Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) [Money]

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1957.

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Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).—[Queen's Recommendation signified.]

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make new provision for grants out of the Exchequer to local authorities in Scotland, to abolish the Education (Scotland) Fund, to amend the law of Scotland relating to valuation for rating, to provide for the increase of fees under certain enactments relating to marriage and to registration of births, deaths and marriages, and for other matters, it is expedient to authorise—A. the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—

  1. (i) the expenses of the Secretary of State in paying general grants under the said Act;
  2. (ii) any expenses which by virtue of the said Act are to be defrayed by the Secretary of State out of moneys provided by Parliament instead of the Education (Scotland) Fund constituted by section sixty-nine of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946;
  3. (iii) any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable out of moneys provided by Parliament under any other Act;
B. the payment into the Exchequer of—
  1. (i) any balance in the said Education (Scotland) Fund at the coming into operation of any provision of the said Act of the present Session providing for the abolition of that Fund;
  2. (ii) any sums which by virtue of the said Act of the present Session are to be paid into the Exchequer instead of the said Education (Scotland) Fund;
  3. (iii) any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the receipts of the Registrar-General for Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland.—[Mr. Maclay.]

10.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We ought to have some explanation of this Money Resolution. There is at least one point which intrigues me. Looking at line 16—I am sure that the Minister will enlighten us—there is to be paid into the Exchequer any balance in the said Education (Scotland) Fund at the coming into operation of any provision of the said Act of the present Session providing for the abolition of that Fund; The Bill will abolish the Education Fund. A point which interests me is that, at present, as far as I understand, any balance at the end of the year in the Education Fund is retained in that Fund and does not affect any future payments into the Fund in the following year. As I see it, Scottish education will be deprived of that balance by paying it into the Treasury, from which in future the general grant will have to come. Will the Secretary of State tell us what the position has been over the last two or three years? How much has remained in the Fund and how many thousands of pounds will Scottish education be denied by the change?

The hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) referred to the Fund this evening. I can well remember an occasion when he presented us with a Supplementary Estimate, and he could not give us any explanation at all about what it was. All he could say was that it came into the Education Fund at the end of the year because England and Wales had spent more money but that additional sum, that balance, was carried forward and devoted to Scottish education. Under the Money Resolution, however, any balance will be handed back to the Treasury.

This is a matter of considerable interest to every local authority in Scotland. We are told by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) that, in the first years of the new dispensation, Aberdeen will lose a considerable sum of money. We are told by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) that the local authority in his area will lose over £80,000 in the first year. I am sure that those hon. Members, like me, will be concerned that, in the coming into operation of this strange and devastating Bill, money will pass to the Treasury and will not be applied to Scottish education, the education authorities being put to a considerable loss as a result of the Bill. I do not see the Financial Secretary to the Treasury here, but we should be given justification for this and explanation of what it will mean in the loss to Scottish education.

10.15 p.m.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West

I can answer briefly. This provision is necessary as a consequence of the abolition of the Education (Scotland) Fund. I am advised that the sum involved is relatively small from year to year. [HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] It cannot be worked out exactly. It may range from £20,000 to £50,000, but it is not a large sum and it may even be less than that. I understand that the matter is provisional for the future and that it should be a very small sum indeed.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

It is wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to say that it must be done in this way. If that sum is available to be disbursed, it could be disbursed in many other ways. There is no reason why it should go back to the Treasury. It has been voted by the House of Commons for the purposes of Scottish education and for those purposes it should be applied. I am not concerned whether it is £20,000 or £20 million. The fact is that it was voted by the House for Scottish education and it should be applied for that purpose.

In Committee, if we are lucky enough to be on the Committee which deals with the Bill, we can certainly find many ways of using that sum, whatever it may be, for the benefit of Scottish education. Will the Secretary of State deny that it would be possible to disburse it in some other way?

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.