are mentally unfit as the result of their work, and the terms of the Clause are such as to suggest that all that their dependants are to enjoy is something in the nature of charity, to be granted by the Department under the scheme. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the Clause, and to place the case of these teachers on a better footing than it occupies in the Bill. I associate myself with every word that has been said in general support of the Bill, and I only trust we may soon see it placed on the Statute Book.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

I desire to associate members of the Labour party and myself with what has been said regarding the introduction of this Bill. I think the Scottish Secretary is to be commended for introducing it, and for making an effort to put the teaching profession in Scotland on the same footing as has been done in England. I also appreciate very highly the fact that he has arranged in this Bill for dealing fairly and generously with the veterans of the teaching profession. I am sure this measure will not only be welcomed by the teaching profession, but will, generally speaking, be welcomed by the whole of the Scottish people. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the efficiency of the teacher is in proportion to his freedom from financial worry, and also that the efficiency of the scholar is in proportion to the efficiency of the teacher. He did not seem to catch my point when I said, plus the scholar being provided with the wherewithal to keep him in a fit condition for receiving the teaching. That can only be done by the parent or guardian being in the same position as the teacher in having finances sufficient to enable him to put the scholar in that position. I welcome the Bill very heartily, and hope it will find a speedy place upon the Statute Book.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.