Skip to main content

New Clause 3

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Punishment Policy

'Before the coming into force of this Act all local education authorities in England and Wales shall discuss their policy on school punishments, and issue local guidelines to all governing bodies in their area, who shall then arrange for their schools to discuss the guidelines, and prepare a report for the governors, who shall then decide the punishment policy for that school.'. —[Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to take the following amemdments: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 6 leave out subsection (1) and insert—

'(1) Where in any civil or criminal proceedings it is shown that corporal punishment has been given to a pupil by or on the authority of a member of the staff, giving the punishment cannot be justified on the ground that it was done in pursuance of a right exercisable by the member of the staff by virtue of his position as such.'.
No. 17, in page 3, line 20, leave out clause 2.

No. 21, in clause 3, page 4, line 8, leave out subsections (1) to (4).

No 27, in page 4, line 37, leave out, 'This and'.

No. 30, in clause 4, page 5, line 7, leave out from '48A' to end of line 18 and insert—
'(1) Where in any civil or criminal proceedings it is shown that corporal punishment has been given to a pupil by or on the authority of a member of the staff, the giving of the punishment cannot be justified on the ground that it was done in pursuance of a right exercisable by a member of staff by virtue of his position as such.'.
No. 42, in page 7, leave out lines 1 to 38.

No. 43, in page 7, leave out from line 39 to line 11 on page 8.

I hope that new clause 3 will be acceptable to the House.

I should like to begin by talking to amendments Nos. 1, 17, 21, 27, 30, 42 and 43. Taken together, the amendments set out the view of the Opposition, which is that we should have an abolition Bill rather than this half measure that the Government are putting forward. Although we put it on the record clearly on Second Reading and in Committee that we would have preferred an abolition Bill, it is worth repeating, to make it absolutely clear, that on a matter of principle we think that corporal punishment should be abolished in all our schools. It is now perfectly possible for the Government to do so.

Corporal punishment is a barbaric practice. When so many people go out of their way to express their horror at the violence in our society, and argue that they want to do all that they can to reduce violence, it is amazing that they still believe that by bringing violence into the classroom we can give people good examples that will not lead to violence later. The more one encourages the use of violence in education, the more likely one is to create a society in which people think that violence can, on occasions, be justified.

Therefore, I would have much preferred the Government to come forward with a clear statement of principle that they believe that, in education, corporal punishment in any of its forms is totally unnecessary. Going round the country, I find it attractive that the vast majority of good schools have managed to phase out corporal punishment altogether. I have been amazed to find that, even when I have gone to areas where authorities have abolished corporal punishment and some teachers had reservations when abolition was announced, in almost every instance the teachers have come to accept that. If one looks at the amount of school violence, one sees that there seems to be a strong correlation between the decline of violence among pupils and the abolition of corporal punishment. Therefore, I hoped very much that, even at this late stage, the Government would turn this Bill into a straightforward abolition Bill.

If the Government will not go along the lines of abolition as a matter of principle, I argue strongly that they should look at the problems of the costs involved in the legislation and the creation of a substantial bureaucracy, which will be resented by many schools. Many schools will probably interpret the Bill as an abolition Bill. When one goes round schools, one finds that almost all are under pressure from cuts of one sort or another. Many local authorities seem to feel that rather than cut teaching staff, it is easier to cut back on the hours of the school secretary or people involved in administration. Sometimes those cuts are ill-advised because it means that teachers and heads end up doing more administration and less teaching and doing what they are most skilled at. It is a false economy to cut in that area. My impression is that most schools are hard pressed for secretarial assistance. Even in a primary school, having to send all the letters—

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why the Labour party, when in government, did not abolish corporal punishment in schools? The European convention on human rights has been with us for a long time. Furthermore, will he explain why the Labour chairman of Mid-Glamorgan education committee described the campaigners for abolition as

"just not living in the real world."
That quotation comes from The Times of 10 January 1984.

I am well aware of the views of the chairman of Mid-Glamorgan local authority. I see that the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), is saying that he is a very good man.

Questions of local democracy are involved. There are problems in persuading all those who support the Labour party that the views that I am expressing are the right ones. However, I believe that if people stop and look at all the evidence, on the whole they come round to the abolition point of view. I have made it clear to the House that when I was a teacher, in one of the first schools that I worked in I was involved in using corporal punishment. I very much regret it. It was a measure of some of the problems that we used to face in schools. If one is faced with a class of 42 pupils or more, treating each one as an individual and being prepared to look at the problems of each individual is extremely difficult. It is also difficult if the school structure is not good. However, if class sizes are made much smaller and we work at creating an atmosphere of discipline in the school, which is good and supportive of new teachers who are in their probationary period, it is perfectly possible to run a good school without resort to corporal punishment.

I am not giving way.

In Europe, there has never been any question of corporal punishment in many schools, and no one has suggested that there is a need for it. I argue strongly that there is a good case for us being able to abolish it. With regard to what the Labour Government did or did not do, there is a whole series of areas in which I should like to see education advance and in which I regret that more progress was not made during that period.

Based on experience in Committee, does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's position on corporal punishment has been so eroded by the nonsense of the Bill that abolition is now inevitably on the way and that the Government's last defensive stand is clearly just a gesture? Does my hon. Friend agree that both sides of the House, the entire educational world and most of the electorate realise that the major step has been taken and that the principle that we espouse is bound to win in the end?

6.30 pm

Yes, I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

If the Government will not go for abolition as a matter of principle, they should consider the costs involved in the scheme and the extra burden on school administration. As the Minister knows, most school secretaries are under considerable pressure. Due to cuts in supplies of books and other materials there is increasing pressure to have such materials duplicated or photocopied in the school, which places an increasing burden on secretaries and administration. There is also an increasing demand for statistical information, for which Parliament is sometimes to blame.

The combination of cuts and extra duties has placed ever-increasing burdens on school administration in recent years and the Government's scheme will exacerbate the situation. Letters will have to be sent to parents to ask for their views. A second set of letters will then have to be sent out and the register kept up to date. Moreover, it is important that all those tasks should be accurately carried out. In the past four weeks I have visited about 15 schools. In every case, whether or not the school already does without corporal punishment, the head took the view that the procedure in the Bill was unworkable and that the school would regard it as an abolition measure rather than try to administer such a scheme. I appreciate that it will be necessary to persuade the school governors, but that is the clear view of the head teachers.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the cost of the system proposed in the Bill. Is he aware that, according to a report in Teacher last year, Leeds city council estimated that alternatives to corporal punishment would cost it about £3 million and require the appointment of about 280 extra teachers?

The hon. Gentleman's figures are interesting, but he should consider what is obtained as a result. Whether caning children persuades them to be helpful, conforming pupils who will benefit from their education is quite another matter. I accept that setting up special units may be quite expensive, but they may also provide much better value for money. I am worried, however, that too much emphasis is being placed on corporal punishment and too little on school discipline in general.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the withdrawal units—often described as sanctuaries or sin bins—are an increasingly popular means of dealing with disruptive pupils and that in 1977 there were 239 such units in England with accommodation for 3,900 pupils? As the hon. Gentleman knows, the cost of such units is considerable. The units visited by Her Majesty's inspectorate dealt with 1,890 pupils at a cost of 235 full-time and 86 part-time teachers. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will comment on that.

Certainly some of the so-called sin bins are very expensive and some, I believe, are unnecessary.

That brings me nicely on to new clause 3. It is important to abolish corporal punishment, but it is even more important to have a useful debate on the whole subject of discipline. In that sense, I regret that the Government have introduced this Bill rather than a far more comprehensive measure on school discipline as a whole. I believe that far more attention should be devoted to that aspect. I hope that when local authorities and school governors consider this measure they will not spend all their time arguing about whether to have corporal punishment in their schools but will spend far more time discussing the code of discipline to be used in their schools.

I hope that the role of parents will also be considered in depth. Too often, schools expect parents to take the lead in maintaining discipline while parents expect the school to do so, when what is needed is co-operation. Neither should attempt to shrug off the responsibility or, to the other. Problems of discipline and behaviour should be discussed with parents at an early stage to secure cooperation between the parents and the school and, if possible, the pupil.

The Bill should provide an opportunity for all local authorities to review the whole question of the form of discipline acceptable in their schools. There should be full discussion in the schools as to the sanctions required. The local authority or the school governors will then make the policy decision.

The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) was worried about the cost of the so-called sin bins. In a sense, the extent to which local authorities use them, sometimes more than necessary, worries me less than the practice of some authorities in allowing governors to suspend pupils and to do very little about them thereafter. I referred in Committee to a child in my constituency who was suspended for a long period following incidents at school and in my view was not receiving any proper education during that period. Far too often pupils in their third or fourth year of secondary school are suspended for long periods during which they receive extremely inadequate education.

The hon. Gentleman said that this subject led him on nicely to new clause 3. Perhaps I may refer to the actual wording of the new clause rather than to the hon. Gentleman's comments. It states:

"Before the coming into force of this Act all local education authorities in England and Wales shall discuss their policy on school punishments, and issue local guidelines to all governing bodies in their area, who shall then arrange for their schools to discuss the guidelines, and prepare a report for the governors, who shall then decide the punishment policy for that school."
Nothing whatever is said about the criteria to be used in the guidelines, an omission which seems to me so fundamental as to make the new clause utterly meaningless. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will inform us of the criteria that he believes should be applied.

The hon. Gentleman said that he believed that corporal punishment should be abolished altogether, but I suggest—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going into detailed arguments that he might raise if called to speak in the debate.

I gave way to the hon. Member for Stafford somewhat generously, in the hope that if he dealt with some of the points in an intervention he would not wish to make a speech.

The Opposition believe in local democracy. We believe that, within some guidelines, local authorities should make up their own minds. We firmly believe that corporal punishment should be abolished, but we want local authorities to be allowed to make up their own minds.

Some local authorities have set up special units or sin bins. That is a matter for the local authorities. It is most important that each local authority and governing body should debate not just the merits and demerits of corporal punishment but the wider issues. The aim of the new clause is to suggest that there should be a thorough-going review of the punishment system and, in particular, of the whole issue of suspension—the circumstances in which suspension is resorted to, what the local authority does once a pupil has been suspended and what attempts are made to ensure that a youngster suspended from school is given a proper education.

The local authority should also consider the question of transferring pupils to special schools for the maladjusted. There is evidence that some children are pushed in that direction simply because a particular school finds them difficult to handle. The House spent much time debating the Education Act 1981, which dealt with special education. We all supported the principle of trying to integrate pupils with special educational needs into the mainstream schools. It is not good practice to exclude children from schools because of discipline problems, and we should try to create a system in which mainstream schools are given support so that they can continue to educate such children themselves.

I have talked to a teacher working in a withdrawal unit to which pupils are sent because they have been suspended. His brief was clear. It was to try to create an atmosphere in which children could be returned to mainstream schools as soon as possible. In practice, children at that unit do not return promptly to mainstream schools because they enjoy the education offered in the unit so much that they want to stay there. Why cannot similar conditions be created in mainstream schools, so that the youngster is happy to be taught in his own school rather than in a withdrawal unit?

There is evidence that some heads, especially in large comprehensive schools, run what are in fact withdrawal units within the school. That is another matter that the local authority should discuss. There should be a thorough-going review by all local authorities of the question of the proper policy, within that local authority, on discipline in schools. Such a review would be as important, in a sense, as this legislation—certainly in its present form.

Who has control over the final decision—the local authority or the school governors? It was disappointing to see that amendment No. 18 does not appear on the selection list, although I understand the reasons why it does not. I hope that it will be in order for me to deal briefly with the questions raised in that amendment, as they are also relevant to new clause 3.

The question is whether the Bill is neutral in terms of the relationship between the local authority and the school governors, whether it is rather more positive and removes from the local authority power to make a decision about corporal punishment and to make that decision stick, or whether it confers a decision-making power on the governors. The Minister insisted in Committee that the Bill is neutral and that it is not his intention to change the relationship between the local authority and the school governors. However, I have here a letter from Peter Wallington of the university of Lancaster's department of law, who suggests that the Bill is not neutral. I also have a letter from Stephen Sedley, QC, who makes a similar point.

6.45 pm

Clause 3(1) of the Bill places a special duty on the governing body. The argument in the two letters is that if the Bill gives the governing body a special duty, it is hard for the Minister to argue that it is neutral. There would be a strong presumption in the courts that if the Bill conferred a duty on the governing body—what the Bill refers to as the "responsible body"—that body would be able to exercise that duty. The Minister says, however, that the local authority has overriding powers. I hope that he will make his position clear. That may be a point to which the House of Lords will wish to give further consideration.

My impression is that the clause is not neutral and that it transfers the powers from the local authority to the governing body. That would be unfortunate because the strength of many governing bodies is the fact that the members work as a team. Within most of them there is very little sense of a political divide, and on the whole they work for the good of the school rather than being directed by political considerations or any other policy. It would not be good for the governing bodies to find themselves divided by arguments about corporal punishment. They should act on a basis of consensus.

Also, if it turned out that local authorities did not have power to abolish corporal punishment, some authorities might be tempted to pack the governing bodies. The Minister would not want that to happen. I hope that he will make it clear that it will still be possible for a local authority to decide whether it wants corporal punishment and that if a local authority decides that it does not want corporal punishment, the governors will not be able to overturn that decision.

It is sad that we are not discussing an abolition Bill. I would very much welcome Government acceptance of amendments Nos. 1, 17, 21, 27, 30, 42 and 43, which would turn the Bill into an abolition Bill, but I would be very much surprised by Government acceptance of those amendments. However, I hope that the Minister will make it clear that he wants all local authorities, governing bodies and teachers to review discipline in their schools and to consider what is needed, and will also make it clear that he will take account of the complicated administration necessitated by the Bill and will consider the question of abolition. I hope that he will confirm that this is indeed a neutral Bill, in spite of the fact that we have had much legal advice that it is far from neutral and that it alters the relationship between the local authorities and the governing bodies.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) on his remarks, to which I have listened with interest although I have heard them on a number of occasions in Standing Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) made a point about the chairman of the mid-Glamorgan education authority. In reply, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish talked about local decision-making and local democracy. I understand his point, but the question of local democracy and decision-making can be used to make a case for precisely the policy that the hon. Gentleman fears —the belief that governing bodies should have some rights of veto or self-determination if they wish to apply corporal punishment in their schools even though the local education authority may be politically, philosophically or morally opposed to it.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the increase in bureaucracy. I listened with interest to what he said. I cannot share his vision of the future—many extra hours of work being imposed on school clerical staff —although I accept that there will be some extra work. However, a tremendous amount of extra work will fall on school clerical staff and teaching staff if there is an increase in the number of expulsions and suspensions. Many governing bodies discuss expulsions and suspensions. Reports are asked for, and they are often submitted to the local education authority. That process involves typing checking, reformulation, copying and postage, all of which involve extra expenditure and work. I therefore had double vision when listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford mentioned the increase in the number of withdrawal units or sin bins, as they are known more euphemistically. I regret the number of such establishments. Indeed, I regret crime and sin, but they exist. I therefore accept the need in certain circumstances for units to which disruptive children may be withdrawn for their own good and that of their fellows.

Will the Minister admit that the growth in their numbers has occurred irrespective of whether the local authority has a policy of allowing corporal punishment, and that it has often grown where there is still far too much corporal punishment?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point but not with his second. Nevertheless, I regret the increase in the number of sin bins for the reasons that I have given.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned discussion and the constant review of policy on discipline, the problems and incidence of misbehaviour, and how a school, communities, parents and teachers react to its growth. All local education authorities, teachers, governors, and parents should be anxious about the growth of misbehaviour and misdemeanour and review constantly their attitude to and policies for meeting those problems. That happens in many local authorities, irrespective of their political persuasion.

I shall urge the House to resist new clause 3 because there is no necessity for local authorities to go to the lengths suggested by it. The best approach must be for education authorities to leave these matters to schools. Disciplinary sanctions are best handled at school level because much depends on how a school operates and its ethos. Local authorities are often not well placed to lay down guidelines.

Schools will need time to discuss disciplinary issues before an exemptions scheme comes into force. Discussions might well extend beyond the narrow issue of corporal punishment, and I therefore imagine that the debate which the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish wants will occur in many local education authorities. There is no need to stipulate precisely how those discussions should be organised. The initiative can and ought to come from schools.

I am surprised by new clause 3 as it seems to leave punishment issues to governing bodies in the last resort. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish has sought assurances that the Bill is not intended to prevent local education authorities from banning corporal punishment, yet new clause 3 seems to give the last word to governing bodies.

I accept that criticism, but I should think that the Minister is aware that, if amendment No. 18 had been selected, we should have been able to make our stance clear. I referred to that amendment. The new clause would have been better worded if it was clearly neutral, but it is a little unfair for the Minister to chide me for that when he has not managed, so far, to answer our criticism that his Bill is not neutral.

I shall deal with that matter after considering the amendments in the group.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the same professor of law at the University of Lancaster has produced another report, which has everything to do with the miners' dispute? Perhaps my hon. Friend would be good enough to give his view on that?

The House is grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. My reaction is one of interest. If there are fears about the intentions behind the Bill, there is an answer which I am sure will settle them.

The amendments in the group are intended to abolish corporal punishment. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish has returned to this theme often. I am not surprised by the incidence and type of the amendments. Opposition Members have tried steadfastly to turn the Bill into one which abolishes corporal punishment. On behalf of the Government, I have resisted such attempts, and do so again now. It has been argued that schools' use of reasonable and moderate corporal punishment is so wrong and so utterly inappropriate that the law should ban it. I disagree, as do many thousands of teachers and parents.

Whatever place we accord to this form of punishment in the disciplinary regime of a school— we all have views about that — I cannot accept that, by its very nature, it is a sanction that ought to be banned by law. We are discussing reasonable and moderate corporal punishment. Opponents of corporal punishment use Loaded guilt-inducing words such as beatings, floggings and thrashings. They use the language of extremes. The point at issue is reasonable and moderate measures to impose discipline and to confront unruly or bullying behaviour.

Other people take a more pragmatic approach. They argue about the effectiveness of corporal punishment and say that it is so ineffective that the law should be invoked to prohibit its use. Thousands of teachers and parents—those close to the daily problems — take an opposite view about its efficiency. They believe that it has a useful function. I am ready to leave judgment about that to schools and parents and am not prepared to go along with the view that we should enforce abolition through legislation, simply because some believe that so many teachers and parents are wrong.

It has been argued that, although parents might favour reasonable and moderate corporal punishment for other children, they oppose it for their own, I disagree and, apparently, so do many parents. Indeed, on the very day on which the Standing Committee has its final meeting, The Times published the results of a MORI poll. Leaving aside the "Don't knows", some 63 per cent. of parents interviewed favoured the use of corporal punishment in schools. Perhaps even more significantly, a slightly higher proportion— 65 per cent. — said that they would give schools permission to use corporal punishment on their children. It must be disconcerting to Opposition Members to see from the poll that among Labour and alliance supporters, some 60 per cent. of parents favour the use of corporal punishment in schools.

7 pm

The Government are not prepared to ignore figures such as those. That poll helped to demonstrate the real point of the Bill—that many parents and teachers wish to retain corporal punishment, and in our view, when parents and school agree about its use on a particular pupil, we should not intervene with an enforced ban.

My right hon. Friend rightly reports on the market research and on the fact that not for the first time the Opposition are out of touch with the electorate. A most persuasive factor is presumably the number of countries which still adhere to corporal punishment, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada and the Commonwealth. Those countries which have banned it—for example, France—have found that the alternatives are so inadequate that they have resorted to other functions. France has had to ensure that family allowance is withdrawn because it has been unable to find enough penalties.

From time to time it has been suggested that such a practice would occur here. I am not convinced that such a move would necessarily have the objective which some people might claim.

Will the Minister make it absolutely clear that although the power to withdraw family allowance technically exists in France, it is used hardly at all and that that is an unfair smear?

It is a perfectly legitimate view to advance. All hon. Members have the right to express their opinions. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) has advanced a view which is not unfamiliar to those of us who served in Committee. However, I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish that the scheme as applied in France has not achieved the heights that were promised or expected.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish referred to the Bill's neutrality. I gave him an undertaking in Committee and he has seen copies of correspondence that I have sent to Mr. Peter Newell of the Children's Legal Centre. I wrote to Mr. Newell on 4 April and sent copies to the hon. Gentleman and to my hon. Friends who expressed an interest in the matter. On that occasion I pointed out that the Bill is broadly neutral. That is my reading of it and that is the advice that I have been given.

At present, school articles of government are the means by which responsibility for the conduct of a school—and that includes discipline and corporal punishment—is assigned. These articles of government vary between authorities and sometimes between schools within an authority, but usually they assign ultimate responsibility for discipline to school governing bodies, albeit often in imprecise terms. Some articles of government offer local education authorities general override powers—they are drawn up so as to give the local education authority the power to override the decisions of the governing body. Some local education authorities have used such provisions to impose an authority-wide ban on corporal punishment. Some others have achieved the same end by using their position as employers. Either through negotiations with teachers' unions or by recourse to general provisions within teachers' contracts of employment, the local education authorities have reached a position where the teachers are left in no doubt that as employees they are not expected to use and apply corporal punishment.

That is the background against which this matter should be considered. It is a grey area of overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsiblities and powers. I accept that the present position is unsatisfactory and that Parliament should settle the respective powers of head teachers, governing bodies and local education authorities in relation to school discipline, but I am opposed to using this Bill to clarify the position.

We would like the position clarified, but we are not arguing that this Bill ought to be the vehicle for clarifying the responsibility between governors and local authorities. We are suggesting that clause 3 positively says that in future the responsible body will be the governing body. That is our worry.

I should like to continue and perhaps I shall calm the hon. Gentleman's jangled nerves. He must know, as I do, that the partnership between the local education authority and schools is complex. I must say in all honesty that if the Government had to make a choice between giving control of corporal punishment to local education authorities or to schools, they would opt for the latter. That would be in line with the Government's reasoned case for a new legislative framework for schools as set out in the recent White Paper "Better Schools".

It is important not to look at corporal punishment in isolation. This issue is related to discipline and that in turn is related to the conduct of schools. Indeed, the whole relationship between heads, school governing bodies and local education authorities on a wide variety of topics should be considered together.

As the House knows, the White Paper envisages a new approach—a rational approach in which all aspects are considered alongside each other. It foreshadows legislative proposals to bring clarity out of this grey area, and that is the context in which changes should be discussed.

I know that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish is greatly concerned that without an amendment those local education authorities which have abolished corporal punishment will be forced by the Bill to abandon that policy. I can assure him that such is not the Bill's intention, or my reading of it as it stands. It has been our intention that the Bill should be neutral on this question. But we need to distinguish between decisions about the keeping of registers — on which clause 2(2) has something to say — and decisions about the use of corporal punishment. The point is that clause 2 has to place on some party the responsibility for deciding whether a register is to be maintained, and, if it so decides, to ensure its proper maintenance. Where a local education authority has taken a prior decision to abolish corporal punishment and has a legal right to do so, a decision by the governing body to keep a register will have no practical effect. In the light of the information that I have given, I hope that the new clause and amendments will not be pressed to a Division.

I did not expect that I would persuade the Government to go along with an abolition measure. Therefore, I shall not press further amendment No. 1 and the others which would have turned the measure into an abolition Bill. However, I hope that in the other place some of their Lordships will return to the arguments in principle and to the impracticalities of the Bill.

As to new clause 3, I believe that most local authorities will have the debate for which I am calling. I am still concerned about the Minister's explanation of whether the power lies with the local authority or the governing body. I remain unconvinced, and am worried that the Minister said that if the Government had to choose they would put the responsibility with the governors, but that they were not choosing now. The Bill suggests that the Government are coming down on the side of the governors. I hope that we are wrong about that, and that local authorities and governing bodies will not be involved in litigation on the matter. It would not be to their advantage. I hope that they will accept the Minister's word that he intends to leave the position as it is, and that if a local authority chooses to abolish corporal punishment, it can do so. The Minister seemed to hint that the governors would be entitled to keep a register, and the local authority would be entitled to instruct all the teachers whom it employed not to administer corporal punishment. That would be farcical.

In the hope that the Minister is right and that what he says, rather than our interpretation of the words, is correct, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.