HC Deb 20 April 1928 vol 216 cc573-98

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This is a very short and simple Bill, but it is quite a valuable one, and I think it will probably be received with general acceptance in all quarters of the House. Before saying anything in reference to the Bill itself, I should like to clear away a possible misunderstanding, which may be caused by the Title of the Bill, that it is going to involve the country in further expense. It is only right that I should explain to the House that it will do nothing of the kind. If it were likely to do so, my right. hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would certainly be sitting on the. Front Bench, hut instead we have the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education, and I very much hope that the Bill will receive his support as well as that of other Members of the House.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend Section 11 of the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1925, and the corresponding Section 4 (1, b) of the Education (Scotland) (Superannuation) Act, 1925, which deal with the payment of contributions during intervals of absence. Section 11 of the English Act, and the corresponding Section of the Scottish Act, enable the teacher to continue to count as pensionable service four years during which he may be employed in full-time service as a teacher in His Majesty's Dominions outside the United Kingdom, and not more than one year in any other case, provided that he pays contributions to the amount of 10 per cent. of his salary in respect of his period of absence. This provision, which involves no increase of expenditure to the country, is made in order to keep the Fund solvent. If any teacher goes out to teach in schools in the British Dominions, he has to pay, not only his own 5 per cent., but the Departmental contribution of 5 per cent. also, in order that he may retain his right to superannuation and that at the same time the Fund may be kept solvent.

The arrangement that teachers should be exchangeable for a certain time throughout the Dominions is a very proper one. It is good for the teachers themselves, and also for the students in those places, and I think we shall all agree that it is an excellent arrangement in every way. Unfortunately, however, when it was made, provision was only made, in regard to other countries, for an absence of one year, and, as I hope to be able to show, that is a fatal blot upon its value. In order to make the case perfectly clear, I should like to point out that the ordinary contribution in the case of a teacher serving at home is, under Section 9 (1) of the English Act and the corresponding Section 2 (1) of the Scottish Act, 5 per cent. of his salary, the other 5 per cent. being paid by the local education authorities or other employers of teachers. When a teacher pays the full 10 per cent. in order to secure his position under the Superannuation Act, he is in no way prevented from recouping himself, if he can, by an agreement with his employers in the Dominions or in a foreign country.

The object of the provision made in connection with the Dominions was, of course, to secure that the children there should be brought up in British culture and with British ideas, a true knowledge of history of their country, and so on —in fact, the education which all of us here enjoy in common—and this arrangement for the interchange of teachers has been proved to be of great value. Section 21 of the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1925, contains the following words: For the purposes of the foregoing provision the expression 'His Majesty's Dominions' includes any territory which is under His Majesty's protection or in respect of which a mandate is being exercised by the Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions. That relates to those parts of the world in which we are most interested, namely, our Dominions and territories which are directly under the government of the Crown in one way or another, but it does not cover other countries where a large number of British people are resident. I will take Egypt as a very special case, because Egypt has been specially brought before us recently. I dare say we have all seen a notice in the "Times" and in other papers this week making an appeal for funds for the creation of new British schools in Alexandria, and stating in explanation, that: The schools are intended to provide educational facilities on British lines for the large section of the British colony which is at present compelled to educate its children at foreign establishments, and to meet the demand of local Egyptian communities for further facilities of this nature. New and permanent British cultural links, fostering British thought and language, will thus be created in Egypt. That illustrates the importance of developing and encouraging education in British settlements in foreign countries. It is important to remember that, while what may be called the really wealthy people in such places are able to send their children home to this country, and give them the advantages of the excellent education that is to be obtained here, a large number of our fellow-citizens in those countries are working men, managers of works, and people in commercial positions, who cannot afford such an expense, and for whom it is most important that there should be a British centre of education on the spot to enable them to keep their children in touch with that which means so much in our minds. I think that sometimes those of us who have the great benefit of living in this country, and the advantages of our system of education here, hardly realise how much that has formed our ideas and ideals, and what an effect it has on our outlook on life generally. Some of us who have been abroad a great deal, and have had to deal both with those who speak our language and with those who do not, realise chat a very great privilege it has been to. have been brought up in a country in which, although some people may still regard it as lax, there is freedom of thought and sound and high moral ideas. It is very important that our young people abroad should also be brought up in this manner.

The defect of the Acts as they at present stand is that, while they provide for four years in the Dominions, they only provide for one year in foreign countries. It must be obvious that if a teacher by going to a foreign country for longer than one year is going to imperil his superannuation, that is very short-sighted. It does not encourage the right type of teacher—and we have a very fine type of teacher in this country—to go out for the purpose. It therefore deprives our fellow citizens, who have not the great advantages we have, of the opportunity of bringing up their children as they would like to do. It does another thing. It deprives our own teachers of the educative advantages of going al road and seeing the difference in the manner of life, and, while realising that some things may be better, feeling profound satisfaction and gratitude for the immense advantages we have in this country. It has an educative effect in broadening their minds, and when they come back they are better able to exercise their profession to the advantage of people in this country. It is also a good thing to give this opportunity of constant exchange and of going out of the country for a certain time, for their own good and for the benefit of those they are going to and for the benefit of the whole teaching world, and it will be gratefully received by our own friends abroad.

There are many other arguments that might be used, and no doubt those who follow me will be able, with their greater experience of addressing the House and their greater knowledge of the technical matter in question, to develop them better than I can.

As far as I can ascertain, the general idea of the Bill is acceptable to all sides. It is certainly not a party Measure, and it is one with which I think all sides of the House are in sympathy. At the same time, as far as I can learn, it has been before many authorities in the country, none of whom have raised any objection to it. Many of them have not only negatively but actively approved of the idea. The teachers themselves are a powerful body whom we should wish to help and encourage. The country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude, and I trust we shall ever owe them that debt of gratitude, for the work they are doing. I note with satisfaction the possibility of the House accepting the Measure and so giving encouragement to the great work to which a large percentage of them devote their lives, not solely, and very often not firstly, for the benefit of the gain they derive but for their real interest and devotion to the service. Those are the kind of people we want to send abroad to encourage and to help the children of those who are exiled out there, serving their country by building up its trade abroad. Surely it is our duty as well as our privilege to do what we can for them. Turning to the technical points of the Bill, the difficulty can be met by an Amendment of the English and Scottish Acts which will accord to teachers taking up appointments in such countries the same treatment as is accorded to teachers in His Majesty's Dominions. Section 11 of the English Act says: If the employment of a teacher in contributory service is discontinued for a period not exceeding four years in a case of a teacher who during the period is employed in full-time service as a teacher in any part of His Majesty's Dominions outside the United Kingdom, and not exceeding one year in any other case, he may with the consent of the Board pay, at such times … The Scottish Bill deals with it in almost the same words. It was done in the form of an Order in Council, not the kind of Order in Council at the discretion of the Minister. It specifically lays down the terms in which the Order in Council was to be given. In effect, it is the same, although in actual structure the two Acts were different. What the Bill proposes is that, instead of con- fining the four years to the Dominions, we should extend it to service in any school in a foreign country which is shown to the satisfaction of the Board of Education and the Scottish Educational Department to be maintained primarily for the education of children of British subjects. That explanation will cover the real point of the Bill, for Clause 3 is merely a formality. This is the first time I have submitted a Bill to the House and I am glad it. is simple and short; and even if it is a little one, it is not a discreditable little one.


I beg to second the Motion.

It seems to me that the Bill will form a most useful addition to the Teachers Superannuation Act of 1925. That Act has a remarkable record. It was a long, complicated Measure and many Amendments were made to it, but it went through the House without a single Division. That was due to the thorough and patient consideration given by the President of the Board to all the points that were brought before him by the educational interests affected. The system established by that Act is part of the social insurance and superannuation system of which this country is justly proud. It is an excellent and necessary system, but it has one drawback, as most things have, even good things, and that is that to a large extent it immobilises the people of the country and it immobilises the teachers of the country, except in the case of those who go to the Dominions, where they can carry their pensionable rights for four years. They cannot undertake service in British schools in a foreign country for more than one year, for after one year they lose their pensionable rights.

At the present time, this House is engaged in placing the balance of electoral power in the hands of women. We know that the feminine population of this country exceeds the masculine population by something like 2,000,000, and, when we envisage this large balance of electoral power being placed in the hands of women, I think we shall all agree that the larger the view taken of public life, the more knowledge of life in general, that is possessed by women the better it will be for the national future. It seems to me that in this Bill we have a means, not only of encouraging the migra- tion of women, but of broadening their outlook, and for this reason. There is a large demand for women teachers in British schools in foreign countries. There was one school in particular of which I had special knowledge. It was the school in Hankow. Unfortunately, that school came to an end with our disappearance from the concession at Hankow. It belonged to the British Municipal Council. The teachers went to it, I think, under contract for a term of four years, which is the term proposed in this Bill for the extension of pensionable rights. That school was doing excellent work among the British children in Hankow, but there was considerable difficulty in finding teachers. If the provision which is included in this Bill had been in existence, the supply of teachers, probably, would have been much larger. One hopes that the cessation of this extremely useful activity will shortly he remedied by our return to that concession.

There are a number of British schools in South America, especially in the Argentine, and all along the East Coast of China, and one feels that to promote the constant stream of teachers between this country and those schools would be of very great advantage, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby (Mr. Allen) has pointed out, both to the schools and to the teachers and children of this country. I may add that it would be a great advantage to this House if we could promote a series of excursions of large parties of Members of this House on world tours and particularly to the Dominions. I should like to see a spacious steam yacht placed at your disposal, Mr. Speaker, and the object of that yacht should be, at your invitation, to take round the world parties from all quarters in this House to visit particularly our Dominions. I would call that yacht "Britain," and I would have it driven by pulverised British coal or by oil distilled from British coal, and. in addition to non-alcholic beverages, I would confine the liquid refreshment of that yacht to Empire wines, British beer, Scotch whisky, and Dublin stout. But, in spite of the appeal that I see on the faces of hon. Members opposite, I would not include Russian vodka. I am re minded by a remark that was made by, I believe, the senior Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), of the Irishman who was just about to go into a public house when someone said to him, "Don't go in there; the Devil is going in with you." "Faith, then, he need not," said the Irishman, "for I have only got two-pence."

This Bill, it seems to me, will provide means by which a great deal of benefit will accrue both to the schools abroad and to the schools here. I have met in Canada teachers who have been greatly benefited by the system of the interchange of teachers between this country and the Dominions which was initiated by the Board of Education. I have met Canadian teachers here in London and London teachers in Canada, and both sets of teachers have told me that their views on a large number of subjects have been completely changed, and that they were returning to their work with wider views and fresher knowledge. It seems to me, that anything to encourage that interchange of teachers, that cross-current, between this country, and the British schools in foreign countries and in the Dominions makes for wider views and greater communication which will be of very great use. I have great pleasure in seconding this Motion. I think it will produce a succession of teachers of whom it may truly be said: Beyond the book his teaching sped. The Bill will be of great benefit to our children who will receive the advantage of these fresh ideas and wider knowledge, and it is a measure of justice to the teachers themselves, who, I think, will welcome the Bill. I think we may hope that it will receive the unanimous approval of the House if we judge by the names at the back of the Bill.


In one or two sentences I would like to indicate the attitude of my hon. Friends on this side of the House concerning this Bill. We are obliged to the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Mr. Allen) for having introduced this Bill, which does propose to remedy a small anomaly which requires to be removed from the Statute Book. In so far as it tends in that direction, I think that I may say that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will be heartily in favour of the Bill. On the general question only this need he said. We are all agreed that foreign travel has an educational value, and it is a very desirable thing that from time to time teachers should be able to acquire experience of educational methods abroad and at the same time not lose any advantages by way of superannuation to which they may be entitled. The intention of this Bill is to safeguard them in that small particular. That is all I think I need say on the matter, except to offer the Bill our hearty support.

Colonel APPLIN

I heartily support this Bill, but I wish to put a very different point of view to the House than has been put so far. Those who have travelled over both hemispheres and seen our people living in foreign countries must realise, as I do, the enormous difficulties that people, especially poor people, living on small salaries have in educating their children. There are, of course, schools in almost every foreign country to which English children can be sent. If they go there, they of course receive a foreign education. It is an education usually in the language of the county in which they are living, and, of course, English children born and brought up in a foreign country can very oaten speak the language of that country as fluently as they can their mother tongue. It is for that reason that it is so essential that these children should have an opportunity of getting their education from their own people, in their mother tongue, and that they should get English ideas and the best class of teacher.

The problem does not exist for those who are blessed with this world's goods. They can afford to send their children home to be educated. Anyone who has travelled abroad must have come home in a ship laden with small children returning to school. Coming from Brazil the other day, we had a ship full of children travelling under the care of the captain and coming home from Rio de Janeiro to their schools in this country, after their long vacation in Rio. At Rio de Janeiro we were asked to go to the British colony, which was separated from the great city of Rio de Janeiro by the harbour, and there we found a complete British colony, in which all the people were British. Quite a large number of them came from Scotland. The Scot is a great traveller. He is the modern nomad, capable not only of making his home anywhere in the world, but of carrying a great many of his home ideas with him. You can get cakes in the home of a Scotchman in whatever part of the world he may be.

At Rio de Janeiro, in the British colony, the problem which this Bill seeks to solve did exist to a great extent. Those Britishers who could not afford to, send their children home, as the richer-people send their children home, were obliged to make all sorts of very difficult-arrangements. Mothers tried to teach, their smaller children. There was a small school which had been formed under am entirely untrained teacher, one of the daughters of a settler there, and the whole arrangement was obviously extremely unsatisfactory. The curate of the local English church assisted. These facts show the necessity for this Bill becoming law, because it will enable these people to get teachers from home and to get the best class of teacher. At the present time the teacher may say: "If I go out for a year it is not worth while, and if I go for two, three or four years I shall lose what I have already paid into the superannuation fund." Therefore, it is not worth while, even though the salary may be more or less tempting.

3.0 p.m.

I should like to know what is meant by the term "foreign country." There will be difficulties in certain cases. is Shanghai a foreign country? It does not belong to China and it does not belong to Great Britain, although it is largely administered by Great Britain. It is international. Is an international city, in which we are the principal people, within the meaning of this Bill? Can that point be made sufficiently clear, because Shanghai is one of the places which will use this Act in order to claim teachers for their schools? I notice that the term is for four years. The term is four years for officers who are seconded in the Army, but an Army officer who is seconded for four years can always extend to five years. Five years is, I think, the usual period. I think it will be very much, better if the Noble Lord would agree to the period being altered to five years. I notice that the annual contribution is 5 per cent. I presume that if a teacher leaves this country and goes abroad, he will still be permitted to pay the 5 per cent. while abroad.


And the other 5 per cent.

Colonel APPLIN

It is not quite clear in the Bill that that is so. This Bill will be a great improvement on the original Act. It will give a chance to these communities to engage English and Scottish teachers, than which there are none better in the world, and it will enable those teachers who wish to travel abroad to do so, and to feel that they will retain all their rights under the superannuation scheme.


I cannot imagine that there will be any opposition to this very excellent little Bill, which achieves a very useful purpose not only in the interests of British children who have to live in foreign countries and who require English education, but also in the interests of our teachers by giving them more opportunities for foreign travel. The more the staffs of local education authorities can have experience in foreign travel the better it will be for our education. Not only does it mean that the teachers will be more competent to teach geography and history, but foreign travel broadens the minds of the teachers by giving a greater knowledge of the world and making them familiar with various systems of education. This is a very short Bill and it would be a very good idea if we could take it through all its stages at one sitting. I cannot imagine that any section of the House will oppose it. It would be very rare in the annals of Parliament to find a Bill agreed to unanimously by the House and passed through all its stages at one sitting.


What I have to say will not be in opposition to the Bill, which seeks to safeguard teachers from being deprived of their superannuation if they go to teach abroad. I want to point out, however, that charity ought to begin at home and that as regards a considerable number of teachers in this country the education authorities and the school masters themselves are very much at fault. I want to draw attention to a very grave iniquity which exists in connection with the teaching profession. I refer to the teacher who is described as a supplementary teacher, a term which is applied to a very large number of teachers who are not only refused pension but are refused recognition, although for 20 years some of them have been teaching in one school and have been periodically examined and passed by His Majesty's inspector as competent to teach. Notwithstanding, these poor people, after a service of a lifetime in schools, and largely in voluntary schools, are refused recognition by the education authority or the National Union of Teachers.


The lion. Member cannot pursue that point on the present Bill. He may have some other opportunity of bringing it forward, but it is quite out of order on this Bill.


I do not want to transgress your ruling, but I thought this was a favourable opportunity for drawing attention to what I consider to be a grave injustice. I hope there will be some other opportunity of referring to it. The sooner this injustice, which amounts almost to a scandal, is attended to the better, and I shall not rest until I have had an opportunity of going into the matter thoroughly.


Might I ask one question of the promoters of the Bill. I take it that it will not apply to any uncertificated teachers abroad, but only to those teachers who are entitled to pension and superannuation in this country? I have at heart the same point as the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton). I think the whole thing is a scandal and a disgrace on our educational system.


The Bill simply deals with the cases of teachers who come under the Teachers Superannuation Act. It does not in any way alter that Act at all.


I have great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading, and my actual experience of a school abroad may be interesting to hon. Members. It was in a district in the Dutch East Indies, where I spent some years. A Britisher, who came from the Straits Settlements, started a school there, and asked for my support as I was the British Consul at the time. This teacher did very excellent service in educating for the most part the children of Chinamen who did business with the Dutch Indies, but also boys who were collected from the Straits Settlements, from China, from Hongkong, and various parts of the Far East, who were sent to this school because their parents found it the most convenient thing to do. They were very glad to have a school where their children could be taught excellent English and educated in the best traditions of the English school; where they could be educated in exactly the same manner as they would have been in a British Colony or in this country.

I had many opportunities of seeing the excellent work that was done by this teacher, and I can assure hon. Members that he deserves everything which a teacher in similar circumstances in this country would receive in the way of pension rights. It is true, owing to it being an exceedingly unhealthy country, that he received higher remuneration than he would have done at home, but that was the only compensation he had for the great risks he was running. I myself have taken cricket teams, and hockey teams, and football teams, to play against the boys of this school, and hon. Members will realise that it was run on the best British lines. On one occasion when I was giving away the prizes at their sports I was so enthused by seeing the boys run that I suggested there should be a visitors' race. I took part in that race, and I won it; and I gave away everything I had except the prize. I only mentioned this in order to show that the school was run in the true British way. I think such teachers should get the advantages proposed by this Bill.


As one who has taken a considerable part in the work of education in Scotland, I wish to join my voice to that of others in approving of this Bill. I dare say some of us wish that the Measure had been of a broader and more comprehensive kind because, as has been indicated, there are many hardships that have arisen out of the Act of 1925. That I believe was necessary, even with the greatest care and the best intentions. I have in view a case connected with my own constituency where, after a long period of service and for reasons into which it would not be proper for me to enter now, no pension was available to a teacher at the end of some 44 years of work. I hope that some other hon. Member who may be fortunate in the ballot will take up some of these other cases, so that the Act may be still more perfected in its operation. I hardly think that I shall get very far out of order after the wide limits that the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) gave himself in floating that ship of his, that, floating beerhouse, with beer and Scottish whisky, to which I especially take exception, and all other kinds of liquor with the exception of vodka. I was not surprised that after he had so overloaded his vessel with all kinds of liquor he must have Mr. Speaker on board, not to partake of the liquor, but to maintain order in the results that would follow from the kind of cargo he was carrying. With these words I wish to give my full adhesion to this Measure and to thank the hon. Member for bringing it in and for the way in which he submitted his case.


I wish to say how I appreciate that a Bill of this kind has been introduced, because it certainly tends to bring about a circulation of teachers and inter-communication of teachers in this country and other countries which cannot be otherwise than for the benefit of this country and of the Empire in general, and probably also for the benefit of foreign countries to which our teachers go. It is certainly a profound mistake to do anything which would encourage insular ideas in connection with education. This Bill would tend to broaden the outlook of many of our teachers, and give them opportunities which they otherwise could not have if they were to be deprived, as they are now, of rights which they possess, if they stay for what is after all not an unreasonable time in a foreign land while at work. A very great debt is due to my hon. Friend for introducing the Bill, and, if I might without presumption echo what has been said from the other side, I would say that if it were possible to pass this Bill to all its stages in the present sitting of the House, it would be of great advantage and an excellent use of Parliamentary time.


I rise to say that the union with which I am connected, the National union of Teachers, is entirely in support of this Bill, and I believe that every other organisation of teachers strenuously supports it. I do not expect that we shall have any opposition from the Government, because the proposals of the Bill will cost the Exchequer nothing at all. There are, however, one or two things I want to say, and I hope they will be in order, because the Bill raises certain wide questions. I am rather sorry that the provision about the four years has not, been made much wider. We, of the National Union of Teachers, have considered this matter and I think the Noble Lord has been inane aware of the fact that, as far as the Dominions are concerned, and as far as service in the schools provided for under this Bill is concerned, we believe not merely that four years should count, but that there should be, as far as possible in this matter, complete reciprocity between us and the Dominions. We believe that service in the Dominions should count for superannuation purposes as equal to service in this country, anti that service in this country should count fully in the Dominions for superannuation purposes. I understand that the Imperial Educational Conference was engaged on this matter last year, and we are anxious to know whether any success has attended the endeavour to bring about complete reciprocity. I suppose I am right in assuming that the Board of Education is in favour of complete reciprocity. I should like to know, however, was that policy laid before the representatives of the Dominions, and, if so, what attitude was taken by them? Have any of the Dominions agreed that service there should count as equal to service in this country? If the Noble Lord can enlighten us upon this point it will be of great interest to educationalists.

I should also like to know whether service which has already been rendered will count under this Bill? To put it in a more technical form, will the past service of these teachers count? Will any four years' service previously rendered count under the Bill? I believe that permission must be obtained and sane-ion granted by the Board of Education before the teacher going abroad can get the benefit of the Bill; and it would be of interest to know whether that, past service will come under these provisions. I join in the hope that the Bill may go through all its stages to-day. It is a non-contentious Bill and I hope it is but a beginning in dealing with one or two broader aspects of this problem. I think I can say on behalf of the teaching profession that we welcome the Bill wholeheartedly as a small step in the direction of complete reciprocity.


It is clear that there is general agreement, not only that this Bill should receive a Second heading, but that it should, if possible, be passed through all its stages to-day. The only other matter which seems worth saying at this state of the Debate is that the Bill has an extremely interesting quality because it is a very practical example of the fact that intelligence is a Free Trade and not a Protectionist matter. Anything that our own modern generation adds to the intercommunication of intelligence between trained people in various parts of the world is very much to be commended. I do not think that, among the Bills of lesser size which we have to discuss from time to time, we could have a more interesting topic than one which facilitates the teachers of this country spending a longer time in foreign countries, however distant and however different, without losing any of their rights or privileges thereby. It is impossible, when one has a Bill in this year of grace 1928 on this particular topic, not to recall how much it is the fact that, however much things change, they remain exactly the same, for this surely is just a modern example of the kind of interchange of teachers which was, I suppose, one of the most pronounced features of European life, 500, 600, 700, or 800 years ago; and it is impossible for anyone with the slightest interest in the continuity of things not to feel that we are making possible the reproduction and the continuation of a characteristic of the intellectual life of centuries ago in making it easy for our teachers here to visit distant parts of the world in the carrying out of their profession.

I should like very much to back up what was said by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) as to the value and desirability of there being, as between the Dominions and this country, complete reciprocity in regard to the teaching profession, and I think that is a distinction which we might well make between the privileges of a teacher in foreign countries and in the Empire. It would be really valuable, while giving a more extended period than he possesses at present for foreign service, still to give the preference to the Empire, as it were, by making no limitation of the period of service there, but making complete reciprocity between Dominion work and home work. However, that may not be possible in this Bill, and indeed I should not rise to suggest that if that suggestion were in any way to militate against the possibility, which I hope may he turned into practice, of this Bill passing through all its stages before the House rises this afternoon.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)

Perhaps I ought at this stage to answer one or two questions which have been addressed to me and to say a word on the Bill. I should like, if I may, to congratulate my hon. Friend on having introduced this Bill, which I think falls into the category of Bills which, though small, are extremely valuable, and I really think that this extension of the Superannuation Act will do a very great deal both for the teachers and for the children of British subjects in foreign countries. As to the point, the most important point, that has been raised by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) and my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Skelton), the question of more complete reciprocity with the Dominions, I do not know whether hon. Members quite realise the provisions of the Superannuation Act of 1925 in that respect. That Act provides two things. It provides a power to the Board of Education to make agreements with the Government of any Dominion which has a system of statutory superannuation for complete reciprocity as between the two countries, so that any teacher in the Dominion or this country may perform his service either in the Dominion or in this country and may count that service, whether in the Dominion or in this country, as precisely the same.

That, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough has said, has been the subject of consideration at two Imperial Education Conferences. It was discussed in 1923. It was discussed far more in detail at the Imperial Education Conference last year, because that Conference had the Act of 1925 to go upon. The question is a very complicated one, and I do not know that I can deal with it completely this afternoon. It must be remembered that the distribution of education powers in the Dominions is different, and that, for instance, it is the State in Australia and not the Federal Government which is the authority for education. It was the feeling, I think, at the Imperial Education Conference that we must work for reciprocity, but that the first step, perhaps, would be the consideration of a common system in that respect as between the different parts of each Dominion itself before we could come to a completely comprehensive scheme of Imperial reciprocity. Meanwhile, however, a, correspondence is being conducted to-day with the Dominions, with a view to working up schemes of reciprocity with those Dominions that have a Dominion scheme of superannuation. It is a subject on which I, personally, the Board of Education and the Government, and, I think, the Governments of all the Dominions, feel very strongly. There are technical difficulties, but the House may feel assured that we shall work steadily to overcome those difficulties, and I think I shall be right in saying that the discussion in the Imperial Education Conference last year went a considerable way towards awakening interest and clearing away preliminary difficulties.

That is the special provision of the 1925 Act to deal with the permanent question of reciprocity within the Empire. The other provision is the provision that, apart from reciprocity as between two superannuation schemes, a teacher may be seconded, as it were, for service in the Dominions for a period not. exceeding four years, and that if he will continue to be responsible for both the employers' and the teachers' contribution to the fund, he may remain within the superannuation scheme, and may count those years of service towards his superannuation. The hon. Member for Wellingborough was not right in thinking that a teacher before going abroad for four years has to receive the sanction of the Board. It is automatic. The teacher can go abroad, serve for four years automatically, and, if he has paid his contribution, that service will count for pension without any previous authorisation from the Board to go abroad. That is the provision we have made in the Superannuation Act to cover the interim period before we get complete Imperial reciprocity and the position of parts of the Empire, like some of our African Colonies, which we can hardly expect to have a complete superannuation scheme.


Can I take it that, supposing this Bill be passed, the four years previously rendered abroad will count?


I am afraid I cannot say that. That is another matter. This Bill is not retrospective. It will not make the service of teachers who have already served abroad for four years pensionable. We are extending that provision to foreign countries. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) said that it ought to be more than four years; and I think that the hon. Member for Wellingborough said the same thing. So far as this Bill is concerned, we are only extending to schools in foreign countries what is already the case in the Dominions, and my hon. Friends clearly would not want to enable a teacher to serve longer in a school in a foreign country than in a school in the Dominions. I admit that a good case could be made out for a longer period of secondage to schools in the Dominions than in the foreign countries, but hon. Members will realise that, difficult as it is to persuade the Treasury to open the door when it is a question of purely Government money, it is ten times more difficult to get the Treasury to open the door when the Treasury is in the position of being trustee for a fund to which teachers, local authorities, and the State are all contributors.

One has to look, of course, to the solvency of that fund; one has to have regard to the amount of risk. It is true that, at the present moment, the number of teachers who go to serve, either in the Dominions or in foreign countries, is very small, and the object of a Bill of this kind is to increase that number; and we must not blame local authorities who are responsible for a superannuation fund of this kind if they tend to proceed cautiously and by stages. I think that, at the moment, four years is as far as we can properly go. Moreover, if we are looking to complete reciprocity with the Dominions, it is as well that the period during which teachers may go abroad should not be too generous.

There is only one other point in the questions that have been put to me. The hon. and gallant Member for Enfield asked if Shanghai was covered by the words "foreign country." It is. The international concession of Shanghai is under the sovereignty of China and part of the territory of China.

Colonel APPLIN

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether Sarawak is a foreign country?


It is either a foreign country or a country under His Majesty's protection which is governed by the Superannuation Act. My hon. and gallant Friend may pay his money and take his choice. In spite of what has been said, I hope that it may be possible to pass this Bill through all its stages this afternoon. As it has found many of my hon. Friends in an anecdotal frame of mind, I may conclude with an anecdote, which will be drawn from nearer home than either the Straits Settlements, or Dutch, East Indies, or Rio de Janeiro. Yesterday morning I motored over the Rhondda down to Abergwynfi. I went round the school, which is in a very lonely Welsh valley. The head mistress introduced to me a comparatively young teacher in the girls' school, and she said, "Miss So-and-so comes from Patagonia." Here is a girl who has been born and bred in the Welsh colony near the Straits of Magellan, and has come home to teach in Wales. If there is one country in the world where the British community have in the last century spent money, and made great efforts to establish English schools, it is the Argentine.

The obvious prospect before that girl would be to go back to the Argentine as a certificated teacher, fully qualified to teach in those schools, which need fully certificated teachers from this country, so as to be within reach of her family. Without this Bill, she could not return to the Argentine to teach without forfeiting her superannuation and without also forfeiting the service for calculation of salary, for although, strictly speaking, it is not dealt with in this Bill, we may assume, I think, that if service is counted for superannuation purposes, it will also be counted by local authorities for salary purposes. That is the kind of case we are meeting in this Bill, and it struck me yesterday morning as being a very vivid illustration to present to this House.

Commander WILLIAMS

I have very grave doubt whether this Bill ought to go through all its stages to-day, because the Noble Lord used a rather invidious phrase in talking about the Treasury opening the door, and the difficulty of getting the Treasury to open the door.


There is no money in this.

Commander WILLIAMS

Then if there is no question of money in it, is there any need for the Treasury to open the door? Personally, I am in favour of the greatest possible interchange of teachers both between the Dominions and this country and between foreign countries where there are teachers engaged in English schools and this country. I think it is admitted that teachers themselves have to pay the whole amount of the employers' contribution and their own contribution, that is to say, the two contributions of 5 per cent. towards the fund. Under this Bill, if they go to a foreign country they will be able to do it for four years instead of one. There must be some form of assessment for the State's contribution, however small the fraction may be, and as we lengthen the period during which they can contribute the State's assessment must be to that extent affected. Supposing it affects only 10 or 15 or 20 teachers in the course of the year—[Interruption.] My Noble Friend says, "No, it does not." In other words, the sum will be exactly the same. Then I cannot understand why in those circumstances he should talk about the Treasury opening the door. It rather Looks as though he had fallen into the use of one of those rather loose sentences which we do not expect from the Ministry of Education. [Interruption.] Another hon. Member says "No." We must get it clear in our minds that this is a matter on which, apparently, the Treasury objects, but the Treasury can only object on some financial ground, be it small or large, and yet we are told that there is no finance in it ! If there is no finance in it we could extend the period to eight, 10, 15 or 20 years, or any other period in the case of the Dominions, and we could do the same for foreign countries. It seems almost inconceivable to think that this particular proposal is necessary unless there is some financial contribution at stake.

Another point which ought to be considered is that when a man is working in England he is in his own home country, in the climate to which he is accustomed, and his chances of good health are very much better than they would be if he were working in some foreign country. That in itself must make it more likely that there will be some form of increased contribution. I wish to take exception to this proposal from the point of view of finance. I am afraid hon. Members are not quite clear as to whether there will not be under this Bill, good as it is, some small residue of contribution which will have to come from the State as a whole.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[Mr. Allen.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee.

[Mr. MORGAN JONES in the Chair.]

  1. CLAUSE 1.—(Amendment of 15 and 16 Geo. 5. c. 59, s. 11.) 81 words
  2. cc594-6
  3. CLAUSE 2.—(Amendment of 15 and 16 Geo. 5. c. 55, s. 4 (1) (d).) 515 words
  4. cc596-8
  5. CLAUSE 3.—(Short title and citation.) 843 words