Mr. Edward M. Taylor:
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the present legislation relating to the giving of religious instruction in Scottish schools; and if he will make a statement.
The present legislation embodies the long-standing principle that religious instruction should be provided in accordance with local wishes for pupils whose parents do not object and that there should be no control or direction by the Secretary of State. A wide measure of agreement among the educational and religious bodies concerned and the general public would be necessary before any amendment could be considered.
While I appreciate that reply, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would agree that the nature of the law in Scotland is such that the inspectorate cannot either examine or inspect the teaching of this subject in any way and that, in consequence, there is great variety of practice? Is it not time to look again at this, since the circumstances which caused the law in its present form have changed considerably and the Church of Scotland and other Churches are quite worried about the variations in practice?
The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the nature of the law in Scotland is related to a long history of education and the Church. We would be most unwise and foolish if we rushed to change it without bearing in mind the feelings of the general public. The hon. Gentleman should not make generalisations about the state of religious education in Scottish schools.