Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."I hope that the provisions of this Bill. which it is now my duty to offer to the House, are all within the framework of the 1944 Act and resemble the amending Measures of 1946 and 1948 in seeking adjustments which experience has shown to be necessary, rather than in assuming some new principle or promoting some new system. We hope and believe that the resemblance goes further, and that with this Bill as with its predecessors there is very wide agreement and no party quarrel. My right hon. Friend has no desire at all to claim that everyone consulted has been in every respect wholeheartedly delighted; and, above all, my right hon. Friend has no desire to diminish by a jot this House's right to discuss and decide. But certainly my right hon. Friend has taken great pains to consider in good time the various proposals here embodied in consultation with those best qualified to speak for the local education authorities, for the teachers and for the denominations. Incidentally, perhaps I may be forgiven for interpolating that I do not like the word "denominations" any more than most people do, but I think it shortens our discussions if we use it in a technical sense. No doubt the Bill is still susceptible of improvement. I think we can safely say that it has the general approbation of the responsible bodies on which our educational arrangements rely. For nearly 10 years now we have had in this series of Bills a high factor of identity of intention and of general admission of that identity. We hope it is not presumptuous to look forward to a continuance of that advantage. There is no great general principle here which I may begin by expounding, but I will endeavour to indicate, perhaps a little more clearly than the actual words of the Bill, the purposes of the three groups of Clauses into which it may be divided. The specific purposes of this Bill fall into three categories, in connection with grants for voluntary schools, with suggestions made by the Local Government Manpower Committee, and thirdly with the simplifying of administration and the clarification of some intentions of the principal Act. Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 9 are designed to help the voluntary schools. Clauses based mainly on the Local Government Manpower Committee, which hon. Members may remember was appointed by Sir Stafford Cripps, are Clauses 4, 7 and 13, and with them may be grouped the amendment proposed by the First Schedule to Sections 13 and 40 of the principal Act. In the third of my categories, simplifying and clarifying, are Clauses 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12. The purpose of Clause 1 is to help denominational bodies to provide new voluntary schools in new towns and housing estates. To understand the Clause, hon. Members who are fully familiar with the existing position will forgive me if I try to indicate my understanding of it. As the law stands, if a voluntary school—aided or special agreement—has been transferred to a new site, the promoters may receive grant of not more than 50 per cent. of their expenses; or if the school on the new site has been built in substitution for an old one which has been closed, it may be eligible for 50 per cent. grant so far as the new school is taking the place of the old one. In so far as the new school is doing what the old one did, half the cost of that may be grant-aided. In these two cases the grant is conditional on the older school replaced by transfer or substitution having been closed and no longer used as a school. There is a third way in which a voluntary body may seek grant for a new voluntary school project—this time without any existing school premises having to go out of use. They may apply under Section 104 of the 1944 Act for an order certifying that the projected school is to provide for a substantial number of displaced pupils, and so far as the new school does so provide, 50 per cent. grant is authorised. I am sorry to be so technical, and I am afraid, dreary, but I think one cannot approach the Bill without being so.
So long as the hon. Gentleman is accurate.
So far I am accurate, and I hope that I shall keep up the standards of accuracy which the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) may aim at.The House will remember what for this purpose displaced pupils are. Section 104 defines them as
but who have been displaced in one of two ways—either because the school has, been re-organised and ceases to supply both primary and secondary education, or alternatively because the number of pupils for whom education can be provided in that school is being substantially reduced. In seeking grant for displaced pupils, the promoters of a new school—on a housing estate, for example —need not point to an old school building which has been closed, as they must for transfer or substitution. But what they do need to do is to show that an existing aided or special agreement school or schools has or have been reorganised in the technical sense, or substantially reduced in numbers. Unfortunately these grant conditions which I have indicated have proved inadequate in present circumstances. When a new town or a new housing estate is being developed the incoming population is often composed of groups which, taken singly, are small, from a large number of older areas of population. The reduction is the denominational population in any one of those older areas is therefore often not well marked enough to warrant the closing of an existing voluntary school, and it is often imposible even to ascertain that there has been a substantial reduction in numbers in that school. The result is that a large number of parents whose children would have been able to attend or go on attending a voluntary aided school if they had remained in the old area of population are unable to secure this education for their children when they have been moved in consequence of a housing or planning development, unless they can do so without aid from public funds. This is the limitation with which we are trying to deal. It is not believed to be within the spirit of the 1944 Act. By the rectification which we now propose in Clause 1, pupils who have moved with their families from the voluntary aided schools they were attending—or would in my right hon. Friend's opinion have attended—will be eligible to be treated as displaced if, in the area to which they have moved, they form, either by themselves or together with other children similarly moved, a substantial number."pupils for whom education would, in the opinion of the Minister, have been provided in some other aided school or special agreement school."
What would the hon. Member call "substantial"?
That is one of those questions which are frequently put and which cannot easily be answered. When I sat on the other side of the House, I always quarrelled with the draftsmen's use of the word "substantial." But it has the use which has been accorded to it over the years. I do not think that it is a point which should be raised on Second Reading. If I had to stop to explain the meaning of every word I used, it would take a very long time.A pupil who actually attended an aided school in the area from which he is now being moved will, under this Clause, count as displaced, and so would a pupil who, being under school age, though he did not actually attend a school near the old address, would have gone there on reaching school age. In the area emigrated from there must be an existing aided or special agreement school to which the child was going or would have gone at the appropriate age. The second condition is that the family's move from the older area was not merely casual but was related to housing developments in connection with town and country planning. Grants under this Clause will not be limited to schools the building of which is to start after the statute. The crucial question is whether the school has been established and is being maintained by the local authority. Provided that this stage has not been passed and that the amended statutory conditions are satisfied, grant could be paid. Thus, under the amended definition of displaced pupils, grant could be paid in respect of a school which is in process of being built at the time when the Bill becomes law. I would add that with this sort of Bill—a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill—it is almost impossible to make a Second Reading speech which is not a long series of Committee points. That being so, although I am perfectly willing to give way to hon. Members, it cannot be supposed that I can answer every Committee point which is raised.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me to what extent it is intended to make Clause 1 retrospective in its effect? Schools have already been built in my own area and unless there is some part of this Bill which is made retrospective, it is obvious that injustice may be done.
In general, all questions will be answered, as far as time allows, by my right hon. Friend. In particular, I have just answered the hon. Gentleman's question. I do not think that in any technical sense there is any retrospection about the Clause as it stands, but the benefit of the Clause is not limited to projects which are conceived after the Royal Assent. There may be schools which are already projected or in course of building which will get the benefit of the Clause. If I may repeat the words from my notes, the crucial question is whether the school has been established and is being maintained.
I should like to raise a point which I did not quite catch in the hon. Gentleman's explanation. It is a point of some substance and I hope that he will not think it is a Committee point. He referred first to the child who is actually moved and who was living in the down-town area. He then referred to the child moved from the area when it was under school age and who then reaches school age. Will he say whether this Clause also covers the case— which is very common in many constituencies—of a family who moved in 1947, for example, where the older children have attended the old school and a child is born in 1949 in the new housing estate area and goes to school in 1954? Would the hon. Gentleman refer to that? It is of some importance.
I cannot give authoritative rulings on rather complicated and hypothetical questions. On the face of it, I should say that a child born in Pimlico cannot, so long as it continues to reside in Pimlico, be called a displaced child— at least not without the risk of a quarrel with its mother.Hon. Members will have noticed that Clause 1 is concerned exclusively with the establishment of new voluntary aided schools; Clauses 2 and 3 are concerned with voluntary controlled schools. Since the effect of both these Clauses is to extend by many years the powers already exercisable on Ministerial directions, under Section 1 of the 1946 Act, I shall take them together.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not get too upset if we continue to ask questions. Before he leaves Clause 1, as he probably knows, there are about eight Catholic schools which have been built since 1944 and which it is believed, under this Bill in its present form, will not get any grant. We want to know whether it is the intention of the Government to include schools that have been built since 1944 in those covered by this Bill. Can we have a straight "yes" or "no"?
The hon. Member cannot have a straight "yes" or "no" because I cannot remember the exact form of the question. I have explained as simply as I can what is meant by "retrospection." I am quite prepared to repeat what I have said and my right hon. Friend will also deal with the point. I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it, there is no retrospection in this Clause.
The hon. Gentleman said there was.
The benefit of the Clause is, however, claimable in respect of schools which, although already projected or carried to a further stage, are not yet established and maintained. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would need a lawyer to understand that."] I do not think one could explain it very much more simply when one had got one's lawyer. Section 1 of the 1946 Act—
I am sorry to interrupt again, but the hon. Gentleman has not made this at all clear. I am quite confused as to what he means.
Section 1 of the 1946 Act enables the local education authority, with the agreement of the managers or governors, and on Ministerial approval, to meet the cost of enlarging a controlled school where the enlargement is needed wholly or mainly to accommodate pupils from some other voluntary school or schools which are to be closed. What that Section of the 1946 Act does not do is to enable the local education authority to provide a new controlled school to take the place of one or more existing controlled schools. Yet there are many cases where the provision of a new controlled school on a convenient site would be wiser than the enlargement of an existing one.Clause 2 of the Bill is to make possible the provision of a new controlled school in replacement of an existing school or schools. The proposals must, of course, have the agreement of both the authority and the promoters. The Clause is subject to the same general limitation as Section 1 of the 1946 Act, that is to say, that the new school must be wholly or mainly required for the accommodation of pupils from some other voluntary school which is to be closed. The local education authority cannot provide a new controlled school if most of the pupils come from county schools. Clause 3 widens the Minister's power to authorise local education authorities under Section 1 of the 1946 Act, by extending the conditions on which they may enlarge an existing controlled school. One of the restrictions imposed by the 1946 Act is that some other voluntary school must have been discontinued or re-organised; but there will be cases where, irrespective of that consideration, some enlargement of a controlled secondary school is justified on both economic and educational grounds. For example, the only grammar school available in an area may be a long established two-stream school. I apologise for the vocabulary, but it is the quickest way of giving the illustration. If a further grammar stream is required, it might be best to enlarge the existing two-stream school rather than to provide a new one-stream school. The Clause is to give authorities power to deal with this sort of special case. Hon. Members will have noticed that this new power is confined to secondary schools, if they have looked at the end of the Clause.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what a two-stream school is?
One where there are two streams of children—enough to fill two forms at each level.Clause 9 is linked with Clauses 2 and 3, so I will deal with it next. It is to amend Sections 103, 104 and 105 of the 1944 Act relating to payments of grants and loans in respect of new voluntary schools. Sections 103 and 104 authorise the Minister to pay grants on the building of new voluntary schools in cases in which the old school is to be transferred to a new site, or in which a new school is to be built in substitution for an old one that is being closed, or in which the new school is to be built for displaced pupils. As the law stands at present—this was the effect though I think not the intention of the 1944 Act—under Sections 103 and 104 grant can be paid only if the new school buildings are literally constructed —that is, one brick put on top of another and so on. It cannot he paid, for example, on the purchase of an existing building to be adapted as a new school— only when there is actual construction. I do not think that was the intention, and so far as I can see there is nothing in natural justice which imposes this distinction. It is not economic, and subsection (1) of the Clause tries to put that matter right.
Will the hon. Gentleman elucidate what he will agree is a very important point. Clause 9 (1) gives the Minister power to make grants and loans. Will he see that that is applied retrospectively. I think the reading of the Clause probably—
It would be more convenient for the House if hon. Members reserved their points until they came to make their own speeches, unless they have specific questions to ask.
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am seeking an explanation and clarification.
That should be done briefly.
Will the Minister allow me?
The Parliamentary Secretary gave way for a short question to be put, I understood. Perhaps the hon. and learned Member will put his question shortly.
I will give the Parliamentary Secretary an example. Will this apply to Catholic schools acquired in the past? It is important to know that that position is clear.
There is an element of retrospection in Clause 9. If I do not, in the course of my remarks, sufficiently explain it, questions can be addressed to my right hon. Friend or can be taken up during the Committee stage.
On a point of order. When the Parliamentary Secretary began to speak, he said most explicitly that it was necessary for him to deal with this Bill in a sort of Committee way and that, therefore, any hon. Member who had a question to ask could put it and he would try to answer it.
That is not a point of order for me. How the Minister makes his speech has nothing to do with me.
There is a small element of retrospection in this Clause. It does not cover very much. If reckoned in terms of money, it can be expressed as about £50,000.Subsection (2) of the Clause deals with Section 105 of the Act, which enables the Minister to make loans subsection I was about grants—in respect of initial work at voluntary schools. In part, the amendment consists first of making it possible for loans as well as grants to be paid for the purchase and adaptation of existing buildings instead of their being confined as hitherto to new construction. It also removes an anomaly which has caused some hardship to managers. At present they can apply for loans to help to pay for some alteration in the buildings only when it is required by the development plan for the area as already approved by the Minister. In practice these development plans have taken much longer to work out than almost anyone thought likely in 1944. It does not seem fair that managers should suffer from that. Therefore the subsection is to make possible loans on permanent alterations approved by the Minister even though the Minister may not have had a chance of approving the development plan as a whole. Clause 9 is so drafted, as I have already indicated in answer to an interruption, to enable the Minister to deal with cases that have already occurred before the passing of the Bill. The second group of Clauses, Clauses 4, 7 and 13, are related to the Report of the Education Sub-Committee of the Local Government Manpower Committee issued in August, 1951. This Report contains a number of recommendations aimed at shortening the administrative procedure and saving time, manpower, money, and so on. Some are controversial, but we thought it obviously right to adopt here any which were comparatively simple and might be thought to be generally acceptable. That is what we are trying to do in Clauses 4, 7 and 13. Clause 4 is to simplify the procedure about school attendance orders. Under the existing law, if a parent does not ensure that the child is receiving sufficient and suitable education, the local education authority must serve an attendance order. After that, it is for the parent to select the school which he wants his child to attend.
I take it that the hon. Gentleman will be willing to withdraw Clause 4 altogether?
I do not think that that would be a fair assumption, but we are prepared to hear discussion about Clause 4 and to consider methods of improving it in one way or another.
The hon. Gentleman has had a lot of discussion.
Does this apply to residential schools as well as to day schools? Does it empower a local education authority to enter a residential school into the order?
I am afraid I have not followed the point. I will leave it to the winding-up speech. This procedure may lead to considerable delay—
May I assist by making the point a little more clearly? This Clause deals with the placing by a local education committee of a school suitable for the aptitude of the child into an attendance order. Can that power be used to put into the order a residential school, and thus to send the child away from the mother's care?
A residential special school, for instance, I think would be covered by this Clause. This procedure may lead to considerable delay. For instance, a parent may choose to send the child to a school which cannot receive him because it is full. Under the new Clause the authority would name the school the child should attend. My right hon. Friend is confident that the authorities will give proper weight to parental wishes, but in order to safeguard the parent's rights the Clause provides the right of appeal to the Minister within 14 days of receipt of the order; and to make plain that this right of appeal exists, the purpose of subsection (5), to which it is related, is to be clear on the face of the order itself.
By this means we hope to cut out delays and interruptions in the child's schooling, and at the same time to preserve the essential rights of the parents.
While dealing with school attendance, I think it would be convenient if hon. Members would look at the amendment to Section 40 of the 1944 Act included in the First Schedule. This amendment is to give local education committees more appropriate powers for dealing with persistently truant children. The step between such truancy and delinquency is a short one, and it is necessary to give the authorities effective powers to deal with the first of these evils.At present the only course open to the local education committees, when a child is reported as a persistent truant, is to bring it before a magistrates' court, and the court, if it thinks fit, may refer the child to the juvenile court. In many cases the proceedings are an ineffective spending of time. The Clause, therefore, is to enable local education committees to take the child directly before the juvenile court, without having to seek a direction from a magistrates' court. I am now about to come again to the relation between this and the point of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). I apologise to him that I have not, as I meant to do, had the time to look up HANSARD properly. He will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am right in saying that an Amendment with this object was proposed by him in Committee upstairs on the Children and Young Persons Bill this April; it was then negatived; and an Amendment was moved on the Report stage, which was then withdrawn, I think by an hon. Friend of the hon. Member rather than by him—I think, like me, on that occasion he was compulsorily elsewhere; it was then withdrawn upon a Ministerial undertaking that suitable provision would be inserted in this Bill; and I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes thinks that the undertaking is borne out. I think there is no question but that the purpose of the Amendment is generally approved, though there may be some question about it. Clause 7 is the second designed to meet one of the recommendations of the Local Government Manpower Committee. The purpose is to regularise the existing practice where an authority takes up places in a direct grant grammar school or, less frequently, in independent schools. The Clause in various ways provides for education provided at non-maintained schools. It makes provision in the case where a school is put at the disposal of a local education authority to provide for a pupil from a non-maintained special school, and other purposes of that kind. Where accommodation in one of these schools is being used, there is provision by way of providing for the pupil, and the local education authority can pay the whole of the fees. The statutory authority for doing so at present is obscure. Under Section 81 of the principal Act, assistance may be given to the parents, but even under that Section it is not given the parents by right, and it must be related to means. That is under Section 81. Outside Section 81, up to now, the payment by the authority of tuition fees in the circumstances I have indicated has been regarded as assistance to the school under Section 9 of the Act. This is really a clumsy device, and the new Clause, it is hoped, will put the practice on a satisfactory basis. Clause 13 is related, fortunately for everybody's memory, to Section 13 of the 1944 Act. Any proposal under that Section for the maintenance or discontinuance of a school can be approved by the Minister only when three months have elapsed from the publication of the notice. The purpose of this interval is to give reasonable opportunity for objection, because a balance is needed between the rights of those who live in the neighbourhood and the avoidance of delay in building the school. My right hon. Friend is inclined to think that the present period for objection, three months, which was carried over into the 1944 Act from earlier practice, is unnecessarily long. The Local Government Manpower Committee recommended that the period should be reduced to one month. Now, my right hon. Friend, with great ingenuity and, I think, with precise arithmetic, added three to one and divided by two, and found the average was two. The provision of the Clause is, therefore, that there should be a two months' notice instead of three. I come to the last of these sets of Clauses, mainly clarificatory, and the House, I hope, will not think this need detain us long. Clause 5 is to make abundantly clear what, I think, was undeniably always the intention, that it is the duty of local education authorities to provide a comprehensive system of free dental treatment by full-time or part time dentists in their employ. Clause 6 is included at the request of the Secretary of State for Scotland for a similar purpose. I come to Clause 8. Perhaps, I may be forgiven for one personal word of reminiscence. For more than 30 years I have spent a very large proportion of my time struggling, sweating against the difficulties arising when young persons move from one educational area into another, and I have struggled and sweated for some system of reciprocal treaties to avoid the absurd results that arise. I well remember the case in the old days of a child who, because of the exigencies of his parents, moved from a Bradford school into the East Riding and his university scholarship was held up. A great many hon. Members are familiar with this; it is a most time-wasting, maddening affair. Clause 8 is an attempt to extend, with certain modifications, the improvements that have been made in this connection with regard to primary and secondary education, to further education. The principle applied by Section 6 of the 1948 Education Act enables one L.E.A. to seek from another recoupment of the cost of providing for a child belonging to that other authority. I should not say "child" really, but "pupil," because they will mostly be people of well over school age. Broadly speaking, the Clause has two purposes. First, where a student from one area attends, with the authority's consent, an establishment of further education in a second area, the Clause will enable the second authority to recover part or all of the cost from the first authority. Secondly, where a student cannot be regarded as only the particular responsibility of any one area—somebody perhaps born at sea, or in the Colonies, or what-not, with no domicile in any special place here, with parents serving overseas perhaps—the cost of this sort of education would be pooled among all the L.E.A.s. Clause 10 has been included to clear up a discrepancy between the intentions of two Sections in the principal Act. If hon. Members will look at Section 9 (2) and Section 85 (3) of the 1944 Education Act—I do not mean at this minute, but at some time—it will be found that they do not really quite fit each other in the way they affect the position of endowed schools for which in the past L.E.A.s have been appointed trustees. The Clause is to remove that discrepancy. Clause 11 enables the Minister to modify the trust on which a voluntary school is held. That is plainly a good thing. Plainly, financially or in any other way, it is desirable that these schools should be held on purely educational trust, and at present in many cases the trustees are legally precluded from having the trusts varied in the way desired. The purpose of this Clause is to enable the Minister, on application from the trustees —so it does not interfere with them—to have a trust modified from being generally charitable, or whatever it may be, to become specifically educational. Clause 12 is, I think, the last on which the House would desire some explanation in an opening speech. It removes the obligation at present imposed by Section 87 (2) of the principal Act upon universities and L.E.A.s to record at the Ministry assurances of land and of personal estate converted to land. This provision of the statute has not been found to serve any useful purpose at all, and it is thought that it is, though small, an obvious economy. Clauses 14 to 17 are plain and, in the main, formal. I think I have dealt with the First Schedule amendment to Section 40 of the principal Act. The other amendments are all, I think I can fairly say, of an extremely minor nature. As hon. Members will have seen, the Bill is not, in a sense, a whole; it is not all a piece, one great design from which its promoters might promise immense benefits to the country and great glory to themselves. But I hope the House has been convinced that the three groups of Clauses into which it may be classified are all useful, even if some might be made more useful yet, all well calculated, and, at any rate, what Ministers can perhaps seldom say of a Bill, all inoffensive.
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, could he tell me whether his definition of "displaced pupils" for the purpose of Section 104 of the principal Act means that at any period—not using the term retrospectively—a Ministerial grant would be given? Clause 1 appears to me to carry that meaning.
The decisive question one has to ask oneself is this: Is the school established and already being maintained? If it is established and already being maintained, it cannot, as I read this, and as the intention is, claim the benefits of the Clause.
Because that is the way the thing is drawn. If not, it can. That is where the line is drawn. I have tried to put it simply and, I hope, clearly.
I thought I understood this Bill until I heard the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation. I am bound to say that I have never known a Bill presented to the House with less conviction and less knowledge than this one has been, and I am very sorry that that should be so because, in the main, I desire to support the Bill.I am bound to say also that I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary gave us an accurate account of the meaning of Clause 1. I think I can say that with some conviction, being the parent of Clause 1, because in the absence through illness of my right hon. Friend the late George Tomlinson I met the representatives of one of the churches concerned and agreed with them on what was necessary to meet their immediate needs. When I read Clause 1 I thought that the draftsmen had put those conclusions into legal form; and as I read them, in spite of the hon. Gentleman's explanation, I still believe that to be so. However, in view of the line he took, I think it may be as well to have some more detailed explanation when the right hon. Lady replies later on. Do let us try to keep out of our heads the idea that the school and the building are the same thing. That is the first difficult thing to understand. A school may be a collection of human beings. It may, in our language, also be a building. I want first of all to deal with the human community of pupils in the school. Unfortunately, the 1944 Act, against the advice of some of us who were engaged in the negotiations, laid great stress on the word "substantial," because some people had the idea that when it came to the regrouping of populations after the war a whole community would be picked up from one place and moved bodily to another so that in the new place they would have the same old faces as before. I, for one, never believed that English people would put up with that kind of regrouping. I believed that new towns, new housing estates, would be of very mixed origins, as the old ones had been. Therefore, I always wanted each child to have a coupon—in the language of those days—and when we had our new area we would find how many children had a Roman Catholic, or a Church of England or a Jewish coupon, and then that group of children, if they formed a substantial part of the whole community, would entitle that school to rank for the benefits of the later Clauses of the Act. The Parliamentary Secretary said, "These pupils must come in substantial groups,"—
I took it down when he said it, and I consulted someone whom I regard as being capable of giving me advice. I understood—and this is very important—that the principle I have enunciated is the way in which the new school community is to be analysed for the purpose of ranking for grant aid. That is to say, that if only one child comes from a denominational school to another school in which there is a substantial number of children, taking them altogether, built up possibly of single units, that school will rank, and that individual child will rank—
I saw the speech which my hon. Friend wrote and I have looked at it again. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at it, I think he will find that they will come in small numbers. First; shall I say, they will come in small packets and, together, they may make a child packet—that is where the "substantial" comes in—when they reach the area? The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. My hon. Friend said, "When small parties come in," and I think that if the right hon. Gentleman will look in HANSARD tomorrow he will see that. They become a substantial collection of the small groups. In order that the school may be built, there must be a substantial number.
I am glad that the right hon. Lady has intervened. It is true that the Parliamentary Secretary made a remark, which alarmed me, in response to a question by one of my hon. Friends and not from the speech which he had prepared beforehand, and which he had, no doubt, committed to memory.Now I come to another group of children. These are the children who are born into a family of one of the selected faiths after they have got into the new area. In the main young families move out. Four or five boys and girls in a family may have been to a school promoted by a particular faith in the old place, and undoubtedly the child who is under school age at the time of leaving or who is born after the family gets into the new area would have gone to the old school that his brothers and sisters attended. I shall never forget the trouble in my own family when my brother was ordered by a hard-hearted county council, of which I afterwards became chairman, to attend a different school from the one which I was at. Families, as a rule, like to carry on the tradition of attending the same school. As I understood it, both these children—that is the child under school age in the old district who leaves it and the child born after the family arrives in the new district—will rank for building up the new school community. I understand that that is what the Parliamentary Secretary has been trying to say. This very difficult subject of retrospection also really refers to the difference between the two conceptions of a school. Where the school building has been erected and the school is in full working order, that school does not rank under Clause 1; but where the school is in the process of being built up and has not yet been taken over for maintenance by the local education authority, that school, although money may have been collected, and money may have been spent, under the existing Clause will rank for grant. This problem of retrospection and of drawing the line does present very great difficulties. Although at the time when I first dealt with this subject in October, 1951, no claim for retrospection was then made—and I want to make that quite clear—this seems to me to be a matter which, if the Financial Resolution allows, might well form the subject of a nonparty discussion in Committee. I support Clause 1. I am glad to see that the right hon. Lady has proved so excellent a mother to one of my children, and I must say that I hope this will be a substantial measure of help to the Church of England community, the Roman Catholic community and the Jewish community in the places where they are attempting to establish voluntary aided schools. Clauses 2 and 3 seem to me to be really common sense, and I do not propose to spend any time on them. I accept them as being reasonably good working arrangements, and I think they will enable the local educational authorities to provide good schools and better schools where some remnants of denominational teaching according to the Church of England can still be carried on; because, of course, this type of school is of no advantage, owing to the way in which they look at the subject, either to the Roman Catholics or the Jews, but it should help in many areas where there is a sound working arrangement at the moment between the Church of England and the non-conformist denominations, and will, I hope, lead to a substantial improvement of the position in the still too many single school areas. I wonder whatever induced the Conservative Government to put Clause 4 into the Bill. This arises out of the Local Government Manpower Committee. This really represents the triumph of bureaucracy over the intentions and the expressed provisions of the Education Act, 1944. Section 76 of that Act was the Section inserted in another place, which occasioned so much difficulty to the draftsman when he got it. If hon. Members will look at the 1944 Act, they will see that Section 76 is headed, "PART IV. GENERAL," and then follows this particular Clause, which was somewhat late in its arrival, and which got shoved into a little compartment all by itself, headed: "GENERAL PRINCIPLE TO BE OBSERVED BY MINISTER AND LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITIES." That, of course, is not part of the Act, but it shows the affection in which the draftsman held those words from another place, and it says that,
Ever since Mr. Sidney Webb persuaded Sir John Gorst to circulate Fabian pamphlet 106 as a Cabinet Paper when the Education Act, 1902, was drawn up, that has been our view of the proper position of parents in the educational system. The procedure is that if, for some reason or other, a parent does not send his child to school or does not have him efficiently educated—there is no compulsion on a parent to send his child to school if he can make efficient arrangements for his education otherwise—a school attendance order is served on the parent. The law laid down in 1944 said that the parent should then insert the name of the school, and if the local authority did not like it he could appeal to the Minister. Let us face it: the local authority has a staff which is capable of drawing up appeals, knows all the case law and can do all this as a matter of routine. But the parent, finding in the order a school to which, for some reason good and sufficient to himself, he objects, has not as a general rule any of those qualifications. I should have thought that the law as it at present stands represents what Section 76 says should be the case, and I cannot see the need for the alteration. I am told that there are sometimes long delays, that a parent does not fill in the name soon enough, or suggests that his offspring is a suitable person to be one of the 70 poor scholars at the Foundation of Henry VI at Eton, and I believe there are other occasions when he treats the matter somewhat facetiously. I want it to be understood that I am not defending such parents. Nevertheless, I believe we could very well amend the original Act by giving the parent a certain length of time within which to fill in the order —I am sure no one could object to that —and then, if there has to be one, the appeal should be expedited by the Ministry of Education and a decision reached within a reasonable length of time. If there is a reasonably genuine difficulty here I am sure we shall all be anxious to help the right hon. Lady find a reasonable solution, but I always view with very great suspicion anything which appears to derogate from the carefully chosen words of Section 76. It is in no hostility to the generality of the Bill that I say that I find Clause 4 something which I would find very difficult to swallow, and I cannot understand how the right hon. Lady has managed to gulp it down. Clauses 5 and 6 do what we all feel ought to be done. Clause 7 (1) requires rather more elucidation than we have had up to the present. I do not understand why Section 81 (1, b) is not sufficient to cover the situation. It was hoped at the time the Act was passed that the public schools would implement the Fleming Report, and I regard as one of the most disappointing things about the years since 1944 the failure of the public schools to do anything worth while to implement the Report. I gather that the only purpose of Clause 7 (1) is the removal of doubts. I should have liked to see it start with the words, "For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared …" instead of introducing a new subsection which might lead to confusion in administration when Clause 7 and Section 81 (1, b) of the original Act are considered together."In the exercise and performance of all powers and duties conferred and imposed on them by this Act the Minister and local education authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents."
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at Section 81, he will see, as I am sure he knows very well, that it empowers local authorities to make payments up to a certain amount. Here we are saying that they must pay the full amount if they take up places necessary to supplement the provision for the numbers for which they have to give education. The Section empowers them to pay part of the amount; the Clause requires them to pay the full amount.
That is not quite as it was explained to us, and I hope that in Committee we shall be told exactly how this applies to the direct grant regulations and the schools affected by them.Some words should be inserted in Clause 7 (2) (iii) to indicate that the local authority must pay attention to the wishes of the parents in deciding the school to which they shall send the child. Clause 8 is common sense. This has been a very difficult matter. I have known local education authorities spend more money in checking up out-county pupils than they have actually been able to gather when they have sent the bill to the neighbouring authority. Anything which makes easier the procedure between authorities who really ought to try to co-operate with each other is welcome. Clause 9 deals with what I am sure was our intention when we drafted the 1944 Act, that where a voluntary school is fortunate enough to be able to acquire a mansion or some other large building and make it into a school which can be recognised as efficient, it ought to rank for grant under the later sections of the Act. I am glad that the right hon. Lady has been able to do this, and I understand that the decision is retrospective to the passing of the 1944 Act.
Clause 10 does not call for comment.Clause 11 is one which we shall require to have explained to us during the Committee stage, and I will not venture at this stage into all the dark deeds which it may cover. Clause 12 is reasonable. As to Clause 13, I should have been quite willing to accept the decision had the right hon. Lady not gone through the complicated mathematical process described by the Parliamentary Secretary but had boldly said that one month was long enough. On occasions, to my knowledge, children have been kept out of school for a full three months by merely waiting for the effluxion of time when there was no likelihood of objection, and the same sort of thing will happen if the period is two months. If we can save a month in a child's school life it is all to the good. I am glad that Section 40 of the original Act is being amended in the way suggested, and, generally, I think that the amendments proposed to the First Schedule are to be welcomed. Therefore, subject to what I have said, my right hon. and hon. Friends join with me in giving a welcome to this Bill. This is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Education Act, 1902. The altered atmosphere in which we can discuss these matters today compared with what just a few of us can remember in 1902 is, I think, a healthy recognition of the growth of tolerance in this country, as is our recognition that the children of any parents, be they Catholic, Church of England, Jewish, Nonconformist of any grade—and after all very few of them can come up to my grade in that—or the children of the parent who does not desire that his children, for good and sufficient reasons, should receive any religious instruction, shall be the first concern of the nation, Parliament, the education authorities and the teachers irrespective of the families from which they come.
It is always a pleasure to listen to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) speaking on education. He speaks with such knowledge, such experience and such enthusiasm that it is a joy to listen to him. It also brings back to my mind the hours that we spent together in 1944 in steering through Parliament that great Education Act, which, it must be remembered, was intended to be a guide in education for us for a long period. It was a sort of a charter. As "The Times Educational Supplement" very rightly pointed out, there is nothing worse for education than frequently chopping and changing the legislation. We all recognise that the Act has only been in existence quite a short time. It has not had time to come to fruition, and we are not able as yet to judge as to its complete adequacy.The right hon. Gentleman referred to a former Education Act. There are some of us who remember the very bitter controversies of 1902, and it was a pleasure for us in 1944 to find that we could work together, having in mind that the paramount consideration was the education of the child. We were prepared to compromise and agree to all kinds of measures that our predecessors would not dream of touching. At any rate, that was one good thing that came out of the Coalition Government, for the bitterness of 50 years ago seemed to have died down so that in 1944 we could work together. In the main, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we accept this Measure. To me it seems to be a clarifying and declaratory Bill, and it is right that the subject should be dealt with as early as possible. I want to deal with one controversial aspect. I do not like Clause 4. What we all have to realise—and this we must emphasise and impress on the education authorities and, if I may respectfully say so, on the Civil Service—is that the parents have rights as well as duties, and it is essential that the parents should realise that they have those rights. What is very frequently forgotten today, even by teachers as well as education authorities, is that the child is a joint responsibility. The first responsibility rests upon the parents in the home, and the second responsibility falls upon the teachers in the schools. They must exercise that jointly. Therefore, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, I do not know how this Clause came into existence. I can well remember—I cannot actually remember about the right hon. Lady herself—so many Members of the Conservative Party emphasising with me at the time the importance of the parents' right of choice, and I hope that this Clause will be reconsidered in Committee. Clause 1 is obviously a Clause which any Nonconformist, remembering 1902, would approach in the same way as Clauses 2 and 3—with caution. It is quite obvious that the old definition we had in the Act of 1944 was narrow, narrower than we thought it was. As I understand it, the object of Clause 1 is to widen the scope of the Act of 1944. For that reason it has been discovered that it is the new areas that require the new schools, and the churches, who are so anxious about these matters in these new areas, are entitled in equity and fairness to the relief granted under this new Clause. If it is felt that that is only right and proper, then I should have thought that it should have been possible to have so framed this Clause to relieve the churches as and from the 1944 Act. We all recognise that all Christian churches have a dominant place in the education of their children, and they should be required to take an active interest in, and to work in co-operation with, the local authorities. If that is true, then they should be treated fairly as from the time when the Act of 1944, which was an agreed Measure, was passed, particularly if it is necessary today to bring in the co-operation of the churches in this all too materialistic age. I only want to add one word about Clause 2. We accept that Clause, and I think the power is strictly limited for the new schools, as I understand it, must be wholly or mainly for children coming from other voluntary schools; and, secondly, the local education authority itself must be satisfied that the new school is required, because it must join in the application for it. That being so, the ratepayers and the public generally are sufficiently safeguarded. One final point, because I think this is accepted by all as a necessary Measure. Can the right hon. Lady, when she comes to reply, give us some estimate of what it would take to make this retrospective, supposing that it were made so as a declaratory and clarifying Act from 1944? I should imagine that whereas the charge would fall heavily on the churches, it would not be so heavy upon the State or the local education authority. There may be some opportunities to raise this on the Committee stage, and I will conclude by saying that on the whole I welcome the Bill.
I feel my first task as the first back bencher to speak in this debate is to offer my most warm congratulations to my right hon. Friend on what may be described, I hope, as the beginning of the end of many months of work, of great patience in bringing together all interested parties to co-operate on this Bill. Nobody wants to criticise the services to education of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), but I could not help feeling that he was a little bit too free in his claims of parenthood. In order to get this Bill on the Statute Book it was not merely a matter of writing out the Clauses, which is a comparatively easy thing to do, but of many months of difficult and patient negotiation to bring together varied interests who have not always pulled together in educational matters in the past. Another thing which must be in the minds of hon. Members on all sides of the House is the feeling of great sorrow and regret that Mr. George Tomlinson is not with us on the Opposition Front Bench to take part in this debate.I suppose I have a certain sort of interest to declare. At any rate, it is only fair that hon. Members should understand that I happen to be a Roman Catholic. At the same time, it is only fair to those who share my religious persuasion to make it clear that I have no sort of authority to speak for the Roman Catholic community. It may be that in some of my detailed opinions other Roman Catholics may find cause to dissent. Nevertheless, there are three Catholic points which I should like to make clear before this House. The first is that the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said that the 1944 Act was an agreed Measure. It was agreed as between the political parties, but it was not agreed as between the denominations —not agreed by the Roman Catholics. I am not arguing the case at the moment, nor making a complaint, I am merely stating a fact. They never accepted that this was the right way to deal with religious education. They always made it clear that they would prefer to have something in the nature of the Scottish system in this country; but we have to deal with facts as they are. The second point is that when the 1944 Act was being passed, those who were piloting it through this House held out a prospect that the burden upon the aided school would be in the nature of £10 million. Mr. Hardman told the House just before the General Election that the burden would certainly come to something more than £50 million. Now, the Financial Memorandum to the Bill speaks of such figures of aid as £200,000 a year. Again, I am not making any complaint, but I would like the House to understand that a very heavy financial burden will rest on those whose consciences make it necessary for them to maintain aided schools even after this Bill is an Act. Thirdly, the formula in the Act at present is that in order to qualify for a displaced-pupil grant we have to show both that the new school has acquired a substantial number of displaced pupils, and that an old school has lost a substantial number of displaced pupils. I would like the House to understand how that rather peculiar Clause happened to be in the Act of 1944. There was no Clause about displaced pupils in the Bill as it was first presented to the House, but in Committee the right hon. Member for South Shields, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, moved a new Clause about displaced pupils. He said, in doing so:
In the debate, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan) and the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) accepted the Clause then moved, with gratitude. Mr. Moelwyn Hughes accepted it for the Nonconformists. The Clause was passed by the Committee without a Division. That Clause defined displaced pupils as,"I believe we have met the desires of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic communities with regard to this matter, as far as it is possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1944; Vol. 399, c. 1783.]
That is to say, it was what the right hon. Gentleman called "the coupon system." There was no mention in that Clause, as passed by the Committee, of having to show that some particular old school had lost a substantial number of pupils. The Bill went to another place, where Lord Selborne moved an Amendment, in a speech of a single sentence. He said that the Amendment"Pupils for whom education would, in the opinion of the Minister, have been provided in some other aided school or special agreement school if that school had not ceased to be available for them, or in consequence of its having ceased to be used for providing both primary and secondary education."
On that observation, it was passed by the House of Lords, but the Amendment had, in fact, entirely changed the meaning of the Clause. We are entitled to say that if ever there was an alteration which was within the spirit of the 1944 settlement that was the alteration in that definition of the meaning of "displaced pupils." Again, I am making no complaint, but we have to understand that even in the present Bill the aided schools will be getting less and not more than what was the original intention of Parliament in 1944. In the Bill, there is the qualifying phrase:"was of a drafting character which clarified, without altering, the intention of the definition."
That qualification did not exist in the Bill originally passed in 1944. Hon. Members must realise the difficulties with which those have been traced who are fighting the battle of the aided school. I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary two or three definite questions. They may save time in Committee if he can give us clear answers. The first question is: What is the exact meaning of the words in Clause 1; line 19: "area served by"? Does that mean what is commonly called the "catchment area"? There are today certain children who live outside the catchment area and who go to the aided school because their parents are so keen that they should receive a denominational education. Suppose one of those children becomes displaced; is he unable to qualify as a displaced pupil in his new home simply because when he went to the aided school he was outside the area served by the aided school? I hardly think so, but I hope my hon. Friend can give me an answer on the point. The next point is about displaced pupils who go to county schools for a time. I can imagine the case where a pupil goes to an aided school and his parents move the home under conditions which qualify for the grant, into a new place, where there is no aided school at the moment and, where, for a time the child has to go to the county school. Later, an aided school is built and the child goes to the aided school. I imagine that it does not disqualify the displaced pupil in those circumstances, but I should be grateful if my hon. Friend can give me a definite answer. What is the position of the displaced pupils who come from outside Great Britain? Let us take the case of Corby in Northamptonshire. A considerable child population is there, which comes predominantly from Scotland and Ireland. The parents of those children certainly come under housing regulations and they are certainly parents who would send their children to the equivalent of an aided school had they remained in Scotland or Ireland. But of course in those countries there is not that precise nomenclature. Or take the case of a certain village in Wales which is half given over to Polish children and where the schools for half Polish and half Welsh children are now growing up. If ever anyone deserved in the literary sense the title of displaced pupils, it is these Polish children who have been driven from country to country over the 12 years of their lives. Are they displaced pupils within the technical definition of the Act because the schools to which they would have gone in Poland are not technically known by the name "aided schools"? Then we have heard a great deal about the vexed question of retrospection. I will not detain the House by repeating what right hon. Gentlemen have said, but I should like to be clear on the following point. Is the definition of a school which can qualify for the grant one whose account has not yet been closed? If that is the turning point it seems to me that in practice, whatever the theoretical merits, the issue is not quite as large as it seems because there are probably only three or four schools concerned. On Clause 4 I am in complete agreement with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and the right hon. Member for South Shields. Parents are often a peculiar class of people. Indeed, I remember an immensely distinguished but immensely ill-tempered headmaster who once said in a moment of petulance that parents are the last people in the world who should be allowed to have children. But both in natural law and in the law of this land the people who have the right to settle the future of a child are its parents. I agree that the Clause should be turned round and that the right of decision should be given to the parents though perhaps with a time limit. Then we come on to Clause 6, which deals with the Scottish teeth, about which nothing in the world would induce me to make any observation one way or the other. Clause 7 is clearly an improvement on Section 81 of the 1944 Act, and I welcome it, but I have a few points to raise. I want to make a passing observation on the comment of the right hon. Member for South Shields. The right hon. Member said the public schools were entirely to blame for not implementing the Fleming Report. In reality the opposite is the case. Headmaster after headmaster of the public schools has complained of the difficulty in getting the boys they are anxious to get, and certainly the obstacles have not come from them. I should like to be clear about the meaning of paragraph (i) of subsection (2, a). Does it mean that the local education authority are bound to pay whenever the proprietors of the school put the places at the disposal of the authority? If so, I am delighted, and I hope it means that without any qualification. The right hon. Member for South Shields wants something about the rights of parents put into subsection (2, a), paragraph (iii). I have no objection to that, but I believe it is even more important to put something about it into paragraph (ii). In this context, what does the word "suitable" mean? We are told in the Explanatory Memorandum that Clause 7 "regularises the existing practice," but it is not as easy as that. There is every reason to think that the existing practice is illegal and will continue to be illegal even after this Bill becomes an Act. It is illegal because it is a contradiction of Section 76 of the 1944 Act to which the right hon. Member for South Shields referred in a slightly different context. Pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. That being so, I doubt greatly what legal right local education authorities have, though they do it with the support of the Ministry, to say that the maintained school must be filled before pupils can be allowed to go to the non-maintained school. If my right hon. Friend could put after "but" in line 30 some such words as "in accordance with Section 76 of the 1944 Act" or after "aptitude" two lines later "in accordance with the wishes of their parents," we should be happier. Indeed, I think my right hon. Friend would be in a much stronger position. There is nothing in the world I wish less than that she should be transferred from the Front Bench to Holloway Gaol, and if she allows those words to be inserted, I think we can keep her outside. However, I am doubtful about her position if she does not allow an Amendment to that effect. Subsection (2, b) deals with the provision of board and lodging. It is not infrequently the case that a child of Anglican or Catholic parents qualifies for a grammar school education but that, in the town in which the family lives, there is no grammar school of that persuasion. Therefore, the parents ask if they may send the child to a boarding school and, realising that this imposes an extra cost, they say they are willing to pay the boarding fees if the local education authority will pay the tuition fees. That seems to me entirely fair, but it is a proposition which neither the local education authority nor the Ministry of Education has ever favoured, I can never understand why. I am afraid that if subsection (2, b) is passed in its present form, which speaks of paying the whole of the fees in respect of board and lodging, without any opportunity for a compromise splitting of fees, it will be more difficult to carry out this highly desirable object. Clause 9 admits the principle of retrospection and in Clause 13 my right hon. Friend, with the wisdom of Solomon, has split if not the children, at any rate the difference in specifying two months. In spite of what the right hon. Member for South Shields said, I think that was a wise decision. My right hon. Friend, I am sure, does not misunderstand me. I have gone through the detailed Clauses and made suggestions because it is important that those of us who ate interested in this subject should see to it that we do not make the Bill an Act without having cleared up difficulties which may lead to future trouble. That is our duty and this is our opportunity. However, it does not mean that I give anything other than the warmest of welcomes to it and to the work which my right hon. Friend has done. There are two ways of looking at this Bill. We can either look at it as a small machinery Measure for rectifying certain financial anomalies and, as such, it is to be welcomed. We can also look at it fairly in the way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery was suggesting. For more than 100 years, ever since the State first began to interest itself in the problems of education in this country, educational life has been bedevilled by this continuing denominational controversy, which has done infinite harm to the cause of religion and infinite harm to the cause of education. Now, I hope, we are moving into a new era in which we have all learned the value of tolerance, but in which we have also seen that tolerance means that none of us can expect to get absolutely everything he wants. There is nothing in the world which is more difficult than for honest men to work together on matters upon which they honestly differ from one another, yet it is the very test of a mature civilisation that one should be able to do that. As we look round the world today, we can find all too easily examples of countries which have failed in that test, and I think it is a matter for legitimate pride that we are able to present a contrast to that general picture, a picture in which all interests and all denominations work together. This is a Bill which, I understand, receives the support of hon. Members of all religious denominations. I think this is a memorable day, which will, I hope, be the beginning of a memorable era. Whatever verdict history may pass on other aspects of the work of this Parliament, I feel confident that it will, at any rate, say in this Bill that we have deserved well of our country and set our hands to a task for which we shall be long remembered, perhaps long after things that today bulk larger in the public eye have been forgotten."In consequence of action taken or proposed to be taken under the enactments relating to housing or to town and country planning."
I remember some 20 years ago coming, not to the present Table, but to another Table—not the one that was burned—and asking one of the Members of the Government "Where shall I go?" It was to regions below that he told me to go, because we had just passed an Amendment on which the Government were defeated. That was in the period of the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and the Amendment which I drew up myself, was the Scurr Amendment, which was the cause of the Government's defeat.The atmosphere tonight is much different from that of those days. There seems to he in this House today a better feeling of understanding of one another's position, for I must say, after being here for 23 years, that I have sat side by side with many people with whom I would never have walked side by side if we had been outside. In the confines of the House of Commons, one comes to understand men, but women very seldom indeed. Congratulations for the right hon. Lady do not generally come from me, but I do congratulate her tonight on the magnificent manner in which she has dealt with this pressing problem. We have been waiting for a solution for a long, long time, but let nobody in the House, whatever may be his opinions, run away with the impression that we have settled the education problem for the denominational bodies. We have not. What we have done might have been done 18 months ago. We missed the boat, and now we find—and I am sorry to say it—that the Tory Party comes forward with what I feel is at least a little solatium for the liabilities that we have had to incur. I intended to commence my speech by saying that my conscience would not allow me to agree with anything that had been brought forward, but sometimes it pays to keep quiet for a little while. When we have heard the Minister explaining that Clause 1 definitely resolved the question regarding the word "retrospective," because the words now in the Bill contain the essence of what is meant by it, one is naturally gratified. The side heading of Clause 1 says:
If this be the explanation of the definition "displaced pupils," what do we find? We find in Clause 1 the words:"Extension of definition of 'displaced pupils' for purposes of s. 104 of principal Act."
Paragraph (a) also explains the position. I take it from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the whole of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities in the country, and those who took part in the great exodus during the blitz and those who settled in new satellite towns, come within the definition in this Clause and will be dealt with accordingly, and that therefore there is no need to use the word "retrospective," I take it that is so."The expression 'displaced pupils' shall in relation to a proposed school, include pupils who, in consequence of action taken or proposed to be taken under the enactments relating to housing or to town and country planning, have ceased to reside in the area served by some other aided school …"
I did not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, because I know how maddening it is to be interrupted when one is speaking.
Do not be afraid of hurting me.
I would not like to hurt the hon. Gentleman. He read out the words of Clause 1 correctly, but I would point out to him that it refers to "proposed" schools.
I was afraid I was going to be told that. It is the future about which the right hon. Lady is speaking. Perhaps the past is not worth talking about. But I was trying to read that definition into this Clause and to get an admission from the Minister that that was the correct definition. From my point of view, the Clause is most unsatisfactory.What does the future mean? What is meant by substantial? "Substantial" would mean a dozen children coming along. The exodus from the blitzed cities of the country meant anything up to 10,000 children being moved to reception areas, and new schools having to be built. Talk about a solution of the education problem in 1952. This is where I become critical of the Bill and where my conscience begins to be aroused at not understanding the English language. The Parliamentary Secretary was not so explicit in his enunciation as the right hon. Lady has been in making her pronouncement. She saw the danger in what I was saying, because she immediately rose and contradicted the false interpretation I was putting on the Clause. She has made it quite clear, at least to me, that it is the future with which the Clause is dealing. But we have not been suffering from the problem of a mere half-dozen or so scholars being displaced. We have had to face the problem of thousands of scholars being displaced and of our having to keep on building and building without knowing when our liability would cease or whether it would be £5 million or £51 million. That is what the cost of education has meant to our people. On the basis of a population of 50 million, and assuming that only 25 per cent. of that population is Catholic or is attached to a distinct denomination, one finds that, whilst education in other schools is provided free, it costs each person who has denominational attachments about £30. We have to pay for the education of others, and not only have we to pay through the nose but we have to pay three or four times over. I am 81. My days are numbered. In the House of Commons I can afford to speak my mind and no one can interfere with my freedom of speech. I am convinced that the time has come when, if we wish to defeat materialism and get rid of Communism, we shall have to provide better education in the schools, a better training for the young and a better home life. There is only one means of providing that, and that is to find the money to run the schools. The people in my city are and have been prepared to lay down their lives in the service of the country. The men in my constituency work in the city and in the docks, they go down to the sea in ships and they work in the factories, and in almost every house three or four out of the family have fought in one or both of the last two world wars. If men are good enough to go out and fight, they are good enough to demand their rights within the nation. I claim the right like any other person to have equal opportunity. I claim equal birthright with everyone. It is essential that we should have universal education and that all parents should have the right to guide their children in their faith. Those children should have the right to have schools provided for them. I believe that a materialistic conception of life is permeating this Christian nation. I want to see a higher and better national life and a better opportunity for our children. When there are happy children in the home, we know that this is a good and proper country, and when our women folk have their proper place in the home, our land is safe. I have 15 grandchildren who will have to face some of the liabilities which we of this generation have imposed upon them. Some of my hon. Friends may think that I am proposing too drastic a remedy for present conditions, but I would remind them that life is only made sweet by sacrifice. It is only by sacrifice that we can do good for others yet to come. In making this fight, I am convinced that hon. Members will recognise that there is sincerity in what we preach and will pay just regard to it, and that when we deal with this Bill in Committee we shall obtain all the benefits which are possible under this Measure. I wish to thank the House for listening to perhaps a frothy oration. I am convinced, however, that it is only when we begin to know ourselves that we know each other well, and that being so, I trust the destiny of this Bill to Members of the House in the knowledge that they will give it fair and honest treatment.
No Member of this House can have listened to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) without being immensely impressed with the sincerity and the conviction which he has brought to the matter that he has felt constrained to bring to the notice of the House. If I do not attempt to follow the line of thought that he developed, I am sure that he will acquit me of any lack of courtesy towards him. In fact, no one could listen to the hon. Gentleman's speech without wishing to extend to him the utmost possible courtesy within his power.I only want to speak for a few minutes, because I know there are a number of other Members who wish to take part in this important debate, and there are many others who have an experience and expert knowledge in the field of education to which I cannot lay claim. In fact, the only competence that I claim to have to take part in this discussion—and this is the first occasion on which I have taken part in one of our debates on education—is the fact that for a good many years past I have been a member of local education authority committees, I have been a governor of a number of schools, and, while I make no claim to be an expert in this matter, it seems to me that education is one of those subjects which ought not to be left entirely to those who claim expert knowledge of it but on which the voice of the ordinary man and of the parent in particular should on occasion be heard. I am glad to have the opportunity of adding my few words of welcome to the Bill and of expressing my appreciation of all the patient negotiations which the Minister has undertaken to secure the very large degree of unanimity with which this Bill comes before the House tonight. In the last two General Election campaigns in which I stood in my constituency, I was naturally approached by the Church interests regarding my attitude towards the denominational schools, as I imagine were all candidates who have stood in recent years for election to this House. On those occasions I have expressed my sympathy with the position of the denominational schools and my sense of the indebtedness which I believe the nation feels to them for the contribution that they have made to the rich variety of the educational life of this country. Tonight, in speaking in support of this Bill, I am merely discharging a duty which I undertook in the light of the assurances which I gave to the representatives of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in my own division. I understand from contacts which I have had with the representatives of those Churches in my constituency since this Bill was first published, that they support the Bill as representing, not by any means all the help that they would like to secure from the State, but at any rate as giving them a measure of justice in respect of the just claims which they feel they possess to greater assistance from the State. While it may be that in Committee matters of detail will be brought forward for consideration, as far as I can ascertain there is no doubt as to the general welcome which they extend to this Bill.
The hon. Member is saying that his constituents have definite denominational interests. He will probably know that they are bitterly opposed to Clause 4. Can we be assured of his support in the Committee stage to help us get rid of that Clause?
I do not know whether this Bill is going to be taken in a Committee of the whole House or in a Committee upstairs, but I will certainly meet the hon. Gentleman's point to the extent of saying that I share the general misgivings which have been expressed in this House tonight regarding Clause 4. I very much hope that in Committee some modification can be secured which will fully protect the rights of parents in this particular matter. I am quite prepared to do what I can and to make any contribution that is within my power towards hammering out some solution to what I think are the perfectly legitimate misgivings which have been expressed both here and outside regarding Clause 4.I have made reference to the attitude of the Church of England and the Catholic community towards this Bill, but I want to speak in this debate more particularly as a Free Churchman and as voicing what I believe to be the attitude of the Free Churches generally towards this Bill. I cannot help contrasting—as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has done—the very great difference in atmosphere in which this matter is being debated tonight compared with the atmosphere existing in 1902. If the House will pardon a personal allusion—I was born in the year 1902 and I was born into the atmosphere of the great education controversy of that period. I make no apology for the fact that my father was a passive resister and, if I may say so without indulging in a contradiction in terms, he was a very militant passive resister. For that fact I make no kind of apology either in this House tonight or at any time in any other place. While my father was always most punctual in the discharge of his legitimate obligations, as far as the payment of the education rate was concerned he was a passive resister. I remember how in my early days household goods were sold up half-yearly in order to provide for that part of the rate which my father and many thousands of other Free Churchmen and women of that period refused to pay as a matter of conscience and as a question of conviction. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that controversy of 50 years ago may have been, we can all agree that it did great and almost irreparable harm to the cause of education in that period. It was responsible for tremendous bitterness among the various Christian communities and it played a most divisive part by separating one section of the nation from another over a matter of conscience. I think that we can all rejoice tonight in the fact that that episode is now closed and lies behind us, and that we have entered a period in which it is possible for the various Churches and the various sections of opinion in this country to join together in seeing what we can unitedly do to treat with justice those who have convictions regarding the particular kind of school in which they desire their children to be educated, and to find a solution to this difficult problem which will be generally acceptable. I am authorised to say on behalf of the Free Church Federal Council, which is the body representing the Free Churches in this country, that they offer no objection and no opposition to this Bill. They regard it as a Measure which falls within the proper framework of the 1944 Act, and as being nothing more than a reasonable and legitimate development of that Act, found to be necessary in the light of the eight years' experience we have had of the working of the Act. If that contribution, which I am able to make on behalf of that section of the Christian Church, is one which will aid the Bill and assist the cause of education, I shall feel that my small contribution to the debate tonight has not been in vain.
As the hon. Gentleman does represent such a very important Christian element in this country, would he say, on behalf of the Free Churches —speaking for them, if he can—what he would feel about the question of retrospective payment?
So far as I am aware, that matter has not been considered. I have certainly no authority to speak for anybody on that matter. I hope that Members will agree to accept what I have said so far as the attitude of the Free Churches is concerned. I have tried to make my statement carefully and within the framework of the authority I possess. I am afraid that I cannot go beyond the mandate that has been given to me.There is one specific point I should like to put to the Minister, and on which I hope information can be given when she replies. I am anxious that the Minister should give her interpretation to the word "enlarge" as used in Clause 3. I take it that the Minister has in mind that there should be some limit upon the amount of enlargement which could take place within the framework of Clause 3. For instance, I do not imagine that a very small school could under that Clause be enlarged into a very large school or that the enlargement could take the form of adding to the school to such an extent as to make it two, three, or four times as large as the original building. I think that the Minister must have in mind some limitation upon the enlargement that is possible under that Clause, and I hope that when she replies to the debate she may be able to say a word on that point. This Bill brings some relief of the crippling burdens which have in recent years afflicted the denominational schools. In that way it contributes, I believe, to the variety of the education available under the Act, a variety which I believe to be greatly in the interests of both children and parents. I believe that it marks a further milestone in good relations between the various sections of the Christian Church in this land, and I regard that as being by no means one of the lesser purposes which this Bill serves. No one can feel at a time like this that other than good can come from this increasing spirit of understanding and friendliness between the different Churches. It is a development that, I am sure, we in this House ought to welcome. Long may it continue and long may it grow.
Before I come to the main part of my speech I really must cross swords with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black). He has just stated that he spoke with the authority of the Federal Free Church Council. I, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), happen to be a member of the general purposes committee of the Federal Free Church Council, but each of us, and, indeed, every Baptist and every Congregationalist, and everyone of the other constituent denominations of the Federal Free Church Council, surely knows that the Federal Free Church Council, as such, has no binding authority whatsoever on any denomination represented in the Federal Free Church Council, and as a Baptist the hon. Member for Wimbledon must know that it is the local church, and the local church alone, which has the authority to which one is in any sense of the word bound to give allegiance. The Federal Free Church Council is just an expedient body set up for joint consultation amongst Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists and Presbyterians.I feel a strange feeling of loneliness in this Chamber tonight, because I feel my voice is almost a lone voice. I want to speak very guardedly. I want to speak very carefully. I do not want to be misunderstood at all. But I must speak very plainly about certain things which have been said here tonight, and, indeed, about developments in education during the recent years. Now, it is true that the people at the head of the respective denominations which are at present represented on the Federal Free Church Council, the Baptist denomination, the Congregationalist denomination, etc., did accept, as some sort of compromise, the 1944 Act, and its provisions with regard to voluntary schools. Many of us disagreed with the people who purported to act as our leaders in those negotiations. Our trouble as Free Churches is that we are so loosely knit—
—and our authority is so diffused between all the local churches, so that no one can really and fully speak for us. I speak as an Independent. Our standpoint has never wavered at all. The hon. Member for Wimbledon referred, as others have referred—as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) referred—to the "bitterness" which characterised the 1902 Education Act. They apologised for the bitterness, Mr. Speaker; but why should you apologise for bitterness at all times? Surely, there is a type of bitterness which actuates people in certain constitutional, religious and political struggles which can not only be justified but can also be such that we can be proud of it.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent what I said. I did not apologise for anything. I said specifically to the House that I took pride in the fact that my father was a passive resister. Certainly there was nothing in the nature of an apology in saying that. I said exactly the opposite. What I did say was that bitterness did harm, and bitterness always does harm.
I do not necessarily accept that bitterness at all times does harm. The 1930's in this House were bitter years in political controversy, but I believe they were the finest chapter in the history of the Labour movement. There is nothing necessarily to be ashamed of in people, like the hon. Gentleman's own father, being prepared to sacrifice for principles they hold dear.I admit that this Bill is a logical step, if we accept the premises of the 1944 Act. I fully agree that a fine case, an incontrovertible case, can be made out for those new provisions for pupils referred to as "displaced pupils" because of the migration of population, the new housing estates, and so on. I would readily accept, in view of the 1944 Act and its provisions for voluntary schools, that this is the necessary logical step in view of what has happened since then. But I must declare that sometimes the word "tolerance" which has been bandied about here is really a misuse of language. Another word should be used, and that word is "latitudinarianism." Unfortunately the Free Church witness has increasingly become weaker and weaker during these years because we are not the men our fathers were; we do not stand where they stood in 1902. I speak with respect about the Roman Catholic religion. I speak with respect about the Anglican religion, but I believe that the Anglican Church is a privileged church, and I am opposed to privilege in religion. I do not want to be misunderstood at this juncture. I have got a good many friends, inside and outside this House, who are members of the Roman Catholic communion, and I know the saintliness of character of many people who are in that Church; I know of the great struggle they are putting up in very difficult countries today in defence of their faith; but I must sincerely but frankly warn my friends, inside and outside this House, that they are carrying on the pressure group system on behalf of their church to an extent which is not justifiable in the circumstances. Reasonable pressure I thoroughly accept to be natural in this complicated society of ours, but I deprecate the unnecessarily strong pressure which is put on candidates before an election to declare where they stand in regard to Roman Catholic proposals, particularly in the field of education. I have perceived a tacit threat, a veiled threat in some of those questionings. There are many people for whom I am speaking, on both sides of the House, and I think that someone should speak on their behalf. It is no moral courage which impels me to speak. It is purely fortuitous that my seat is a Labour stronghold, and that the Catholic members of my constituency, speaking in population statistics, are practically negligible. But if what people tell me, and if what Members have told me time after time, is true, then somebody should say those things in this House of Commons.
It is not true.
It is true.
The hon. Gentleman will know that at election time all sorts of matters are sent out to candidates of all parties asking them to reply to certain manifestos. Can my hon. Friend say that he has ever received a manifesto or a request from the Catholic Church in this country saying that if he did not support what they wished in the questionnaire sent to him they would not support him but would support his opponent?
Speaking for myself, I immediately say that I have never had that type of experience. But if other hon. Members of this House are speaking the truth, then they have had that type of veiled threat, that tacit implication.
Then let them get up and say so. That is a shocking thing to say.
I think the debate is getting a little disorderly. The hon. Member for Abertillery has the Floor.
I do not apologise for what I have said. I did preface my remarks by saying that I have the greatest respect possible for the Roman Catholic Church and for the Anglican Church. Speaking as a Free Church witness, I deplore the fact that my own church, or my own form of religion, has become so tolerant in the diffused sense that it really has very little contribution to make to this discussion in these days.
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree—and I speak both as a Baptist and as a Welsh Member, like himself—that it was the intolerance of the generation of our fathers which caused the decline of religion in this country?
I would not accept that for a second. What I am trying to say is that the Free Church voice should be heard much more strongly than it has been heard in this House. In my own country, every single Welsh Member has his roots in Nonconformity, and I am sure that it is true to say of the Labour Party that about 75 per cent. of its members have their roots in Nonconformity. I do want my Roman Catholic friends— and I can sincerely emphasise the word "friends"—to realise that there is a very real and deep seated sense of resentment that this pressure is put on us during election campaigns.
Why has this suddenly been raised? There has never been one occasion when a Member of my own party has ever come to me and complained about this having been done.
We cannot settle this matter at this juncture. I say again that many hon. Members have told me of this pressure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"] I have heard my own father-in-law say it when he was a Member of this House representing the Ince Division of Lancashire. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many years ago?"] What has the passage of time to do with it? I must draw my remarks to a conclusion because I do not want unnecessarily to cause a polemical atmosphere to prevail in this debate. I have made my protest and made in sincerely.
I am sure that the whole House has the greatest sympathy with the hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams) in presenting what to his mind and to his soul must be a most deep-seated feeling in regard to, shall I say, the religion of his fathers. I think that we have got a little way beyond that in regard to education. We have heard from one or two hon. Members already this evening remarks which have been often made in previous education debates since the passing of the 1944 Act, that we have really overcome these great differences of opinion which did divide us and to which the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) must have been referring when he said that his father was a passive resister.I am sure that every Member of this House has the greatest sympathy for anyone who expresses his own opinions in regard to religion. I think that we have in our schools today got far beyond the position which obtained a few years ago when we had these fights in every village and town in this country in regard to the religious teaching in the schools. An hon. Member mentioned the fact that he rather regretted the tolerance which appears today. If I may say so with great respect, I think that we have no need to regret that tolerance, and I am sure that in thinking this over the hon. Member concerned will not regret that we as a House do express, feel and exhibit a great tolerance. This is a very short Bill. There is no education in it. It is purely administrative. There is no doubt that Clause 1 will be of very great assistance to denominational bodies, and I welcome it. In the subsequent years the 1944 Act made things extremely difficult, and much more difficult than the framers of the Act thought. During war-time, none of us foresaw the economic position in the aftermath of the war, and in particular we did not imagine the difficulties about supplies and materials. The Act will relieve the Churches of very great difficulty in providing the schools which they hoped to do under the 1944 Act. The Churches hoped to raise sufficient money for them on the basis of costs at the time of the preparation of the 1944 Act, but costs have now risen astronomically. Clause 2 will give them some small relief. Although the Clause was not explained to the House in as much detail as it might have been, it is not so difficult to understand when we come to analyse it. I am sure that in the Committee stage the Minister will reply to the points which have been raised, especially about the retrospective action, if any, of the Clause, and will make quite plain what the Clause will do to meet religious authorities whose building operations may already have begun and who will be entitled to grants when the Bill receives the Royal Assent. I am sure the Clause will go a long way to meet the difficulties facing Churches and religious bodies who wish to build schools. I welcome the provision in Clause 3. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that it would now be possible to receive a grant to enable an adequate building to be converted into a very good school. My county, Surrey, has recently converted Reigate Priory, a very venerable and lovely mansion, into a most excellent mixed secondary school. At present we have it only on a lease but I think we shall retain it for ever. It has tradition and history behind it, and no better setting for a grammar school could be found than that wonderful old Priory. Under the Clause religious authorities will be able to do what Surrey has done as a county authority, which is to turn existing buildings into very good schools, and receive grants for doing so. The matter dealt with in Clause 4 has caused difficulties. I do not for a moment wish to deprive a parent of the principle that he should be entitled, as far as he can do so, to choose the school and the education for his child. However, some difficulty has been found in administration. The Clause may appear to be a little awkward and may seem unduly to trespass on that inalienable right which we hope parents will always be able to exercise. I hope that in the Committee stage the Minister will be able to meet the objections and satisfy both parties. To pass over the Clauses dealing with dental treatment, Clause 7 relates to con- tributions by local authorities in respect of pupils boarded or educated in non-maintained schools. I must confess that when my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) talked about illegal practices, I hung my head for a few moments, for my county authority has been acting illegally for some time. I am very glad indeed that this Clause was put into the Bill, which will mean that I shall not need to shrive myself or the county, but we shall find that what apparently was carried on illegally will be legalised by this Clause.
The hon. Member wants an act of indemnity.
Whether it should be extended to boarding schools is another matter, and perhaps the Clause, as drawn in the Bill, is rather wider than I should like to see. Again, I feel sure that we shall be able amicably to thrash it out when we come to the Committee stage.There is a lot missing from the Bill. I dare not start on that, but I am sorry about it. It is well to remember, however, that the 1944 Act has not yet been in operation for a decade. During the eight years that it has been on the Statute Book, the good which has come from it has been inestimable. I imagine no one would find fault with that. On the other hand, it might readily and properly be expected that there are things in the Act which experience has proved might very well be reconsidered. Perhaps at some future time when we are not quite so busy in this House attention might be given to some of these things, which certainly could be remedied in some way. The present Measure, which is a very short one, will ease the administration of education to local education authorities, and will give to the parents some things which, at the moment, they are not free to enjoy under the Act of 1944 as it is interpreted. I wish Godspeed to this Bill, and I am quite sure that, as all other Education Acts since 1902 have contributed something to the progress of education, so this small Measure will also make its contribution to it.
I should like to join in welcoming this Bill, and perhaps I ought to follow the tradition that has been established by a number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen by declaring my own position in respect of it. I am a Nonconformist, too, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has already said, anyone who is concerned with the 1944 Act and the educational system that it has developed must agree that in certain respects, things have not turned out as was intended at that time. My right hon. Friend gave a full account of what it was hoped would be included in that Act, and has explained to us the position about displaced pupils.It is only right for me to say that there is probably no division in the country more affected than my own by the problem of displaced persons. There are so many pupils from the families of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) and from the Exchange and Kirkdale Divisions, that this problem of displaced pupils has become a very serious one there. When I mention that in Huyton alone the population has increased from 5,000 in 1935 to nearly 60,000 today, and when I say that of the children there 52 per cent., certainly more than half, come from families whose parents wish them to be educated at denominational schools, it will be seen what part this Bill will play in that constituency. Also in Huyton there are new housing estates where five schools will be required very quickly indeed. I myself was not educated at a denominational school, but I take the view—and I think this was the view expressed in the 1944 Act, and expressed so clearly by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) tonight—that parents should have the right to say that their children should be educated in the school of their choice. We all recognise that for many of our constitutents this is a profound question of conscience. Once we have recognised that, as it is recognised by the principle of the 1944 Act, then any divergence from the intentions of that Act by the passage of events ought to be put right by this House. The Bill does not set out to deal with all the changes that have happened since 1944, particularly those arising from building costs, but it makes a very useful contribution to the problem of the displaced pupil. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was explaining some of the difficulties of the legal definition. Since there seems to be some discussion in the House about who was the father, the mother or the foster-mother of the Bill, I am certain that everyone who has been concerned in it would wish to express his gratitude to my right hon. Friend, and also to George Tomlinson, whom we all miss so much from this debate. It is also fair to pay a tribute to a number of private Members who have worked hard about the legal definition for a very long period of time, particularly the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division. These cases arise in my constituency, and in the outer areas of London and Manchester and elsewhere, in relation to new estates or new towns. Schools have been built there since the war, and because of the working of the displaced pupils provisions of the 1944 Act these schools have not been ranking for grant, for the very reason which my right hon. Friend gave a few minutes ago. In some cases, the children spent an intervening period at sonic other school, perhaps an overcrowded school of a different character, or perhaps a State school. Then their own school was built and they went along, but they have to earn the grant for the school that they have joined. The new definition will ease the position for thousands who will now be coming forward in areas such as those for primary education, and later for secondary education. I hope that when the right hon. Lady replies she will make crystal clear what her hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary failed to do, when I asked perhaps a not very clear question about the position of children born after their parents had moved from what I might call the "down town" area to the reception area. The reference by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields was as clear as anyone could possibly want, and he confirmed what I thought was the position under the Bill. I am bound to say that the Parliamentary Secretary did not make it clear, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will do so. It is clear that such children would have gone to the same school as did their brothers and sisters if they had stayed in, for example, the Scotland Division. The Clause which deals with the conversion of premises not originally educational premises is quite valuable in its own small way. In many parts of the country it has been necessary to go in for that kind of building. However, the right hon. Lady knows that she has made herself a little unpopular recently in my part of the world by vetoing the proposed use of emergency premises. We all recognise that this Bill has been brought forward as virtually an agreed Measure between the parties as well as between the religious interests, but some people are afraid that the Minister, having introduced this Bill, may tend to whittle away its effect by administrative means, and particularly by the tight restriction of new building. The Financial Memorandum refers to £200,000 per annum. We want to know what rate of school building is envisaged in that figure. The present rate? The rate that was being followed under the Labour Government? Or is it some future expanded rate? The House ought to be told that before we proceed to the Committee stage. The right hon. Lady knows, as the result of a lot of correspondence from myself and other hon. Members, that there have been serious cases of schools which, I regret to say, played a large part in election promises by Members of her party in two previous election campaigns and which, when her axe fell last February, were pushed out of the building programme. One of them was restored later. Another, she now tells me in answer to a Question, she will look at to see if it can be put into the programme for 1954–55. Naturally I should be out of order in arguing the cases of those schools now, but one is closely related to this Bill. Indeed, I doubt if there is a school in the country of which it could be so truly said that this Bill meets its need in regard to the problem of displaced pupils. It is a school which could only get a grant, if this Bill becomes law, if it were to be built. We want to know how many of these schools which were cut out of the programme are likely to be built and to qualify for the grant. I am sure the right hon. Lady does not want to provoke feeling and everyone in this House recognises her difficult task, particularly in relation to religious questions. However, there is a strong sus- picion in Lancashire that there is a certain tendency to turn down applications for much-needed schools while at the same time schools are being built where others exist. I know of one costing more than a quarter of a million pounds which is one-third empty. I know that building was done before the right hon. Lady had responsibility and it was carried out by the Lancashire County Council under management which has recently changed for the better. Nevertheless, it causes feeling when the Minister, even as I believe against the wishes of the Lancashire County Council, turns down some of the other schools and gives the impression that, although she is willing to bring forward a Bill in the House, on the administrative side she is tending to frustrate what I am sure she sincerely means to be the purposes of this Bill. Finally, may I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields and others who have spoken from all sides of the House, in expressing our deep concern about the iniquitous Clause 4. Here, again, perhaps I ought to declare an interest. The right hon. Lady knows that there is a cause célèbre proceeding on the question of parents' choice in Cornwall. The headmistress of the State school in question is my own sister. She would agree, though she would not say so, that any Minister who has to deal with such an effete and incompetent local authority as the Cornish Education Authority is faced with an almost impossible position. On that particular case, which bears very closely on the provisions of Clause 4, there would appear to be—at least, as explained by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields—a direct breach of Section 76 of the 1944 Act; certainly, of the spirit, if not the letter, of that Act. In those cases where the local authority has intervened somewhat brutally and flat-footedly against the wishes of the parents concerned in respect of a particular school—and I am told that the Minister is negotiating with the local authority about it—I think she ought to stop negotiating and hit them hard over the head if they are, in fact, breaking the law. What causes us so much concern is that, where we have a local authority of this kind, this new proposed method of Clause 4 will strengthen the hand of such a local authority against what are perhaps the real wishes of the parents, who, as my right hon. Friend said, are not always in a position to be able to express their wishes clearly. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Lady will look again at Clause 4, and that she will reassure us that it is not being used to regularise the position of one or two local authorities which have been acting in a way contrary to the spirit of the 1944 Act. I hope she will tell us—because I am sure that she has sensed the feeling a the House on this question—that, when we come to the Committee stage, she will withdraw Clause 4 and accept the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields that we should get together to see how the administration of Section 76 of the 1944 Act could be improved to meet the requirements of administration without destroying the principle, which all of us feel was a fundamental principle, of the 1944 Act, a principle that will be fundamental to our educational system for all time to come.
I feel sure that any praise from me for this Bill this evening will be unnecessary. When my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was introducing the Bill, he referred to the "twin-stream system," and certainly there has been a twin-stream system of praise and good wishes for the Bill from both sides of the House. Indeed, I wondered what the parentage was, because so much was claimed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and by my hon. Friends on this side that there seemed to be some difficulty in the identification of the baby and its birth marks, to which both sides laid claim.In general, I feel sure that the House will give this Bill a warm Second reading. Nevertheless, while congratulating my right hon. Friend on the difficult negotiations which she had to undertake with the various bodies concerned, and although hon. Friends of mine on both sides of the House have rightly pointed to the great improvement in the situation and the atmosphere regarding education and religion since 1902, and though the Minister still has to move in these matters somewhat gingerly, even so, I must myself, as a Roman Catholic, point out that, so far as my religion is concerned— and this, of course, applies also to Church of England schools and to some schools of the Jewish religion—there are certain disadvantages which this Bill does not entirely overcome. I am afraid that I am very much of the "B stream" of the rather less intelligent persons regarding education. I cannot go into the intricate detail which my right hon. Friend and some of my hon. Friends dealt with earlier this afternoon, but there are certain very simple points which I think should be raised. The first, surely, is that the whole essence and success of the 1944 Act depended upon that principle enshrined in Section 76. That principle seems definitely to be put to rout by Clause 4 of this Bill. I feel sure that the hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams) spoke with genuine emotion and from the depths of his conscience; but feelings such as his can undoutedly be reconciled by this iron principle—to which we must adhere—that so far as possible the parent shall decide to which school his child shall go. I believe that within that principle many of the religious difficulties can be reconciled. Therefore, I feel that even if on administrative grounds Clause 4 may be justified by certain local authorities, this House must resist it. There is one point which I think must be made by one who speaks as a Roman Catholic, and that is the question of the vast sums of money which Catholics will have to find for the building of their schools in the next period. That is going to be a very big burden indeed. At the end of 1944, the amount involved was estimated to be in the region of £10 million, but today it will be in the neighbourhood of £50 million or more. We welcome the relief that has been given, but we ask that, if possible, there should be an even wider and clearer definition of the "displaced pupil." Hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out the need for greater clarity on this point, and I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies she will clarify this matter for us. I feel sure that what has been said by hon. Members on both sides tonight, about the great progress which has been made over the last 50 years, is basically true. I think this Bill is to be welcomed. Of course, it does not go as far as many of us would desire, but it has the support of all parties, and, I believe, of all the educational bodies in the country, and is therefore the first step along the road, which I believe we must tread, towards allowing families to educate their children in the faith in which they believe, whether it be Catholic, Jewish, Protestant or Anglican. I think that is the basis which we must inculcate more and more into our educational system.
I welcome this day as being one on which there is being manifested a greater sense of appreciation of what should be true human brotherhood and the respect that each of us should have for the religious opinions and consciences of others. I have always been—and I say it with pride—a strong supporter of the idea that no education can be complete unless it has as a comcomitant the sine qua non of sound religious education based on the conscience of the parents of the children who are to be instructed.The spirit which has manifested itself overwhelmingly on both sides of the House today is indeed a spirit which, on the whole, reflects the general attitude of the mass of our fellow citizens and is embodied in a general respect for the consciences of others. But whilst there is that general respect, one would like to see a greater devotion on the part of citizens to the faith of their fathers, a greater attention by parents to the religious needs of their children and a greater practice of the faith. I am sure that we in this country would be stronger and better for it. Any Measure that will strengthen conscience and dethrone the phenomena that unhappily are showing themselves in other parts of Europe is to be welcomed. I have been actively concerned with denominational schools in this country for well over a quarter of a century. I have been concerned with Jewish schools, and as a Jew I am very proud to support this Measure and to join in the general support that has been expressed. I have been chairman of the Manchester Education Finance Committee for over 17 years, and I say without hesitation that I have been appalled at the financial difficulties of non-provided schools and of the managers who try to establish schools for the tuition of their faith and the instruction of their children in the principles of their sacred beliefs. Religion is not merely taught, it is caught; and it is caught in the atmosphere in which children are reared. In this democratic society there is no reason at all why, having caught and imbibed the religious faith of our fathers, we should not come together with our fellow citizens for the general welfare of the community and of the Realm of which we are all proud and for the betterment of mankind. We are all the better equipped to do that by having a sound religious education. This Bill, the Clauses of which have been welcomed in greater or smaller degree today, assists in that direction. I am very sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams) should have expressed himself in the way he did about our Roman Catholic brothers. I have had a wide experience in an area in which there is a large Roman Catholic population. I have fought five municipal elections and two Parliamentary elections, and my experience has been—as I am sure it has been the experience of other hon. Members—that I have never been subjected to any pressure to act or to move in any particular direction. It is true that one has been approached about one's opinions on matters which are near and dear to people, but that should be a subject for praise and not for the kind of condemnation we have heard today. I confess quite frankly that if the Roman Catholics had behaved in the way which was indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery and had been so partial on one side I might not have been a Member of this House, because on the two occasions when I was a candidate for Parliament I was opposed by a Roman Catholic Tory. They were not partial but voted according to their consciences. Therefore, we should approach the question of the denominations on a basis not of bitterness but of justice for all. Opportunities for religious teaching according to conscience for all denominations will serve the State well, and for those reasons I welcome this Bill. I think that the definition of displaced pupils does not go far enough. It ought to be made retrospective. After all, the 1944 Act was passed by this House on that basis. Then it went to another place and, as the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) has said, the two Amendments to the Clause were of a drafting character, which were intended to clarify without altering the intention of the definition of displaced pupils. It was quite obvious that the noble Lord concerned had no intention of altering the intention of the Measure which had passed this House. It would be most unjust to allow an observation by a noble Lord on that occasion to upset what was the unchallenged effect of the terms of that Clause in the 1944 Measure. As to the other Clauses, I am sure that hon. Members will have an opportunity to make their contributions. I want to join in the protest against Clause 4 which, I think, is quite repugnant and contrary to the spirit which Section 76 of the Act expressed. I should like to read what Viscount Jowitt said in the case of Baxter v. Baxter in 1947 All England Reports, page 886:
What is the good of condemning parents for not fulfilling their obligations as parents, if we condemn them and at the same time take away the responsibilities which are essentially theirs? I am very glad indeed that this Measure is before us today. I hope that improvements will be effected in the Committee stage. I do not wish anyone to go away with the idea that this Bill has emanated from the benches opposite. The initiative in this matter was taken by the late George Tomlinson, who was Minister of Education under the Labour Government, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when they met a Labour group who had drafted the Amendments to the 1944 Act. I should like to read the Clause which I drafted on that occasion so that this House and the country may know how identical is the Clause in the 1952 Bill with the Clause that I drafted in 1950. I will only quote the part relating to displaced pupils. It reads as follows:"In any view of Christian marriage the essence of the matter, it seems to me, is that the children if there be any should be born into a family as that word is understood in Christendom generally, and in the case of a marriage between spouses of a particular faith that they should be brought up and nurtured in that faith."
These were my words, two years ago:"For the purposes of this Section (a) the expression 'displaced pupils' means in relation to any such proposed school as aforesaid, pupils for whom education would, in the opinion of the Minister, have been provided in some other aided school or special agreement school if that school had not ceased to be available for them in consequence of its having ceased to be used for providing both primary and secondary education or in consequence of a substantial reduction in the number of pupils for whom education is to be provided in it."
I am sure the right hon. Lady found this Clause when she came to the Ministry as the new Minister of Education. In that Clause there was also this additional wording:"… or children of families affected by the movement of population in consequence of any action taken or proposed to be taken under the enactments relating to housing or to town and country planning, or by reason of war damage."
which was the Clause I have just read and was to have retrospective effect. I know that other Members feel equally keenly about the progress which is being made in regard to the recognition of conscience. I hope this Bill will receive a Second Reading and that in Committee we shall be able to improve it with even greater justice to the non-provided schools."The Principal Act shall be deemed always to have had effect as if for Section One hundred and four subsection two thereof there were substituted the following subsection. …"
We probably all realise that it was inevitable that the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) would make the speech he has—at least as regards the last few minutes of it. It is unfortunate that on the Second Reading of this Bill we should appear to enter into any sort of controversy as to who bears the major responsibility for its paternity.A great deal of activity went on behind the scenes, in all parties and among the leaders and representatives of the Established Church and of all the other Churches. I myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Education and many other of my hon. Friends were concerned with this question several years ago. We had continuous discussions with a great number of religious bodies, and we even discussed it with the previous Minister of Education. I should have thought that anybody who had attended the debates which took place during the last Parliament or had read the reports of those debates in full would have realised that there was general agreement on both sides of the House that something of this sort needed to be done. The fact remains that it has not been done until now. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) claimed the paternity of Clause 1. His hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick has now raised the "ante" and is claiming it, as far as I can gather, in precedence to his right hon. Friend—
I drafted it.
The right hon. Gentleman says he thought of it and now the hon. Member for Ardwick says that he drafted it. Far be it from me, in a discussion of a non-contentious Measure like this, to introduce a further spirit of competition between hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Hon. Members on this side of the House were aware that the representatives of one of the religious bodies had entered into negotiation with the last Government. Though I shall be grateful if the hon. Member who is going to wind up will confirm this, I do not think that the matter had got very much beyond that stage. Certainly I do not believe that it had got to anything like the stage where an agreed Bill could be presented for Second Reading.
Surely the hon. Member is aware that it was announced in the Catholic Press— there was no secrecy about it—that full agreement had been arrived at prior to the last Election?
The hon. Member is surely begging the whole question. If he knows anything about education during the last 80 years he will know that to get agreement with one Church is simple. It is to get agreement with everybody which is the difficulty in this matter. The fact remains that only one set of negotiations out of the whole lot had been completed. If we are going to discuss this matter, let us be frank about it: on the basis of negotiations with one church—and that the church which was asking for most out of this change—the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues issued a statement through the Ministry of Education during the last General Election which caused the utmost concern to members of my party because it seemed to us that it was dragging a matter of some delicacy, and on which many of us felt very seriously as a matter of religious conscience and principle, out into the electoral arena for what appeared to us to be at least partially vote-catching purposes. In my view it might have greatly jeopardised all the negotiations which were going on at that time. However, had it not been for the fact that it had been brought up by other hon. Members, I should not have gone into such detail about the background of this Bill.Much has been said about the possibility of making Clause 1 of the Bill retrospective. No doubt when my right hon. Friend replies she will be able to tell us more about it, but I should have thought that this was not solely a question of finance. It seems to me that the question of what it will cost is not the most important question. What I do not understand is whether it will be administratively possible to make this Clause retrospective. I should have thought that it would have involved going back over the records of individual schools and pupils and would have caused a lot of administrative complications. In order that we may discuss any possible Amendments in Committee in the light of the fullest information, it would be helpful if my right hon. Friend would give us some idea of the administrative complications which this change would involve. I should also be glad if my right hon. Friend could explain further Clause 3 of the Bill. The right hon. Member for South Shields passed it over as something which did not need further discussion. Not having had the right hon. Gentleman's Ministerial experience, I am afraid I do not find the draftsman's English quite as simple as no doubt he does. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) asked that the definition of "enlarged" should be given in greater detail. I should have thought that the following three lines appeared to qualify that word and to some extent explain it. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can tell us more about that. I think everybody who has spoken so far has expressed disapproval of Clause 4. I am bound to say that when I first saw the draft of the Bill Clause 4 was the one which of all of them struck me as being open to the gravest question. I do not very much like Clause 4. On the other hand, I can see the attraction from the administrative point of view. There can be no doubt that the existing practice has led to a great deal of delay and difficulty for the local education authority and particularly for school attendance officers. However, I think that the question of principle which has been put by two right hon. Gentlemen opposite and several hon. Members is probably right. Whether it is possible to reach some form of compromise which will satisfy both parties is a matter upon which my right hon. Friend may have some ideas. I hope she will tell us something further about it. I should like to register one more protest about the observations of the right hon. Member for South Shields on Clause 7 about the public schools and the Fleming Report. The hon. Member who is to wind up the debate for the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Minister can no doubt expand on this point, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes indicated, our experience surely has been that local education authorities have simply not been forthcoming with pupils whom the public schools can take. The public schools have tried to get these pupils, but they have not been able to get them. The local education authorities, with the constant pressure on their budgets that has been noticeable ever since 1945, so far from increasing the number of places they would take up, have simply been steadily reducing them for obvious financial reasons. We may say that it is a pity that the recommendations of the Fleming Report have not been carried out, but is it not a little hard to come here and blame the public schools for it at this stage? I really think that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that he has not been entirely just in this matter.
After all, the Fleming Report left the initiative with the public schools, and that initiative they have never shown.
That is not so.
The right hon. Gentleman simply cannot make that sort of accusation without evidence. There are a number of public schools that have shown a very great amount of initiative indeed, and have tried to get these pupils. Indeed, they did at one time have many more of them than they have now; having made the initiative they got the pupils; and the number has been steadily dropping because the pressure on the local education authorities' budgets has become greater, and they have tended to reduce the number of places which they were offering to take up. I really do assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is so. Anybody who has served on a local education committee will know the difficulties which the committees have found throughout in taking up the number of places that the schools were offering.If the right hon. Gentleman were to come along now and say, "The fault of the public schools has been that they will not offer places free, or that they will not lower their fees by a considerable amount," that would be one argument, but to say that they have not shown any initiative seems to me to be entirely unjust, and I really think that it is only right that somebody, at least, should say a word for that much maligned body of gentlemen, the public school headmasters, who have been trying to make the Fleming Report recommendations work, and who would welcome a little more cooperation from the local education authorities to get it done.
Though a little fog has been seeping into this Chamber I am glad to say it is chiefly atmospheric. I do not think there is a great deal of fog otherwise, nor a great deal of disagreement. Whatever fog there may have been was created earlier in the debate, and we hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to dissipate it.
There is little disagreement. The "Teachers' World," commenting on this debate, said:
Speech making is one of the things to be expected in this Chamber, though actually I think we are losing an hour and a half that might have been devoted to serious debate; but there is not likely to be very much dissention. In fact, we are likely to have much more agreement today than we are likely to have tomorrow or Wednesday or Thursday, and there may be a moral for the Government in that. Today we have the opportunity to deal with some constructive legislation, whereas tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday we shall be dealing with legislation which is merely destructive. I hesitate to say that I shall be non-controversial and non-political because my mind goes back to a recent debate— a very recent one—in which the Attorney-General stated that he would be non-controversial and non-political, and he then proceeded to make the most controversial and the most political speech of the day, and one that was quite out of keeping with the general tenor of the rest of the debate that day. Therefore I should, rather, say that I give my general approval to the Bill. I think most hon. Members will give general approval, and, in spite of there being so many claimants to the parentage, we are very pleased that it has come along, whoever is responsible. If there had been a Labour Government instead of a Conservative Government this very Bill, or one very much like it, would have been introduced. I still say, however, that we can congratulate the right hon. Lady in bringing forward this Bill which removes some of the anomalies and tidies up some of the loose ends in our educational system. I think the right hon. Lady will agree that it does not deal with all the many educational problems facing us at present, and we should have been very happy if we had had the opportunity to discuss some of them. There are other anomalies and loose ends, but when we remember the forces which the right hon. Lady has arrayed against her on her own Front Bench we could not expect much more on this occasion. The explanation of why the right hon. Lady has been allowed to bring forward this Bill at this time is to be found in paragraph 15 of the Explana- tory and Financial Memorandum, which explains that the financial charge upon the Exchequer is likely to be small; the financial charge, both directly and indirectly through the local rates, is not likely to be very great. As the words "(Miscellaneous Provisions)" in the Title indicates, the Bill covers a wide variety of subjects—subjects which are totally unrelated except that they fall within the broad field covered by educational administration. When one sees inserted into a Bill of this kind Clauses to regularise existing practices, as is the case in Clause 7, one cannot help wondering whether it would not be advisable 12 months, say, after the passing of an Act to have a sort of stocktaking day to see how the legislative provisions are working out in practice. No legislation can be expected to foresee every contingency, and it might be advantageous if there could be some device whereby at an early date we could remove anomalies and amend deficiencies. It might also be of great advantage if, whenever a Bill is published, particularly an education Bill, we could have a popular edition which attempted to state in simple language exactly what it was that the writers of the Bill hoped the Clauses meant. Paragraph 1 of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum explains that"When the Bill comes before Parliament there may be much speech making, but I expect little real dissension."
in relation to voluntary schools. We must all welcome any amendment which tends to remove a sense of injustice. In any case, the welfare of the child should be the overriding factor in our decisions. In so far as county and voluntary schools are concerned, our educational system today is built up on compromise. It is as well that that is so, for no one would wish to see our educational system debated in an atmosphere of fierce religious controversy. Reference has been made to the atmosphere of 1902, and, in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams) said, I think I am voicing the general opinion of the House when I say that not one of us would want to see our problems discussed today in that deeply contentious atmosphere. Therefore, since Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 9 are agreed to by the religious bodies concerned, I welcome them. I am glad that there has been this measure of agreement between the Government, the local authorities and the religious bodies concerned. Clause 1, which extends the somewhat restricted definition of "displaced pupils" in Section 104 (2, a) of the 1944 Act, recognises the justice of the claim of the voluntary school authorities in circumstances over which they have had no control. In spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary said, I think that there is still some doubt in the House with regard to retrospection. I am not quite clear yet what is the view of the Government on this matter of retrospection, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will make the position of the Government quite clear when she replies to the debate. I understand that it is only the Government that can clarify the position with regard to retrospection. I have not been in the House for any great length of time, but I understand that we should not be able to move an Amendment concerning this question which would increase Government expenditure, but that the Government could do so. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Lady will make the position of the Government quite clear when she replies to the debate. Clauses 2, 3 and 9, which provide new arrangements for aid to voluntary schools, can all be said to fall within the broad general framework of the 1944 Act, and, therefore, at this stage, I do not intend to comment upon them further, more particularly since I realise that there are some of my hon. Friends who are still hoping to take part in this debate. I should like to refer to Clause 4, about which so much has been said today. It relates to the enforcement of school attendance. I can appreciate the views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and their anxiety for the freedom of the individual. But I must frankly admit that their reaction was not my first reaction when I read the Clause. Possibly I was looking at the problem from the point of view of administration, because at the time the 1944 Act was passed, and for some time later, I was the chairman of an education committee, so possibly my views were coloured and I tended to look upon the problem from the administrative point of view. There are two problems and two classes of parents. There is the recalcitrant parent who willingly and knowingly breaks the law. I am not concerned about his freedom, but I can understand the anxiety about the freedom of other parents—those who are keenly concerned about the educational welfare of their children—and possibly we can have another look at this Clause during the Committee stage and bring forward some proposal to cover both classes of parents. In any case, if Clause 4 is left in the Bill, I hope that subsection (5) will not be, because if we get the legal experts trying to put into simple language subsections (2), (3) and (4) they will have all the parents, if not the Members of this Chamber, befogged. No reference has been made to Clause 5, which relates to dental treatment. I should like to have a little more information from the right hon. Lady on that matter. When all is said and done, the problem is tied up with finance. If we are to have a comprehensive dental treatment scheme for schools we must pay for it. An unfortunate effect of the National Health Service was that a number of dentists left the educational service and if we now want them back we shall probably have to pay more than we might have had to do previously. I should like to know exactly what the Government has in mind, what they think the cost will be and what they consider would be comprehensive facilities. I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) about Clause 13. One month would be ample. I am sorry that the right hon. Lady has not accepted the recommendation of the Local Government Manpower Committee. Since the passing of the 1944 Act there has been a general slowing up in educational administration, and anything tending toward acceleration would be acceptable. I hope that on the Committee stage the right hon. Lady will accept one month instead of two months. I sincerely hope that there will be a unanimous vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill so that we shall be able to solve some of the problems of the voluntary schools and enable those connected with the voluntary schools to feel that a greater measure of justice is being meted out to them."The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the provisions of the Education Acts of 1944 and 1946. …"
I am glad to have the opportunity of congratulating my right hon. Friend most warmly upon her patient persistence in obtaining agreement and upon having produced the Bill. As a member of the Church of England, I very much welcome the help which is being given to the denominational schools by Clause 1. Like everyone else, I should also very much welcome it if the provision could be made retrospective so that the benefits could be given to all schools which will have been completed before the Bill becomes an Act. However, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude), it must be obvious to anybody who thinks about it that it would be extremely difficult administratively to give effect to that wish.
It would be the easiest thing in the world
Perhaps the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), will give the House the benefit of his suggestions, but I cannot see how it can be done. In view of what has been said by the Opposition, I hope that, if it cannot be done, the denominations will realise where the blame lies and appreciate that it is not upon my right hon. Friend.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he means?
What I mean by what?
By the statement which he has just made.
My remark was that, if it is found administratively impossible to make the terms of Clause 1 retrospective, I hope that those who will lose thereby will know where to place the blame. The Labour Party were in power for six years during any one of which a Bill could have been introduced, but they failed to introduce it.When I read Clause 4 for the first time I rubbed my eyes. I wondered whether it was a Clause which my right hon. Friend had found when she arrived at the Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) realised that it was a breach of a fundamental Conservative principle, and he was good enough to give us credit for that. I was sorry to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he thought the Clause would be generally acceptable and was justified by the fact that it would simplify procedure and cut out delay. That is precisely what every bureaucrat, no matter what his party, always thinks— that administrative convenience must come before principle. It is a fundamental principle that is enshrined in Section 76 of the Education Act, 1944, and although I do not agree with my hon. Friend who said that this Clause 4 routs that fundamental principle, I think it very seriously eats into it, and I deplore that. As the law now stands, there are two perfectly reasonable safeguards. The first is that the local education authority must be satisfied that the education suggested by the parent is one suitable to the age and ability of the child; and the second is it does not cause unreasonable expense to the community. Those are two perfectly reasonable safeguards, and can be taken in conjunction with a third suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, giving the parent a time limit. That is all I should like to say about Clause 4. As has been said by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn), little has been said about Clauses 5 and 6 and yet, of course, they affect a most extremely important aspect of the children's life. The only question I would ask my right hon. Friend to answer when she comes to wind up is whether she is satisfied that it is possible for the schools to send children to the dentists as they are now doing, because it might be difficult to get the children adequate care if Clause 5 is mandatory. With those few observations, I very warmly welcome this Bill.
I do not know what the Leader of the House sees so funny about this debate. It is a very serious debate, and if he wants to sit in the House during the discussion he ought to be serious. We do not want any more Motions of Censure upon him.I wish at once to declare my interest. I went to a denominational school, and I have three children going to one at the moment. Therefore, from any benefit that is to come from this Bill I shall indirectly get an advantage, and as it is the usual custom and practice of the House I am happy to declare my interest.
Is the hon. Member trying to suggest that the Bill should be made retrospective to his time or just to the time of his children?
If the hon. Member will listen to me I shall try to make my position clear. If there is a reduction in the global sum to be paid by Catholics, to which I am making my contribution, then the contribution that I make will be all the smaller. Is that clear? Having said that, let me say at once that I welcome this Bill, and I thank the right hon. Lady for getting it before the House of Commons even at this present date.Those who have taken a personal interest in the matter know that had the Labour Government been returned to power at the last Election, we should have produced a Bill on similar lines. In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) I should say that it would have been introduced a little earlier. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden) introduced a party note in his speech, and I will say that the Labour Party, had they been returned to power at the last Election, would not have introduced a brewers' Bill before this Bill, but that is another matter. The urgent necessity for this Bill struck us very forcibly, but that does not detract from the efforts of the right hon. Lady. I pay her the tribute that as soon as she became Minister of Education she tried hard to find a solution to this problem. I personally am grateful to her for what she has done. The Bill, it ought to be made clear, is not one which deals with additional aid to church schools, as many newspapers have suggested. It deals with an anomaly in the 1944 Act. If we are attempting to remove an anomaly created in the 1944 Act, surely it is but right to ask that this should be made retrospective. If we are removing an anomaly, let us go back to the time when the anomaly was created, which was in 1944. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West asked how that could be done. It is a fact that every civil servant will say it is administratively impossible, but then all civil servants find a good reason for not doing any hard work—I mean hard work in the sense that it would be difficult for them to find out the amount owing. If, however, the right hon. Lady is determined on this, surely the solution is that every Catholic or other denominational school that has been completed since 1944 but has not had the aided grant, ought now to be given it from that year. What would be the difficulty about that? In the Manchester and Liverpool areas about eight schools have been completed since the Act was passed but have not qualified for grant. If this Bill becomes law in its present form it will mean that Catholics in that area will have a real sense of grievance in that their schools, because of an anomaly which has nothing to do with them, and which is now to be rectified, will not receive any grant. How can the Minister, in all decency, refuse grant aid to those schools? I hope, therefore, that she will try to remedy that anomaly. Much has been said about Clause 4. Any Catholic insists that his child shall go to a school of his own faith. I am only one of several millions in this country who believe it to be fundamental to our way of life that our children shall be educated in the faith of their forefathers. To be told by local authorities that I have to send my children to a school not of my own religious faith would mean that a fight would start. I ask the Minister to realise that it is an affront to any decent Catholic to be told that he must send his child to a certain school. Even in my own area I know of children who go many miles, passing State schools on the way, to a school of their own faith. The Minister will earn the gratitude of many of us if she will remove Clause 4 from the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Reverend LI. Williams) made some serious allegations about the manner in which the Catholic hierarchy has organised the campaign on behalf of their schools, and I was sorry to hear that from my hon. Friend. What happened was that the 1944 Act could not be implemented until the war ended and it was not until it was implemented in 1946 or 1947 that it was discovered how this part of the Act was working against Catholics. It was decided, therefore, to get various Catholics to go to every candidate and put their point of view. We on these benches can say that there has been no pressure from Catholics as such. In fact, almost every one of my hon. Friends know that we owe a debt of gratitude to non-Catholics on both sides of the House for their work. Hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Horobin) and Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), who are not of our church, have fought as hard as anyone for this remedy. The hierarchy asked that the Catholic Parents and Electors Association should be set up. This has gone forward and presented a statement of claim. It may be that one or two people have adopted a truculent attitude, but no one defends that and no one would condemn a whole faith as the hon. Member for Abertillery did tonight. It was scandalous to suggest that people were being blackmailed. The extraordinary thing is that those of us who are close friends of his and admire and respect him, have never heard this complaint before. The Catholic community of this country has had no alternative but to come forward at a rather late stage and say, "These are our complaints and troubles. Will you help us?" If one or two individuals have misbehaved themselves, one cannot blame the whole lot. We have tried to conduct these matters always in the spirit of the tolerance of today. Of course, there has been intolerance by the Roman Catholics, and their intolerance of the past is well known. Perhaps I might be permitted to tell the story of two old Irish ladies who were walking in the park one morning. One of them, turning to the other, said: "Look at the Bishop playing with the children on the lawn; what a wonderful sight! He is a credit to us all, and a credit to his faith." "But," the other replied, "that is not the Catholic Bishop; he is the Anglican Bishop." The first old lady then said: "Is it? Well, now, wouldn't you think that at this time of the morning he would have something better to do!" Intolerance, we all hope, is a thing of the past. We want, and hope, that the Christian approach and spirit shall be a credit to this country. All we ask is that our faith will not be denied. Nothing can stop the growth of the great Christian faith of this country, of which the Catholic Church is such an important part.
I am sure we are all grateful to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) for much the best story brought into this debate tonight; but I hope he will not mind my not associating myself with his remarks about civil servants.
What I meant to convey was these civil servants, whoever they are, or wherever they may be, were not anxious to take on a lot more work, and this inquiry would mean a lot more. They are, however, a fine band of people.
I thank the hon. Member, but I shall not pursue that farther.I think it would be a waste of time to discuss too far the paternity of this Bill. I can remember no Education Bill ever being brought into this House which was wholly the product of one man or of one mind. Any Minister of Education who brings forward an Education Bill and pilots it through Parliament does a brave thing. I speak as a member of the Church of England and as one who can remember having many discussions, some amicable and others slightly more contentious, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) during those long days of 1943 and 1944 when the major Measure was passing through this House. In many respects, this debate tonight has seemed to prove true an argument which I put forward then; namely, that if we could get that Bill on the Statute Book, it would make it that much easier to carry out adjustments, as the years went by, with general good will. But one feature repeated this evening, I am sorry to say, is the dissatisfaction expressed from Wales. Even in 1944, I was struck by the fact that, if left to English hon. Members alone, there would have been a wide measure of agreement on the arrangements to be made; but a group of hon. Members from Wales appeared determined to see that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches did not have more than their pound of flesh, if I may put it that way. I think they rendered the task of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary at that time more difficult than it need have been. This is the third amending Bill which it has been necessary to bring forward since the Act of 1944 was passed. In that original Act we were trying to get everything balanced, and to see that all the restrictions and limitations were just right; but, in the outcome, it has become apparent that we were too restrictive, and in one direction after another the bonds have had to be loosened and we have to render it possible for people to do things which would have been impossible if the Act had remained as it stood originally. Frankly, I think this is a warning to us in all our education legislation. We must constantly have in mind the spirit of education. We must not dwell too heavily on the precise words, the precise bonds and knots that we are going to tie. We must somehow ensure that within the wording of the Acts which we pass we will give sufficient freedom—the very lifeblood—to those who are going to teach and to learn in the schools. I feel a little diffident this evening in disclosing that I was a member of the Local Government Manpower Committee, and I do not know whether I am going to be charged with being the father or the mother of Clause 4. I do not intend to say anything in self-defence. The Local Government Manpower Committee was instructed not to re-draft the Education Acts but "to review and coordinate the existing arrangements for ensuring economy in the use of manpower." My own view is, having listened to this debate, that Clause 4 as it stands will not be acceptable to the House of Commons, and in these circumstances I certainly would not press the House to accept it. We should do better to get back to the main principle which was laid down in the Manpower Committee's Report, where it said, in reference to school attendance orders, that "the whole procedure should be reviewed to see whether manpower could be saved and procedure simplified." If we can make a fresh start from that point, perhaps in Committee we can find the right solution for Clause 4. I am not certain that the suggestion of the right hon. Member for South Shields will meet the case. He argued for a time limit to be given to the parent within which the parent must opt for a school. But within my experience that is not the only difficulty. The more frequent trouble is that the parent opts for a school which there is no chance of the child being able to get into, because it is already full, or for some other reason. That then sets the machinery in motion, and undoubtedly it is cumbrous machinery. If we can find some way of avoiding many cases having to go up for decision to the Minister, everybody will gain. If I may dwell on that report for a minute or two longer, there was one recommendation in it which, so far as I can see, has been omitted from the Bill, and I cannot perceive that there is any great question of policy that might be controversial involved in it. The Manpower Committee recommended the amendment of Section 13 (5) of the 1944 Act. That subsection says:
That, I believe, was put into the 1944 Act in order to create some freedom where freedom might not otherwise have existed. But it has been found in practice, I understand, to make it impossible for local education authorities to get on with even the most urgent work, where a new school is pressingly needed, until the Minister has reached final decisions on the proposals. Perhaps my right hon. Friend in her reply will be able to explain why the recommendation of the Manpower Committee to make that subsection an enabling one and not a restrictive one has not been acted upon. There is one other specific point in the Bill which I should like explained. There has been some debate on Clause 9 —that is to say the Clause which is designed to facilitate the purchase of a building for a transferred school instead of the erection of one. I know it has been laid down elsewhere that the cost of the site for a transferred school shall fall upon the local education authority. But Clause 9, as I read the present wording of it, seems to cut across that provision. I trust that either now or in Committee, the Minister will be able to satisfy us that there is nothing in Clause 9 which would throw back upon the governors or managers of the transferred school the cost of providing a site for the school. I am inclined to think, from my experience of talking about the needs of Church of England schools and other voluntary schools, both in the House and elsewhere, that public opinion tends to run ahead of the politician in these matters, and that we politicians are apt to be frightened by people who say, in a militant manner, rather hostile and extreme things which would not, in fact, get the general backing of public opinion. In this Bill we are taking a step forward. I hope we shall have the courage to see that this is not the last step forward, and whether in Committee we may be able to go a yard or two farther still. I can speak with some local experience. I represent the constituency of Hampstead, which as the House knows is not entirely filled with adherents of the Christian religion. There are in that borough only three county primary schools, but we have six Church of England primary schools, and one Roman Catholic school. I have been member for the borough for nearly three years now, and in that time I have not received a single complaint from a parent about lack of county school accommodation, nor the slightest objection to anything that has gone on in any of the voluntary schools. There is undoubtedly a preponderance of voluntary school places there, so, if there was a grievance, it is just the kind of place where that grievance might naturally come to the surface. It has not come, and I take courage from that. I urge that we base our legislation on the need of the ordinary area, and do not become too frightened by what might imaginably happen in some rather exceptional locality."A local education authority shall not, without the leave of the Minister, do or undertake to do anything … for which proposals are required by this section to be submitted to the Minister until such proposals have been approved by him."
I should like to direct the attention of the House to Clauses 6 and 7 of this Bill, but I must first spend a few moments on the question of denominational schools. I represent a division in which there is a large Catholic population, and where many people—almost the majority—live in new housing estates built since the war. In my area hundreds of Catholic children have to be transported every day to schools on the other side of the town, because there are not adequate Catholic schools on their own side—and many are going to ordinary non-denominational schools. That being so, on behalf of my constituents, I welcome the Bill. At the same time, as a leading cleric in my division said to me at the weekend, the Minister is giving with one hand and taking away with the other, because in this area we have land available for building Catholic schools; the plans are all there; but year after year permission to build a school is refused. This Bill will be of no avail until the school building programme is revised and we get permission to build the schools which are envisaged under this Bill.My main point is with reference to Clauses 5 and 6, which impose certain statutory obligations on local authorities to provide dental services for schoolchildren. I thought that the hon. Gentleman who opened this debate did not really understand these Clauses because he referred to them, along with other Clauses, as being simply clarifying Clauses. I read them as much more than that. I am speaking on behalf of the British Dental Association, who are as worried as I am about these Clauses. I do not understand what the Minister is getting at and I have been asked by the Association to get some clarification from the right hon. Lady tonight. Under the Education Act of 1944 it has hitherto been the duty of local authorities to ensure that dental treatment is made available to schoolchildren either through the school dental service or otherwise. The important words are "or otherwise." At present, many local authorities are unable to engage sufficient dental officers and as a result some of them have discharged their statutory obligation by arranging, in co-operation with dentists in private practice, to allow the schoolchildren time off to have their dental treatment carried out in the private practitioners' surgeries. Clauses 5 and 6 propose to place on local authorities a duty to provide a comprehensive dental service either through persons in the employment of the authorities or through the hospital service. In other words, the arrangement by the authorities for children to be treated under the general dental service would no longer amount to a discharge of the statutory obligation on a local authority. This is a most important point because, as I have emphasised in this House time and time again—and I raised the matter on the Adjournment the other night—at present we have not a comprehensive school dental service. If the figures I have quoted are correct—and they have never been denied—there is no likelihood of getting a comprehensive school dental service for the next 10 years, in view of the manpower shortage and the present rate of the school building programme. During the transitional period what is going to happen? A letter I have received from the British Dental Association says:
such as I have suggested tonight. If a local authority takes every available step to provide an adequate school dental service and yet, for the reasons I have mentioned, cannot provide this service, will the local authority have the right to make an arrangement with dentists in private practice to do as they have done in the past—allow time off for children to be treated in the surgeries of private dental practitioners? I am sure the Minister must understand this point. Do not let us be too doctrinaire or too bureaucratic. We have not got an efficient school dental service and in the interim period I am sure the Minister will agree that a suggestion such as I have indicated should be adopted."We consider that where a local authority who has tried its utmost is unable either through lack of staff or lack of clinics or both to provide a complete service in the area it is essential that the authority should have the right to make arrangements …"
Like most other hon. Members I welcome this Bill and I should like to congratulate the Minister for introducing it at a comparatively early stage in the life-time of the present Parliament. It is a very happy thing for the House that on important Bills like this we can so often be in agreement on principles.There are two or three questions which I should like to address to the Minister. The first is one to which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) referred in talking about that Section of the 1944 Act which was deleted in another place. In the present Bill the whole reference in the extension of definition of displaced pupils is to pupils who already exist, to pupils for whom, in the opinion of the Minister, education would have been provided. On the other hand, there are cases where pupils came to the area a long time ago and, therefore, do not constitute a qualification because they have passed the school-leaving age. In addition, those cases where no children are yet born to the parents moving from other areas are, presumably, not qualified under this extended definition. That is, in some parts of the country, for all denominations, an important matter. It is a particularly important matter for my constituency. I would point out the great difference between what was in the 1944 Act when it left this House and what is in this Bill. The other point to which I wish to refer in the new definition of displaced pupils is that it is restricted to those displaced by reason of housing or town planning. Will the Minister be good enough to tell us what is the position of pupils displaced for other reasons? There are from time to time in this country movements of population due to changes of employment, for war or other emergency reasons. It seems to me that the two reasons mentioned in the Bill constitute a great restriction. One other point, which has been mentioned by other hon. Members, is that it would be a great help to denominational bodies trying to provide their special education for their children if Clauses 1 and 2 could be made retrospective. There is great hope for the future, but there have been these lean years ever since the war during which many of these denominational bodies have built and founded schools, and at present they do not stand to gain anything from the Bill. Clause 9 deals with the question of loans to managers or governors of voluntary schools. I want to ask the Minister whether a school which cannot rank for grant under Clauses 1 and 2 under the definition of displaced pupils, can obtain a loan under Clause 9, irrespective of the fact that it is not qualified for a grant under Clauses 1 and 2? In conclusion, I would say that this is an important Measure. We are glad to feel that there is such a large amount of agreement on it. The educational system of this country had birth in the denominational schools, and it is a very happy matter that after some 50 years of a State educational system we have once again the opportunity to put on the Statute Book something which will greatly assist those denominational bodies which, for very proper reasons, in my view, seek to provide education for their children.
The Clauses of this Bill which have naturally attracted the greatest interest throughout this long and interesting debate have been those which affect the position of the voluntary schools. It would be churlish if we on this side of the House were not to express our gratitude and congratulations to the Minister on being able to introduce a Bill which, in that respect, accords with the wishes of so many people of all denominations. But I should also add that our welcome of the Bill is made all the warmer by our recollection of the fact that much of the necessary preparatory work to the making of the agreement on which the Bill is based was that in which my right hon Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and our friend the late Mr. George Tomlinson played a considerable and distinguished part.If my references to the parts of the Bill which deal with the position of the voluntary schools are comparatively brief, I take it that no one will suppose that that is because I do not regard it as an extremely important subject. It is, of course, a subject of the very greatest importance that our educational system should proceed with the good will of both the parents and the religious communities. Fortunately, it is not necessary at this stage of the debate to say very much more on the topic, partly because many of the points which were in doubt at the beginning of the debate have subsequently been cleared up, and partly because of the wide measure of general agreement on the principle underlying Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 9. The fact that it is not necessary for me to say very much on the topic is evidence of the much more fortunate and happier atmosphere in which this denominational question is discussed today compared with that which prevailed in earlier periods of the history of English education. There are, however, certain points which I hope the right hon. Lady will be able to clear up. In the first place, it is clear that Clause 1 is not retrospective in the definite sense that it does not relate to schools which are actually built and running as schools when the Act is passed, but, if I understand the matter rightly, if the school is not actually running as a school when the Act is passed, the benefits of Clause 1 apply to it. That is what I take the position to be, and I believe that the right hon. Lady will confirm it. Some of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that we ought to consider whether Clause 1 should relate also to schools which are actually running as schools when the Act comes into force. It has been suggested that the Clause should be retrospective in the fullest sense of the word. It would help hon. Members if the right hon. Lady was able to tell us the quantitative size of the problem, how many schools and how much money would be involved. There is always a genuine difficulty about making any benefits retrospective. By making something retrospective, it may become so difficult to administer and so costly that one hesitates to make the concession at all. In a very large number of fields of legislation, particularly with regard to the social services, we experience the problem of making an alteration in the law which gives a concession, and it is decided not to make it retrospective on the grounds that if one did so it would become unbearably expensive. Consequently, it is important for us to know what would be involved in making the Clause retrospective. It seems to me that those hon. Members who have argued that in principle there is a good case for making it retrospective are on very strong grounds. It is intended to remedy unforeseen results of the 1944 Act. Perhaps the right hon. Lady will tell us, not, of course, with absolute precision, what information she has which will enable us to know the order of the problem with which we are dealing when we suggest that the Clause should be retrospective. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson)—I am sure the right hon. Lady will understand that it is impossible for him to be here now, as he would have wished to be—asked whether the child born after the family has moved from a "down-town" area into a reception area is a displaced pupil in the terms of the Bill. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) made the same point. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields took the view that, in the discussions which led up to this Bill, it was intended that a child of that kind should be a displaced pupil within the terms of the Bill. I am not sure what the Government's intentions are in the matter. Do they intend that such a child should be regarded as a displaced pupil? If they do, I ask the Minister to look very narrowly at paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 1, because, as I read them, they could not include a child of that kind. Any child called a displaced pupil by Clause 1 has to have resided at some stage in that former area. If I am right, and if the child we have been describing is not included in the terms of the Bill, perhaps the Minister will explain why that is so? I think it is clear that Clause 9, on the other hand, is undoubtedly a retrospective one and, I presume, it is partly on that account that in the Money Resolution, which will subsequently be before us, there is reference to retrospective provisions. Does the fact that retrospective provisions are mentioned in the Money Resolution mean that in Committee Amendments designed to make Clause 1 retrospective will be in order? This is a point of some considerable importance. Whatever view we take as to whether Clause 1 should be made retrospective or not, nobody would want to see discussion on that matter stifled on a mere technicality. It is important that we should know what is the Government view as to the possibility of moving Amendments to that effect in Committee. Have the Government taken advice on this procedural matter and, if so, what are they able to tell us? Before leaving this matter of the Clauses which give help to the voluntary schools, I should say that it is usual, when one is dealing with the Second Reading of a Bill, to make some reference, not only to what is in the Bill, but to the general surrounding circumstances in which the Bill is passed. It is in that respect that a Second Reading debate differs from a Third Reading debate. These Clauses deal with the provision of buildings. We have to read them against a background of a general slowing down in recent months of the provision of school buildings of all kinds. If the position is that a Bill which gives, on paper, assistance to voluntary schools, but which is passed in circumstances in which anybody who proposes to build a school, whether it is a religious community or a local education authority, will find it difficult to do so, then the practical value of the Bill is, if not diminished, very considerably postponed. We are all concerned that there should be equal justice as between the various religious communities in the country in the matter of the building of schools. We do not, however, want a situation in which they all suffer equally a degree of hindrance in putting up schools of any kind. I am sure the Minister must be very well aware that, while it is desirable and important to carry through a Bill of this kind, there does hang over it the shadow of the limitations of school buildings and the shadow of the very limited supply of teachers compared with the growing demand for their services, which is likely to hamper the development of good education in both county and voluntary schools alike. Clause 4 has been related to the recommendations of the Local Government Manpower Committee. I cannot feel that a mere question of the saving of manpower, paper, forms and even time are not in themselves sufficient for bringing forward a proposal, which, as we can see quite clearly from the debate, excites so much criticism and, in some quarters, very strong hostility. If the Parliamentary Secretary and I were to be miraculously transferred to each other's places, and I had the task of defending this Clause before the House, I do not think I would do so on the ground it will make administration easier for local authorities. There is, however, one aspect at which one ought to look with considerable care on Clause 4, and that is when one considers the type of parents—fortunately very few—who, persistently and antisocially, continually try to prevent their children attending school. Any bench of magistrates, any headmaster or headmistress or anyone who has had practical experience of our educational system, will know there is a limited number of parents of that kind. At present, the legal machinery for catching up with them and for rescuing their children from the anti-social bias of their parents moves very slowly indeed, and we ought to think along those lines before we brush Clause 4 aside in complete disapproval. The famous Section 76 of the principal Act says that children are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. None of us wants to be argued into the position where the children of unfortunate parents are to be deprived of what their parents wish, if their parents happen to have any wish in the matter. I would ask the Government to leave this Clause out of the Bill and look at the problem again, having that type of parent in mind. They can then see what type of legislation can be introduced that will protect the child against the parent of the kind that I have been describing without infringing the rights and liberties of the overwhelming majority of the population, who want to do well by their children and by the law. I should be sorry to see a complete gap in the Bill where Clause 4 now is, because I do not believe that it should be impossible to do what I have suggested. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields suggested one way in which it might be done, namely, by imposing a time limit. The Government, when they look at the matter, may see a better way of achieving the same result, but it is quite clear that there will be a good many different proposals about Clause 4 when we come to the Committee stage. They range from the one I have heard advanced in some quarters of keeping the Clause as it is, but adding to it a proviso that the parent who wish to appeal must be given help in preparing that appeal, to the other extreme of an Amendment designed to remove Clause 4 from the Bill altogether. My own feeling is that the atmosphere in Committee will be sweeter if the Government anticipate their critics, and are able to meet the Committee with proposals of their own, and, I hope, on the lines I have suggested, which, I think, would meet the criticisms advanced during the debate, although, of course, it would be far too much to suppose, whatever proposals they make, that hon. Gentlemen on both sides will be prevented from suggesting further improvements. But the right hon. Lady will, no doubt, be used to that and will be prepared for it. Clause 7 does a good deal more than regularising existing arrangements, as the Explanatory Memorandum rather lightheartedly puts it. There is a good. deal of doubt about what exactly are the legal powers of local education authorities with regard to the payment of fees of children at independent schools, which is one of the issues raised in the Clause. My own reading of the principal Act is that they have that power at present, but if there is any doubt let it be stated beyond question, as is done in Clause 7 (1). Beyond that, as I understand it, the Clause is still a permissive Clause. Of course, if we read that side by side with the general duty of an education authority to educate children in accordance with the wishes of their parents according to age, aptitude, and ability, we may say that they may be obliged to make this arrangement. None the less, Clause 7 at present simply says they have the power to make arrangements of this kind with the Minister's approval. Then, however, it goes on to say that if they do make such arrangements, as they are making at present, a limit is placed on the form in which they can be made. For example, if such an arrangement is made at present a local education authority can arrange to pay part of the expenses of board. This was referred to by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis). But if this Clause goes through, if they make an arrangement at all, they can only do it on the basis that they pay the whole of the expenses. I should be the last person to advocate unnecessary inquiry into people's incomes and means, but the amount of funds available to a local education authority for this purpose is limited. Sometimes people who may, quite rightly and properly, claim to benefit by these arrangements are people who, without being wealthy, are by no means poor. There is a case within my knowledge where the parents, by reason of their employment, have to spend several years in India, and they have to arrange for a guardian for their children. It is easier for the children to be at boarding school. It is quite legitimate for them to benefit under an arrangement made with the local education authority. At present, the authority can make an arrangement whereby the parents make a contribution, and, by doing so, the authority can perhaps provide for more cases of this kind. Might not the effect of Clause 7 be that if a local education authority agrees to make an arrangement at all it has to pay the whole of the expenses, and, consequently, the number of cases for which it could make such an arrangement would be unnecessarily and unreasonably limited? I may be wrong in my interpretation, but I am sure it will be agreed that this Bill is excessively difficult to understand unless one has around one three other Acts at least. I think the Parliamentary Secretary is drawing my attention to the fact that the powers shall be in addition to and not in derogation of. If that is right, it would mean that they can pay the whole or part, in which case it is a little surprising to have it stated emphatically that they shall pay the whole. Can the right hon. Lady tell us the extent to which the provisions in Section 81 of the principal Act are being used at present? I believe it varies a great deal from one education authority to another. It may be that the time has come to survey the use being made of these powers by different local authorities, and possibly to try to get a little more uniformity between one local authority and another in the use they make of them. There are other Clauses, mainly of a comparatively minor administrative character. We have already had an expert comment on Clauses 5 and 6 from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird) and I will therefore merely make the following concluding remarks on the Bill. It seems to me that the Bill is oddly arranged. If one looks at the topics with which it deals—the voluntary schools, the recommendation of the Local Government Manpower Committee, and certain other administrative matters—it will be found that the arrangement of the Clauses dodges back and forth between those different topics for no reason immediately apparent to a layman. The point is per- haps a little more important than it seems because we already have a large principal Act and several amending Acts, and it is important that it shall be comparatively easy for people who are not lawyers to be able to get at the sense of the Bill. I should have thought some re-arrangement of the Clauses with an eye to their subject matter would be helpful. Still more am I puzzled as to why certain matters appear in the Schedule rather than as Clauses. It is perfectly clear on page 12 why provisions to amend Sections 78, 79, 100 and 114 of the principal Act are put in the Schedule. They are quite minor administrative matters. But I do not see why it is convenient or useful to tuck away the Amendment of Section 40 of the principal Act in a Schedule instead of in its proper place as a Clause, next to Clause 4 which also deals with the subject of school attendance. If there are powerful reasons for dealing with the matter in this way I am sure the right hon. Lady will tell us, but if there are not, I hope that in the interests of the layman who is keen on education and wants to be able to feel his way about the Bill speedily and competently, there will be some rearrangement. Since everyone seems to be declaring their interest, may I say that a good many years ago I used to be a schoolmaster. When I pursued that profession it was occasionally my duty to tell pupils who showed me written work that it was untidy or ill-constructed and must be done again. I should be reluctant to say that to anyone who holds so exalted a position as the right hon. Lady, but that old professional habit began to surge within me as I hunted my way about the Bill and tried to arrange its Clauses and bits of Schedule according to the subject matter. Although this Bill is only a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure, it is noteworthy that, in the variety of matters, minor but not unimportant, with which it deals. it touches on almost all the interests and groups of people concerned with our system of education; and that brings out how much our system is a continued attempt to pay due regard to the interests of the parents, of the religious communities, and of local authorities and the central Government. It is, I think, impossible for us properly to carry on our system of education unless we constantly keep that balance. If we ignore the interests and rights of the parents and the religious bodies, we create an atmosphere in which the work of education cannot be done. If we ignore the rights of the local education authorities, and ignore the central Government, we run in danger of a diminution in the standards of education which ought to be maintained. We have, of necessity, to maintain that balance, and that, in my judgment is why we are never able to reach the final answer. There are always changing circumstances; there are changes in public opinion, changes in material factors, such as the cost of building a school, and all these items create a situation so that, what appeared to be the most balanced plan in 1944 is not the one for 1952. In my judgment, that will continually be so, and if any hon. Member imagines that one day we shall never need argue this question again, then he is deluding himself. What is hoped for is a compromise which is not merely a dull average between two extremes, but the kind of compromise we shall very soon see when we take our young relatives to the circus and see a person maintaining a perfect balance on four horses at the same time. This Bill aims at reaching a right balance at this time, and that is why we, on this side of the House give it our welcome.
I would begin by thanking right hon. and hon. Members who have given such a warm welcome to this Bill, although I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) thought that it is in rather untidy order. I would deal first with his last question, why the Clauses were arranged as they are and why certain things are in the Schedules.I can assure him that I have been asking that question ever since the Bill was put into draft. Having dealt with all the problems put forward by local education authorities, and those from parents and teachers, and the various Church interests, I found when it came to the actual drafting of the Bill that I did not know why this order had to be. However, I will give the assurance that I will try to get more information for him, if that is possible. But, as he may well know, if Parliamentary draftsmen tell one that this or that must be put a certain way, then a great amount of determination and energy is needed to find out why. It would, I think, be for the convenience of the House if I dealt first with the later Clauses. Then I would deal with the issue raising the most general interest, namely, Clause 1 and the question of retrospection. I was asked about Clause 3, both by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) and the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude). The purpose of this Clause is to enable a local authority to pay for the enlargement of a controlled secondary school where this is considered necessary and expedient. Such enlargements, I understand, will be few, and what we have in mind is adding a single stream—which is an expression I do not like, but which is in the fashion now—to secondary grammar schools. This was explained by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. A bigger enlargement that greatly extended and transformed the school would not, in my view, be a proper use of the Clause. Let us remember that, unlike other Sections in the 1946 Act, this Clause does not lay down that those who are to fill the extra places in a controlled school must necessarily come from a voluntary school. We are having this exception, and I want the hon. Member for Wimbledon to realise that our object is that there shall be a small addition. The Clause is meant to be limited in its application to meet a special case, when it would be uneconomical and unsatisfactory to provide accommodation in another way. I now come to Clause 4 about which a good many questions have been asked and opinions expressed. I will be quite frank with the House. When it was suggested that this amendment should be made, my first reaction was rather like the reactions of a great many hon. Members. Those who came to see me on behalf of the local education authorities pressed this matter strongly and I listened to their arguments. They pointed out to me—I think I may paraphrase what they said—that at present the parent puts the name of the school into the attendance order, and the local authority may then appeal to the Minister to have that order changed and the name of another school inserted. They suggested that the local authority should put in the name and the parent should be enabled to appeal, and in that way a quicker arrangement would result. As has been pointed out, there are some cases in which there is not the activity on the part of the parent who is keeping children away from school to assist in getting the attendance order through as quickly as possible. In the Bill as it stands, Clause 4 makes certain that the parent will have an opportunity to appeal. We might go further and provide for some prescribed form. I have been urged by the representatives of the local education authorities to adopt this course because they feel that there are many cases in which children are away from school much longer than they need be simply because certain parents will not co-operate in filling in the name of the school. I think they have a case, but, as I say, my first reaction was exactly the same as that of a good many hon. Members, and I wondered whether we would be taking away the rights of the parent. I certainly do not want to do that. It was pointed out that the rights of the parent are still there, because the parent appeals. I am perfectly willing to hear all the suggestions and to consider any Amendment that is put down for the Committee stage. We want the Act to work in the best way possible. We do not want the Act to fail simply because certain parents do not co-operate and keep their children away from school. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) suggested that there should be a limited number of days in which a parent would have to fill up the form. I am quite willing to look at any suggestions. I must impress upon the House that those who are involved in working the scheme—the local education authorities—were very anxious that this arrangement should be included; they gave me their reasons and, as I say, it was a recommendation from the Manpower Committee. I now come to Clause 5 about which questions were asked by the hon. Members for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn), Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird) and Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden), on the subject of placing a duty on the local authority to provide this dental service. I wish to make it perfectly clear, because I think this was the doubt in the mind of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, that the fact that the local authority provides this dental service in no way prevents children from going to other dentists, whether they are in the National Health Service or not, as their parents wish. All we are saying— and hon. Members in all parts of the House will think this is right—is that local authorities should provide the dental service. I am certain it is right that we should now make it quite clear that these services should be provided. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East said we would not be able to provide the service. In the meantime, there is nothing to prevent parents sending children to other dentists, and I do not think the hon. Member need be quite so pessimistic about it. After all, I quite agree that every year since 1948 there were fewer full time dentists in the school dental service—or their equivalents, but this year we have had a great improvement. For the first time the number did not go down. It was down to 713 in January, but now it is going up and in six months we have had over 100 new dentists—or the equivalent—in the service. This is hopeful, and I wish to see this going on. By putting this provision in the Bill I wish to be able to say that we are going to continue this service, that we are going to do it by means of the local authorities so that those coming in can know that this is a continuing service.
I quite agree with the right hon. Lady, but the whole point is that it will be many years before we can get a fully staffed service. In the meantime, some local authorities have made arrangements with dentists in private practice to treat school children sent by schools in school time. If a local authority takes steps to organise its own service, and dentists are not available, will they still be able to send the children to private dentists?
It is to be laid down that every local authority shall provide a service. The hon. Gentleman asks if we will prevent children going to other dentists—of course, we will not. It will be the duty of the local authority to provide the service.
The dentists are not there.
At present, we know there are cases where treatment cannot be granted to all children, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the children going to any other dentist.
Or to any other doctor.
Or to any other doctor. All we are trying to do is to state quite clearly that it is the duty of the local authority to provide this service.I would like to say at once that Clause 7, as it is drafted, is not as clear as I would like it to be. In Committee I hope to put down an Amendment to make it more clear. I wish to say, also, that this Clause is not a substitute for Clause 81, but is an addition. This Clause makes it the duty of a local authority to take places in schools other than its own when it has not got sufficient places to provide education for the children for whom it is their statutory duty to provide education. If there are not enough places, the local authority has, so to speak, to hire places from other schools—direct grants schools, in some cases also, independent schools, but places in special schools. That is a duty on them, and because it is a duty to take up places in other schools and pay for them they must pay the whole amount. It is not a case of saying that the parent must pay part. That is the difference between this Clause and Section 81 of the principal Act, where the power—not the duty—is given to pay in certain cases to avoid hardship. The cases alluded to by the hon. Member for Fulham, East would be cases mostly arising under Section 81—and that is not altered in any way by this Bill. But the relevant Clause is limited to what is the existing practice, which was very wisely referred to by my hon. Friend as a clumsy device. We now want to make it perfectly clear that the local authorities who have to take places in other schools have to pay the whole fees and not only part, as was done under Section 81.
Does my right hon. Friend mean that under Section 81 of the principal Act part can be paid but under this Bill the local authorities can pay the whole?
Under this Bill they must pay the whole. This is merely a question of extending their own places.
As I understand, Clause 7 (2) deals with the cases under Section 33 of the original Act, that is to say, cases of children who are in one way or another handicapped and require a special form of education. But the point with which we are mainly concerned is in Clause 7 (1) and there, in spite of what the right hon. Lady says, the operative words are:
It is not a duty. What will be the position of a direct grant school in an area where the provision of the local education authority itself is already adequate, when they want to fill up the places they have to fill in order to get the direct school grant?".. a local education authority shall have … power …"
I can make this clear. In subsection (1) the words are:
In other words, a local authority, if it has not enough places in its own maintained schools, may make arrangements with the other schools; but as the right hon. Gentleman will see, later it is"have … power to make … arrangements."
It is not "part of the fees." As I have said, I want to have another form of words to make it quite clear that they can make arrangements, if they have not enough places in their own schools, to take up places in other schools, and in that case they must pay the full fees."shall … pay the … fees."
I agree that that happens under subsection (2), which does not deal with direct grant schools but with schools for what we generally call handicapped children. I think we had probably better leave this until the Committee stage; but I would point out that subsection (1) needs a lot of clarification.
This deals with direct grant schools when they take up places. It also deals with special schools and with independent schools when they take up places. It is a question of adding to their own places in their maintained schools.
Before the right hon. Lady leaves Clause 7, would she agree that the provision should be made at the parents' choice?
We shall continue exactly as we are doing now. There is a choice very often and the parents are given a list of schools. I do not say that they always get the places they would like in the schools; but there is no change at all. We are continuing the present practice in a clearer way, and the present practice is for these places to be fully paid for and for the parents to get a choice—though I cannot guarantee that in each case the parents will necessarily be able to get the required place in, the school.On Clause 9, I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) whether there was any change with regard to payment for the sites. There is no change. Regarding his question about an omission from one of the suggestions of the Manpower Committee in Clause 13 (5), it was considered that as no real change could be made, no difference would result from making them affirmative rather than negative. Now we come to Clause 13, and the difference between one month, two months', or three months' wait for objections under Section 13 of the principal Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields thought that we ought to have accepted one month. Some of the denominations and deputations which came to see me were against one month, and some asked us to maintain the period of three months, but I compromised with two months. I think that will meet the case. Now I will come to what has been most discussed and of greatest interest, namely, Clause 1. I do not want to take too much time arguing whose ideas it is considered are now in this Bill. Everybody seems to have had some point of view put forward, and several hon. Members have suggested, that we have simply taken what the previous Government was going to do. The hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) pointed out that he was one of the first to put forward some matter about which there was a strange coincidence in that the words are very similar. I think we can probably suggest that the words are similar because certain of those who wanted the changes made were suggesting what the words should be and how we could work out a definition of displaced pupils. The right hon. Member for South Shields told us that the late Government made a statement, which, I know, was published on 5th October, 1951. I quite agree that the substance of what is stated there is included in the Bill. What has always surprised me, and it surprised me more and more as I listened to this debate, is that the last Administration, now appearing so keen and interested about getting grants for these schools as soon as possible, did not bring in the Bill. Why the delay?
The electors did not return us.
I was thinking of the year before that.When hon. Members were asking for retrospection I was surprised that hon. Members of the Opposition should join in that request, and should point out the difficulties of certain Clauses in the Bill of last year, or the year before; because they then decided not to do it. They ask me, and the present Government, to make the provision retrospective—to turn back to what they decided was not to be done. The hon. Member for Ardwick pointed out what he said in March, 1951. I have seen a copy of it, and read parts of it this evening. No legislation was brought forward then, although it was urged from both sides of the House.
Discussions were going on.
They were going on for such a long time. The Labour Government were in office in 1951. They were in office the year before, and the year before that. Whether they were discussing the matter for all those years I do not know; but they were not convinced until the General Election started and their own Election manifesto had gone out, with no mention of this matter in it.Strangely enough, apart from the fact that a good deal is said about the difficulties of the Roman Catholics in their "Handbook for Socialist Speakers, 1951." which, I agree, was published in November, 1950, the Labour Party made no mention of the displaced pupil. Even more strange is that the supplementary edition brought out in August, 1951, did not mention the displaced pupil. However, better late than never. The right hon. Gentleman has explained that by 5th October, when the General Election had started, the Labour Party had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to deal with the displaced pupil. They were quite right.
We have been waiting for a General Election.
The right hon. Lady knows that private discussions were going on. Only a year earlier discussions were opened with the party which now forms the Government in order to make certain that there would not be opposition from them. Discussions were also going on with religious bodies. The Labour Government could not have found time for a Bill.
We know all about the discussions. I took part in discussions when I was in the Opposition. The hon. Member for Ardwick pointed out that he began drafting something in March. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that it is terrible that these schools cannot get an extra grant, but the schools could have had it if the Labour Government had got on with the work that I have done in a year.
The right hon. Lady must remedy the situation, then.
My first remedy is to bring in the Bill so that we can deal with the matter in the future.
Make it retrospective.
The hon. Member may be looking to me to deal with the sins of omission of the Labour Government, but it is impossible to deal with them all.Among the matters raised in connection with Clause 1 was the question of the unborn child, which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and other hon. Members.
Before the right hon. Lady gets right off the point—
I have not much time.
The right hon. Lady has forgotten to tell the House her attitude towards making the Clause retrospective.
If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I will get as much done in the time left to me.
It needs only three sentences.
It was suggested that a family with children having the status of displaced pupils might move to another area and later another child might be born, and it was asked whether that child would be a displaced pupil. Hon. Members will, I am sure, realise that in dealing with the definition of a displaced pupil in the Bill we can hardly call a child a displaced pupil if it is born when the family is residing in another area. That would be impossible. I was interested in the fact that the statement of October, 1951, put before us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields as a definition did not include reference to the unborn child.My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) asked what would be the area in relation to schools when a family moved. He need not think that it would necessarily be only what is officially called a catchment area. If the children were attending a voluntary school before they moved to a new area I certainly think they would count as displaced pupils. It has been suggested that the present law is as it is simply because of a mistake in a Lords Amendment. I would remind hon. Members that this House has to agree to or disagree with Lords Amendments, so this House must bear its responsibility. If hon. Gentlemen had been so anxious about what they refer to as an anomaly—
We were not there.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment.The last Government amended this Act on two occasions, in 1946 and 1948. They did not see fit to make that amendment. So, we have been working on the Act which the last Government did not see fit to amend. The amendment did not come up in the Bill which was put before this House by the Labour Government because they did not include it.
The then Opposition could have moved an Amendment to it.
I have been told that although we bring in this Bill to help the voluntary schools, as we have had a reduction in building, perhaps it will not do so. There has not been a reduction in building. I have now the figures of educational building as a whole for the first six months of 1951 and 1952. In the first six months of 1951, educational building had been done to the value of just over £16 million. This present year, 1952, educational building has been done to the value of over £20 million, so that it is not a reduction but an increase. I have been asked if there is any—
The building was approved by the last Government.
During the time of the last Government the building done in the first six months was just over £16 million. Under this Government, the building done was to a value of over £20 million.I have been asked what would be the cost of making Clause 1 completely retrospective. There was a Question on this matter on the Order Paper today, but it was not reached. My written answer was:
which means the location they come from—"I cannot give a reliable estimate as this would require an investigation into the provenance of the pupils—
That is the difficulty. I do not think we can make this retrospective. My last word about retrospection is this. We talked about it with all the people who came to see me when we were having discussions. I agreed that I would not make this retrospective and I think we have to keep to that and to keep to the bargain we have made. We cannot now make up for what was not done in the years that have gone. Question put, and agreed to. Bill accordingly read a Second time. Committed to a Standing Committee."first admitted to some 50 new aided or special agreement voluntary schools opened since.. 1945."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 14.]
Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Money
Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees). — [Queen's Recommendation signified.]
[Mr. HOPKIN MORRIS in the Chair]
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to education in England and Wales and to make further provision with respect to the duties of education authorities in Scotland as to dental treatment, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums payable out of such moneys under any enactment, being an increase attributable to provisions (including retrospective provisions) of the said Act of the present Session—
Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.
Consumer Goods (Labelling)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Major Conant.]
This is not the best night, so far as the weather is concerned, for initiating an Adjournment debate, because it means that I have to stay the night. I should like to apologise in advance to anyone who has to stay and who would not otherwise have to do so but for this Adjournment.The matter I wish to raise has to do with the labelling of consumer goods and is important because it affects industry very greatly and, obviously, the shopping public of this country. I informed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that I would be dealing principally with textiles, and I should like to say straight away that the Government wish to secure voluntary informative labelling of textiles and have made arrangements with the British Standard Institution to that effect, but I am wondering whether the hon. and learned Gentleman realises that there are no means as yet in the hands of the Board of Trade by which informative labelling can be policed and properly enforced for the benefit of the public. The shopping public and I myself believe that there is no indication on the part of the Government that they are aware of their responsibilities in this direction or of the urgency for more speedy decisions. The Government have already asked for the voluntary imposition of standards of performance of textiles and clothing sizes and other consumer goods. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to realise that this is purely voluntary. There is a great desire on the part of the shopping public for better standards of consumer goods and for enforcement and publicity about those standards, and I should like to stress that this is a matter held by the shopping public, quite irrespective of party politics. First of all, I should like to deal with the question of textile trade terms. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would give me his attention, because I hope he will be able to give me an answer when he replies to the debate. In this matter of trade terms, I think everybody would agree that the modern commercial practice of "writing up" merchandise goods causes the change of technical and trade meaning to move faster than that of the common understanding of the ordinary shoppers. Furthermore, this change is invariably —and I want to stress the word—from one of quality or precise significance to one of vague significance or no significance at all. This is because sales promotion, in its endeavour to enhance the goods it has to sell, borrows terms of high quality significance or luxury appeal to describe lower grades and imitations. I will take two very obvious examples. First, shantung. If we go back to 1938, the word "shantung" had a very definite and precise meaning. The word "shantung" conjured up a vision of wild-silk material of certain appearance and known quality and performance. Since then, as perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary realises, this term has been applied to spun rayon cloths so that today shantung has had its meaning blurred, and new terms are now needed to distinguish between the various cloths labelled shantung. The second obvious example is gaberdine. That is a term which should only be applied to a well-recognised and distinctive cloth structure. Would the Parliamentary Secretary give me his attention for a few moments?
I am sorry, but I hope the hon. Lady realises that I was only seeking to help her by collecting for myself the answers to her questions.
I apologise and I am looking forward to the answers.I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary realises that gaberdine has lost its original meaning in the public mind, because of its sudden leap into fashion and the consequent application to almost any loose-twill wool or wool mixture cloth. I want to go on to the current misuse of trade terms. In retail advertising of clothing, and household textiles I believe it results from three causes—first, ignorance; secondly, carelessness, often coupled with negligence; and, thirdly, deliberate effort to defraud. Investigation shows that by far the greatest preponderance comes from the second cause. I have had some experience in retail stores, and believe that ignorance usually arises from ignorance of the counter staff. Many stores and shops have recently begun to overcome this difficulty by making a real effort to train their assistants in regard to the content and performance of the cloths with which they have to deal. But we often find that misapplication of the term "woollen" is encouraged by the staff because they know that the public sets great store on cloth being advertised as wool. If we take linen, silk, wool, and leather, the misuse of trade terms falls under these three headings, but I am sorry to say that intent to defraud comes much to the fore. When advertisers are challenged on any of these four commodities they usually fall back on the excuse of ignorance, although some do blame their suppliers and admit carelessness. The point I wish to speak of in detail concerns wool, woollen and worsted materials. Everyone, I think, would agree with the following statements. First, it is the right of the consumer to know what he or she is buying. Secondly, it is essential that laundries and dry-cleaners should know the fibre content of any material or garment to be dealt with. It seems to me very strange that any West Riding cloth producer should object to such a proposal. I wish to be fair, but, from the large number of cloth producers from the West Riding who do object, I can only conclude that they fear that their sales will be adversely affected if they have to describe a dress as being rayon and wool, instead of being able to pass it off, lightly, as a woollen dress. How can a rayon dress normally be described as anything else? Surely it seems to the ordinary shopper that wool is wool and rayon rayon. If we are not careful, and if the Parliamentary Secretary does not intervene, we shall find soon that rayon may well be described quite legally in wool industry terms. For some time now some manufacturers from the West Riding have been fighting strongly for the legal interpretation of the word "woollen" to mean merely a process of spinning. If this were accepted the terms "worsted" and "woollen" would be acceptable in the courts as describing rayon suits and dresses. Representations against this have been made to the British Standards Institution by many organisations. There have been not only representations, but counter-proposals for the labelling of wool and mixture cloths, and one has only to give the names of these organisations to see how reputable and responsible they are. Under the auspices of the Retail Trading Standards Association the following organisations have added their names to this counter-proposal: The Association of Wholesale Woollen Merchants, the Bespoke Tailors Guild, the British Mantle Manufacturers Association, the Drapers Chamber of Trade, the Institute of British Launderers, the International Wool Secretariat, the National Association of Outfitters, the National Chamber of Trade, the National Federation of Dyers and Cleaners, the Retail Distributors Association, and the Wholesale Textile Association. Briefly, those associations believe that a cloth should only be labelled as wool, woollen or worsted if it contains 100 per cent. wool on which they would allow a manufacturers' tolerance of 3 per cent. and a maximum of a further 7 per cent. for visible decoration. Obviously, those names carry weight, and in view of this opposition, reinforced by the principal women's organisations and the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the manufacturers have retreated a little, but only a little. They still want the term "woollen" to mean only a process of spinning, but they now suggest that those of them who are prepared to adopt the British Standards Institution standard will always follow the word "woollen" by some such words as "wool dominant" or mixture containing wool." I think that that is a clumsy phrase designed to conceal from the public the nature and extent of other fibres than wool. It means simply that under this plan any manufacturer not voluntarily adhering to the British Standards Institution standard would be in order in describing his goods as woollen although they contained only 15 per cent. of wool, and nobody could touch him because the term "woollen" would be a technical one indicating a spinning process. I submit that this is not good enough and I think Parliament should step in to see that it does not happen. How did it arise in the first place? The British Standards Institution has a Wool Industry Standards Committee which includes 16 representatives of the Wool Textile Delegation, two of the Textile Institute and one of the Society of Dyers and Colourists. In that list there is not one consumer or one distributor. When it became obvious that the trade associations were getting restive, the British Standards Institution appointed a technical committee. On this they included most of the important trade associations and representatives from the Women's Advisory Committee of the British Standards Institution. This Committee met once, on 21st May, 1952, and I believe that at that meeting there was prolonged criticism of the proposed labelling and definitions which I have mentioned, and strenuous efforts were made to obtain agreement that the mixture cloths would be labelled according to weight of fibre content. After this meeting those suggestions and proposals went back to the original Wool Industry Standards Committee and, being judge and jury, this Committee ignored practically every comment that had been made and re-circulated its previous proposals—perhaps with an odd "t" crossed and an odd "i" dotted, but they were the same. When that happened the Retail Trading Standards Association and its other associated bodies protested. They said that their suggestions involved counter-proposals and they asked for a reply. I believe that an acknowledgment has been sent but nothing further has been done, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the Wool Industry Standards Committee itself should be opened up to include representatives of the distributor and of the consumer. Time is getting on and I wanted to mention the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, but I know that you would rule me out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I went into that, so I shall have to leave it. Before coming to my final recommendations, however, may I say that there are seven points that I wish to bring to the notice of the hon. Gentleman. The first is probably the most important. It is that today we have with us a new problem of the strong synthetic fibres, two examples of which are nylon and terylene. I expect the House knows that these strong synthetic fibres are used with wool to give specific benefits to the users of the fabrics or the articles made therefrom and they are of two kinds. First, there is the direct benefit which is obtained by using from 25 to 50 per cent. of strong fibres to improve the actual properties of the fabrics concerned. There is also the indirect benefit obtained by including as little as 3 to 5 per cent. of these strong fibres to improve the manufacturing efficiency. The inclusion of as small a percentage as 3 to 5 per cent. aids the spinning and weaving, but makes no difference to the quality of the cloth. Therefore, there is no need to declare its presence; but, if its presence is declared, then the percentage should be stated in order to protect the purchaser from descriptive claims concerning the performance of the cloth. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary knows that today we have cloth described in the most flattering terms as being of "wool and nylon" but where the actual nylon content is less than 5 per cent.? Secondly, the other day I saw two pieces of material; one of viscose rayon taffeta, and the other of embossed rayon velvet. Both had a pattern arranged by pressure processing which would disappear completely the moment the garment became wet; if it was put in water, or even if tea was spilt on it. Many women have sent in complaints about these dresses after contact with water or perhaps because a cup of tea has, unfortunately, been spilled over them. That would not have happened if acetate rayon had been used; and I would say here in passing, that in the United States manufacturers are compelled to disclose which type of rayon has been used. Thirdly, recently I saw a piece of rayon material with various shades of red and green dye on it. When this had had a little use, or had been sent to the cleaners after short service, the red and green parts would disintegrate and go into holes. There was nothing to warn the purchaser of that. Fourthly, I saw some pit socks which were composed of so much "waste" material that when the men wore them for their hard work in the pit, the "waste" disintegrated and simply meant that there had been money thrown away by these miners on something which wore for so short a time. Here again, there was no indication of how much "waste" had been used in the socks. Fifthly, any woman can now see a lot of lizard handbags on the counters. I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary to be an authority on those, but he may know there were many so-called "lizard" bags. At first they were called "plastic lizard," but the retailers were told that they could not use that term because it was a false trade description; a bag was either "lizard" or "plastic"; it could not be both. Then, they became termed "lizard grain." Why could they not have been called "plastic"? Sixthly, I saw that in the courts recently, a decision was sought as to when a fishcake was not a fishcake, and the answer was when it contained less than 35 per cent. of fish. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that that might be borne in mind, although it is not included in the labelling of textile goods. I come now to the last of my seven points. If anyone breaks a leg or seriously injures himself by falling off a step-ladder in future will he take comfort from the fact that, although the British Standards Institution has drawn up a set of minimum standards for step-ladders. there is no compulsion on manufacturers to observe them? What a ridiculous situation. I should like to put forward four recommendations. First, that the British Standard definitions of textiles and other commodities should be produced. A small nomenclature committee sitting under Government auspices, and representing all interests, should lay down "market place" definitions of the principal trade terms used by the retailer in his dealings with the public. There is, in addition, a growing need to cover the growing field of man-made fibres and cloths. Secondly, there is the need that British Standard definitions, as agreed, should be accepted by Parliament as definitions acceptable by the courts. Thirdly, the Board of Trade should hasten its investigation of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, whereby offenders can be prosecuted and punished for applying false descriptions to goods. Fourthly, if necessary as a prelude to introduction of British Standard definitions and necessary amendment of the Merchandise Marks Act, labelling of consumer goods, and not merely textile consumer goods, should be generally introduced. On 20th November, the Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to a Question by me about the description of napped cotton goods and about the term suede, said
I do not think they are getting on with the job fast enough and I would quote from the Council of the National Hosiery Manufacturers' Federation, which stated in notes on Fair Trading Codes on 28th November last:"I do not think that any requests from my Department are necessary to the British Standards Institution. They are certainly getting on with the job."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1952, Vol. 507, c. 2025.]
The labelling of goods must be hastened by the British Standards Institution. It must be made compulsory on all traders, and, if necessary, we shall have to have some Parliamentary legislation on the matter, because then at last wool would be wool, rayon would be rayon, fish cakes would be fish cakes, and words would mean what they said."The Council of the Federation, desiring to establish and license a characteristic Mark for hosiery, and deterred by the likelihood of considerable delay or even frustration if the British Standards Institution proposals were adopted, finally decided that we should proceed with our own Code and Mark."
The hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), as is her wont, has said a great deal and much that is interesting in a very short time, and I cannot pretend that I can, on the spot, give her an answer to it all which will satisfy her, but I do want to refer to some points on which I agree with her and some points on which I do not.I do not differ from the hon. Lady at all in the importance that she attaches to the question of standards of quality. The importance that my right hon. Friend attaches to that was made known in his speech last March. It was and is his desire that voluntary standards should be prepared by the industries concerned in consultation with the British Standards Institution, and that in due course the public should have the opportunity of buying goods bearing the mark showing that they comply with British standards. But it is an essential part of that scheme that they should be voluntary standards. I should be out of order if I discussed matters involving legislation, but an essential part of the scheme is that these should be standards voluntarily negotiated. These voluntary standards are being prepared on a number of the topics with which the hon. Lady dealt. One of these matters on which the industry and the British Standards Institution are working is the very matter of which she spoke, namely, the glossary of wool terms. I agree with the hon. Lady that important differences have arisen. There has been a difference on this subject between the proposals originally put forward by the wool textile industry's representatives in the B.S.I. Committee and the retailers' representatives, and there have been counter-proposals by the retailers' representatives which have not been agreed by the manufacturers. I have, however, no reason to think that agreement will not eventually be reached, and I certainly do not propose tonight, by expressing views on the proposals that in the course of these discussions have been put forward by one body or another, to make agreement or compromise more difficult. In fact, I think that would help to defeat the very object that I believe the hon. Lady has in mind. She is wrong in thinking that there is objection on the part of the wool industry to labelling and indicating the wool content. Indeed, as I understand it, they have undertaken to do so. There are, however, I admit, differences of opinion which I hope are in course of being resolved. I agree that many of us hoped that further progress would have been made by now, but the scheme is largely novel and it is difficult. I think that all of us who wish to see these quality schemes put into operation know how important it is that the standards should be satisfactory, that they should be accepted and that they should work, even if that involves waiting rather longer than we had hoped. I have not got time to go through all the causes which make this a somewhat lengthy matter. Before proposals are presented to the British Standards Institu- tion, agreement must be reached between representatives of the spinners, weavers, finishers and dyers. Then in the appropriate B.S.I. Committee agreement has to be reached between representatives of the particular textile industry as a whole and the clothing manufacturers, distributors and consumers. All this has had to be carried on during a period when a great deal of the energy of the industries concerned has been devoted to meeting the urgency of the textile depression. Now trade is improving, and I hope that energetic attention will be given to the work of bringing these standards into use. What has been achieved—because we ought not to speak as though, in all this time there has been no advance towards securing agreed standards of quality? I should mention one case where not only has agreement been reached, but a marking scheme is in operation. Bedding, including mattresses, pillows, and bolsters can now be bought with the Kite mark of the British Standards Institution. This is a matter in which the public can help by buying goods so marked. In the case of safety boots and shoes for men, likewise there are standards agreed and a marking scheme in operation. Another standard completed and in course of being printed, covers rubber footwear. I can mention others, but I agree with the hon. Lady that textiles have not yet advanced so far. I hope that will be remedied— and I believe it will. I differ from her entirely—and I wish to make this absolutely clear—in the view she apparently holds that the British Standards Institution is in any way to blame for any undue delay. I do not believe that that charge is right. The main part of the hon. Lady's speech was devoted to the question of trade terms. Although I cannot discuss legislation—a rule from which she herself suffered—I should like to remind her that successful prosecutions have taken place under the Merchandise Marks Act. The Act already makes the application to goods of a false trade description or the sale of goods to which a false inscription has been applied a criminal offence. Trade description includes any statement or other indication, direct or indirect, as to the material of which any goods are made or produced or as to the mode of manufacturing any goods. It is, therefore, an offence to mis-describe the fibre content of textiles, and successful prosecutions have taken place. Some of the matters the hon. Lady mentioned might, in certain circumstances, I think, be remedied even under the Sale of Goods Act. The hon. Lady has made many suggestions of what some of the standards should be. I hope she has made them to the industry, and to the British Standards Institution, because I think the Institution, in particular, are far more competent to consider the merits of some of her proposals than any Minister at the Board of Trade.
The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock on Monday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned at Twenty-nine Minutes past Twelve o'Clock, a.m.