|Division No. 97.]||AYES||[10.10 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Hoy, James H.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Awbery, Stan||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Ross, William|
|Beaney, Alan||Hunter, A. E.||Short, Edward|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Blackburn, F.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Blyton, William||Janner, Sir Barnett||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Boyden, James||Jennings, J. C.||Small, William|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Steele, Thomas|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Kelley, Richard||Stones, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kenyon, Clifford||Symonds, J. B.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||King, Dr. Horace||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lawson, George||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Loughlin, Charles||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Dempsey, James||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Diamond, John||Manuel, A. C.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mapp, Charles||Timmons, John|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mason, Roy||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Millan, Bruce||Watkins, Tudor|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Milne, Edward||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mitchison, G. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Gooch, E. G.||Neal, Harold||Whitlock, William|
|Gourlay, Harry||Owen, Will||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Grey, Charles||Parker, John||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, David (Bother Valley)||Pavitt, Laurence||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pentland, Norman||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Pitman, Sir James||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hannan, William||Popplewell, Ernest||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Probert, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Hilton, A. V.||Rankin, John||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Holman, Percy||Redhead, E. C.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Reynolds, G. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Rhodes, H.||Mr. C. Howell and Mr. McCann|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Dance, James|
|Aitken, W. T.||Channon, H. P. G.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Allason, James||Chichester-Clark, R.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Balniel, Lord||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||du Cann, Edward|
|Barlow, Sir John||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Duncan, Sir James|
|Barter, John||Cleaver, Leonard||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Batsford, Brian||Cole, Norman||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Collard, Richard||Elliott, R. W. (N'castle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Cooke, Robert||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Biffen, John||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Farr, John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, F. V.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Costain, A. P.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Bossom, Clive||Coulson, Michael||Gammans, Lady|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Box, Donald||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Gilmour, Sir John|
|Brewis, John||Critchley, Julian||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Brooman-White, R.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Curran, Charles||Goodhart, Philip|
|Buck, Antony||Currie, G. B. H.||Gower, Raymond|
|Bullard, Denys||Dalkeith, Earl of||Green, Alan|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Smithers, Peter|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mawby, Ray||Speir, Rupert|
|Hendry, Forbes||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morgan, William||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hobson, Sir John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Tapsell, Peter|
|Holland, Philip||Nabarro, Gerald||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Hollingworth, John||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hornby, R. P.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Jackson, John||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Turner, Colin|
|Kirk, Peter||Peel, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kitson, Timothy||Percival, Ian||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Leavey, J. A.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Prior, J. M. L.||Walder, David|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Walker, peter|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Wall, Patrick|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Pym, Francis||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Webster, David|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ramsden, James||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Rawlinson, Peter||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Rees, Hugh||Wise, A. R.|
|McLaren, Martin||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Worsley, Marcus|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Russell, Ronald|
|McMaster, Stanley R.||St. Clair, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Shaw, M.||Mr. William Whitelaw.|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Shepherd, William|
Order. Perhaps it would facilitate the work of the Committee if I were to remind hon. Members that this Bill has been recommitted to the Committee only in respect of certain Amendments which have been selected by Mr. Speaker, and that, as far as Clause 1 goes, we have debated those Amendments. Although it is correct procedure, by which I am bound, to put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," it would be against the spirit of the duty of the Committee to go into a general debate on Clause 1 going beyond the Amendments that were recommitted for our consideration. I hope that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will bear that in mind.
I should like to pursue this a little further, because I am always anxious to keep in accord with the Chair. What I fail to appreciate is just what is the spirit of the Committee. We are discussing a matter of considerable importance—the implementation, in part, of the Reports of two very important Committees which sat for a long time before they made their recommendations.
When you refer to the spirit of the Committee, Sir William, I understand that it is the intention of the Government to keep us all night discussing these important matters. If that be so and we are to be here all night, it would be proper, and in accord with the spirit of the Committee, if we spent some time now discussing Clause 1.
Perhaps I should respond to that by saying that it is nothing to do with me at all how long the Committee is required to sit. Would it have been more proper for me to have used the words "duty of the Committee" rather than the word "spirit"? The Bill has been recommitted to us by the House in order to re-examine certain Amendments put down and not to reopen the whole discussion on Clause 1. That was not recommitted to us for reexamination.
I am obliged to you, Sir William. I will pursue the matter a little further, because I do not wish to act in a way which would be out of accord with the wishes of the Chair. If we have a Ruling from the Chair that, in the circumstances, we should not pursue the discussion of Clause 1, I will accept such a Ruling, whether it is a Ruling dependent on a Standing Order or precedent.
But if the position merely is that it is open to the Committee to choose which course it feels proper to take in the circumstances, and which course is in accord with the spirit of the Committee, then it is a matter which should be left to the Committee to decide.
It is laid down clearly in Erskine May that when portions of a Bill are recommitted to a Committee it is incumbent on the Committee to consider those recommitted portions. But there is a contradiction in Erskine May in that it goes further and says that, when this has been performed, the Chairman of the Committee must put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." That, obviously, lays the Committee open to hon. Members to discuss anything on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." But that would be contradictory to the first reading that I have given to the Committee, and it seems to me that it is my duty to put to the Committee this consideration: the House has given the Bill back for the specific purpose not of reopening the debate on the whole of the Bill but only on those Amendments that have been recommitted to us. Therefore, if on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" the debate is to go beyond those Amendments that have been recommitted to us, that is going beyond the spirit or the duty, as I see it, that is imposed on this Committee by the House.
It is perfectly open to hon. Members to discuss the Amendments to the Clauses that have been recommitted to us, but I think that it is not open to reopen the general discussion on the whole question of Clause 1.
I should like to pursue this point a stage further because we face a difficulty. Where no Amendment has been accepted the Clause has not been altered, so that in this sense a debate would not ordinarily arise on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Here we have the position that, notwithstanding the fact that Amendments have not been accepted by the Committee, nevertheless the Chair must put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." This seems to me to invite a discussion wider than the Amendment to the Clause. Otherwise surely the House, in designing Standing Orders, would have provided that in such circumstances the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" should not be put.
If I may intervene, we put down the Motion to recommit the Bill in order to have an Amendment to accept what the Opposition want on Clause 3. That is why we have recommitted the Bill, to try to help the Committee. The recommittal is in order to bring within the Bill something which we wish to give to the Opposition, because we think that a suggestion which they made in Standing Committee is sensible. Now the hon. Gentleman says that we want to keep the House up all night. I think he will recognise that that is not what the Government wish to do. What we should like to do is to hear the discussions on some very interesting Amendments which are still on the Paper.
Obviously I am in the hands of the Committee, but I should have thought that it would be more interesting to the Committee at this time of night to discuss these other points which are very relevant and important, rather than go over those Amendments on which we had a good debate before seven o'clock.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention which was helpful. I should make clear that the recommittal is on the selection which we understand has been made by Mr. Speaker. That is why the recommittal Motion was amended and accepted in this form by the Committee. This is not a matter of Government and Opposition. If the Chair makes its selection and then the House provides that there is still to be a debate on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"—notwithstanding the fact that the Amendments have been rejected by the Committee—this seems to indicate that there should be some matters appropriate for discussion in such a debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Perhaps it would be convenient to the Committee if I were to read out the passage in Erskine May by which I feel myself bound and to which the Committee should pay attention. It is on page 576 of Erskine May:
Only so much of the Bill as is specified in the order for recommittal is considered in the committee. If a bill is recommitted in respect of specified amendments to a clause, only those amendments and amendments relevant to them may be moved, and not other amendments.
That would appear to make quite clear what the duty of the Chair is. Here I come to the contradictory part:
When the amendments have been disposed of in respect of any clause, the question for the clause standing part of the bill has to be put.
It is rather a contradictory Ruling within which the Committee must keep itself. I do not see any great difficulty. On this Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," surely debates can take place on the Amendments that have already been considered but without reopening the rest of the Clause which has not been recommitted to us for consideration.
Surely that is the one thing we cannot do. We have discussed Amendments. These Amendments have been rejected by the Committee and so they are not in the Clause. One thing we cannot do is to refer to Amendments which are not there. But this is our difficulty. If an Amendment had been accepted, then, obviously, it would change the Clause and, in the light of that, we should be entitled to discuss the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
I put it to you in this way, Sir William. By virtue of the fact that you have put the Question and there is no rule of procedure which says that that must be voted on at once, without discussion, it follows that there can be a discussion, and it is only right that there should be because we have reopened the Clause for the Amendments. It does not mean that we have opened any other Clauses. This is one of the dangers that a Government face on a recommittal Motion. If they agree to a recommittal in respect of any particular Clause, this obviously makes it open for any Amendment to the Clause, and it opens up the subject of the Clause itself, eventually, and rightly so.
We have had an important discussion on the Amendments, and we have had the Government's view about the Clause, which most of us have never heard before, so that we are from that point of view entitled to examine the Clause. It may well be that, in the light of the fact that the Clause has already been examined, you, Sir William, may use your discretion in order to tend to shorten the discussion. I do not know. You may have that power. But I think there is no doubt that we must be able to debate it.
I am not concerned so much about Clause 1, but I make my point about this Clause because, when six o'clock in the morning comes and we discuss Clause 8, which affects Scotland, I shall not want to lose any of my rights as a result of any undertaking which may be rather generally given at this point. I think that we have a right to debate the Question.
May I draw your attention to page 561 of Erskine May, Sir William, the paragraph headed
Question for Clause standing part of a Bill"?
As you have pointed out, the difficulty about page 576 on the recommittal of Bills is that the statement there about disposing of the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", is without any limitation. I should assume, therefore, that one would have to discuss the Question after recommittal within the general context of what Erskine May says at page 561 about the Question when dealt with in Committee, namely:
Debate upon this question must be confined to the clause as amended (or not amended), and must not extend to a discussion of the circumstances under which particular amendments were made
and so on. Therefore, with respect, it seems to me that the Ruling which you were trying to give to the Committee is not strictly correct because I think you were suggesting that it would be in order to discuss, on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", Amendments which we have already discussed and which were not accepted and which, therefore, are not part of the Clause unamended which is now before the Committee. I respectfully suggest that you
were, perhaps, mistaken in ruling that what we are now able to discuss are the Amendments which were proposed on recommittal. I should have thought that that was not so.
I see a difference between the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", when the Bill has been recommitted and the similar general Question in Committee. The Committee has had imposed upon it by the House on recommittal the duty of reconsidering only certain parts of the Bill, not the Bill as a whole. It seems to me that the certain parts of the Bill which it was decided by the House should be recommitted to us were the Amendments selected. If we go further than considering those to a consideration of the whole question of the Clause standing part, we are reopening consideration of the whole Clause; whereas the House imposed upon us only the duty of reopening consideration of the Amendments selected.
I think I have said enough to make clear what is my view. I readily accept that it is not borne out entirely by Standing Orders. I readily accept—and my first remark was—that on my putting the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", the Committee is open to take a view contrary to mine. But, in view of what I have said, I think it may be that the Committee will see that my reasoning and reading of Erskine May is not without some force. I hope that we can proceed to debate the matter without spending more time on points of order. Mr Willey—
May I raise a point of order before my hon. Friend proceeds? The last thing that I should want to be guilty of is of helping the Government on any occasion, but what has arisen tonight is a very important point. If what the Chair has said so far is true, then we should be in order in discussing the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and later the same Question in respect of Clause 2 and Clause 3, and later still in respect of Clause 9 and, indeed, of Clause 7.
I venture to suggest to the Chair that the reason why we have this very complex arrangement set down in Erskine May is that if a Clause had been amended as a result of recommittal there would be some point in discussing the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but if the Clause leaves the recommittal stage in exactly the same form in which it entered it there is, it seems to me, no point in having a discussion.
Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) raised a very important point about discussing something which had already been disposed of, but, if I may endeavour to reconcile his reading of the matter with the Chair's reading of it, is it not the case that since we did not alter the Clause by inserting these Amendments we are entitled to decide whether we will add the Clause as not amended to the Bill and, therefore, discuss the Clause and its deficiencies because these Amendments were not included?
I will endeavour conscientiously to follow your advice, Sir William, but in so doing I assure the Committee that I am not endeavouring to set a precedent. I am speaking only for myself. I will confine what I have to say to subsection (2), which is the subsection to which we tried to make Amendments.
We are here dealing with
full-time courses at universities, colleges or other institutions.
As on the Amendments we were all concerned with further education other than first degree courses at universities and similar courses, I invite the right hon. Gentleman to say what he has in mind by the words "or other institutions." In other words, we failed to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to expand the definition, but now that we are faced with the subsection unamended I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us just how great a range of institutions the Clause now covers. It does not cover universities and colleges only but also other institutions.
Before we leave the Clause, I think it is important that we should have some guidance as to what powers this will afford the right hon. Gentleman. I think that this is something that we might have had from the right hon. Gentleman in our discussions on the Amendments that have been considered on this Clause.
The other two points I wish to raise are these, and they are of some importance. This, of course, is an enabling Bill. It enables the Minister to resort to regulations. We understand at present that the position will be that under the Clause a student will be entitled to an award if he obtains two A levels and if he is admitted to a university. What concerns many of us is what, in fact, is going to be the qualification to gain admission to a university.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) was talking about training colleges and the high qualification which is now required for many of the training colleges. Many training colleges now require two A levels. I think we should get something further from the right hon. Gentleman on the discretion now to be exercised by the universities. Obviously there will be a large number of applicants who satisfy the basic qualification of two A levels, but what is to be done within the universities to guide the discretion they exercise over this wide range of applicants? This is something of considerable importance. We are concerned the whole time at the effect of the qualification for the universities upon school education.
There is a good deal of concern about this, because of the requirements which may be demanded from some universities. I do not think we can just leave this as an improvement. We all recognise that it is an improvement, but we want something more from the right hon. Gentleman as to the shape this is likely to take in the next few years when there will be this intense pressure upon universities by people who will patently and overtly qualify for university education by the fact that they have gained two A levels at school. Will this question be referred to the Advisory Committee? Will there be continuous review of the qualifications which are actually to be demanded from particular and different universities?
The third and final question I put to the right hon. Gentleman is this. It is not within the legislation but it will be effected by regulation. The right hon. Gentleman—and he had every right to do so—said that he does not accept at the moment the majority Report. He hopes that in due course he may be in a position to do so. Is this question left merely to be resolved by the annual tug of war between the Treasury and the Department, or could we have this referred perhaps for advice to the Advisory Committee?
Those are the three points which I put. I concede the difficulties about the last one, but at the same time in discussion on the Bill in the House and in Committee the articulate opinion was expressed that it would have been far better to have accepted the majority Report of the Anderson Committee. I think that this is something upon which the right hon. Gentleman might endeavour to reinforce his own position by seeking support outside. These are three questions which arise on the subsection we sought to amend. In a sense, they arise out of the discussion in Committee on those Amendments. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to help us.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for putting his three questions in his clear and brief manner. The other institutions are those where the course is something which is really of the same kind of level as one gets in a university, but is in fact given in a specialised institution. Music and art are two obvious examples. I think that the whole Committee would wish that students who are going to take these courses in the Royal College of Music or the Royal Academy of Arts—institutions of that level—should be treated as though they were at universities. We shall have to look carefully at this, and of course we shall have to publish a list of other institutions which qualify under this Clause.
The hon. Gentleman asked me what happens about students admitted to such courses who have not got two A levels. Will any of them by eligible for the grant? I think it is pretty clear—in relation, for example, to an art student, a young man or girl who has got great artistic talent but not two A levels. Will any of them be eligible for case like that we should not wish to stand by the two A levels, and special arrangements will have to be made.
We would all feel that in an institution of university level the willingness of the academic staff to accept a student—in the case of a student of music or art—goes to show that the student is worth giving the course to. I do not want to see everything written down in the regulations. I should have thought a certain amount of discretion was in the best interests of our young people.
The third question was a fairly important one: what hopes are there of abolishing the means test? Hon. Members know that as a matter of principle I would prefer to see no means test, but as a matter of practical finance at this moment, as I have explained before, the £8 million—£10 million—I do not know the exact figure; it depends on the number of students and how the new means test works out—which the Bill will cost per year seems to us, having regard to the very large number of families which will be excluded altogether as a result of the Bill—at least 10,000—about as far as we can go.
Hon. Members who have studied the relaxed means test will agree that it is a very great improvement on what we have had before. We should like to go the whole way, but we cannot. Also, this is not a question which could be remitted to the Advisory Committee because it is manifestly part and parcel of the financing of the education service. We have a great many demands to improve the education service in different places. I say that none is more urgent than expanding our universities, and in this field that would come first. But let us hope that our affairs as a nation go well enough, within not too long a time, so that we may be able to propose to the House of Commons that we abandon the means test.
Could the right hon. Gentleman be a little more specific about comparable courses? He mentioned music and art. All would think of the Royal Academy. But are there not any other professional qualifications? We were discussing earlier, though in a slightly different context, part-time aspects. I believe that there are professional qualifications which are normally considered to be equivalent in standing to degrees. I wonder how much discretion will be exercised in dealing with architecture, for example. There are also some other qualifications in the scientific world. There is a fellowship qualification in chemistry, for instance. There is certainly a chemistry qualification which is normally considered to be of degree standard although it is not a degree. No doubt there are others. Can we be assured that if students make application for courses which would lead to that kind of qualification the regulations will be broad enough to include them?
I can assure the hon. Lady that we are taking the best expert advice in order to establish a list of the comparable courses which will satisfy the students concerned. It is our intention to get a comprehensive list of courses of degree comparability.
I wish to put a short question to the right hon. Gentleman. The qualification which compels a local authority to make a grant is, I understand, a minimum of two A levels plus acceptance by a university. What is the position of the pupil who has two or more A levels but does not find a university willing to accept him?
I confess readily to inexperience in dealing with a Bill at this stage, so that if I find myself out of order, Sir William, I shall immediately accept your Ruling. Here we have a Bill which is applicable to Scotland. So far, we have heard talk about A levels and things that we in Scotland do not in any way recognise and which do not form the basis of admission to universities. Scotland is being dragged at the coat tails of England in this matter. Why should we have—am I getting out of order, Sir William?
On a point of order. The rubric of the Clause is as follows:
Local education authority awards for first degree university courses and comparable courses in United Kingdom.
Surely, it is in order for my hon. Friend to bring in the most important part of the United Kingdom?
I should like to ask a question concerning the University of Wales and the degree a bachelor of divinity. It is normally a first degree course, but in Wales a person cannot take a B.D. course or sit for a B.D. degree unless he has his B.A. degree. I think I am right in saying that the B.D. course is in some respects a first degree course, although it follows another first degree. I know that this sounds rather Irish, but I should like a ruling from the Minister about it. In essence, it is a first degree course. Would it qualify for grant?
I know that the standards are very high in Wales. The hon. Member will appreciate that a student could not be allowed automatically to get one degree, then another, and then another again, and live on awards for a long time. We are ready to look at the kind of case that the hon. Member has raised and we will come to a decision about it when we publish our list. I recognise that there are certain degrees in theology which follow on, as it were, from another degree. We have that in mind and we will consider it.
I rise simply because I must express my fears about the Clause and the effect it may well have eventually in Scotland. We are in the position in Scotland that the people in charge of Scotland went to English schools. The only old school tie the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland can sport is an Eton one. The Secretary of State sports a Winchester one. The only knowledge they have of Scottish schools is what they gain when they are invited to visit them.
Over the years we have seen Scottish education coming down to the English level. Although the Clause does not apply to Scotland, when they reach the ultimate and are right down to the English level this is what we shall be faced with. The more I listen to hon. Members opposite, who are obviously in close touch with the profession, the more I become alarmed at what might well happen in Scotland. We hear so much talk of wider horizons in education. Then I read the Bill. Clause 1 (2) says:
This section shall apply to such full-time courses at universities, colleges or other institutions in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
There is no educational institution outside these islands which is worth visiting. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that for a long time there has been a considerable interchange of students from Scotland to the Continent. Under Scottish rules and regulations we pay them bursaries. This is the English standard.
I sincerely hope that the Minister will try to justify this limitation. He must do so before I can see my way clear to allowing it to go through without another two or three speeches.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will help me about a case which, although imaginary, may have some foundation. I am thinking of a boy or girl who leaves school at 16 with no Advanced level pass. He—I will say "he"—enters industry and obtains the National or Higher National Diploma. He is then fortunate enough to obtain a place at London University. He does one year at the London University and obtains his D.I.P.
It is the Diploma of the Imperial College of Technology in London, which qualifies the holder to attend a university other than London University. There is a sense of snobbery in London and, although the governors of the university allow the boy to attend for the first year, they may say that he cannot attend for the further two years and obtain his science degree, or whatever it may be. At the end of the twelve months the boy can take a degree course at a provincial university. Manchester is an instance, which has a very high standard. Because the governors of the University of London want to maintain what they call a standard, they may make the boy go away from London to obtain a science degree.
I wonder what will happen to the boy who has to go to Manchester or another university for this purpose for a further two years. He is attached to industry. He may want to go for the Ph.D., but he may have difficulty in obtaining permission from the industry to take a further year's course at the university. What would happen if, regardless of the refusal of permission by the industry, the boy or girl decided to take a course for the Ph.D. at a university? Would that boy or girl qualify for a grant from any education authority? The student might be at London University or a provincial university or—I hesitate to say this—even a Scottish university.
I do not want to rouse my hon. Friend's ire.
The student's parents may have moved and they may be in a new authority area. Would the student qualify for a grant from a local authority?
That case has nothing to do with the Clause, but, even so, I feel that the hon. Member should nave his answer. Everybody is agreed that we want more scientists and technologists, and therefore if such a case occurred I have every confidence that if the person applied to his local authority, assuming that it was in England and Wales, for I cannot speak for Scotland—
—then that local authority, having the discretion to help him, would help him. If the hon. Member has a particular case in mind, although I have nothing to do with universities, I would help him if I could.
I apologise, Sir William, if I digressed. Unfortunately, I discovered that I was wearing my Scottish spectacles instead of my English spectacles. I have since rectified the position.
Following the Minister's answer, may I give a positive example? It is not precisely the same as that given by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) but it is a case which has occurred. Difficulties arose and the local authority refused to make the appropriate grant. A student took his first degree in medicine and was then anxious—
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but this is a debate on a Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I hoped that it would be a restricted debate, but it is getting very wide indeed.
I bow to your Ruling, Sir William, but are you indicating that I should not pursue this example, which has already been given? It might help the Minister if I gave a positive example, and it will take only a moment.
This man took his first degree in medicine and then decided to enter the public health service, for which purpose he required a diploma in public health. The local authority ruled that as he had received his award for the first degree in medicine, he was not entitled to an award for a qualification which was necessary for what he regarded as his proper sphere of activities. The Minister said that local authorities would look sympathetically at such cases, but I have personal knowledge of a case in which the authority refused to make that award.
Suppose that an individual switches from one course to another before completing his degree. Would that invalidate the award granted to him on his original choice of a degree-qualifying course?
The second part of that question appears to fall within the Clause, but the first part, not at all. As to the first example given, it is not a first-degree course, and it is with first-degree courses that the Clause deals. If a student says, "I have a first degree; I want to take another," it is discretionary to give him help or not, because we must see whether or not he is abusing the public funds.
In the second instance, it is a fact that from time to time students change their course of studies in the middle of their university career, There, I am confident that the local authority will take the university's advice. If the university says, "This man made a mistake; he started on one course, but it would be better for him to do another, and we are prepared to teach him in the second subject," I cannot but believe that the local authority would continue the grant.
Subsection (2) states:
… and for the purposes of the preceding subsection the requisite educational qualifications, in relation to any course, shall be such as may be prescribed by or under the regulations, either generally or with respect to that course or class of courses which includes that course.
I have been wrestling very hard to get some common sense meaning into those words. We have to compliment the Parliamentary draftsmen on many occasions, but this time I cannot be very complimentary.
If those words mean what the average layman would probably think they mean, perhaps the Minister will explain one very important point. The subsection speaks of the prescription of qualifications, but we know that there are in England students with the requisite qualifications who are not being admitted to university simply because there is no room for them. As a result, I regret to say that they are now entering Glasgow University at the expense of Scottish students. If I were not a bit of an internationalist I might have something to say about that.
The present position is that the Scottish universities are full up, and so are those in England and Northern Ireland. Are students with the requisite qualifications to be left without a university, or, if they are admitted say, to Dublin University, will they get the bursary award? If they will not, what is to become of the potential technologists and intellectuals, and the men of medicine, art, and so on? Our most important capital is not financial capital but human capital. If the universities
I do not believe that the Committee would ever wish it to be the case that academic qualifications alone should entitle any student to go to university. We all value the academic freedom of university staffs and there are certainly other qualifications—of character, and so on—which should be considered when admitting any man or woman to university.
This subsection merely says that in the regulations we shall lay down the minimum academic qualifications. That will be one of the two tests which a student must pass. There will be students with two A levels who do not get offered a place in a university. We all know that. They can, under the Clause, go to Queen's University, Belfast, as a matter of right because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Under another Clause they may be assisted to go to a university in Dublin, but not as of right.
I can only tell hon. Gentlemen that, in my view—and I should have thought in the opinion of the whole Committee—one would always require the double qualification to go to a university: the minimum academic standard and the fact that the university itself wishes to take the student.
This is pursuant to a point I put to the right hon. Gentleman earlier and it is a matter of critical importance. The right hon. Gentleman refers to interviews. This is most distressing, because we have evidence to prove that nothing is more misleading than the interview. Considerable research has been carried out into this matter, for not only is this an extremely difficult problem but it will become increasingly difficult in the next few years.
Do I see the Minister shaking his head in disagreement? We have had inquiries into this and we can trace the academic records of people who have passed the interviews. This is most important. One does not want to minimise the importance of the interview, but advice tendered so far reveals that the most misleading of the tests is the interview. Thus it is no good the Minister falling back on those remarks about it being right that the universities should hold their interviews.
The second difficulty is that the individual universities—and, in some cases, the individual colleges—hold interviews and there is often a great difference between the effectiveness of those interviews. Because of this the universities are driven to devise for themselves different criteria. The difficulty is that in the next few years there will be enormously more people with two A levels than the universities can accommodate. All these people will properly feel that they have the right to go to university. There will not be places for them and there will be intense feeling about this—the sort of feelings that have been expressed in the past about the II-plus examination.
It is because we cannot discuss these questions when we debate the regulations—because we cannot amend them—that we now ask the Minister what he is doing about this problem. Everyone is concerned about it and that concern is shared as much by the universities as it is by the Ministry and local authorities.
The Minister says that he is providing the basic qualification of the two A levels. The trouble is that this will not be an effective qualification for selection, because there will be four or five people with two A levels for each place. The right hon. Gentleman then says nonchalantly, "But there will be the interview". But we now have the position where the interview is the most misleading test and is not an effective guide. What is to be done? This is a crucial question for the right hon. Gentleman. He cannot leave this to the universities. What the universities do affects what the schools do. Because the universities are in this difficulty, the whole of our educational system is in danger of being adversely affected.
What if certain universities or colleges were to say, "We will rely not upon two A levels but upon our own entrance examination "? We should then have a disparity between the schools throughout the country. Some would equip themselves specially for this entrance examination and others would not do so. Those which equipped themselves would have to condition their education for this purpose, which would be quite wrong.
Suppose that some universities were to say, as they are doing, "We do not need two A levels; we need three A levels." This would go against the national policy, because if we got a requirement for three A levels we should get a different form of education in the sixth forms. This is the crucial question about sixth form education. This is the whole burden of the Crowther Committee's Report. To what depth are we going in subject education? We can go only to the depth which the right hon. Gentleman believes is right if we take two A levels. If we take three A levels we do not pursue these subjects to sufficient depth. It is critical to grammar and secondary education that we should have a decision about this.
I do not concern myself particularly with what universities do, but suppose that some of the science faculties were to say, "We will not worry about three A levels; we will look to the degree of attainment in one single subject." Suppose the chemistry faculty were to say, "We will get the top people in chemistry." This is against the Crowther Committee's Report and against the objectives of the right hon. Gentleman. What is he going to do about it? It is his responsibility. He began by saying that there is a general requirement for two A levels. If we have this specialisation we get the whole abandonment of the Crowther Report which recommended the combination of numeracy with literacy.
We must face this problem in which we have to bring together the universities and the schools. It is not sufficient to say in a nonchalent and offhand manner, "We are not going to interfere with academic freedom." If we leave this entirely to certain universities and colleges, they will be interfering with educational freedom because they condition what is done in the schools. Everyone is aware of the problem. Everyone is awaiting a lead. It is the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman to devise some way of bringing together those concerned with sixth form education in the schools, those concerned with school education and those concerned with university education.
We know now that we cannot stop here, because we have to consider the broad field of further education. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is waiting for Robbins. We cannot. We have got the problem with us, and in the next two or three years it will be aggravated markedly. There will be considerable concern and anxiety about the problem. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, now that we have got this opportunity of raising this point, to give us more assurance than he has given so far.
I think the hon. Gentleman knows that with regard to specialisation in the sixth forms, conversations are now going on, with our encouragement, between universities, vice-chancellors and the schools.
I hope that that will assist in smoothing out some of the difficulties of specialisation, but it will not prevent the fact that there will be more applicants for places in universities than there will be places.
The hon. Gentleman says that we cannot leave that to the universities. I tell him that we on this side of the Committee would rather have the universities than anybody else judge who is a good student to take.
The right hon. Gentleman is aware of the figures in the Crowther Report which indicate that only 2 per cent. of the students at the older universities were found to be the children of semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Whilst the Committee will recognise that talent is not limited to those whose parents come in other categories, does the Minister feel that he has no obligation, in view of what he said about the interviews, to try to alter the present balance?
I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that it is not so much the interview. As his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, most of these universities are looking at the marks at A level. It is that which causes the difficulty of specialisation, and it is that at which we are looking. The Committee can be assured that this is a problem which the university heads and the schools now realise is serious, and that they are trying to do something about it.
The right hon. Gentleman is not going to get away with his offensive remark, "We on this side of the Committee believe that the universities are the best judges", and thereby create the impression that we on the Opposition side of the Committee are intending to interfere with academic freedom. This is not the problem. If he does not know, this is a matter which has been inquired into by committees set up by his Department, which shows that he regards this as a matter within his survey.
What we are concerned with is how we provide that the universities will be properly equipped to make their choice, and what guidance we give them in the criteria they apply. This is the critical question.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the new grading for A level. He talked about academic independence. These recommendations are being made for this specific purpose. It is he who is interfering. He is telling the universities that they ought not to ask for the actual marks. Does he deny that? He has done it.
We appreciate the concern about this, and we appreciate, too, that this will be a difficult problem in the next few years. We do not think that the present steps are adequate. We know the concern shown by vice-chancellors, and we think that this is a matter on which he ought, for a change, to give leadership.
What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do? He says, and we concede this, that some steps are being taken. What we are anxious to be informed about is that further steps will be taken before we get a fragmentation of the different qualifications that will be required for this difficult selection which will determine the future of a large proportion of young people who have attained the qualifications which entitle them to go to university but for whom no places are available.
I doubt whether we can pursue this any further. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to think seriously about this and not hide behind clichés about "we on this side of the Committee" as he did yesterday when we talked about the London County Council. We want intelligence devoted to this question, and some help and assistance given to people who are worried about the responsibility being placed on them for the discharge of these obligations.
I beg to move,
That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
We have reached the stage in our discussions when it is important for those of us who have the concern of the staff in mind to know the intention of the right hon. Gentleman. We are quite prepared, if it is the Minister's intention, to remain here through the night and to discuss in the small hours matters of vital concern to young people, but we feel that the Government should now indicate their intentions and if necessary we can pursue a debate on what they tell us they intend to do. If we leave such discussion until later it can cause grave inconvenience to those who look after the affairs of the House of Commons. I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman to inform us now of his intentions.
We ought to make a little more progress. This is an important Bill. If we do not get it, this will cause great difficulty in including in the general grant for this year the sums required. It is in the interest of young people that we should get the Bill in time, for that purpose. If we do not, the local authorities will not know exactly where they are. I should have thought that if we made a little more progress tonight—
Let us make a little further progress. This is not a political Bill. It is a Bill needed for the young people and, if I may respectfully say so to the Committee, I do not think that it is is good for the House of Commons not to go on with a Bill which is wanted and which has practically no politics in it at all.
I wish to support the Motion not only for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) but also for other compelling reasons that apply particularly to Scotland. The Minister said in an offhand manner that he saw Scottish Members present who would wish to deal with the Bill. It is disgraceful that by almost 11.30 p.m. we have not even started on any Amendments dealing with the Scottish part of the Bill.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is well aware of the number of Scottish Bills that have been considered in Committee upstairs. He knows that because of our having to man those Committees there was an occasion when there was only one Scottish Member from the Opposition present during the Committee stage of this Bill and—making no contribution at all—only one Scottish Member on the Government side.
Examination will show that out of thirty hours of Standing Committee Sittings on this Bill, only one hour was given to discussion of the very important Scottish part of it. It was not the Opposition's fault that it was so. The blame lies with the way in which the Government have planned the business for this Session. We object strongly that we have not had a chance worth mentioning of discussing the Scottish provisions in the Bill and that at 11.30 p.m. we should be asked by an English Minister of Education to continue the debate. Scottish people deserve better than that, and we object very strongly to these matters coming up in the House of Commons at this very late hour.
I support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). This is a disgraceful manner in which to treat Scottish business. We shall reach the Scottish Amendments at 3 o'clock in the morning, or thereabouts.
It might be six. I am being optimistic. I am more than surprised that Scottish Ministers should tolerate for a moment that the business of their Department should be dealt with in this way. The Under-Secretary of State smiles. This is not a smiling matter. In the first place, of course, the Under-Secretary of State should never have had these provisions put into an English Bill. We ought to have had a separate Bill for Scotland so that we could have discussed it with our customary thoroughness. I have no doubt that, as a result of our dealing with it in that manner, we should have had a better Bill than the English, since that also is customary.
I cannot understand the Government's argument. They mismanage their business so badly that they cannot get the provisions they say are so desirable. We do not deny the desirability of these provisions, but that does not excuse the mismanagement of a Government who are so incompetent in their handling of the House that these matters do not come before us until this hour of the night. English Members can speak for themselves, but I am bound to say that we from Scotland cannot tolerate such treatment.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) is not in his place on the Government benches. He commented the other day that Scottish Opposition Members looked rather pale. Of course, if we have to stay up night after night because of the incompetence of the Government, while he is sleeping in his bed, what does he expect? All consideration of these matters and attempts at improvement are left to the Opposition. We never hear anything from Scottish Tory Members. It is asking too much to demand that we sit up night after night and then devote the mornings also to the numerous Committees on which Scottish Members serve.
Most Scottish Members on this side of the Committee do a fourteen-hour day in the House of Commons, day after day, from ten in the morning until eleven or midnight at night. We do not do it on just one day of the week, or occasionally, like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who makes so much noise when he is here that everyone thinks he is always here. Scottish Members are here for fourteen hours every day during the week, with the exception of Fridays, and quite a number of them are here on Fridays.
They have the same place to go to as the hon. Member has, but they come here to try to serve the interests of their Scottish constituents. It is a very difficult fight to get justice for Scotland out of an English Parliament, and the manner in which this Parliament is behaving provides all the argument in the world for our meeting up in Edinburgh—
—where we could deal with these matters in the right way at a sensible hour. I am really serious about this. Of course, it has its lighter side and I do not object to the humorous touch, but fourteen hours a day in the House of Commons is enough for anyone. To expect us at the end of fourteen hours to start considering with any thoroughness at all the provisions concerning Scotland is really asking too much.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, and to the Scottish Ministers, who ought to have some sympathy with our plea—they know it is true—that this is not the way in which we ought to conduct our business. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite conduct their private businesses in this manner? Of course not.
I ask the Government to treat this matter seriously. It would not make a great deal of difference if they gave us another half day and said that tonight they would be satisfied with Clause 1 or Clause 2. But to suggest that we should carry on without putting any limit on the debate is not good enough. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us what he has in mind, whether he intends to get Clause 2 or Clause 3, or whether he intends to go on until we reach the Scottish part of the Bill. Are we to have a sleepy-headed Under-Secretary of State trying to provide answers at 5 a.m. to questions put by Scottish hon. Members on this side of the Committee? Is that the intention of the Government? If so, I think that it is something that we should protest against, and I am surprised that Scottish Tory Members tolerate this state of affairs.
I do not know where they are, but I am surprised that they tolerate such a state of affairs in so spineless a manner.
It is a disgraceful way in which to treat the Committee and, above all, in which to treat Scotland. It would not be so bad if this sort of thing happened to Scotland only occasionally, but it happens time after time. We find Scottish business coming up for discussion at 11 or 12 o'clock at night or even in the early hours of the morning.
As I have said, I ask the Minister to treat this matter quite seriously and to give us a clearer idea than he has up till now of how far he intends to go. Up to the present he has not said how far he wants to get with the Bill tonight. I suggest that at least he should not attempt to reach the Scottish provisions in the Bill tonight.
May I try to make a practical suggestion concerning how we could reach accommodation on this matter? There are, in fact, no Amendments selected on Clause 2. We could then proceed to Clause 3 on which the Minister has down a proposed Amendment which is, in effect, the same as the Amendment which we have on the Order Paper. It is just a matter of phraseology. There need, therefore, be very little discussion on that, as far as I can judge. We appear to be in general accord on it, and if we could get that tidied up properly tonight—and we could do it very briefly, I think—we could then all go home.
We have had a very trying day. We had a very long interruption of business by a Private Member's Bill, we had a Royal Commission and then three hours on a Private Member's Motion. This is not the normal procedure when we are trying to deal with this stage of a very important Bill. We should make better progress if we got the next Amendment—which we could do quite rapidly—and then paid some attention to the pleas of the Scottish Members.
We had very little discussion on Scotland in Committee owing to the circumstances which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) described. There was only one hon. Member in that Committee representing a Scottish constituency, and he had to take the Chair half way through the proceedings.
I therefore suggest that it would be very reasonable to take on another occasion the Scottish Clauses of this Bill, which is very important for Scottish Education. A number of Clauses deal exclusively with Scotland. It would be reasonable to take them on another occasion and see they have some proper consideration.
We are quite prepared to go on with the Bill, but what the hon. Lady suggested seemed to me sensible. We could tidy up with the next Amendment and then get on to the Scottish Clauses. I should be ready to postpone further discussion if, while we were dealing with the next Amendment, it would be possible through the usual channels to arrange about completion of the Bill, if we could find more time. I think that the Committee should help me about this. This is a very important Bill for young people. What I cannot do is to ask the Committee to desist from discussing it tonight unless I have, through my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, some assurance that we shall get the Bill on the next occasion that we discuss it. May I make that proposition, if it meets with approval, that while we are dealing with Clause 3, discussions take place through the usual channels?
We have had some very mild speeches from my hon. Friends on the Front Bench—including my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). We have to appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East at half-past ten tomorrow morning has to get himself into the Sea Fish Industry Bill Committee and, at the same time, the Scottish Committee on the Housing (Scotland) Bill. I do not know how many English Members are to be in Committee tomorrow at half-past ten.
I wish that when he speaks the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) would take his moustache out of his pocket.
The Minister should bear in mind that, though the Scotsmen can sit late into the night, we do not relish it, and that it would be the worst of all bargains if we did stay here to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to reach the Scottish Clauses and then the Minister suddenly realised what was happening and decided to go on no further. It would mean that the Scots would have stayed here since half-past three, as we have, taking an interest in the discussions on the English matters—[Interruption.] I do not know people more in need of education and attention to Education Bills than hon. Members opposite who sit there muttering and declaring their ignorance—certainly in one particular case, belying his name.
This is a very serious matter, indeed I think it is most unfair, especially in the circumstances in which this Bill, so far as it affects Scotland, has been discussed, that we should be expected to do that, to go on to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to discuss matters which the right hon. Gentleman himself says are very important. How is their importance being judged? I hope not by their being taken at 3 o'clock in the morning. We must bear in mind that there has been practically no Scottish discussion of this Bill in Committee.
—because he has a vested interest in education in Scotland. But do not ask me what it is.
The fact is that the way the subject has been handled so far as Scotland is concerned is deplorable. We ought to have had a Scottish Bill. The provisions in the Bill are turned right upside down in respect of England and Scotland. In England bursary scholarships are to be dealt with by local authorities. In Scotland they are to be dealt with by the central authority—the other way round—whereas hitherto they have been dealt with by the local authorities.
This is an important change, and it carries important implications that we should not be discussing at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I sincerely hope that the Minister of Education will realise the importance of this to us. We like to do a fairly good job in the Committee work of the House. That is why we shall be at our Committee at half-past ten in the morning—to discuss Scottish housing; and when I say "discuss it", I mean discuss it—not like the Scottish Tories, not one of whom has opened his mouth in six sittings unless he has been in need of fresh air.
The offer made by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) is perfectly reasonable, and I should have thought that the Minister would have been glad to get rid of the Scots. All he need say is that he will not take the Scottish Amendments tonight, and the Scots will disappear. I know this savours of bribery, but there is his opportunity. If not, I am afraid that we shall be here, and we shall exercise our right to debate each Clause and each Amendment as they come before us.
I address my remarks through you, Sir Robert, to the Minister and the Government Chief Whip. Those of us who are sincerely interested in the Bill appeal to them to accept the proposition made by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White).
I hope that my intervention will not be looked upon as adding further to the debate. It is a sincere attempt in a couple of minutes to add my support to the proposition. I hope that when my hon. Friend makes her final proposition the Minister will accept that the Scottish Clauses should not be discussed tonight. They have far-reaching implications for the people and children of Scotland. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite below the Gangway will be quiet for a moment, perhaps I might point out that we take this business extremely seriously. I appeal to the Minister and the Chief Whip to agree that consideration of the Scottish Clauses should not be started tonight but should be postponed.
On a point of order, Sir Robert. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) to persist in making interruptions, while sitting down, in a voice which is, unfortunately, audible?
May I make my position clear? I am relying upon the protection of the Chair. It is not fair to expect an hon. Member to address the Committee and be subjected to these repeated interruptions made from a sedentary position. I understand that it is against the rules of order and I appeal that they be enforced.
I was merely trying to convey that any of us who have been here for any length of time know that some of the gayest moments are when remarks are made across the Floor. I agree that, strictly speaking, they are out of order?
I have since learned that the Opposition Chief Whip is absent this evening because of a family bereavement. I humbly apologise and withdraw at once. I understand also that the Opposition deputy Chief Whip is in hospital with a coronary. I apologise. Perhaps the Opposition deputy-deputy Chief Whip, or his deputy or another Whip, could come and represent their interests.
If we are to have a good spirit in the House and in Committee, the Leader of the House should be here. We have been discussing this matter for some time. We are in difficulty if we are to discuss this Motion, which might have been anticipated, with the Leader of the House continually absent. The right hon. Gentleman and others of us were concerned in the debate of the previous two days, but that is not an excuse for his not being present at this time of the evening when a matter like this is being discussed.
To restore good feeling, the Leader of the House must be serious in discharging his duties. I hope that the Patronage Secretary, therefore, will convey as quickly as possible the necessity for the Leader of the House to be here whilst we pursue a discussion affecting the convenience of the House and Committee. I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. We know well that decisions like this are taken by the Government on the advice of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a discourtesy to the House of Commons that we have been pursuing this discussion for some time without his advice.
We are not prepared to discuss this through the usual channels, because we have objected strongly to the way in which the Government have enforced their will on the House and Committee. They have resorted to the Guillotine against the representations of the Opposition. Now, when the Government are in difficulty, they say, "Let us discuss the matter and agree a timetable." They would not agree the other matter.
It is for the Leader of the House to decide in the light of the circumstances how he will facilitate and expedite consideration of the Bill. It has not been unduly held up by discussion by Opposition Members. As has been said, the Scottish Members were exceptionally diffident in our discussion in Standing Committee, but in spite of this, the Bill was in Standing Committee for twelve Sittings. The Closure was never moved or suggested. Everyone in Standing Committee recognised that we were having as effective, constructive and expeditious discussion as we could have on the matters arising under the Bill.
It is preposterous to expect to dispose of Recommittal, Report and Third Reading before 7 o'clock. It is equally preposterous to pursue debate of these matters of concern after 10 o'clock. No one would reflect on the selection made by the Chair, but the Chair made a selection of ten groups of Amendments. How could those have been discussed before 7 o'clock? We were then expected by the Government to get on to the Third Reading debate after 10 o'clock. This Bill is very important, and considerable interest has been shown in it.
It is even worse. We have had every provocation. We had the clowning of the Attorney-General, which lost us about an hour. We were then interrupted by the Royal Commission. Then Private Members' Motions intervened at 7 o'clock. The burden of the discussion is related to the Amendments taken by my hon. Friends from Scotland. The position in Committee was exceptional. This is a matter we must reconsider. Because of the small Standing Committees which are now the rule, we had only one Scottish spokesman on our side of the Committee. He was selected to take the Chair in the Scottish Standing Committee. He obliged the Government by doing so. We were left to consider Clauses affecting Scotland without a spokesman from Scotland on our side. In these circumstances, Scottish Members rightly expected that there would be thorough discussion of the matters they raised on recommittal and Report.
Who is being unreasonable? It is nearly midnight. Are the Government going to pursue the discussions? If they want good will to prevail, they should show their sincerity by agreeing that the proceedings by adjourned forthwith. Alternatively, we will dispose of the next Amendment, which affects England and Wales, and resume our discussions on another day with the first Scottish Amendment. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now agree to adjourn while he still has time to meet the convenience of the officials and servants of the House of Commons.