Education (Scotland) Bill.

Part of Supplementary Vote of Credit, 1941. – in the House of Commons on 16th December 1941.

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Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

It is with peculiar pleasure that I follow the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on the first occasion on which he has addressed this House and congratulate him, as I am sure I may, upon the facility with which he went through that ordeal. He chose a sympathetic audience in choosing a Scottish Debate in which to make his maiden speech. In some respects that perhaps was to some extent more an embarrassment to him than an assistance, but he came through the ordeal very happily indeed. I congratulate him all the more because he follows in the succession of Members for West Edinburgh. I had the honour to represent—or, as I have often said, "misrepresent"—West Edinburgh, because I was a minority Member between 1929 and 1931. The hon. and gallant Member is in a happier position than that; he represents what still is, unfortunately, if I may use that word on this occasion, the majority opinion in that Division. We hope to see him participating in our Debates on numerous occasions in the future.

With regard to this Bill, I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State realises that in bringing in a Measure of this kind he is doing something that will receive whole-hearted approval from this House. I know I can assure him that we shall do our best to assist the rapid passage of this Bill into law. It may be asked why, if this Measure is so very-desirable, it was not given effect to many years ago. My right hon. Friend, in making his references to the law as it stands at present, had to go back to 1908, to the Education (Scotland) Act of that year. He was justified in referring to the provisions of that Act, in respect of the feeding of school children as "absurd provisions." I am glad to think that at long last we are getting rid of these absurd provisions. It is part of what we could expect from my right hon. Friend and from my hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary, whose life-long interest in educational matters is something of which we in Scotland are very proud and something which must be of very great advantage and help in the Scottish Office. My right hon. Friend went back even beyond 1908 and referred to his own efforts in that particular sphere. While he may regret that he has to go back so many years, I am sure we all recognise in him one who has during that time continuously urged progress along the lines that this Bill takes.

He gave us some arguments in favour of passing this Bill into law with the least possible delay and told us of the experiment that had been carried out, notably the Lanarkshire milk feeding experiment, in 1930, for which he was responsible. We recognise all these things and are grateful for the line he took when he had the opportunity. This Measure shows itself to be in some degree permissive, but the arrangements which have been made for meeting the cost of these facilities up to a 95 per cent. grant will be an inducement even to the most backward local authority to press on with giving effect to the Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament. I do not think my right hon. Friend could be expected to go further than that. Our desire will be to urge upon local authorities that they should take advantage of this Measure. It is our wish that my right hon. Friend himself will urge local authorities to take the fullest possible advantage of this Bill when it becomes law. He has shown us that there is no intention here to involve local authorities or anyone else in high costs. He has deprecated the idea of making any profit out of this service, however admirable may be the objects which would be served by making profits.

We welcome this Bill very heartily; we hope it will carry out the intentions of its author. We are glad that it is given to us to deal with a Measure of this kind at the present time. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that in his speech the war was relegated to a very small position. This Measure, which is of so much value to the community, is fashioned on sound lines, and I am sure it is our desire simply to thank my right hon. Friend for giving us the opportunity of passing such a Bill into law and to assure him that we will do our best to help see that its provisions are carried out to the fullest possible extent once it becomes possible for local authorities to take advantage of them.