Fifth Schedule. — (Repeals.)

Orders of the Day — Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) (Recommitted) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th May 1958.

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Amendments made: In page 27, leave out lines 18 to 21.

In line 34, column 3, leave out "paragraphs (b) and" and insert "paragraph."—[Mr. J. N. Browne.]

7.8 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I should like, first, to thank my hon. Friends the Joint Under-Secretaries and the Solicitor-General for Scotland, as well as a great many others on both sides of the House for the great assistance they have given in bringing this Bill to this stage of its development.

Since the Bill was introduced, it has received a great deal of careful consideration both in the House and out of it, and I think it is fair to say that the standard of debate has been very high and very clear cut, especially, as I think it will be agreed on reflection, during its later stages when we have been working to a reasonable time-table. As I say, there has been a very high standard of debate, and all the essential points have been covered with great clarity and speed without losing anything of value in the discussions. The principles have been most fully debated, and I must confess to some admiration last night for the very successful way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite contrived to re-debate the principles by very ingenious and carefully-put Amendments.

I do not think that it can be fairly claimed that the Government have been unaccommodating towards the Amendments proposed. Where there have been proposals that would improve the Bill and did not conflict with its basic principles, we have accepted them. We have, for example, decided, I think rightly, to exclude from relevant expenditure that incurred by district councils under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937, so that those councils will still get this direct grant. We have also agreed to provide in the distribution formula for some abstruse nautical calculations which, we hope, will benefit the island counties. For suggestions on this and a number of other points we are very grateful.

During the proceedings in Committee, on Recommittal and on Report, a total of 157 Amendments have appeared on the Order Paper. So far as I have been able to make out in the time at my disposal, their fate has been as follows. Forty-eight have been accepted, 95 have been rejected and 14 have been withdrawn on an undertaking to consider the matter. Further, the 48 Amendments that have been accepted include seven moved by the Opposition and 12 which were moved by us to meet points raised by the Opposition. The others came largely from points which developed during the discussion and which we thought would improve the Bill. It is reasonable to say, therefore, that there has been careful and meticulous consideration of the Bill and that the Government, while keeping in mind the principles, have gone a long way to meet the feelings expressed in debate.

It would be wrong to disguise or to attempt to disguise the fact that there has been no compromise on the two most important provisions—the re-rating of industry to 50 per cent. and the introduction of the new general grant. In view of the detailed discussions that have taken place, it is not necessary once again, to go over the arguments on the main principles of the Bill. We are all agreed that some form of re-rating is desirable, and the argument has centred on its extent. That is obviously a matter of judgment, but we on this side are quite certain that in current economic circumstances the decision we have taken is the right one.

Here, I would like to correct something that got on the record last night and which it would be a pity to leave uncorrected. I think it was the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) who last night suggested that four tenants of local authority houses were paying more in rates in that district than was the Burntisland shipyard——

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I must say that I myself was worried about that figure last night, and I have since confirmed that it is wrong. I did, however, say that I based it on information given to me by the Burntisland Town Council. Nevertheless, the figures are wrong, and for that I apologise to the Government and to the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), but at least it is well to think that we have been wrong only this once, having in mind the number of times the Government have been wrong.

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

That was handsomely done, if I may say so. In fact, the figures are very different, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would have wanted to put them right. On the basis of 25 per cent. re-rating, the shipyard has a rate-able value of about £1,400, which will be increased under Clause 7 to £2,800, and the value of the four representative houses, even if we take the latest and most highly-rated, would be £160——

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

A total value of £180, but I say nothing more than that the Burntisland shipyard is still being relieved of rates to the extent of £3,800, which represents 1s. 5d. in the £ of the rates of a small burgh.

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

I am quite certain that, having tidied up any misunderstanding about figures, the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Burntisland Shipbuilding Company is a very great asset to that part of Scotland, and that it is important that it should be able to carry on its admirable work to the greatest extent possible.

I will not pretend, after all these weeks, that the general grant has not had its critics, but we stand by the proposals which we first announced more than a year ago. In our view, it is definitely preferable to do away with the meticulous scrutiny of claims for ad hoc grants and provide instead for the lump sum payments which local authorities in their wisdom can spend as they think fit.

There is nothing in the Bill to support the allegation that the introduction of the general grant is a shield to cover a furtive attack on the finances of local authorities. We have stated explicitly the considerations which will be taken into account in determining the amount of the general grant, and I do not believe that any, Government could have given a fairer undertaking.

Many hon. Members opposite have expressed concern about the disappearance of the Goschen formula. I recognise the genuineness of their concern in this matter, because some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen appear to believe, quite sincerely, that the sheet anchor of the Scottish Office has been abandoned. That is getting the matter out of proportion and is a very distorted way of looking at things.

In the first year, the general grant will be closely related to the existing level of expenditure on the relevant services, and I am sure that the local authority associations, when we come to discuss the general grant order, will have a very close eye on the sum of the existing specific grants. Of those, the largest by far is the education grant, which is at present determined according to the Goschen formula. It is clear, therefore, that the general grant for the first period will have built into it a large element fixed according to Goschen. Thereafter, as hon. Members know, the general grant will be fixed in accordance with the provisions of Clause 2 and the needs of the times.

It would not be practicable nor desirable to try to apply the Goschen formula to the new system. In future, there will be no exact English equivalent to which the fraction could be applied and the fixing of the general grant in accordance with the objective factors and the various considerations set out in detail in Clause 2 could hardly be reconciled with an arbitrary arithmetical formula. However, I repeat that the product of the Goschen formula is built into the initial stages as it is at present.

This is also a convenient moment to look into the future and consider what will require to be done if, as the Government hope, the Bill receives the Royal Assent before the Summer Recess. I have already referred to the consultations which we will have with the local authority associations before the general grant order is laid before the House. Very soon after the Bill is through we shall have to ask local authorities for their latest estimates of expenditure for 1958–59 and their estimates of what they expect to spend in the next two years.

When we have assembled that information, it will have to be processed and we will then start discussions with the associations. I am certain that we can look forward to their active co-operation in this very important job that has to be done. When the first general grant order is laid before Parliament, there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss what it contains, along with the White Paper which, as the result of a very useful Amendment which was discussed yesterday, I am required to lay before the House.

I do not think that it is fully appreciated that this procedure will give Parliament a better chance to discuss and to express its views on the Government's contribution to local government expenditure, particularly on education services, than has existed in the past.

I want to make only a short speech to permit the maximum time to right hon. and hon. Members who wish to sneak. In conclusion, the provisions of the Bill are a clear indication of the Government's determination to give local authorities more freedom to manage their own affairs, and I emphasise that. The financial provisions, which have been discussed at length, will give local authorities a much bigger say in deciding how best to spend their own revenues, whether they are increased rate revenues provided from re-rating, or the general grant which will be paid without any strings attached.

I repeat what I said yesterday. I know that the Bill has been criticised and the general grant, in particular, has been criticised. Nevertheless, I felt confident that in a few years, when this procedure has had a chance to get going, it will be recognised that the Bill represents yet another very important and useful move forward in the history of local government in Scotland.

7.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The right hon. Gentleman said that under the provisions of the Bill, whereby he is to present a White Paper with each general grant Order, a better opportunity than has existed hitherto will be provided for the House to discuss the expenditure of public money on services in Scotland, especially on education. I do not know where he gets that idea, because until now we have had annual Estimates for education and annual debates on education. There has been a debate on Scottish education, in the House or in the Scottish Committee, every year since the right hon. Gentleman first came to the House.

He now tells us that because of the presentation of a White Paper at intervals of not less than two years and not more than three years we will have more frequent opportunities to discuss Scottish education. I do not understand that, unless he is saying that the Government intend to provide special occasions to debate those White Papers and general grant orders. It will be interesting to hear what the Joint Under-Secretary has to say about that.

If we are to discuss the White Papers only in the time alloted to the Opposition for Supply Days, then the opportunities will be fewer and not more than hitherto. Until now, we have been able to have those debates on the Estimates every year; in future, we will have this information given to us not less than once every two years and not less frequently than once every three years.

There is one point on which I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman. He was ultimately able to make a concession to district councils. I worked hard on this issue and I thought that I was working in vain, but I am grateful to the Government for ultimately promising to give the matter further consideration and for then putting down an Amendment which, unfortunately, we were not able to discuss because of the operation of the Guillotine.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the number of Amendments which had been tabled—157. He referred to the number accepted and rejected. Perhaps in making those calculations he was getting into training for the calculations which he will have to make under the Second Schedule, but I am bound to say that this was not much of a test for those calculations. He might have given the impression that the number of Amendments which he said he had accepted was the number offered by the Opposition and accepted by the Government. If he had given that figure, that would have been very small.

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

The hon. Member possibly missed what I said, because I gave the figure. I said that 48 Amendments were accepted and that they included seven moved by the Opposition and 12 moved by the Government to meet points raised by the Opposition, a total of 19. I added that many of the other Amendments had been put down by the Government, but had arisen out of the general discussion.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and apologise for having misconstrued what he said. When he refers to the number of Amendments accepted, it is assumed that those are Amendments which the Government were pleased to accept. But most of the Amendments in question were Amendments which the Government were pleased to offer and which the Committee accepted. It made up a total of 19 out of 48—seven from this side and 12 concessions from this side. About another 30 of the accepted Amendments were offered by the Government with the backing of a majority in the House to force the Amendments through if the Opposition chose to challenge them.

It is as well that we should get the position clear. Of those 48 or 49 Amendments which were accepted, 14 were ultimately accepted this evening after the Guillotine had fallen, when even the Government were not able to tell us why they were offering the Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman said that he appreciated that there was still a bit of disagreement about the general grant as such. Of course, there is much disagreement about the general grant as such. During all this time, the White Paper having been published in July last year, the Bill having been anticipated in the Queen's Speech, during the Second Reading debate, the Committee stage and right through to the Third Reading, during all this time so far as we can judge the opposition of local authorities in Scotland to the introduction of the block grant has not eased at all. The local authorities are just as much opposed to it as they were in the first place.

The Secretary of State thinks that the Bill is essentially fair. It sets out the considerations which the Secretary of State will take into account in fixing the aggregate amount of general grant. The Secretary of State has reached the point at which he has started to mislead himself. In the Bill as it is now drawn the Secretary of State has merely told us the matters he will think about before he produces a sum of money as the aggregate amount of general grant. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that under the provisions of the Bill, quite apart from promises made in the White Paper and in speeches, after three years the aggregate amount of general grant under the Bill could be £30 million, £40 million or £50 million, irrespective of the amount of relevant expenditure that the Secretary of State takes into account. That is true. If the Secretary of State says that as relevant expenditure increases so will the general grant increase, he will have destroyed his case for the general grant.

The Under-Secretary explained that the trouble with specific grant was that payment was made by result and he wanted to get away from that. Payment by result was payment having regard to the amount of relevant expenditure, but the notion is being put that, under the provisions of the Bill, as the amount of relevant expenditure increases, so will the amount of general grant increase. There is no such provision in the Bill. Yet the Secretary of State says he thinks that the Bill is essentially fair.

The Bill removes from the Statute Book all the provisions which oblige the Government at present to make specific percentage grants to local authorities in respect of the services which are now included as relevant expenditure. As I put it yesterday, I think, local authorities have been carrying out those services for the betterment of their communities under a contract made with the Government whereby the Government would meet one proportion and the local authorities another proportion of the cost.

The Government have ended this arrangement, despite the almost unanimous opposition of Scottish local authorities, and the Secretary of State asks us to believe that his new arrangement is fair he hopes that in time it will have become more acceptable. It might, but it will become acceptable only if the amount of general grant keeps in step with the increase in the amount of relevant expenditure. It will become acceptable only if the local authorities in Scotland continue to enjoy from central funds approximately the same proportion of the cost of local services that they enjoy at present.

If the Governments' share of the cost of local authority services diminishes, which I think is the Governments' intention, then the system will not be acceptable. If the Government ensure that the provision of those local services will not be impeded by the stinginess of the Exchequer or by an unwillingness on the part of the Exchequer to pay its due proportion, and if they treat local authorities reasonably, then the proposal might be accepted.

But if this or any other Government treat the local authorities reasonably and continues to pay, broadly speaking, the same proportion of costs of local authority services as at present, then the whole case for the Bill will have fallen to the ground and the objection that was offered to an alternative Second Schedule will have fallen to the ground, because the case for the retention of the Second Schedule was that the Government would not undertake to match with increased grant the increase in the cost of services being provided by the local authorities.

The hour is late and the time is short in which to discuss the Third Reading, and so I must draw my remarks to a close. In offering the Bill to us the right hon. Gentleman has taken refuge behind the fact that he has been given certain advice by working parties. He offers us the Second Schedule, which nobody has ever sought to justify, on the ground that it was offered to him by a working party. It would have been interesting if we could have been told what the working party thought about what was given to it. It would have been interesting if we could have had the report of that working party; but we have not had it. We have only the result of its endeavours.

As the right hon. Gentleman commended the Bill on Second Reading, he told us that it would ease the administrative difficulties that exist between central Government and local authorities, and he was setting up a working party to inquire into the recommendations to be made to him. I wish he had told us tonight that he would let us have the report of that working party. The right hon. Gentleman has told us in answer to Questions that it is not normal practice to publish those reports.

Let me offer the right hon. Gentleman two recent examples of the publication of reports of working parties of a similar character. He published the Report of the Working Party on Housing Subsidies in Scotland, 1956, because he thought it would help him with certain legislation. The Report of the Working Party on the Operation of Exchequer Equalisation Grants in Scotland was published because it was calculated to help the Government in legislation that they were introducing to Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman could publish the reports of those working parties of almost identical composition with the working party which has been advising him on these other matters recently, let him also offer it to us at an early date and before the Bill completes its journey through another place.

When the Secretary of State does that, we will see how hollow is this promise of greater freedom to the local authorities resulting from this change in the law. We will see that local authorities are no more free than they have been before and, because of the right hon. Gentleman's insistence on putting through Clause 11 in its present form, we will see that local authorities will be substantially less free than they were before the war. I hope that even now the House will reject the Bill.

7.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

We have listened this afternoon and in the closing stages of the proceedings to what I can only call a scandalous negation of democracy. Nobody wants the Bill. Not even Members on the Government side really want it. Educational bodies throughout the country do not want it. Local authorities do not want it. Nobody on the Opposition side wants it. There is no mandate for it. For all these reasons, the Government, in view of the fact that they have forced it through on a Guillotine Motion, represent the complete negation of the country's democratic processes.

The first alleged purpose of the Bill—the Secretary of State will correct me if my assumptions are wrong—is, presumably, to introduce a stabilising influence in the central Government's contribution to local expenditure. Am I correct in saying that this is an attempt to stabilise the Government's contribution to local authorities? Since I am not interrupted, I assume that that is correct.

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

The hon. Member must not make the type of speech in which he expects an answer to every precise question and, if it is not answered, assumes that he is correct. That is a technique which most of us dropped a long time ago, because it is not a reasonable one.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I simply asked the right hon. Gentleman to intervene on the specific point of whether that was the declared object of the Government. Is one of the declared purposes of the Bill to stabilise the central Government's contribution to local authority expenditure?

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

I am not making any comment. I have given my statements, on Second Reading and on Third Reading and at other stages, on the purpose of the Bill. The hon. Member is entitled to make his own assumptions, but I am not standing up on every one of them to argue it out in detail. My silence does not necessarily mean assent to everything.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman is treading on very thin ice. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer himself said that that was the purpose of the Bill. On 19th February last year, he used precisely those words. If the Secretary of State is not prepared to back up the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and his own Government, it is a pretty poor show. It shows us that there is another split within the Tory Government.

The second purpose of the Bill is that the Government are determined that local authorities shall bear a bigger proportion of their educational expenditure and that this will increase the interest in local authority affairs. The Secretary of State—I took down his words; he can correct me if they are wrong—said that it was an untrue allegation that the Bill is a furtive attack upon education.

I presume that the Tory Central Office weekly Newsletter has the right hon. Gentleman's backing. I have with me the Newsletter for the week ending 23rd February last year. It refers to the Bill and it states: One of the unpleasant, but inescapable facts of life is that he who pays the piper can, and almost invariably does, call the tune. It is that more than anything else which has tended to diminish the importance of local government in recent years. That was the gist of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The Newsletter then asks what are the two main purposes of the Bill and it states that the second is To reduce"— not even to stabilise, but to reduce— the total of what is paid in State grants … That is the Government's own propaganda. If the Secretary of State is prepared to get up and say that he refutes it and does not believe his own party's propaganda I, for one, would not blame him. The exercise can have no other objective. Indeed, I go further and quote the former Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who, at the Tory Party Conference at Brighton, on 9th October last year, included the block grant proposals among the economy measures being taken by the Government to meet the perennial Tory Government crisis.

I believe, and local authorities and local education committees believe, that this attack on education is, none the less, wicked and stupid for being conducted behind a smokescreen. It is not like the specified 5 per cent. cut which we had under a former Minister of Education a few years ago, which was bitterly attacked by public opinion precisely because it was specific. The Government have been more careful this time. The attack has been conducted in a fog. The team at the Scottish Office could not be better selected for making that fog a real pea-souper. That is what we have had in the successive stages of the Bill.

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends getting up and repeating their vigorous denials that there is such an attack. I am reminded of the Suez episode, when we had the Government mouthing peace and dropping bombs. That is exactly what they are doing here. They are cutting the arteries of the local government authorities and then mouthing the virtues of a good circulation.

The Government are doing that because the Treasury likes to be neat-minded. It wants a specific sum allocated for an expanding service, because it is much neater to have a specific sum all the time. That point of view is argued on the ground that education should not be divorced from the general economic policy of the Government. Indeed, the Bill makes nonsense if we try to divorce it from the Government's general economic policy. At the moment, that policy is, if not stagnation, something worse. What I call these fools, these knaves and these deceivers are jeopardising the future of education and, perhaps, the future of our national survival by this false economy.

Perhaps I might quote Lord Hailsham, the bell ringer, again at Brighton, on 8th October, 1957, when he said: It is not part of my argument to say that education either should be or can be insulated from the general condition of the economy. My argument is that it should not also be subject to the pressures of a false public parsimony. Alas, his Lordship had to go. Making that kind of speech was extremely dangerous to the idea of Treasury neatness, and he had to go and to seek to gather in the wavering Tory voters.

I believe that this is a Treasury Bill. It is the Treasury's baby, the right hon. Gentleman is its wet nurse, and it is an ugly infant and he is an inefficient nurse.

I want to concentrate on the educational aspect. The Bill shows gross contempt for education in this country, and if the right hon. Gentleman still holds to his contention that it is not an attack on education, let me again quote a Government spokesman, this time the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, on 29th July last year. This time I can quote the exact words, which I had not with me on a previous occasion. They were: … if a local authority embarks upon a deliberate expansion of the education service as an act of local policy it is the deliberate intention of the Government, and it is inherent in their proposals, that this should in future be the local authority's own affair, in the matter of finance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1957; Vol. 574, c. 1023.] What does that mean? It means that if a local authority chooses to expand its educational development, that is its own affair and it will have to find the money. The Government wash their hands of any expansion which takes place in education.

I believe that this is a hated and unwanted Bill produced by a hated and unwanted Government, and both will be thrown out very soon.

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir William Duthie Sir William Duthie , Banffshire

I find myself in an extremely difficult and somewhat unenviable position because I must oppose the Bill and apply to it the final sanction which remains to me by voting against the Third Reading.

I am sorry to do this, because basically the Bill is a good idea. A block grant combining all the various sums allocated to a local authority for expenditure is a very good thing, and I wonder why it has not been done before. But where we are considering the provision of such a grant, the amount to be provided for the ends in view becomes a paramount consideration, whether it is in the home for the household expenses, in the running of a business or in the provision of funds for a local authority.

In this case, my quarrel is with the financial end, the method of allocation in the Second Schedule. My quarrel begins and ends with the Second Schedule. I am astonished that anyone should offer such a hotchpotch and that responsible people could accept such a hotchpotch and defend it. I do not know the Minister's rôle in this matter, but I have had some experience as a civil servant and I fancy that although the words were the words of the Minister the hand was the hand of someone else.

The Bill gives an opportunity to focus attention upon the mysterious formulae which from time to time creep in from the Scottish Office. We have had an admission by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) that it is generally accepted that these formulae are not understood, but that they are accepted. The formula here is apparently among them. That is something against which all hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, irrespective of party, should set their minds, and we should endeavour to have it removed.

Any plan, financial or otherwise, which is produced from the Scottish Office should be crystal clear. It should be capable of immediate analysis, its pros and cons weighed and a proper decision taken. That is denied us in this case because we do not know and we are given no light.

I make no apology for being parochial in this matter. I must point out that Banffshire's standards cannot be upheld during a second year with the heavy loss which is inevitable under the Bill. Our educational standards, in particular, are bound to fall. I cannot stand aside and see that happen without making all the protest which it is possible for me to make.

My right hon. Friend is sure to get the Bill despite anything I can do, and I hope that he will soon be busy on plans to prevent the standards in my county and those similarly situated from being assailed in the second year, when these authorities are bound to suffer losses.

Party loyalty is a great thing, and I yield to no one in my loyalty to the party to which I belong, but there are times when loyalty to one's constituency must be transcendental. This is one of them. I must, therefore, consider the Bill as it stands in respect of Banffshire. I cannot accept the Second Schedule, therefore I cannot accept the Bill, and I must go into the Lobby and vote against its Third Reading.

7.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

There is little doubt that at the end of the debate the Bill will be given a Third Reading and be sent to another place, and to that extent the Government will have achieved something on which they have set their minds. Judging from the Secretary of State's closing words, one would have thought that he was presenting to the House and the country something for which they were hungry and of which they were likely to approve. I suggest that there is a big difference between passing the Measure through the House and the reception which it will receive in Scotland.

The Government already know that with the possible exception of Edinburgh—and even in that case there are some Amendments—no local authority in Scotland wants the Measure. No educational organisation in Scotland wants it. Never has a child been born under such difficult circumstances. We are all happy to allow the Secretary of State to be the father, and although I cannot add to the adjectives about the nursing of the baby which were used so lucidly by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), there is no doubt that this is an unwanted child.

It could not have come at a worse time. Never has it been more important that the standard of the education of the people of Scotland should be raised. There is always some local authority and education committee in the van of advanced educational facilities. I represent one of the constituencies of Fife, and I look back in pride on the work of the Fife Education Committee, which has been very progressive. It was the first to introduce free books at a time when that was not very popular. The Fife Education Committee, made up of the large county burghs of Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline and the county council, has built some wonderful schools since the end of the war and is still in the process of building wonderful schools under the most difficult circumstances.

We do so because we believe in education. We believe that the success of our country depends more on education than on anything else. Indeed, the example set by a good education authority is often followed by others. I can remember when the Education Bill was going through this House the comment being made that in England they would like to attain the standard of education existing in Scotland because she has led in education for so long, and we have been proud of that fact.

What will happen as a result of this Bill? The initiative will be removed from education authorities. They will be told that if they want better than the average, they can have it provided they are prepared to pay for it, and according to the Scottish Office they can claim that it is all their own work. But how can they? The Government have already made sure that it is more and more difficult for local authorities to carry out their functions in the way they would wish. They have carried a heavy burden since the end of the war but progress has been made, as we can see, in the new schools being built, and on plans for technical schools, because they recognise their importance in this age of automation. Indeed, at this time technologists are more important to the country than are highly skilled tradesmen. Yet at this time the Government introduce this Measure which discourages the expansion of education by limiting the local authorities.

It is all very well saying they are free to spend if they have the money to do so. The Government make sure in the first instance that they will not have it, and so it will be more difficult for them to carry out their functions. The other expenses accruing to the running of a local authority have already been increased by legislation now on the Statute Book and introduced by the same Government, so they have had a succession of discouragements.

Therefore, the judgment—whether it is the judgment of tomorrow, when this Bill reaches the Statute Book, or the judgment of 1959 when the Act comes into operation—in the future will be that the Secretary of State, far from being proud of himself tonight, should be ashamed of the introduction of this Bill at this time. Whatever justification there may have been for it at some other time, this is the worst time to do anything which fails to encourage the local authorities and local education authorities to provide better education.

Lip-service has been paid to a slogan. I do not understand how the Government can justify their attitude when I think of the new schools that have been built or are in the process of being built, and the difficulties which confront local authorities, because although there were no new schools built during or immediately after the war, children were still being born and children must be educated. The backlog has had to be caught up by the local education authorities but in many cases this has not been possible. It is beyond me how the Government can justify anything which may retard the expansion of education, and then brag about it—in fact, gag the Opposition into accepting Amendments without debate.

It is true that I made a mistake last night, perhaps a justifiable one, regarding the Burntisland shipyards' figures, but it is nothing like the mistake the Government are making by putting this Measure on the Statute Book. It is an even greater mistake, because for years now every local authority has been clamouring for re-rating, and the Government have neglected to take the opportunity provided by the Bill of letting industry take the same responsibility as every citizen in the country has to take.

When I said that the company would have to apply for national assistance, I meant local national assistance, for it has been enjoying national assistance for far too long. An ordinary individual who has to pay the full rates, and finds that for reasons outside his control he is unable to meet them, can go to the National Assistance Board and can get assistance to pay his rent or rates, but there is a full investigation made before such a thing happens.

When it comes to the question of whether industry can afford to pay rates or not, there is no investigation. It is immediately assumed that industry is helping the town in which it is situated. Because that is the assumption it is believed that industry is making the town. I have grown up in Kirkcaldy and I have seen industry developing there. Industry could not develop in Kirkcaldy or elsewhere in Scotland, England, Wales or anywhere else in the world except for the people who work in industry, the people who put their skills into industry. Industry advances because of the skilled men and women employed in it.

Why anybody should think it wrong to ask industry, as we did in our Amendments, to pay 75 per cent. of the rates, I cannot understand. Moving about as I do, as an honorary official of the Old Age Pensioners' Association, I see all the difficulties with which they are confronted. I see investigating officers going into their houses if they apply for a new pair of trousers. I see how thoroughly their affairs are investigated before any assistance is given.

Since 1929 fortunes have been made in some industries. Some shareholders have become millionaires because industry has been enjoying this national assistance without any investigation whatever. Yet no attempt has been made during the passage of this Bill to justify a small increase to 50 per cent. of valuation as against the 75 per cent. which I think we were modest in demanding.

The Bill has nothing to commend it. I was wrong in the figures I gave about the Burntisland shipyards last night, as I explained when the Minister quite rightly pulled me up. Burntisland, a local small burgh, is being relieved of £3,800 in rates, which is equal to 1s. 5d. in the £ there. Again, when the old-age pensioner wants some relief of rates, there has to be a thorough investigation. The Government try to tell us they are doing something for us, but it is just another typical example of the Government legislating for one section of the community only and all the time. This can be proved every year in the Budget.

It is true that we had many difficulties immediately after the war, and that there was probably far too much legislation passed in the following six years, but, at any rate, every part of it applied equally to everyone in the country. There were no special benefits given under National Assistance, National Health Insurance, or anything else.

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

Order, order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that this is the Third Reading of the Bill and that the debate is confined to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I subject myself to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

I was attempting to give another illustration of how unfair the Government are in trying to get this Bill passed through the House. I was trying to show the injustice as regards some people in the country. I was trying to make the point that everybody in the country must make a joint effort to overcome our economic difficulties. Today, we ought all to carry a like burden and no one should have more favourable terms than another. Everyone should have the best possible education. I am satisfied that the Bill does nothing to ensure that we shall share an equal burden and all enjoy the best possible education.

I end by congratulating the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) upon having the courage of his convictions. It takes some courage to take the stand that he has tonight, for he is a very loyal member of his party.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

Will the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) follow suit?

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I am sure that it is not the first time that the hon. Member for Banff has done that, but whether he will go into the Lobby again against the Bill is another matter. We must wait and see what happens. It has been my good fortune to speak in his constituency. I bestowed some praise upon him, and I found that that was the only part of my speech which was reported in the Banffshire newspaper. Now that I am praising him again tonight, I hope that his local Press will publish what I say.

I compliment the hon. Member upon his courage. I hope that his hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) will follow his example. It is a remarkable thing that the only hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite at the moment are the two who have been critical of the Government over this subject, and I am content that that should be my last comment.

8.6 p.m.

Photo of Sir John George Sir John George , Glasgow Pollok

It is always a great pleasure to follow in debate the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard). On this occasion I welcome him on his return to the House. I am pleased to see him looking so well, and I trust that he is fully recovered and refreshed. His speeches are always worth listening to. They are always filled with sincerity. Unfortunately, it is always the same speech. Similarly, we always get the same type of speech from the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton)—a bitter, vicious and unreasonable speech. We can always depend upon that.

The Bill has had a long journey through this House, and it is right that it should have had a long journey and should have been given lengthy consideration. As I said on Second Reading, it was at that time a Bill without friends in the country. I said that we must be at pains to prove our case, and that I thought that we could prove it, and now I have not the slightest doubt that we have proved it. I shall not be going into the Lobby to oppose the Bill, for I welcome it, and I will give my reasons for that.

A feature throughout all our discussions has been that the good arguments which the Opposition have put forward have been destroyed by being overstated again and again. Hon. Members opposite have this evening—no one worse than the hon. Member for Fife, West—painted a black, gloomy and dreadful picture of our education system. The hon. Member for Fife, West said that fools, knaves and deceivers were behind the Bill, and he presented to the country the picture of a scheming, mercenary Tory Government devising fetters and halters to handicap our dynamic and expanding education system. It is, indeed, a dynamic and expanding service. In his speech the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs spoke about the schools which were going up and how education was moving forward, That is what has been happening under the present Government during the last seven years.

Hon. Members opposite have also conjured up for the benefit of the country a pair of miserly twins running the financial side of the Bill—Scrooge at the Treasury and Daniel Flint at the Scottish Office. They say that the Government's purpose is to grind down the local authorities until our cherished system is destroyed. I believe that our system is as deeply cherished by the Opposition as it is by my hon. Friends and myself. I have every reason to cherish the education system in Scotland. I did not get what little education I had the easy way. I had to work hard for it, attending classes five nights every week and travelling eight miles every night in order to get my education. Consequently, I value what I have, and I am determined to support advance in education, and it is because I believe in my heart that the Conservative Party will advance our education system to meet the needs of the times that I support the Bill.

The picture which the Opposition are presenting to the country is a dangerous one. The hon. Member for Fife, West said that we were cutting the arteries of education and it would bleed to death. Yesterday the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said: Therefore, the general standard that is achieved at any given time in Scotland might be well below the level of the code …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1958; Vol. 588, c. 446–7.] That is the picture which hon. Members opposite are trying to paint for the country. They know that that is a travesty of the truth. It is contrary to their real beliefs, and, above all, it does a distinct disservice to the cause of education in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman has been describing the dynamic and expanding education service that we have in Scotland and has spoken about the new schools which are being erected. All that has been happening under existing legislation and under existing financial arrangements. Why does he want to change all that?

Photo of Sir John George Sir John George , Glasgow Pollok

The hon. Member has had a very good share of our time for discussion during the progress of the Bill, and he might at least allow me to make my own speech in my own way. I shall deal with that point at the right time.

The black, gloomy and dreadful picture which hon. Members opposite have painted during our proceedings on the Bill has done a great dis-service to education. That sort of thing scares teachers, alarms parents and hinders recruitment to the teaching profession. All these things are arising because of the false propaganda of hon. Members opposite against the Bill. The truth is that they know, as we all know, that the Scottish education system will be an expanding one in the years ahead.

I believe that the general grant system is a sound conception. Having examined it thoroughly, I believe that it is adequately safeguarded. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs that the Bill has been born at the wrong time. I believe that it has been born in the best possible circumstances for success. I believe that it has been born at a time when throughout the country there is a deep realisation of the urgency and importance of expansion in our education system, a deep realisation of the tremendous challenge to us on the education front from outside our shores. I assert that the Conservative Party will not betray our people and will not in the slightest degree hamper or halter our education system in the years ahead.

The safeguards are well worth looking at again. There are adequate safeguards which ought to be well known in the country. During the short time that I have been a Member of Parliament, hon. Members opposite have made great play about "may" being changed to "shall", because they believe that if we have "shall" something will be done but if we have "may" it may not be done. On this occasion we have "shall" and there is no need for hon. Members opposite to seek an alteration. The first safeguard is: … the Secretary of State shall take into consideration …

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

It says that the Secretary of State "shall think"; that is all.

Photo of Sir John George Sir John George , Glasgow Pollok

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) loves to intervene. In this case his intervention does not help in the slightest.

The first safeguard is: … the Secretary of State shall take into consideration—(a) the latest information available to him of … relevant expenditure … That means that the level of expenditure at the given time shall be the starting point of his consideration.

The next safeguard is: … the current level of prices, costs and remuneration, together with any future variation in that level which can, be foreseen … If we take the trend of affairs, either upwards or downwards, in respect of prices, costs and remuneration, we can readily and easily forecast with a degree of exactitude what the cost of education will be for one year or two or three years ahead.

The Secretary of State must also take into consideration: … any probable fluctuation in the demand for the services giving rise to relevant expenditure … That is, more schools and more facilities of other kinds. He has also to take into consideration: … the need for developing those services … He has also to review any unforeseen changes of great magnitude.

All these things are laid upon the shoulders of the Secretary of State to ensure that every financial assistance is given to the education system so that it may progress. Also, once a general grant has been reviewed, the matter must come here for scrutiny. More than that still, the Secretary of State has an overriding responsibility to see that education is maintained according to certain standards in Scotland, and he has his inspectorate to help in this respect. Under the general grant, adequate provision will be made to keep faith with the people of the country and keep faith with their need to face the challenge coming front the outside world.

We have heard both criticism and praise of the system, but we have, in our country, reached a remarkable degree of efficiency in our education system. Consider for a moment what we are doing on the technical side alone. Professor Gunn, of Glasgow University, took time last Saturday to tell us exactly what the situation is in technical and scientific education today. We have seen tremendous advances by Russia, and we know that America is overhauling her whole system of scientific education. It is good to know what Scotland is doing and to have a true appreciation of our system. Scotland is producing scientists and technicians far beyond her own needs, training her sons and daughters to serve Scotland, in so far as she needs their service, and to go to other countries taking with them their technical and scientific skill. Last year, we had 60 Ph.Ds. in Scotland, of whom, unfortunately, only two stayed in Scotland. We had 130 B.Sc honours degrees. Only 50 of these stayed in Scotland.

Photo of Sir John George Sir John George , Glasgow Pollok

I cannot go into that; this is the Third Reading debate. The population of Scotland is 10 per cent. of the population of Britain, yet we trained 14 per cent. of the scientists and engineers last year. This is not stagnation. It is a sparkling record. We should be praising our education system and presenting to the people a totally different picture from that painted by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have the greatest numbers ever in our universities and technical schools and in our day-release schools. Every year, more and more people seek education. I believe that the new system will ensure that the demand and need for education will be fully met.

We have been told so often that this system will be run down into decay by the general grant. Not only is there a new climate in the country in technical and scientific education, but there is a new interest in education on the part of a wide group of people. For instance, the Press is ready at all times to urge the need for education. We are continually exhorted by all the organs of the Press to meet the challenge of the times. Our Press will remain as a watchdog over what is done. Parents are now exhibiting an increased interest in the welfare of their children in education. We know that teachers are alive to the need and urgently wish to see it met. The students themselves also are aware of the challenge of the times. In these groups, we have a guarantee that neither national Government nor local authorities will be allowed long to neglect the education system of our country.

I believe that the Bill will ensure that the education service will expand and improve to meet the challenge of our day. I believe also that it will help in arresting the decline in the local authorities of Scotland. We have discussed this matter many times. It is my belief that the impact of the Bill on the local authorities will be wholly beneficial, that it will instil a new interest and a new purpose into local government life. I have served on finance committees under the specific grant system for many years, and I have found the committees to be nothing more that rubber stamps. They did not have the time to investigate all that was done or all the recommendations which came forward. Under the Bill, finance committees will have a new life. All the contending services will put their case in the finance committees and there will be a new vitality in this side of local government.

A great deal will be done to restore the prestige of local government. This new prestige and life in local government will attract candidates. All of us who have been active in local government know the tremendous difficulties we have had in attracting anybody at all—let alone the right type of candidate—to come forward. I have gone knocking at doors up to midnight the day before nomination day to try to persuade candidates to stand for election. This applies not only to my group but to the group led by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite also. This new interest will reach the electorate and, perhaps, induce more people to come out and better the terrible record of voting that we have today.

I believe that education in Scotland has a future brighter than its bright past. With only minor reservations, I welcome the Bill, and I congratulate the Minister on having brought it to this stage.

8.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

What I admire in the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) is the way in which he jumps to conclusions with acrobatic ease and then jumps to the opposite conclusions with equal agility. He began by indicating that he welcomed the Bill. He did not say that he welcomed it 100 per cent.; he was far too cautious to make that confession. He knows very well that he does not welcome the Bill 100 per cent. The hon. Gentleman proceeded then to attack those of us on this side who had painted, so he said, a black and terrible picture of education. We did no such thing.

Our picture was even brighter and more noble than the picture he himself painted. But our picture was a picture of the effect of the Bill on education in putting things into reverse. What the hon. Gentleman did was to praise the existing system of education.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

No, not the future. The hon. Gentleman did not see into the future, not even through the crystal ball. He praised the existing system and, in the process, he indicated that he thought that the Bill would continue, as it were, to create expansion and progress in the development of education. He really ought not to erect his own dollies for himself to knock down as he did this evening. Somehow or other, he was not up to his usual form. Perhaps, the reason is that he recognises that he is not 100 per cent. behind the Bill.

We were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the underlying purpose of the Bill was to give local authorities greater independence and greater freedom, and to encourage electors—the hon. Member for Pollok said this too—to take a greater interest in local government. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State went further and indicated that local authorities today were having little or no say in the spending of their own revenue and they had, indeed, become merely agents of the central Government.

One of the purposes of the Bill, the Secretary of State told us, was to do away with the meticulous scrutiny involved in checking ad hoc grants. I thought that during the Committee stage we had entirely disposed of the fallacy about the tremendous volume of work in checking ad hoc grants. In Glasgow about 320 hours are involved. That is the extent of the saving in that city. After the many difficulties which were revealed in Committee, I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should advance that as a reason for the introduction of the Bill.

In order to achieve this freedom and independence for local government, the Bill provides a system of general or block grants in respect of a variety of services which previously enjoyed specific grants. I am unable to appreciate how we can give local authorities greater independence or freedom by introducing a Bill which, in effect, imposes economy measures. The Bill is designed to reduce the Government's financial responsibility to local government; there is no doubt about that. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman genuinely believes that the Bill confers upon local authorities the freedom and independence that he has mentioned.

If the Bill does confer this freedom, can the right hon. Gentleman explain why every local authority and local authority association is violently opposed to it? One would assume that if a local authority were going to have conferred freedom and independence upon it it would take the first opportunity of congratulating the Government for conferring that honour. The reverse is the case. In all my experience in local government—and I suppose that this applies to other hon. Members—I have never known local authorities to give a more hostile reception to any Bill than they have to this one. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) and the hon. Member for Pollock himself indicated during the Second Reading debate, the Bill has no friends outside this House. The Secretary of State ought to recognise that it has no friends in local government circles, and it has no friends among the industrialists. We have also realised, since the elections were held recently, that the Bill certainly has no friends among the electorate.

It is all bunk and nonsense to suggest that this Measure will confer freedom and independence, when it contains numerous Clauses which restrict the power of local authorities and a particular Clause which has created a revolt among hon. Members opposite—a Clause which restricts the borrowing powers of local authorities. I could go on and deal with many other Clauses which are, in a sense, restrictions and impositions upon local authorities.

How can we give freedom and independence when, for example, instead of giving local authorities something we take something away? In their rerating proposals the Government have adopted the niggardly attitude of taking unto themselves two-thirds of the product of the rerating. For every £300 involved in the rerating provisions £200 goes to the Chancellor and only £100 to local authorities. The problem confronting local authorities today is a financial one, and the Bill will in no way help them to face that problem.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

It will make it worse in the long run.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

It will aggravate the situation, until the whole financial structure and machinery of local government is in grave danger of breaking down.

The problem of local government today arises because the basis from which it obtains its revenue is far too narrow. The Bill will also aggravate that situation. Local authorities depend upon the system of valuation and rating, which even the Sorn Committee confessed was far too narrow to meet the demands that are now being made of local authorities. We all recognise that the present system of local taxation is regressive and that numerous Government commissions have concluded that it is utterly inadequate to enable local authorities to face their responsibilities.

In Committee we ventured to make one or two suggestions which, in our submission, would improve the situation confronting local authorities. We suggested that instead of rerating only by an additional 25 per cent. the right hon. Gentleman should have rerated to the whole 100 per cent., and should have accepted Amendments dealing with the question of a local income tax, the argument for which was so well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). We took these opportunities of suggesting alternative sources of revenue, but the Secretary of State flatly rejected them without any rhyme, reason, or logic. Out of 157 Amendments, only about seven Opposition Amendments were accepted, and another 12 from the Government side, making 19 in all.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

Some of those were drafting Amendments.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

I imagine that quite a number were of a drafting nature, one following upon another.

The Bill is a fraud. It will in no way help local authorities to meet the difficulties of the present situation, and I shall have the utmost pleasure in voting against it.

8.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Many of us did not trouble the Committee very much with speeches because we liked the Bill. We have never hidden the fact that we think that the Government were courageous in introducing it, and had very sound reasons for doing so. Contrary to the opinion just now expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), in our constituencies we have not found any great dislike for the provisions of the Bill.

The hon. Member made play with the allegation that no one outside the House likes the Bill.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I have not found that. It may be that in East Edinburgh or Central Glasgow the Bill is not liked, but that does not apply in my constituency.

Photo of Mr Michael Hutchison Mr Michael Hutchison , Edinburgh South

It is very well liked in Edinburgh.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. M. Clark Hutchison) supports what I say. There has been a great deal of talk about the unpopularity of this Measure. I believe it to be a good Measure, and that the Government have done a good service, not least to local authorities, by introducing it.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

The hon. Gentleman forgets that Edinburgh is the single exception; that Edinburgh expects—though I understand from people in authority that there is considerable doubt about this—to be better off by £750,000 at the expense of other districts.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Not only will the ratepayers of Edinburgh be better off, but local authorities as a whole will be better off financially as a result of this Bill.

Let us look at the need for this Bill against the background of affairs in Scotland since the war. First, as in other parts of Great Britain, we see increasing financial responsibilities on local authorities. Almost everything done by the House of Commons has added to the financial responsibilities of the local authorities. More and more have they had to undertake detailed and necessary work which costs money. Against that, there has been the loss of very profitable gas and electricity undertakings which were taken from the local authorities by the party opposite when they formed the Government of the day.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

They were stolen from the local authorities.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) uses the word "stolen", and that is not an exaggeration. It is absolutely true that the profitable gas and electricity undertakings of local authorities were filched from them as a result of the nationalisation plans of the Socialist Party.

Certainly, there is an increased reliance by all local authorities on Government grants, and there is a tendency for the Government to concern themselves more and more with local affairs. That may, or may not, be a good thing. But whenever the Government make a grant to local authorities, it is accompanied by detailed supervision to see that the money is spent in the right way. Under the new system we believe that there will be a great deal less of the irritating, pettifogging, day-to-day inspection of the details of local authority expenditure than there has been in the past.

As has been said many times—it bears repeating, in the face of the criticism which this Bill is receiving—at present about two-thirds of the total grant aid to local authorities is given in the form of specific percentage grants. Those percentages vary. There is no rhyme or reason about the figures. In some cases, it is 25 per cent. as for the fire service. For the police service it is 50 per cent.; for the health services, 50 per cent.; for education, 60 per cent.; for school meals and milk it is 100 per cent.

The effect is that local authorities have tended all too often to feel that they can go in for a little extra expenditure, because a large percentage of the cost has not to be found by the ratepayers but comes from Treasury sources.

In Scotland as a whole, the percentage of grants provided by the Government varies from 75 per cent. in the case of Zetland and 79 per cent. in the case of Ross and Cromarty—I think I am right, I have the figures here—and in the rural areas particularly, a high proportion of the total expenditure is provided in the form of Government grant.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

Does the hon. Gentleman object to that?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I do not object to that, but I think the Government are improving the system.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The hon. Gentleman has said that because of the grant system, some local authorities have, perhaps, spent more than they ought and have been a little extravagant here and there. The most important subject dealt with in this Bill is that of education. Will the hon. Member tell the House where he feels that any local authority in Scotland has been extravagant in its provision for education?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I should like to deal with the whole subject of education in a later part of my speech. I wish now to deal with the general background. I promise the hon. Lady that I will not forget the matter of education.

The disadvantage of the present system of percentage grants, as I see it, is twofold. First, there is no encouragement to a local authority to save money, if it knows that 60 per cent., 50 per cent., or 25 per cent. of the amount of its expenditure on certain services will, willynilly, be met from Government sources. Secondly, it leads to excessive scrutiny on the part of officials at St. Andrew's House. All these grants have been accompanied by inspection, by the calling for reports, the exchange of letters, and by a great deal of work which could be avoided, and will be in the future.

It is true that no one has yet been able to think of an alternative source of local revenue. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) said that the basis on which local government revenue is collected is far too narrow. During the Committee stage discussions the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) advocated some form of local income tax. I should certainly be out of order were I to go into those matters during this Third Reading debate. In a Second Reading debate one might have developed the objections to a local income tax, where people would be taxed, as I understand it twice over, once for national purposes and once for local purposes.

We must face the fact that no satisfactory alternative means of raising local revenue has been found to replace the present system of raising a local rate and securing some help—or, in the case of the Scottish rural areas, a large percentage of help—from Government funds. Towards this large amount of money which is to be found by local authorities the Government have decided to rerate industry to 50 per cent. of the net annual value.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

The hon. Member for Edinburgh. East (Mr. Willis) really must not make these sedentary interjections. I gave way to him, but he had nothing much to say. He should not sit in his place and squawk away like that. I will give way to him again.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

I was only trying to suggest to the hon. Member that if he wants additional money for local authorities he should have supported us when we wanted to rerate to 100 per cent. The hon. Gentleman said that no other satisfactory method had ever been found. Is he aware that we are the only country which exacts a local tax on such a narrow basis and that every other country has found other means?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

The Chair would not give me an opportunity to develop that point, because on Third Reading the subject is clearly out of order. One can only talk about what is actually in the Bill. There is no proposal in it to raise a local income tax.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

When did any hon. Member introduce the subject of local income tax into his speech?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

If the hon. Member had been here when his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) was speaking——

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Then he will have heard him say that the basis of local taxation was far too narrow and that he had a good deal of sympathy with his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, who had advocated a local income tax. That put the idea into my head. I did not think that one out.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I did not accuse the hon. Gentleman of having any ideas of his own.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Certain specific grants are to be continued. I have heard speeches implying that all the grants were to be collected together into one general grant, but, in fact, the housing unit grant, the highway, school meals, school milk, and police service grants are to be continued.

The whole basis of this scheme stands or falls by the arrangements made for the determination of the amount of the grant.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

I am not sitting down to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. In deference to him, I thought I would like to get up to point out that when we discussed this matter he was not in the House.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I challenge hon. Gentlemen to find, in the record of our prolonged Committee proceedings, a day when I was not there.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

The hon. Gentleman was not present here when we had a prolonged discussion on the subject this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

That is perfectly true. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which was considering a rather important matter. I am sorry that I did not hear the hon. Gentleman's speech.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

I did not speak. I made a few sedentary interjections.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Extraordinary care has gone into ways of determining the amount of the grant. The Government have to take into account the latest information available about relevant expenditure, possible fluctuations in demand, the need for developing services and the extent to which, having regard to the general economic conditions of the country, it is reasonable to develop those services. It is also reasonable that my right hon. Friend should be required to consult the associations representing the local authorities in Scotland before making the grant order, which has to be approved by the House of Commons. All these are useful safeguards.

The formula for distributing the grant has been carefully drafted, as have the weightage for the number of children under 15 to the ratio of total population, the ratio of the population of landward areas to the total population, and so on. There will be proper weighting given in determining all these grants.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Will the hon. Member tell us where the Bill mentions the ratio of the school population to the total population?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) does not know the Bill as well as I do. What is to be the effect of this new proposal on the equalisation grant which is to be given? The right hon. Gentleman explained to the House earlier that the amount of the equalisation grant was fixed only recently and remains unchanged, but there is a guarantee that if this produces less than the Goschen formula Scotland will receive the Goschen amount.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

There are other transitional arrangements, one of which is that for the first year no local authority will be worse off than it is under the present system and for the second year no local authority will receive more than 10 per cent. of the difference. After that a review will be held in the light of the revaluation which is to take place in 1961.

Photo of Mr William Hannan Mr William Hannan , Glasgow Maryhill

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) should not seek information, or assent or consent from his hon. Friends around him. Will he go back a little in the brief from which he is reading and explain exactly what he means by this difference which is to be more, or less, than 10 per cent.? I am trying, through the Bill, to follow his remarks. I am making a sincere effort to follow his speech. I should be grateful to him if he would go over that part of his brief so that I could better follow his speech.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

It is not a brief. It is some notes I have prepared at various stages during the passage of the Bill. If I am wrong about it I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary, when he replies, will say that I am wrong, but I do not think I am. I think that these are the facts.

This is very important for all county councils in Scotland. Transitional arrangements have been made as a result of which, for the first year of its operation, no local authority will be worse off under the new arrangement than it is at present. In the second year no local authority will be more than 10 per cent. worse off than at present, and after that there will be a review of the new conditions in the light of the revaluation in 1961.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

What does the hon. Member mean by "more than 10 per cent. worse off that at present"?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Mathematically, I mean that if, in the second year, a local authority receives less than 90 per cent. of its previous receipts the difference will be made up. That seems to be a straightforward mathematical proposition, which I should have thought even the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East would understand.

It seems to me that, in future, local authorities will have full discretion to spend the money granted to them as they think wise, subject only to the maintenance of reasonable standards of service to the public within the framework of Government policy. I welcome that, because I think it will give local authorities greater freedom in determining how they should spend the money which is available to them. It will, as I have tried to suggest, reduce the amount of central checking and control of detail which is essential in the taxpayers' interests when money is granted for specific purposes on a percentage basis. I believe it will give a far greater interest in the work of local authorities.

I know that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is a great local authority man. We all know and respect the long services which he has given to county council work in England, and it is very nice to see him here taking an obvious interest in what is said from both sides of the House on a Scottish Bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

My right hon. Friend has served for longer than the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

He is willing to learn.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

It is very nice to see the right hon. Gentleman doing so, and I am sure that he has found the same thing in England as we have found in Scotland—that there is far too little interest taken in local authority elections, far too little competition by people to become members of county councils, and that far too often we find that, when vacancies have occurred for elections to local authorities, it has been very difficult to get anyone to come forward, and then, almost always, elections have not been contested.

I do not think that that is a good thing. What we want to see is people competing to get on local authorities. I have often wondered why it should be that in county council elections the percentage of people going to the poll is between 25 and 30 per cent., or something like it.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

It is, unfortunately, true in many places.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Would my hon. Friend allow me to tell the House that in Leicestershire recently, in a county council election, only 7 per cent. of the people voted at all.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Not in Scotland. We get 82 per cent.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Our astute fellow countrymen are now realising that real life will be given to local authority administration; and there could not be a better example than the percentages of the polls given in today's Scottish Press, which is just what I thought would happen. People are realising that local authorities have a decent job of work to do, that they are now to be treated as adults, and not have money lashed out to them from a beneficent central authority on a percentage of their expenditure. They are now to be given general grants and treated as adults. They will be able to spend their money as they think wise, within the framework of Government policy and in the interests of their electors. That is a very good thing.

I promised the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) to give her my views on education. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Well, I did promise. The basis of the educationists' objection to the Bill is that they really do not trust the local authorities. They are inclined to say that the man in St. Andrew's House knows best. They do not believe that the local authorities can be trusted to spend sufficient money on education if they are given a general grant, instead of a grant earmarked for every specific thing, and instead of being promised that 60 per cent. of their expenditure on education will be met from Government funds.

That seems to me to be a most extraordinary thing, when a very large percentage of the local government electors have children at school. It seems to be extraordinary that anyone should say we cannot trust these people because they really do not believe in education, that we cannot trust them to spend enough money on it, when the electors send to the county councils people who are parents themselves, who are keenly interested in the education of their children and personally interested in seeing that proper educational facilities are provided.

I just do not believe that local government electors will allow recalcitrant local authorities which are not interested in education, and which do not push forward educational development, to carry on in that way, or that parents of school children will allow their local elected representatives to get away with it. At any rate, these people will not survive another election if they take that line, and I am sure that the healthy stimulus of the elections for local authorities will ensure, in future, that the local authorities pay proper regard to education.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I waited most patiently through the hon. Gentleman's rather confused statement to find the answer he promised me. I was not questioning him at all about education in general. I was questioning his statement that local authorities have been extravagant here and there. What I wanted to know was where, in education matters particularly, local authorities had been extravagant.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke of local authorities lashing out with the money that came from a beneficent central authority. Will he tell us just where the local authorities have squandered money, particularly on education?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I really would take quite a long time if I were to give examples——

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

Very well, I will. Not long ago I went to a school in the north-east of Scotland. It was a magnificent new school. I do not say that the money was wasted——

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

Let us have the example where money was wasted.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

The school rooms were beautifully panelled, the colour schemes were perfect, the central heating was as good as it could be. I do not regret that a bit——

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

The hon. Gentleman, with his sedentary interventions, must wait——

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

The hon. Member looked very much as though he were in that position. I am about to give an example of rather wasteful expenditure.

After my tour of inspection, I went into the headmaster's room and said to him, "What a nice cupboard you have there." He agreed. He opened the door of the cupboard and I saw that it had one of those automatic hinges that allowed it to close without any banging at all. Nevertheless, it was simply the door of a cupboard where he should have kept his canes—except that the cane is not used now.

At the bottom of the door was a large metal plate which is called a kicking-plate, put there, apparently, to prevent anybody damaging the door by kicking it. That is a very small example. There, I have given two small examples of unnecessary expenditure in a headmaster's room—putting an expansive kicking-plate on the bottom of the door, and an automatic hinge at the top. I agree that that is rather a silly example——

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

My point was not that there has been unnecessary expenditure on education. I do not think there has been. I think that money spent on education is money well spent, and I do not make any charge of wasteful expenditure there. Indeed, I am surprised that anything I have said could lead anyone to that conclusion. I do not think that my speech will bear that interpretation, and I shall certainly look at it in print tomorrow. I certainly did not intend to convey the impression that I think that money has been wasted, but with all the competing claims on local authorities—education, health services roads, police, houses and the like—each item of expenditure has to be looked at most carefully. I believe that the right people to do that are the local representatives.

I want to see live committees in county councils and town councils. I want to see the education committee competing with the housing committee for funds that may be available. I want to see live committees with live chairmen doing what they can to ensure that the full amount of services are provided for the public. That is a good thing. That is why I welcome the Bill—it will strengthen the character of local government in Scotland. It will provide real local government, not government from St. Andrew's House, by enabling local authorities to exercise greater responsibility in deciding the allocation of funds between one service and another.

9.6 p.m.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

I do not think that any of us who heard the speech of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) can believe that the British music hall is dead. We have heard a sparkling, effervescent, almost heady speech from the hon. Gentleman. I, for one, am very glad that he has been filled with such a remarkable spirit tonight. He gave us a very lively speech.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Are we going to have a dull one now?

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

I am not feeling very refreshed for the very simple reason that I have been here for some time, unlike the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Angus and Mearns. I shall try to go over many of the things that he said in the hope that I can, out of courtesy, reply to some of his comments.

The hon. Member spent a long time in talking about the special grant, which, I thought, was a curious thing, seeing that the Bill seeks to consolidate so many individual grants into one. It seemed to me that in confining himself to that point he was almost undoing the arguments about general grant. To revel in the fact that there are in the Bill as it stands certain exemptions from the general grant procedure and, to itemise these and almost praise them seems to me to be an argument for saying that the general grant itself is not, in the main, a good thing. That is what could be read into the hon. Gentleman's argument. I do not know where he got the brief which he appeared to be speaking from, but it certainly did not apply to this Bill.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

It was my own, although it may have been a poor one.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

Naturally. I drew some understanding at least of the hon. Member's position when I looked at his speech on Second Reading. He will recall that in col. 296 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he said—and he illustrated his point again tonight with a rather minor remark about the headmaster's door and the kicking plate, which I am sure will go down in Parliamentary history as being a tiny argument to support an immense indictment; for that is what his utterances have meant to many local authorities: In these circumstances, human nature being what it is, there is on all local authorities, and particularly on those which receive a high percentage of their expenditure in the form of Government grants, a temptation to spend lavishly so as to have the satisfaction of being thought to be progressive and enlightened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1957; Vol. 580, c. 296.] I submit to the hon. Gentleman that while he is entitled to say this, taking the so-called progressive and enlightened authorities in Scotland, we should be able to perceive considerable margins of lavish expenditure. That has never once been itemised by hon. Members opposite either here, on public platforms or in any of their party propaganda. I am a very assiduous reader of all the statements issued by the Conservative Central Office.

I believe in reading what our opponents are saying—that is why I am a convinced Socialist. But I have never once come across examples to prove that argument which the hon. Gentleman and many of his hon. Friends have used from time to time. If it is a valid argument, it ought to be substantiated, because it is one of the arguments which has propelled the Government into bringing forward the Bill.

The motive of the Bill, in my opinion, and I have seen it confirmed outside the House, but rarely by the Secretary of State, is to cut down that proportion of money spent by local authorities which is given by the Government. That has been admitted from time to time, but instead of saying that the Secretary of State has said that the Bill is to give freedom to local authorities.

There is a certain truth in saying that a general grant will result in a certain freedom being given to the council to allocate its money as it likes, but it is a very poor kind of freedom, especially when councils are in the strait-jacket of what the Government will give them in the general grant. Even accepting the premise that the general grant is a good thing—and my hon. Friends and I do not believe that it is—the basis of the formula has provoked at least one member of the Government into threatening to withhold his vote from that support and, indeed, even to vote against the Third Reading.

That is one objection with which we can rightly charge the Government, for the curious formula which is used in the Second Schedule and which seems to do so much injustice to so many. We asked for an explanation of how it was devised, but we have never had an answer. We have never been told how it is possible, in principle, to justify the transference of the physical facts, as the Under-Secretary of State put it, to percentages as laid down in the Second Schedule. We have not been told how the percentages have been calculated. There is a gap in the explanation of the switching of proportion into percentages. That is not understood by anybody, least of all by the Under-Secretary, or he would have been willing to explain it to us.

That is because it is an empirical formula. It has not been tried out and there will be a procedure of trial and error over the next two years. Meanwhile, local authorities must suffer while the Government experiment and apply the galenicals of local government administration to local government finance.

I object to the Government's motive, namely, to cut down the national contribution to local authorities. I believe that this will penalise those who are trying to do well in local government and who require more money to do it, while it will reward those who lag and who are content to accept money from the Government rather than raise rates to match local responsibilities.

I object to the formula upon which the general grant will be based and I deeply regret that the Bill rerates industry to only 50 per cent. In Scotland, we are losing £4½ million from our industrialists, money to which we as a nation are entitled. That £4½ million represents a graving dock for Greenock in one-and-a-half years. It means the Tay Bridge in nine months, or a strip mill in three or four years. It means many thousands of old folks' homes and extensions of hospitals and hundreds of health centres. It represents a tremendous amount of progress and physical assets which we could engender if industry were rerated 100 per cent. Industry is keeping money which would make Scotland that much richer.

Photo of Captain James Duncan Captain James Duncan , South Angus

By retaining it, it means a lot of employment in Scotland.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

Most certainly, and that is one of the great arguments for rerating. I am very glad to have the support of the hon. Member, but I understand that he will still vote for the Third Reading.

Those are the four major points which I wanted to make and I am glad that I have managed to put them in a little less time than that occupied by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns.

9.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Hutchison Mr Michael Hutchison , Edinburgh South

I very much applaud my right hon. Friend for bringing forward the Bill. I agree with all of it, except for Clause 11, on which I abstained from voting last night. It is a first-class job, for everything today is not well with local authorities. It may be that the voting in Lanarkshire has been high, but that has not been the case in the city elections. In many of the wards in Glasgow, voting was as low as 20 per cent. and 30 per cent., and I am sorry to say that the same is true of Edinburgh, where in Pilton, a great Labour ward, it was as low as 18 per cent.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

That was due to the ineffectiveness of the Tory candidate.

Photo of Mr Michael Hutchison Mr Michael Hutchison , Edinburgh South

This is a problem to which the House must pay attention. I do not know the answer to getting people to take more interest in their local affairs, but the Bill is a step in that direction in giving greater responsibility to people serving on local authorities.

The Opposition object to the general grant, and although they are quite sincere, they are mistaken. If local councillors are to be responsible and if we are to get good men for the job, they must have proper work to do. If they are only allowed to spend the money in certain ways, the work is done for them. The system of general grant will give more scope to allot money as they see best in accordance with local needs.

I know that some hon. Members opposite believe that the saving in administration on the general grant system will not be very great, but I disagree with that, and I have had practical experience of it. When I was a colonial civil servant overseas I served in a territory which received money from the home Government. It was allotted by Vote in great detail. The result was that we in Aden could not change from one Vote to another without the authority of the people at home. It took time to get the changes approved, sending telegrams or cablegrams or despatches, and sometimes the position was nonsensical. We all prayed that somebody in the Colonial Office would change the system to something like the block grant system and would give us a sum of money and allow us to use it as we thought fit, because that would save hours of work and much loss of temper. That is my own experience, and I believe that the same situation must apply to local authorities here.

I want to make it absolutely clear that Edinburgh favours the Bill. Many hon. Members opposite have said that all local authorities are against it. They are not. Edinburgh favours it—and Edinburgh is the capital of the country and the best-governed city in it. Indeed, it is the best-governed city in Britain.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

How long has the hon. Member been in Edinburgh to know all this?

Photo of Mr Michael Hutchison Mr Michael Hutchison , Edinburgh South

I was born there and I lived there for the first nine years of my life and at various times since then. I suppose that it adds up to about 15 years.

This idea of a general grant is very much on the lines of a proposal put forward by Treasurer Bell, who was a much-respected man in local government in Edinburgh and who was considered to be very able by most persons in Scotland who knew him. He made a proposal similar to this several years ago but did not get his way. I am glad that this proposal has now been adopted.

Hon. Members appear to be afraid that education will suffer, but I do not think it will. As a nation we have always been interested in educational matters, and I do not think that our interest will melt away just because we change the arrangements. If any local authority is not acting up to the mark, the remedy lies with the people in that local authority area, and it is to sack the council at the first election. That seems to me a very good safeguard.

For all these reasons, I favour the Bill and I am glad that it has been introduced.

9.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The House has listened with great interest to the sudden torrent of oratory which we have had from the benches opposite. Before anybody else feels an inclination to speak in the debate, I should assure hon. Members opposite that we on this side of the House are quite capable of carrying on the Third Reading debate, as we carried on the Committee stage debate, until the Government Whips are assured that all their supporters have arrived back from the various clubs and dining places.

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Galloway

How can the hon. Member say that some hon. Members from this side of the House are absent, dining out? He has no positive knowledge of the situation.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I must confess that I merely have a suspicious mind, made all the more suspicious by some of the devastating gems of oratory which have been dropped amongst us. From the hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) we have had a remarkably able exposition of what is in the Bill, given at great length. We have been on the Bill for some months, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) was grateful to be told what is in it, but the remainder of us, particularly those who were queuing up to try to speak, were getting a little restive.

Now we have heard an astounding discovery from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. M. Clark Hutchison), who told the House, with a great air of uttering an original thought with great fairness, that as he understood it the Opposition's objection is to the block or general grant. I am glad that the Guillotine did not fall any earlier before this illumination of his mind. He then told us that we ought to accept the Bill, but the only reason he gave was that Edinburgh wants it. I understand that Edinburgh does not want it quite as wholeheartedly as he suggests but that it has some reservations. I seem to recollect the hon. Member, in one of his few interventions in Committee, expressing some criticism of the Bill. If he had been with us a little earlier in our proceedings today he would have discovered one of the reasons why Edinburgh wants the Bill, though Edinburgh does not confess to it. There is a £300,000 reason why Edinburgh wants the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

It is £370,000, plus direct grants to schools.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

We are dealing with different points. I was speaking here from the educational point of view. Of course Edinburgh is in the unique position of having a school system which is quite uncharacteristic of the rest of Scotland. A substantial number of the secondary schools of Edinburgh are private schools which receive direct grants from the Secretary of State.

The position is, therefore, that Edinburgh likes this Bill because it is being exempted from the block grant provisions as far as education is concerned. The fact is that Edinburgh, in respect of an important part of its education, will continue to receive a 60 per cent. percentage grant. It will receive £300,000 more than other comparable authorities because, through the block grant arrangements, it will get its normal share of the aggregate by the counting of heads and, in addition, it will get a quite unjustified bonus of £300,000. Therefore, we need be in no doubt as to the reasons why Edinburgh is in favour of the Bill, but they are not particularly worthy reasons.

The more I have heard of the arguments on this Bill during our Committee proceedings and since, the more rather than the less convinced I have become about how bad the Bill is for the education system of Scotland. On this subject we had an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George)—who is no longer in his place. He was resorting to an old piece of advice from George Bernard Shaw: if one has a very weak case, do not argue, assert. The hon. Gentleman went on simply to assert to us, without producing any evidence, that everything in the educational garden in Scotland was lovely, that it could not be better—except that it would get a lot better once we have the block grant arrangements. Really the picture he painted of Scottish education was so unreal as to be unrecognisable by anyone on this side of the House.

The hon. Member for North Angus said he knew of no opposition to the Bill from his own constituency. He also denied that there was any suggestion that education would be harmed.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

What think I said was not that I knew of no opposition but that I knew of a good deal of support for the Measure, which is rather different.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I would remind the hon. Gentleman of the position which the Educational Institute of Scotland has taken up. I have its journal here and these are the words it uses: The Educational Institute of Scotland itself has no political axe to grind. It is, of course, a strictly non-party organisation and much prefers to keep out of the muddy waters that swirl around Westminster, when it can. Nor can the Association of County Councils in Scotland … be accused of having a party bias …". It goes on to say: … the opposition, is headed by a solid phalanx of professional bodies and employing authorities reinforced by the testimony of municipal treasurers and accountants who have laid bare the shabby pretensions of the block grant proposals. They present such a massive consensus of expert opinion against the proposals that one can only marvel at the stubbornness of the Government in persisting in them. That is the view of a non-party professional organisation.

The hon. Member for Pollok suggested that the only reason why the teachers were opposed to the block grant arrangements was that they did not trust the local authorities, but, of course, as the teachers' own journal points out, the local authorities are joined with the teachers in their opposition to these block grant proposals.

I am bound to say to the Government that as our fears have gone on and as we have tried to put forward in one way and another an opportunity for the Government to introduce essential flexibility into the allocation of educational money to the various local authorities and these things have been turned down, I have become more and more convinced that the outlook for Scottish education can be very grim indeed. The Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary have kept answering these fears by saying that the money will be allocated according to strictly objective factors. The phrase "objective factors" has become a sort of magical phrase by which the Government hope to convince us that distribution will be on such a scientific basis that nobody can take any objection to it. The phrase is a fancy one for describing the simple process of counting heads. I do not think anybody would suggest that the simple counting of heads is a sensible basis by itself for allocating finance to local authorities.

The Secretary of State may reply that he has adjusted these objective factors in respect of counting heads by a certain rather complicated scientific formula. Indeed, it is such a complicated scientific formula that nobody really understands what it means. I am reminded of an occasion when the late Lord Haldane gave a lecture on relativity. Somebody subsequently asked Professor Einstein what he thought about the lecture, and he replied that it was an excellent lecture but the trouble was that Lord Haldane, a delightful man, knew nothing whatever about relativity.

That is the kind of thing that we have had from the Secretary of State. He has told us about the formula, but at the end of the day we come to the conclusion that he knows nothing about how it will work out. Yet the future development of Scottish education will depend upon this kind of system. As a country, we are at a critical period in our national development. Everyone now says as a commonplace that we are in a technological age and are competing directly with Russia and other nations. There was a famous occasion during the war when Mr. Stalin is supposed to have said, when the Pope's intervention in international affairs was mentioned, "How many divisions has the Pope?" I should think that Mr. Khrushchev adapts that phrase nowadays and says, "How many technologists, craftsmen and trained apprentices has Britain?" when somebody is drawing attention to the influence that Britain may have in international affairs. The position that our country will occupy during our lifetime will depend very much on our education system, and on the way it is prepared to meet the needs of the age. The Government are taking tremendous risks with our most important form of national development at the present stage by altering the system of financing education so as to remove the flexibility.

As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes)—there is no greater authority on local government finance in this House than my hon. Friend—local authorities are at the moment overburdened financially. They are under crippling financial burdens which will not be eased by the provisions of the Bill. Thus, we shall have a situation when the Bill becomes law in which the Scottish local authorities, to whom we have traditionally looked to force the pace of educa- tion, to set education standards and to bring out new educational ideas, will find that for the first time they will have to pay the whole bill themselves if they want to do these things. They will be in this position at a time when they are already feeling paralysed financially.

The result of the Bill will be a general slowing down of educational progress. It will represent an attempt, though the party opposite denies it, at levelling down. It will have a deadening effect upon progress in Scottish education. It may well be proved in future years that the passing of this Bill and its fellow Bill in England and Wales was one of the really regressive steps in our post-war life.

The Secretary of State is very disarming on these matters. He suggested that there had always been a row about Local Government Bills and, at the end of the day, they had all proved excellent Measures. So far as this proves anything, it merely proves that, once a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, people have to put up with it. In this case, there is a very great deal of evidence from everybody who has a right to express an authoritative opinion that this Bill will mark a really backward step in local affairs and, in particular, in national education.

I have no doubt at all that the real motive behind the Government's introduction of the Bill is their desire to cut down Governmental expenditure, to try to reduce, relatively, their share of the cost of the services operated through local authorities. This is what we expect from a Conservative Government driven on by so many of their supporters to try to reduce public expenditure. They hope in this way to achieve their object. But this is one of the most dangerous times of all for a Government in Britain to be trying to cut what is really education expenditure. It is a back-door attack on education. What the Government are really doing is to sabotage Britain's national development through our education system at a most critical time. If, twenty-five or thirty years from now, Britain turns out to be, relatively, one of the under-developed nations of the world, the blame may very well lie with the Government which introduced this Bill.

9.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) went to the heart of our opposition to the Bill in his later remarks. We can judge the Bill from the declared intentions and purposes of the Government. To do that, we go back to the White Papers issued before the Bill was published. The essence of the criticism of the present system made in those White Papers was that that the Government's contribution to local authority expenditure had risen until it exceeded the contributions of local authorities to their own expenditure. That was the kernel of the criticism made of the present system. They went on to say, as the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State knows, that this was a bad thing because it meant that local authorities were robbed of their freedom.

If the Government meant what they said, the Bill can have only one meaning. The Government are determined to reverse the position. The Bill can mean only that the Government intend to reduce their contribution towards local government expenditure. It can mean nothing else. It is true that, so far as we can ascertain, for the first year or two, the Government have no intention of reducing their share of local government expenditure, but there is no single guarantee in the Bill that they intend to maintain their share. There is not a word in the Bill, and no Government spokesman has given any guarantee, that it is the Government's intention to maintain the central Government's share of local government expenditure.

What does that mean? Several times in Committee I suggested that Scottish local authorities could look forward in the immediate future to an increased expenditure of £10 million or £15 million. The Government never said that I was being absurd in suggesting that. My estimate is probably not a long way out. The Government must answer the question whether they intend to contribute to this increasing local authority expenditure upon the same basis as they have in the past and are now. That question has not yet been answered. It is precisely on this point that every Scottish educational body and local authority except Edinburgh is worried. They have cause to worry, because neither the Bill nor the Government guarantees it, and the express purpose of the Bill is to change the relationship between the national and the local government contribution.

I am sure that local authorities, the Educational Institute of Scotland, all the other educational associations and other public bodies who have expressed an opinion about the Bill would like to have an answer to that question. Not a single word in the Bill gives any guarantee of that kind. Apparently, as educational expenditure increases local authorities will have to bear an increasing share, and with rate poundages as they are today, and with the very narrow basis of taxation and the inequitable basis of local government taxation that we have, this is a very serious problem. Every time the rate poundage increases the inequities and injustices are made worse.

These were the points that we tried to make in Committee. They are of very great concern to everybody who is interested in local government. But the Front Bench opposite have not paid the slightest attention to any of our criticisms. Not a single one has been answered seriously.

Expenditure is increasing in respect of other services. There is the care of the aged. Everyone is concerned about that. People are now living longer. One of my hon. Friends mentioned the old folks' clubs. At the beginning of the year Edinburgh Corporation decided to open more, at Stockbridge, Broughton and Margaret Tudor House. But Edinburgh needs three or four more old people's homes. This year it also started a pilot laundry service, and the laundry needs of the old folk of Edinburgh involve an expenditure of thousands of pounds. This means that local authorities will have far greater expenditure than they have had in the past. There is also the chiropody service.

Everyone knows that we must provide these services, and that we are lagging behind at present. Do the Government intend to contribute as much towards these services in future as they have in the past? That question has not been answered. We have not been given one guarantee, and the fears of everybody are, therefore, fully justified.

Then we come to something about which we have spoken a lot during this debate, the complete injustice of the present method of distributing the total aggregate grant. This afternoon we were told by the Joint Under-Secretary that if we based it on what local authorities spent, it was a—I forgot the word he used—"mystical"—no, a "metaphysical calculation". I do not find the money I pay out of my pocket in the form of rates for local government services to be very metaphysical. It is very physical. What is the position? If I refer to Edinburgh it is because I represent part of that city, but other local authorities are in the same position.

Suppose a local authority, whether it be a Tory- or a Labour-controlled authority, decides that there is a big educational task to be performed. Suppose that authority says, "Let us get ahead with nursery schools and further education—". No, I am sorry, further education is exempt. But suppose the authority says, "Let us get ahead with services for old folk, or put a new school in place of an existing slum school." What happens to that local authority? It is punished for doing things like that. We have been told by the Joint Under-Secretary that such an authority would have the privilege of knowing that it had these beautiful schools or lovely homes for old people. It would certainly have the honour of possessing them, but it would also have the privilege of paying for them; and in doing that it will be allowing a reactionary local authority to reduce its rates.

That is what this method of distribution means. That is what the Joint Under-Secretary called the objective manner of distributing the money. If Glasgow does well, the ratepayers there will have the supreme privilege of knowing that they have allowed some county in the centre of Scotland to reduce its rates.

Photo of Mr William Hannan Mr William Hannan , Glasgow Maryhill

Or the rates in Edinburgh.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

Yes. If the Edinburgh authority does well it will have the privilege of knowing that it has reduced the rates in Glasgow.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

Is there not something "phoney" about that method? Is it not a peculiar way to treat a local authority trying to face its responsibilities? I have never heard of such a method of trying to encourage local authorities.

When we put this point of view the Joint Under-Secretary said that this would not happen, because in the localities there would be a great pressure for educational services, and local authorities would have to go booming ahead. Then what becomes of the argument that the specific grant encourages wastefulness? That was one of the arguments which has been used. Whether it is a specific grant or not, the electors react in the same way. They will want to forge ahead. This method of distributing the money is quite unfair. I have already pointed out that the ultimate aim is to reduce the contribution made by the Government.

One of the carrots dangled before us is that of greater freedom for local authorities, but we have not yet been told what it is. It is something indefinite in the future that the local authorities might or might not get. In Glasgow it means a saving of 320 hours of labour. Glasgow will still be subject to scrutiny the same as before and responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Otherwise, Clause 3 is meaningless. He will have to draw up standards and appeal to local authorities to keep to them. How can he do that unless the local authority is responsible to the Secretary of State and explains what it is doing?

We ought to have that report of the working party which is considering the question of the freedom to be given to local authorities. If we had it, the Government might not want to shout about it. It may not give a good deal of freedom to local authorities. An hon. Friend suggests that the Government have probably deliberately delayed bringing the report forward so that we should not know the extent of local authority freedom. If this is the reason, we ought to be given the report before the Bill is passed. For the reasons which I have given I will have much pleasure, in spite of the fact that Edinburgh approves of the principle of the block grant, in voting against the Bill.

9.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We should recognise that the Bill, to which we are saying a farewell word, is historic. It is the first Bill that has covered local government finance so comprehensively. It makes revolutionary changes in the financial relationship between the central Government and local authorities.

The Bill was sent to the new Scottish Standing Committee, and Scottish Members were guillotined in their ability to sit in that Committee. One would have thought that in order to mark the successful venture of the Government in regard to that Committee, full discussion would have been allowed on the Measure, but the Government introduced a timetable Motion to guillotine the Bill. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) said that there was never a more unpopular Bill, and that the Bill had no friends. He said that local authorities, teachers and industries were against it, and he added, "This Bill must have full discussion".

It has not had full discussion. We are now on the Third Reading and there are Clauses which have never been mentioned. What about Clause 14, which will raise the cost of living in Scotland to some extent? It is not a matter for amusement but for gravity that we should be taking leave of a Bill which raises the cost of living, by how much we do not know. We have not had a chance to put questions about it. The Ninth Schedule has not been fully discussed, while not a word has been said about the Third and Fourth Schedules.

The Government cannot be proud of the way things have been conducted. It is a reflection that, in order to pass this sham charter of the local authorities, Scottish Members have had to be denied the liberty of discussion that is their right. We have had the awful spectacle of Amendment after Amendment being passed without justification or a word of discussion—just shoved through. That is not democracy as I understand it. On the first occasion on which the new procedure has been evoked it is not greatly to the credit of the Government to employ it to get this Bill through.

We are dealing with services vital to local government in Scotland, not purely in a local sense, but in a national sense. We are dealing with education and all its ramifications from nursery schools right through to the technical schools for which we hope. We are dealing with the welfare of the aged and of the children. We are dealing with road safety, the fire service, planning, and recreational and physical training facilities. We are making this revolutionary change under Clause 2 whereby local authority expenditure in respect of these things now covered by a specific grant is in future to be lumped together for the whole of Scotland in an aggregate grant. In the Second Schedule there are details of the share-out.

The first point of criticism must arise on the aggregate grant and the fairness of the apportionment. I want to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Pollok to this because he said he was satisfied that there would be adequate financial assistance for Scottish local authorities to meet the challenge in respect of education. He said the Secretary of State has got to take that into consideration. He has to take that into consideration, but that is all Clause 2 says. The hon. Member seems to equate the Secretary of State taking things into consideration with actual financial assistance. Nothing is laid upon the Secretary of State at all in respect of the actual sums of money which have to come out of that consideration. There is no guarantee of anything.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was quite right. No local authority examining Clause 2 can say, "We will get so much". There is no guarantee of any adequate sum at all. What they will get will be what is decided by the Secretary of State. It has always been part of the case of hon. Members opposite that the man in Whitehall does not know best, but the central Government have to decide these things and the one man who decides them is to be the Secretary of State. Can the hon. Member for Pollok rest satisfied with that? I certainly cannot.

On the apportionment of the grant, we have been given a Schedule which surely is mystic and wonderful. The Secretary of State himself cannot explain it and the Joint Under-Secretary told us he does not know whether it will work. All the evidence we have is that it will lead to dissatisfaction and unfairness. One hon. Member opposite spent hours talking about the apportionment of the grant in relation to his local authority and evidently he does not yet know how it will work.

I do not think this is good enough. One thing we do know. In relying upon this formula we can now appreciate that a progressive local authority, since what it spends will become relevant expenditure and will go into the pool, will draw out of that pool only in accordance with this formula, which equally means that the reactionary local authority will, according to this unchanging formula, draw more from the pool if other authorities spend more.

That is the inequity of it. It means that local authorities which have special problems and need special services will find that they will not get their share of the pool, and those local authorities which are spending nothing on those services will draw a greater share out of it. What justice is there in that? How can this possibly lead local authorities to meet the educational challenge of today or the challenge of humanity in relation to the old folk or the children? It is an insult to their intelligence to expect the people of Scotland to believe that.

These two Clauses, and particularly Clause 2, are the instruments of retrenchment. I do not think that this is a local authority Bill at all; it is a Treasury Bill. The Government are limiting their liabilities, and Clause 2 is the instrument by which they will limit them. We shall get a screen of wondrous words and soothing slogans about education being very important and all the rest of it, but if the educational challenge is to be met, it is not to be met with additional help from the Treasury, but only from the local authorities themselves.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) said, at the present time the local authorities are experiencing a financial crisis. Everyone knows that, and things are going to be worse. Are we to meet that educational challenge? Have we to rely on this Bill and on the people who presently occupy the Front Bench opposite? The answer is definitely "No." We were told by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) the real truth about this Bill. I always look on the hon. Gentleman as being the authentic voice of official Toryism.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

He did not understand it.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The hon. Gentleman did not understand what was in the Bill, but he understood the purpose of the Bill, because he said that its purpose was to stop local authorities lashing out money. It was said two or three times that specific grants lead to extravagance. We asked the hon. Gentleman to give us one example of extravagance, and he told us about some hinges on a cupboard door. The trouble with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they have not got the right to talk about Scottish education. What do they know about Scottish schools? The Scottish Secretary of State goes into a Scottish school only as a visitor. The same thing applies to one of the Joint Under-Secretaries, and as for another of the Joint Under-Secretaries, we have never considered that Fettes is really a Scottish school. It just happens to be in Scotland.

Let us note this. There are very few Scottish Conservative Members who were educated in Scottish schools, but those who were have been the most vociferous in opposing this Bill. In fact, one hon. Gentleman opposite, who is one of the Scots with a Scottish tradition in him, was in the Lobby with us voting against the unfairness of the Second Schedule, while another hon. Gentleman opposite abstained last night in a Division on a vital point in relation to local authority liberty.

The actual facts are quite clear. This Bill is not what it is claimed to be. It is said that these specific grants lead to extravagance. I should like to address my remarks to the hon. Member for Pollok, because he said this. He said that everything was wonderful, and that we should not denigrate Scottish education. We have not been denigrating Scottish education. He told us how well Scotland was meeting the challenge at present.

Let it be remembered, however, that the present time is not that under this Bill. Everything that he said was an argument for continuing the specific grants. Does he agree with this talk about extravagance? Obviously, if we are to change the grant by this Bill—and this is the purpose of the Bill—it means that we stop spending money on education, and if we stop spending money on education how do we meet the challenge? We do not.

I think that I am right in saying that this Measure is the tool of retrenchment. We have been told—and this has been the song that has gone through the whole of the proceedings—that the Bill was the charter of liberty. We were told that local authorities would be given their freedom, and that there would be a new surge of interest in them and among them. We heard that again tonight from the hon. Member for North Angus.

He did not seem to realise that on Tuesday there were local elections in Scotland, but I am sure that the Joint Under-Secretary the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) realised it, and I was amazed at his silence when we were told that people are not taking interest in local government affairs. In Dumfries-shire great interest has been taken in the local elections. In one place there was an 86 per cent. poll. That is not bad for interest in local elections.

What has stirred that interest is not this Bill, but some of the other things that the Government have done in relation to the raising of rents of local authority houses. We had 80 per cent. polls in Kirkcudbrightshire and in Ayrshire. There is a stirring of interest in local government. It is there. What is happening is that we cannot get the Tories to fight, because in certain areas they are disgusted with what their own Government are doing to local government.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

We cannot blame them for that.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Why, in Clause 11, have we this change in respect of the powers of a local authority to borrow money for any purpose, whether aided by grants or not? The Statute will say—and I hope that the Tories will cheer this, because they are doing it by their vote tonight—that a county council or town council shall not without the consent of the Minister concerned borrow money to meet any expenditure of a capital nature for any purpose.

Not a single penny is to be borrowed by a local authority without the permission of the Secretary of State. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he has made administrative arrangements about some such sum as £5,000, but he did not need the Bill to do that. He can do it at any time—and he could take it away tomorrow.

That is what the Government are doing about local authority borrowings—and they talk of liberty. I wonder if they remember a few lines of Robert Burns, scathing lines that he put into the mouth of Beelzebub addressing a Highland lord who was determined to stop the people's bid for freedom—and Burns could have addressed the same lines equally well to the Government in respect of their attacks on local authorities.

Burns wrote: They an' be d—d! what right hae theyTo meat or sleep, or light o' day!Far less to riches, pow'r, or freedom,But what your lordship likes to gie them? These people who have always proclaimed that they intended to set the local authorities free now tell them that they will have to come to the Government for every single purpose for which they require to borrow sums of money. It really is a sham. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central who described the Bill as a fraud. To my mind, it is the chosen instrument of the Tory Party to carry out Tory promises to Tories to cut down Government expenditure, and they are doing it in such a way that vital services in Scotland will be cut down at a time when those services are more vital than ever to the well-being of the nation.

Can any hon. Member opposite say that this is the moment to save money on education? Or are they satisfied that this will help in the expansion of the education that they know is needed. To our minds, this Measure is the black Act of 1958, and I am perfectly sure that Scotland will live to regret it.

10.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

I agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that the Bill has in its own way made parliamentary history. It is the first Bill to be considered by the new Scottish Standing Committee. Looking back over the proceedings, I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will feel that the smaller Committee was a success. We Scots put in more time in Committee than do our English colleagues, and for the first time at least some of our number were able to attend to their other responsibilities towards the House. We all agree that the quality and force of the debate was in no way impaired.

Secondly, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock reminded us, this was the first Scottish Bill to operate in Committee under the Guillotine. In the event, this proved to be unavoidable. Some of the points that would have been made and discussed in Committee have not lost force by being discussed yesterday and today on Report. We all know that the Government of the day must get its business done and that the Committee stage of the Bill was delayed by another Bill which took longer in Committee than was expected. None of the alternatives to a Guillotine Motion commended itself. Whatever the view of individual Members may be, there did not appear to be any other method that would have been more agreeable to Scottish hon. Members on both sides, to the House generally and to the Government. Personally, I do not like the Guillotine. I welcome the pressure on the Government that forces them to defend and explain their Bill. Our Scottish fault, if we admit any, lies not in what we say but in how long it takes us to say it.

This problem of getting through our business is one which we in Scotland must view with grave concern. Could not we attempt to build up a tradition of a mutually agreed timetable? Did we, looking back over the previous stages of the Bill, spend in Committee and on Report too much time on the principles of the Bill which were already agreed on Second Reading, thus leaving ourselves little enough time for improvements in detail?

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that we did not discuss the First and Third Schedules to the Bill. But, of course, they were fully discussed when we discussed Clause 2. I know that we did not discuss Clause 14, and I think that I should say two or three words about it.

One has only to look at the dates of some of the Acts mentioned in the Clause to see the reason for it. Under paragraph (a) of the Clause we find 104 years ago that it cost 1s. to change a child's name after it had been registered at birth. The English fee has been 1s. 6d. since 1952. Under paragraph (b), what is popularly known as a birth, marriage and death certificate has cost 2s. for the last 104 years. The English fee has been 3s. 9d. since 1952. Of course, in Scotland the initial birth certificate is free, whereas in England one has to pay for it.

Under paragraph (c), for 80 years a copy of the registrar's certificate of publication of notice of intent to marry has cost 1s. In England it is now 1s. 6d. Under paragraph (d), an abbreviated birth certificate that conceals its legitimacy has cost 6d. since 1934. It now costs 9d. in England. Lastly, under paragraph (e), it now costs 5s. to get wed in a registry office compared with 7s. 6d. in England. Of course, it costs more than that to get wed in the long run, but I am sure that it is worth it.

These services provided by local authorities, whether in England or Scotland, cost considerably more than the customers pay for them. The fees now bring in about £32,000 a year to the local authorities. The ratepayers pay 66 per cent. of the cost in Scotland, compared with 45 per cent. in England and Wales where the charges are higher. Under the Clause, my right hon. Friend takes power to increase the fees by regulation and he will discuss with the Scottish local authorities what the revised scales should be, having regard to particular Scottish conditions.

My right hon. Friend will not be swayed in deciding the fees by the fact that the birth certificate in Scotland is free. It is not intended that the rise should be very steep. As an indication, if the Scottish fees were brought up to the English level, that would bring the Scottish local authorities another £20,000 a year. I know that hon. Members have not enjoyed listening to that, but it was right that we should get it on the record.

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

I must get on with my speech.

The Bill is also unique in that it was officially opposed by the Convention of Royal Burghs and the County Councils' Association and three of the four Cities—and I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is demonstrating his dislike of the Bill in spite of its interest for Edinburgh. It is unique in that while it is opposed by Scottish local authorities, a Bill with similar provisions was accepted in principle by the English and Welsh local authorities. I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) that the Bill has had a hostile reception. That is surprising, especially as Scottish local authorities as a whole gain £750,000 a year out of it. It is, therefore, important to look for the reason for this opposition.

I would put, first, the misunderstandings, some genuine and some deliberate, of the White Paper; and we heard a speech of deliberate misunderstanding from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). Our opponents read into the White Paper that it was our intention——

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

On a point of order. Does the use of the expression "deliberate misunderstanding" not imply deceit on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)? Is it in order to accuse an hon. Member of deceit?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I find the two words difficult to put together. I do not see how one can have deliberate misunderstanding. The words seem to cancel each other out.

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

Whether the misunderstanding was genuine or not, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and others have read into the White Paper that it was our intention to use the general grant as a vehicle for a reduction in local authority income. What the White Paper actually said was that the rerating of industry would enable local authorities to draw a higher proportion of their revenue from local sources. Our consideration of the Bill through all its stages has clarified the minds of those who genuinely misunderstood, and discussion of the Bill in Committee and on Report has given many people a much greater understanding and has tended to change their views.

I assure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and all local authorities, that the Government have none of the base intentions of which we have been accused. Our intention is primarily to free local authorities from some of the close control now exercised from the centre. We believe, and I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) said in his most well-informed speech, that too much central control and checking adds to the frustration and to the costs of local government.

We believe, with my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George), that the local electors, including industry, will, as a result of the Bill, tend to take a greater interest in local government. We cannot be complacent about the present situation where the interest of the electors in local government has so seriously declined. Hon. Members know that the number voting in local elections, which is the index of interest, has fallen from over 50 per cent. in 1947 to well under 40 per cent. today.

The Bill brings increased freedom to local authorities to spend revenue on projects which, in their view, are most beneficial to their area. In many matters, this decision about how they shall spend their money is best made as near as possible to the local people and as far as possible from St. Andrew's House. The Bill must give local authorities a renewed sense of purpose and a renewed sense of responsibility. I just do not believe that elected representatives are only interested in furthering the cause of great social services like education and health provided that they obtain percentage grants.

Furthermore, local authorities will now have a stronger incentive to convince the voters that their service is a good one, an incentive to obtain, and to show that they are obtaining, the best value for money. It is human nature to examine most carefully any expenditure which one has to meet in full oneself and the quality of service cannot, as hon. Members have sought to show throughout the debate, be measured proportionately to the amount of money spent. Education and health, for example, are not commodities which can be bought at so much per pound, like margarine.

We believe that, given greater responsibilities, local authorities will do the right thing. Under the Bill the central Government retain their essential safeguards and Parliament retains ultimate control over the general grant. I can tell the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) that the general grant order is by affirmative Resolution procedure and is, therefore, taken in Government time, which is additional to any time taken on the Estimates debates. I can inform the hon. Member for Kilmarnock that it does not mean that the man in Whitehall knows best; it means that this House knows best and has the ultimate control.

That is not the end of the story. The working party, which included representatives of local authorities and my right hon. Friend, has recently finished its examination of the relationship between the central Departments and the local authorities. It has recommended a large number of important relaxations in present control. My noble Friend the Minister of State has discussed these recommendations with the local authority associations, who have indicated that they are prepared to accept them.

The White Paper to explain the proposals will, I hope, be published shortly after the Whitsun Recess. In so far as these recommendations cannot be put into effect without legislation, suitable Amendments to the Bill will be tabled in another place and the House will have an opportunity of considering those Amendments later. When the Bill finally becomes an Act it will represent an important stage in our journey towards true democracy. We shall be proud of it and the local authorities will be grateful to us.

The Bill fits into the pattern of recent Government legislation, all designed to bring local government up to date. In 1961, the full effect of revaluation under the 1956 Act will be known. New legislation will be required for equalisation grant by 1963. That Bill can incorporate any revision of the distribution formula, of which local authorities will have had at least one year's practical but not painful and not very profitable experience, although there is always the £750,000 extra which is an immediate gain for Scotland.

In the next few years, people will move to new homes as a result of overspill arrangements. The Bill takes that fully into account. In the great problems set by the movements of population under the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, 1957, the distribution formula based on objective factors helps local authorities, as it ensures that that population movement carries with it a compensating entitlement to grant.

I predict that when the Bill becomes an Act local authorities will have no

further doubts about the Government's intentions. When local authorities come to discuss the calculation of the general grant they will find the considerations in Clause 2 interpreted in a spirit of construction and not unnecessary restriction.

Photo of Mr Eustace Willis Mr Eustace Willis , Edinburgh East

What does that mean in terms of £ s. d.?

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

Exactly what I said. When local authorities come to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend they will find that he will interpret Clause 2 in the spirit in which it is framed, and not with any idea of this Bill being a vehicle for anything else.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

That means nothing.

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

If it means nothing to the hon. Member, I do not know what he has been doing in Committee and on Report all this time. It means exactly what it says. It is the vehicle which will enable my right hon. Friend not only to give the local authorities all they need, but to enable them to move forward in the great causes of education and health which we all have so much at heart.

When we strip down all the speeches made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite throughout Committee and on Report, we know why they are opposed to the Bill. Of course, the Labour Party do not like this Bill. The Labour Party cannot follow the downward path of Socialism unless the gentleman in Whitehall is in complete control. They sincerely believe that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite and the Labour Party do not trust the local authorities. We on this side of the House believe in freedom, and the difference between us is that we do trust the local authorities.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 98.

Division No. 129.]AYES[10.29 p.m.
Agnew, Sir PeterBirch, Rt. Hon. NigelCraddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Aitken, W. T.Bishop, F. P.Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.
Alport, C. J. M.Black, C. W.Currie, G. B. H.
Arbuthnot, JohnBoyle, Sir EdwardD'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Armstrong, C. W.Braine, B. R.Deedes, W. F.
Atkins, H. E.Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)Digby, Simon Wingfield
Baldwin, A. E.Burden, F. F. A.Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
Barter, JohnChannon, Sir HenryDoughty, C. J. A.
Beamish, Col. TuftonChichester-Clark, R.du Cann, E. D. L.
Bingham, R. M.Cooper-Key, E. M.Duncan, Sir James
Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)Hulbert, Sir NormanPitman, I. J.
Errington, Sir EricHurd, A. R.Pitt, Miss E. M.
Farey-Jones, F. W.Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)Powell, J. Enoch
Finlay, GraemeHutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)Ramsden, J. E.
Fisher, NigelIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rawlinson, Peter
Gammans, LadyJenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Redmayne, M.
George, J. C. (Pollok)Jennings, J. C. (Burton)Renton, D. L. M.
Gibson-Watt, D.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Ridsdale, J. E.
Glover, D.Kerby, Capt. H. B.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Glyn, Col. Richard H.Kerr, Sir HamiltonRobinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Godber, J. B.Langford-Holt, J. A.Roper, Sir Harold
Gough, C. F. H.Leavey, J. A.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Gower, H. R.Leburn, W. G.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Graham, Sir FergusLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Grant, W. (Woodside)Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Spearman, Sir Alexander
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Green, A.Linstead, Sir H. N.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughStudholme, Sir Henry
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Macdonald, Sir PeterTeeling, W.
Hall, John (Wycombe)Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)Temple, John M.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)McLean, Neil (Inverness)Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Harris, Reader (Heston)Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Maddan, MartinThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Marlowe, A. A. H.Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMarshall, DouglasThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.Mathew, R.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Henderson-Stewart, Sir JamesMawby, R. L.Vane, W. M. F.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Medlicott, Sir FrankWakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Hinchingbrooke, ViscountMilligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Hirst, GodfreyNabarro, G. D. N.Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Holland-Martin, C. J.Nairn, D. L. S.Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hope, Lord JohnNicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hornby, R. P.Osborne, C.Wood, Hon. R.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame FlorencePage, R. G.Woollam, John Victor
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Partridge, E.
Howard, John (Test)Peel, W. J.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hughes-Young, M. H. C.Pickthorn, K. W. M.Mr. Wills and Mr. Bryan.
NOES
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Hewitson, Cap, M.Oswald, T.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)Holman, P.Owen, W. J.
Benson, Sir GeorgeHolt, A. F.Paton, John
Blackburn, F.Houghton, DouglasPearson, A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Hoy, J. H.Popplewell, E.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)Hubbard, T. F.Rankin, John
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Redhead, E. C.
Champion, A. J.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Chetwynd, G. R.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Ross, William
Clunie, J.Hunter, A. E.Short, E. W.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Sorensen, R. W.
Crossman, R. H. S.Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Sparks, J. A.
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Janner, B.Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Deer, G.Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)Stones, W. (Consett)
Diamond, JohnJones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Swingler, S. T.
Donnelly, D. L.Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Sylvester, G. O.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Duthie, W. S.King, Dr. H. M.Thornton, E.
Dye, S.Lawson, G. M.Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonUsborne, H. C.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)McInnes, J.Wade, D. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)McKay, John (Wallsend)Wheeldon, W. E.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Foot, D. M.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Willey, Frederick
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Greenwood, AnthonyMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mann, Mrs. JeanWinterbottom, Richard
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Woof, R. E.
Hamilton, W. W.Mitchison, G. R.
Hannan, W.Moody, A. S.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hayman, F. H.Moyle, A.Mr. Wilkins and Mr. J. Taylor.
Herbison, Miss M.Orbach, M.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.