HC Deb 06 August 1918 vol 109 cc1292-5

Order read for consideration of Lords Amendments.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)

I beg to move, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."

I think probably it will be for the convenience of the House that I should make a brief statement at the outset of the course which the Government propose to pursue with respect to the Lords Amendments. We propose to recommend that the House do agree with the Amendments which have come down from another place. These Amendments fall into three classes. By far the greater number of the Amendments on the Paper are purely Amendments of drafting, or improvements in the form of the Bill, which do not affect the substance. Then there are other Amendments which do contain points of substance but points so small that I trust the House will accept those Amendments without much demur. In any case we are satisfied that no one of the Amendments belonging to this category is at variance with the general principle on which the Bill has been framed, or even at variance with the spirit and temper of the House on the problems affected. There are other matters which are not only Amendments of substance, but Amendments of some little importance. As the Bill left the Commons it contained no restriction on Sunday labour. In its present form it provides that no child under twelve shall be employed on Sundays, and that the child of twelve or upwards may not be employed on Sundays for more than two hours. Again, as the Bill left the House of Commons the employment of children before school hours was absolutely prohibited, except in the case of employment of the children by their parents, in which case one hour of employment before nine in the morning could be permitted by by-law, provided that the employment after school hours was limited to one hour. In the House of Lords an Amendment has been inserted providing that children over twelve may under by-law be employed for not more than one hour on school days before nine a.m., provided that they are not employed for more than one hour after school hours. It will be observed that these Amendments substantially restrict the total amount of employment which is possible in cases where the child is employed before school hours. If the Amendments which have come from another place had had the effect of enlarging or increasing the period of industrial employment for any children, the Government would have looked into them very carefully indeed, but the Lords Amendments have the opposite effect; they have the effect of amending the restriction upon the, industrial employment of children. In these circumstances the Government believe that it will be the general wish of the House that these Amendments should be accepted as being in conformity with the general principle of the Bill. Accordingly I feel that we should accept all the Amendments which have come down from another place.


The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps be good enough to explain at this stage the new Clause proposed by the Lords with regard to medical treatment in schools, which was proposed and passed without debate in the other Chamber. I think it is regrettable that the powers of the local authorities should be curtailed in the way the new Clause suggests. It appears to have been the result of some agreement with some representatives of the medical profession, about which apparently there was no statement in the other House. I think it would be useful to have the reasons given.


I think everybody ought to congratulate the President of the Board of Education that he has a Bill brought down from the other place raising so many points, on some of which some of us, at any rate, had great fears that they might be interfered with in the other place, and that the Bill should come back so substantially the same as it was when we sent it there. I think we can heartily congratulate the President on what is really a very great triumph, not only for himself, but also for the House of Commons. I also think it is unsatisfactory that the right hon. Gentleman has not referred to this very serious alteration, which has been made in what might be called the doctors' safeguard in Clause 18. To my mind, it is the one bad alteration which the Lords have made, and I am quite surprised that the President did not just now allude to it. Perhaps he has been so carried away by his success generally that he has ignored the fact that here, at any rate, he has had a palpable hit made against him. I hope he will be able to say that in this matter, at any rate, he does not propose to agree with the Lords.


I entirely agree with the congratulations which have been offered to my right hon. Friend, but I think the House of Lords ought to be included in the congratulations, because they have taken a great and complicated Bill and have certainly improved it in certain matters and have not impaired its efficiency in any way. In regard to the Amendment to Clause 6, which most happily explicates the truly voluntary character of the Clause, I want to ask my right hon. Friend to say if I am right in concluding that the voluntary character of the Clause includes all details of the scheme, so that the problems which arise with regard to members of these federations who are not existing members of local education authorities, and who are to be appointed by the members of the local education authorities after the nomination of those representing particular interests or otherwise would be a matter for voluntary arrangement under each particular scheme. I feel sure that that is so, but it would be valuable if it were put on record and if my right hon. Friend endorsed that view, as the matter is of some consequence in working out these schemes. I think the alterations in regard to the employment of children are all to the good. They extend the restriction to Sundays; they give greater flexibility without increase of time on other days, and I think they go further to preserve the proper balance between unharmful industrial occupation and the conservation of energy for doing school work.


I would like to endorse the last remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I think the Lords have made Amendments to the Bill which will make it work more smoothly. So far as I am concerned—and I think so far as the party with which I am connected is concerned—we welcome the Education Bill. We wish to see the children of this country made as intelligent and as useful as they can possibly be made by education, and I can only hope that the Bill, which will now, I take it, receive its blessing from this House, will be of immense benefit to the people of this country.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.