HC Deb 29 May 1918 vol 106 cc839-45

(1)For the purpose of performing any duty or exercising any power under the Education Acts a council having powers under those Acts may enter into such arrangements as they think proper for co-operation or combination with any other council or councils having those powers, and any such arrangement may provide for the appointment of a joint committee or a joint body of managers, for the delegation to that committee or body of managers of any powers or duties of the councils (other than the power of raising a rate or borrowing money), for the proportion of contributions to be paid by each council, and for any other matters which appear necessary for carrying out the arrangements.

(2)The Board of Education may, on the application of two or more councils having powers under the Education Acts, by scheme provide for the establishment and (if thought fit) the incorporation of a federation for such purposes of any such arrangements as aforesaid as may be specified in the scheme as being purposes relating to matters of common interest concerning education which it is necessary or convenient to consider in relation to areas larger than those of individual education authorities, and the powers conferred on councils by this Section shall include power to arrange for the performance of any educational or administrative functions by such a federation as if it were a joint committee or a joint body of managers.

(3)A scheme made by the Board of Education constituting a federation and an arrangement establishing a joint committee or a joint body of managers shall provide for the appointment of at least two-thirds of the members by councils having powers under the Education Acts, and may provide either directly or by co-optation for the inclusion of persons of experience in education and of representatives of universities or other bodies.

(4)A scheme constituting a federation may on the application of one or more of the councils concerned be modified or repealed by a further scheme, and where a scheme provides for the discontinuance of a federation provision may be made for dealing with any property or liabilities of the federation.

(5)Where any arrangement under this Section provides for the payment of an annual contribution by one council to another, the contribution shall, for the purposes of Section nineteen of the Education Act, 1902, form part of the security on which money may be borrowed under that Section.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "Acts" ["power under the Education Acts"], to insert the words "the Education Committee of."

5.0 P.M.

We now come to a Clause of an entirely different nature. It provides that one authority may co-operate with another authority. This, of course, is a very desirable thing. We all know localities, certain districts, say, on the borderland of two counties, where it is very desirable that there should be co-operation. The general object of this Clause is one of which I am entirely in favour, but this provides not only for co-operation but also for combination. What it means by a council combining with another council I do not know. The phrase is, I think, a new one in this connection, but even if it is not a new one it ought to be considered in view of the history of these proposals. In the original Bill which we had last Session it was quite clear that the words were, if not a determination, at any rate an opportunity for abolishing certain of the smaller local authorities, eliminating them practically, and handing over their work to the higher and larger authorities. It is a very intelligible course for the Board of Education to advocate. They have probably too many authorities with which they deal, and a very natural tendency must arise in the office and certain quarters towards abolishing certain of the minor local authorities. But that determination or object to abolish smaller authorities evidently was not favoured by local authorities, and we find that a considerable modification is embodied in the Bill as we now have it. This ought to give us ground for suspicion. I want to see co-operation between the different authorities, but I do not want to see the local educational authorities co-operating with other local education authorities to the exclusion of the actual persons who are directing the work, namely, the education committees. After all, the education committee of a county or a borough is in a different position from that of a public health committee or a housing committee. It is established under a scheme, and has a statutory and official position different from that of an ordinary committee of a county or county borough. I want to see the co-operation established between these various education committees, and not necessarily the councils which are the local education authorities. I have several Amendments down, which form a series and follow one on the other, but the first I have to move would be to substitute for "council" the expression "an education committee of a council." Then later on I should propose to leave the opportunities for co-operation quite vague by eliminating a large part of this first Sub-section, leaving in the first Sub-section the provision for co-operation not a power of one council or local education authority to enter into co-operation with another—which may mean, and was originally, I believe, intended to mean, the elimination of certain authorities—but to provide for amicable and quite voluntary co-operation between the actual committees which are working out these problems and administering our law. I want to see the education committees, not the education councils, voluntarily co-operating with one another in the working of this Act.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Donald Maclean)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain to me. I do not quite follow his speech in connection with his Amendment. The Amendment, as I understand it, is practically to substitute for the word "council" the education committee of the council, and to put it entirely on the education committee of the council.


That is the first Amendment. I think it is in order. It is quite clear that it means that the education committee of a council would have the powers under this Clause, and not the council itself.


That follows, surely?


It does not at all follow.


Then if the hon. Gentleman moves this Amendment, he really must distinguish, and show to me that, instead of council, he means the education committee to the exclusion of the council. Then I can understand him, but I have not yet been quite able to follow what he really means.


With due respect to you, Sir Donald Maclean, I would say that I think the people on the Treasury Bench do understand what I am aiming at; and though I always address my remarks to the Chair, and desire to illuminate the Chair as much as possible, may I respectfully say that I desire much more to have both the attention and the understanding of the Treasury Bench than even of the Chair? I say that with great respect.


I entirely sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. I have nothing whatever to do with the merits. The merits of the question are entirely outside my province, but I have to define as well as I can what is within the limits of order and relevancy, as far as I understand relevancy. It is because of that, and only because of that, that I ask the hon. Gentleman to make his remarks to my mind—he has to convince me on that point—really relevant to the Amendment.


I shall submit the point in as few words as possible. I want to see co-operation. I do not want to see the education committees eliminated, or possibly eliminated, by the councils. The education committees are set up under schemes under the Statute. They are, therefore, a distinct entity which may be regarded for the purposes of this Act as the subjects of legislation.


I think I clearly understand my hon. Friend's object. It is to enable not councils to combine, but the education committees of such councils. He desires that they should have an independent power of entering into arrangements with other education committees without the sanction of the council by whom they have been appointed. [MR. KING: "Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friend must allow me to characterise that as a most extraordinary proposal. It has absolutely no precedent of any kind in legislation, and I venture to say it is absolutely contrary to all the principles of local government. I would ask my hon. Friend just to imagine one result which would follow. It would enable, for example, two education committees to decide what powers a council should give to a joint board, and what contribution the council should make out of the rates to the expenses of a joint-board. It is perfectly obvious that local education authorities would never look at a proposal of that kind. I think that if we were to put it to the local education authorities of the country we would find that not a single one of them would be prepared to support a proposal of that character. I hope my hon. Friend will realise that it is one which we cannot, in the circumstances, accept.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the word "may" ["may provide either directly"], and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."

This Clause deals with the provision for co-operation and combination for the providing of schemes whereby there can be federations and joint committees, and it is stated in regard to this that they may provide, either directly or by co-option, for the inclusion of persons of experience in education and of representatives of universities or other bodies. The purpose of my Amendment is to make this provision more definite. If it is good that these persons should be represented on these federations and joint committees, then, I think, it is well that we should make it certain that they will be represented, and that is really the purpose of the Amendment that I move. I do not know quite who would be included, and perhaps we may have some guidance from the Minister of Education as to who would be included as persons of experience in education, and who would be included as representatives of universities or other bodies. "Other bodies" is a very wide term, and it might be well that we should know definitely from the President of the Board as to who would be included under that category. I take it, for example, that teachers and representatives of teachers would be eligible—and the President agrees with this—to go on under the term "other bodies" It is really of the teachers that I am thinking. I think there ought to be in regard to these federations and joint committees representatives of teachers, and I think that this ought not to be a matter of chance, but that it ought to be certain that the teachers are going to be accepted on these committees and are going to give the benefit of their advice. I think that we have been trying on various Clauses to get this principle affirmed. For my own part, I think there is great necessity for carrying teachers with us in regard to these various schemes, and that more important even than the question of increasing the salary of teachers, important though that is, is the matter of increasing the status of the teachers and giving them a proper place in regard to education. They have special knowledge and special experience, and they will bring a special standpoint of their own to bear in regard to these various educational schemes.


On a point of Order. The subject of debate now apparently is the inclusion of teachers in these bodies. Will there be a second debate on this on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rawlinson) at the end of this Sub-section, where it is specially raised?


I think we will wait until we get to that, and then we will deal with the Amendment of the hon. Member.


I am quite in order, for this reason: that the President of the Board of Education admits that the expression "other bodies" includes teachers, and therefore I am arguing, in moving the word "shall" as against the word "may" that they shall be equitably included in these various schemes. I believe that the definite inclusion of these teachers, not as matter of privilege but as a matter of right, will help to interest teachers, and will help to make these various educational schemes a success. We know by means of Whitley Reports that this principle of joint working is receiving very wide endorsement, and I am quite sure that if the President could see his way to accept this Amendment, and give teachers and others who have a real interest in education a definite standing on these federations, he would be going a very long way to make his scheme a success.


I think that, perhaps, the hon. Member rather overlooked the very diverse purposes for which these joint bodies may be constituted. A joint body may be constituted, for instance, for the sole purpose of conducting one public elementary school, and in that case he would agree with me, I think, that it would be inappropriate to have a statutory requirement that such a joint body should contain representatives of universities. The number of purposes for which it may be desirable for authorities to combine are considerable. Authorities, for instance, might combine for scholarships. They might combine for continuation schools. They might combine in order to establish a school for defectives, in which case it is much more important to have doctors than teachers. Consequently I think it would be better to preserve the Clause in its present shape, which gives a sufficient degree of elasticity; but I greatly sympathise with the observations which fell from the hon. Member with reference to the desirability of securing the co-operation of teachers on such bodies, and I shall be prepared to accept the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Sir J. Yoxall), which comes a little later.

Amendment negatived.


On behalf of my hon. Friend (Sir J. Yoxall), I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the word "of" ["for the inclusion of persons"], to insert the words "teachers or other."

I understand that the President of the Board of Education is prepared to accept this, and I therefore formally move it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.