Orders of the Day — Local Government

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th July 1957.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 30th July 1957

Yes, and of the Secretary of State.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman must admit that the obvious intention of the White Paper is to cut Government expenditure. The local authorities will be faced with the three choices enunciated by Lord Aberdare: (a)to increase rates; (b)to cut services, or (c)to compromise between the two. That statement of purposes is brutally clear. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser)quoted the Geddes Committee, and the May Committee made exactly the same recommendation. Whenever the percentage grant has been abandoned, or its abandonment has been advised, it has been only in times of real national crisis or when the Government have been determined to cut down expenditure. Both the Geddes and May Committees were notorious with their recommendations of severe educational cuts.

Despite the speech of the hon. Member for Pollok, and despite the assurances of the Scottish Office Ministers, I am not at all optimistic about the prospects of the educational service in Scotland. Why should I believe what the Scottish Ministers tell us? I have no reason for believing them, because we know what the record of Scottish education was between the wars and in the last thirty or forty years. Why should we believe in their good intentions in these matters? They are being prodded along all the time by public opinion. These proposals have been produced at the very time when the birth rate bulge will be having its maximum effect in the schools, in the early 1960's. These proposals are being produced at such a time, and I have great doubts as to the Government's good intentions.

There is no doubt that the reactionary local authorities are being given the green light by these proposals, and I believe that the Government will live to regret that they have produced them without mandate and without the support of the country.