HC Deb 15 July 1918 vol 108 cc735-7

Any council having powers under the Education Act, 1902, to make a scheme constituting an education committee or education committees may include in any such scheme provisions enabling some portion of the members of the education committee to be directly elected for this purpose only by the ratepayers of the area for which the committee is formed.—[Mr. King.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The object of this Clause is very clear. It does not impose any duty on the local education authority when the scheme is made; it only gives them power, and a power which probably exists at the present time, when setting up a committee to manage: education in a particular area, to declare that a certain proportion of the committee of managers under the scheme shall be directly elected by the people. The principle of the Act of 1902 is that when an education committee is set up there are always to be certain co-opted members to allow of experts, men of position and authority, and with special interests to be brought in from outside. With that provision I do not interfere. I only attempt here to get the possibility, and not more than the possibility, of direct representation of the ratepayers in the management of their own educational affairs. For some years past there has been controversy as to whether education authorities ought to be elected on the ad hoc principle—to be elected definitely for that purpose. For some years the current of opinion, certainly at the time the Act of 1902 was passed, was definitely and strongly against the ad hoc principle. But the tide has now turned, and the sign of that is that in the Scottish Education Bill of last year it was proposed to abolish ad hoc elections for education authorities and school boards in Scotland, but so strong was the opposition in Scotland, a feeling which has found a response in this country, that the Government has introduced its Bill this year in quite a different form, preserving the ad hoc principle. I do not go so far as to desire to set up an ad hoe authority. I only go so far as to allow schemes to be proposed which would enable the Board of Education to give official sanction by which a certain number of the members of the committee of managers under the scheme shall be directly elected. I do not desire, and I do not think it necessary, to have special elections for the purpose. There is no reason whatever why, if there were a town council election, an election should not also be held at the same time of a certain number of persons for the education committee of the town. Elections in this way might easily be joined without any expense, difficulty, or confusion to the issue. I think the right which I am claiming to have inserted here possibly exists already, although there is no legislative or definite sanction for it. If it does so exist, why should it not be put definitely in the Act? A great many things will be more seriously taken and a great many rights will be more generally used and appreciated if they are embodied in the Act of Parliament than if they only had a vague sort of acknowledgment by experts in the law.


I beg to second the Motion.


My hon. Friend is perfectly correct in his assumption that the right for which he pleads in his Amendment is already secured under the existing state of the law. There is nothing inherent in the existing law which makes the hon. Member's plan impossible. If the local education authority represents to the Board that they desire some members of the education committee to be directly elected ad hoc by the ratepayers there is no reason why the Board should not consent to this course, subject to the provision of appropriate machinery. In fact, the Board has had many applications from trade union bodies and from teachers for the right to be represented on the local education authorities, and the Board has always replied that that is a matter for the authority itself. The Board has no objection to a properly constituted body being elected ad hoc with the consent of the local education authority, and in view of that fact I think my hon. Friend's Amendment is unnecessary. I also think it might have perhaps, in view of the terms in which it is couched, a restricted purpose which he does not contemplate. It seems to allude to the election by the ratepayers of the area. It is perfectly competent for the local education authority to accept some representative if it thinks fit from the trade union in the locality. In view of that, I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment.


In view of the right hon. Gentleman's very satisfactory explanation, I beg leave to withdraw.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.