§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
I beg to move,That the Bill be now read a Second time.When I drew a place in the ballot I must confess that I was taken by surprise. For twelve years I have persistently balloted without even drawing a place, and when I found myself at the head of the poll I was naturally surprised. I hesitated between a desire to make some contribution to the problem of unemployment or the subject of education, and I think I shall be able to show that in selecting this particular Bill I have combined both problems. I felt very conscious that if I was to meet with success and to get the Bill on to the Statute Book I must be very careful not to impose any extra burden, or any heavy burden, on the taxpayer. Therefore, in drafting the Bill I have taken great care to put it in such a form that the economy instincts of this House, which are undoubtedly very strong, will not be influenced to deny the Bill a Second Reading.
I have to admit that the particular form of the Bill was inspired by the Bill presented at the end of last Session by the Noble Lord, the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). I am prepared to give him the part authorship if he will not deny parentage. The Bill is not arranged in exactly the same form as the Noble Lord's, but fundamentally its main lines are very much the same. I do not say that it is an ideal Bill. We are in a work-a-day world, and we have to take the House of Commons as we find it. My desire, my ambition, is to get a Bill on to the Statute Book and to make some substantial contribution towards meeting the problem of the day. I have been so long in Opposition and so long a critic of various Governments that when I get an opportunity to make a substantial contribution, my desire is that some good results should come out of it.
We heard yesterday in the interesting speech of the Minister of Labour something about the vast army of 2,000,000 1194 unemployed, and we know that we are in danger of having that vast army with us for some years to come. The tragedy of the position is that every year into this maelstrom fresh young people are pouring, full of hope and courage, but public men are conscious that, sooner or later, a large number of these young persons will be joining the vast army of unemployed. This Bill helps to control, regulate and supervise the entry of young persons into the industrial army. It aims at making a more scientific and better use of our national human resources. It endeavours to relate education to industry and industry to education.
Whatever other fault the Bill may have, it is a short Measure of two Clauses, except the Schedule and the definition Clause. It follows very much the orthodox line of previous Education Bills. Clause 1 makes the very modest proposal to advance the school age a term at a time, three months a year, so that at the end of three years we should reach the maximum age of 15. With regard to the actual date I have, with perhaps childish confidence and with the desire to pay a compliment to the Board of Education, left this date to the discretion and the wisdom of the Board. My view is that the 1st April would be the best date. [Laughter.] I am quite conscious that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) would take that date humorously, but if he had any knowledge of education he would know that the date on which the educational year starts would be the most practical date. However, I have left that matter to the discretion of the Minister. I have inserted in the Bill something of which I am not very fond, namely, Orders-in-Council, and if it would be more convenient to start the educational year for this new advance in August, I am prepared to leave it to the discretion of the Board, who will, naturally, discuss it with the local education authorities.
Why, it may be asked, should we make this advance next year, 1934. That question makes me hark back to three years ago when Sir Charles Trevelyan was making a gallant attempt to guide an Educational Bill through this House. A very strong case was then made out, especially by the noble Lord the Member for Hastings, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary, that that was the 1195 wrong time to make the advance. I am optimistic, and I hope that the time suggested in my Bill will be the right time. It was said three years ago that if we advanced the date it would mean that the large amount of money would have to be spent in new building, in bricks and mortar, that a large number of men and women would have had to be brought into the teaching profession, and that in three years time, owing to the drop in the child population, we should have had those buildings and that staff on our hand. I think I can show that the age can be modestly advanced by three months at a time in the way I suggest without expenditure on an extra brick or without the engagement of an extra teacher.
The noble Lord invented the word "bulge", a rather clumsy, crude word, but it describes what has happened with regard to the birth-rate since the War. The birth-rate in 1918 was 17.7. In 1920, the critical year, it jumped up to 25.5, the highest rate in the history of the country for many years. Then it steadily declined. In 1921 the figure was 22.4; in 1922, 20.4. In 1927 it stood at 16.6 and in 1931 at 15.8. This year according to the Registrar-General's annual report, it is estimated that it will be down to as low a figure as 15. Because of the great addition to the child population pouring into the schools as a result of the exceptional birthrate just after the War, a great crowd will be pouring out of the schools into the labour market next year, while at the other end there will be a decreased number of children coming into the schools, as there has been for some years.
Yesterday I asked a question of the Parliamentary Secretary and I have his figures. He said that the number of children on the registers of public elementary schools on the 31st March this year was 5,640,000, and that by 1937 it was estimated the number would go down to 5,140,000. In 1937, when this Bill will come into full operation, when the age will be 15 it is anticipated that there will be half-a-million fewer children in the schools. We shall have school buildings provided and teachers ready and trained to educate them, but half-a-million less children to teach. It may be argued that this is a good thing.
1196 I can imagine the hon. Member for South Croydon throwing his cap in the air and saying "it is splendid, we shall be able to spend less money on education," but anyone who has studied this question knows that it is easy to add to the staff and to the buildings, but very difficult to reduce staff and pull buildings down. You can easily add a floor to a building, but once it is there it is difficult to scrap.
I must give the. House a few figures because they are vital if I am to prove my case that the Bill will not entail a heavy burden on the taxpayer. In answer to a question, the Parliamentary Secretary made an estimate of the total increase during the next four years in the number of juveniles between 14 and 18 years of age likely to be available for employment. He said that in 1934 there would be an anticipated increase of 55,000, in 1935 an increase of 115,000, in 1936 an increase of 306,000, and in 1937, when the Bill comes into full operation, an increase of no less than 443,000 young persons coming on to the labour market. On an already overcrowded market you would have this great army of young unemployed unable to find work. The Bill tries to check, to stem and to regulate this increase by the use of a little wisdom and foresight. It is fortunate that the Parliamentary Secretary is a Lancashire Member. Lancashire may not always have been in the van of progress, but it is now in the van of progress on education, and the Education. Committee of the county, on the 20th November, passed the following Report:The anticipated decrease in the number of children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the next five years approximates to the number of children in the additional age group of 14 to 18. The additional age group can be absorbed in mast of the departments from the point of view of recognised accommodation though unfortunately there would not be teaching space available in all cases.In spite of that, it decided to recommend to the Lancashire County Council that the age should be advanced. I want to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary to do the right thing, and I hope that he will be influenced by the decision of that great county. The case against advancing the age made three years ago with some force was that it was no use keeping children another year at school marking time, doing the sage lessons, the same work, that there was very little 1197 more for them to learn, and that it was much better and wiser to push them into the labour market where they would be learning something. That might have been true three years ago, but now, owing to the good work done by the Noble Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary, reorganisation has been going on apace. The Hadow Committee advised that if full use was to be made of our educational facilities there should be a break at 11 years of age, that up to that age children should be in junior schools over that age in senior schools, with better equipment and with a bias to industry and trade; with facilities for learning with the hands as well as with the head. I think that we are now in a position to say, at any rate we shall be in 1934, that such progress has been made, the schools are now so organised, that they can without difficulty provide a complete four years' course. In London 80 per cent. of the schools are already reorganised. I understand that in. Beckenham the whole of the schools have been reorganised. No doubt it is true that here and there in some rural districts not much progress has been made in this reorganisation, but the fact of starting this advance will force backward educational authorities to do their duty. Hitherto, the strong case against reorganisation has been that the senior schools only provided for a three years' course and that to make them a real success they must provide for a four years' course. The Bill provides for a four years' course.
Clause 2 is, perhaps, a little more controversial than Clause 1. It provides for a power of exemption. In an ideal world and in a perfect system of education there would be no necessity for exemptions, but we have to advance slowly if we are to get the public with us. The Bill is co drafted that there are adequate safeguards in the case of these exemption certificates. The parent has to apply; the educational authority has to be satisfied that a case has been made for exemption, that suitable employment has been offered and they can attach other conditions. It may be said that we should wait for a further advance; that in a perfect Bill it is not necessary to have a clause of this kind. But it will do great good. It will do a lot to stop blind alley occupations, boys becoming van boys and 1198 lift boys, entering occupations which inevitably mean that ultimately they will come on to the industrial scrap heap. One of the great tragedies of our industrial life, particularly in London, is that young lads leaving school, fresh, intelligent, bright, full of enthusiasm and proud to make their contribution to the home budget, in a year or two are thrown out on to the industrial scrap heap, having completely forgotten all that they learnt at school, lost discipline and training, and without any addition to their industrial skill and knowledge.
But there is another and more important provision which gives the Minister of Labour power to make regulations as to the condition of these certificates in particular over-crowded industries. It provides that the Ministry of Labour shall consult the various industries as to their labour needs and as to prospects of permanent employment. The regulations naturally will limit or exclude entry into certain already overcrowded industries. Take two examples, cotton and coal. Does it not seem madness, with the vast number of unemployed in the coal industry, to let boys drift in and push out their fathers, uncles and brothers three or four stages higher up? If the Bill does nothing else than that it will be a really useful contribution to our industrial problems.
Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 gives power to local education authorities to attach to the certificates conditions as to the hours of work. I emphasise that because a day or two ago an hon. Member called attention to the disgraceful conditions in certain London industries which are not sweated industries within the exact definition, but in which children are retained from very early hours to late at night. It would be a great thing to stop that kind of employment for young persons. Secondly, it empowers an education authority to require attendance at a continuation school or evening class or some form of educational institution. In other words it gives a discretion to require working and learning. There is a lot to be said, as long as the hours are not too long and the kind of employment is good and the young person is learning some industrial skill, for that young person to attend these continuation schools and so keep up the tradition of education. That tradition is vastly im- 1199 portant. Once it is lost it is very difficult to recover later in life.
There is an unanswerable case for this Clause, and I think I can say for the whole of this Bill, in the Bill that we discussed yesterday. Yesterday's Bill was a great and remarkable Bill. At any rate, although many of its terms may be disliked, it is a bold attempt to solve the problem of unemployment. But two Clauses in that Bill have escaped public attention. They are Clauses 13 and 14. I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Education that Clause 14 of yesterday's Bill raises the school age. It raises to 15 the age for compulsory attendance of children at school. But it raises the age in the wrong way. It provides that in the case of any person between 14 and 18, whether an assured contributor or not, who is capable of and available for work but has no work or only part-time employment, the Minister of Labour may require his attendance at courses, and if those courses are not taken proceedings may be taken against the parent. I am assured that local education authorities have already been approached with a view of getting the assistance of school attendance officers in enforcing the attendance at these labour classes. In other words, to the credit of the Minister of Labour, while the Board of Education has been fast asleep, doing nothing, snoring, the Ministry of Labour have taken their clothes and done their duty for them. That is to the credit of the Minister of Labour. But he is the wrong person; it is the wrong spirit, the wrong idea; it is extravagance and waste, and lack of planning; it shows complete want of foresight.
Here conies my argument to prove that this Bill will not mean an additional charge on public funds. The Bill that we considered yesterday provided for an estimated increase in the full year of £850,000 for these junior unemployed instructional centres. I do not want to say a word against these excellent classes. For them I claim part parentage, because it was the result of an Amendment moved by me that during the Parliament of 1929 or 1930 these instructional courses became universal. They are better than nothing. They keep children out of mischief, they give children a certain amount of training, and on the whole they are 1200 extremely popular, both with the young persons concerned and with employers. But, let us be frank, they have not got any great educational value. From the very nature of the classes that is inevitable. Children are coming in and out almost week by week. One of these excellent institutions with which I am very familiar, had 300 on the roll less than a year ago. To-day there are only 50. When there were 300 attending the staff consisted of five trained teachers. Now there are only two. In a few months time it may be that, owing to the flow of young persons into the labour market, the attendance will again expand, and again a staff will have to be improvised. That is not a good way of imparting education. Sometimes young persons are there for only a month or even a fortnight. Then suddenly there may be pressure owing to the advance of Christmas and the whole school disappears.
Does it not seem common sense, when we have this wonderful machinery in existence, all these great schools with highly trained teachers, headmasters, cookery centres and so on—is it not common sense, when we are likely to have this surplus labour, as the Minister of Labour insisted in his excellent speech yesterday, to keep these young persons off the labour market, to keep them in these excellent schools, where they will receive education and have opportunities of acquiring industrial skill?
That is not by any means the whole economy, resulting from the passing of this Bill. In the second part of the Bill we discussed yesterday there is £750,000 provided for classes for able-bodied men—again a very good idea. A man of 30 or 40 loses his job after being in work for two or three years. It is better for him to learn something. I do not object to classes for able-bodied men, but I much prefer young persons. It would be much better to stop pressure from below so that there will not be so many men in permanent unemployment. The bulk of the men who are unemployed, with one or two exceptions such as miners and farm workers, are unskilled workers who left school at 14 years of age. I do not believe that there is a limit to the power of absorption of labour or the expansion of industry. I believe that the growth of science will inevitably increase the demand for skilled, not unskilled, workers.
1201 More and more is the machine taking the place of the physical strength of the ordinary unskilled man. We had yesterday a proposal that £1,600,000 should be provided not by the President of the Board of Education—he stands idly by as a spectator—but by the Minister of Labour.
It may be argued that this sum is to be drawn not entirely from the taxes, but is to come partly from the insured persons. It is however coming out of the pool of the wealth of the country for educational purposes. Would not the President of the Board of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary prefer to have the spending of that money? Could they not spend it better than the department on the other side of the road? I am not going to say that you can trace to the entry of a particular boy on a particular date into industry the displacement of a particular man, three, four or five years hence. But it is not unreasonable to argue that it is the constant pressure from below of these new entrants into industry which is helping to force out into the unemployment waste so many of our physically strong and healthy men. The men are more expensive to employ but if the lads were not coming in, these men would probably in many cases keep their jobs.
I do not want the House, however, to get the idea that this is the only potential economy in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. White) in an excellent speech yesterday pointed out that there is another and a more important side to the question. We have 2,500,000 unemployed, and they draw on an average, I understand, something like. £1 a week, taking into account their dependants. The average cost of educating a child in school is less than 5s. a week. It sounds rather mean to have to put these figures, but I have to persuade the House and the country that I am not proposing to embark upon an extravagant scheme. Is it better to pay 5s. a week for a child's education, or to pay 20s. a week to unemployed men out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and, in too many cases, out of poor law resources to men who have exhausted benefit? Which is the wiser policy? Suppose you only keep 100,000 men from being thrown out of work by the pressure from below of these young persons. That means a saving of 1202 £5,000,000 a year. I think I can make out my case that this is really an Economy Bill. It is not going to cost £5,000,000; it is going to cost a very small sum to retain these children a few months longer at school, and, while I cannot prove the figure, there seems to be an almost unanswerable case to show that it will probably mean a saving of £5,000,000 a year higher up in the scale, to the taxpayer or to the Insurance Fund, by keeping these young people out of industry.
This is an economy House. This is a national Parliament. Here is a case where the Members of the House can take their courage in their hands and insist upon the Government acting in this matter. These are days in which we must think and plan ahead and, if we are to prevent trouble, we have to prepare for peace and prosperity, just as much as for war. By this proposal I maintain that we should be making best use both of our money and our man-power. Less and less, as I say, is there a demand for un-skilled labour. The State rightly or wrongly —rightly as I think—has assumed responsibility for poverty. Does it not seem common wisdom to plan to prevent poverty rather than to cure it; to prevent an evil rather than to have elaborate clumsy machinery for dealing with it when it has been brought about by want of foresight It has been said that in the great conflict between the nations to capture the markets of the world, victory will go to the country with the most intelligent workers. Holland and Czechoslovakia during the last five years have spent millions in building new schools and new craft centres, to improve the industrial efficiency of their workers. I ask for something which is far more modest. I ask for ordinary commonsense to take advantage of our existing educational organisation, so as to keep these young persons off the labour market until it is ready to absorb them, while at the same time adding to their industrial skill.
I beg of the Board of Education to give a lead to the nation. I know the Parliamentary Secretary to be a man of good heart, but perhaps he has very little power. But I would speak, through him, to the President of the Board of Education who has made a great name. It may be that his thoughts are on other things. He is doing such 1203 great work in regard to India. and in other directions that perhaps he does not realise—that is one of the misfortunes of not having him in the House of Commons—what is going on in the industrial world. But if the Parliamentary Secretary is not willing, then let the House of Commons take this matter into its own hands. Let the House show its independence. This is a Private Members' Bill. If the House gives it a Second Reading that is not a vote of censure on the Government but a vote of confidence in the Private Member. It is an expression of opinion that the Bill is right and I believe the House thinks that this Bill is right.
When the Bill goes to Committee it can be knocked into shape, added to, altered, or modified and if, after careful scrutiny, under the microscope of a Committee we find that the Bill will not work, then by all means scrap it. Many Bills go to Committees; very few become "Acts of Parliament. But examination is worth while in order to get at the facts, and I would beg the Minister to give this Bill his blessing at any rate as far as the Committee stage. There is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H, Williams). If I may say so, he showed rather indecent haste in tabling that Amendment. He tabled it before he even knew the contents of the Bill. Now that he has had an opportunity of reading the Bill perhaps I have converted him and I hope that after he has made his speech he will not press his Amendment. He says that there is no great demand for this advance. There has never been a great demand for educational advance. There was not in 1870; there was not at the time of the Balfour Act; there was not in the case of the great Fisher Act in 1918.
This is a matter in which the nation should have a lead from its representatives in Parliament. Obviously, in the pressure of industrial life and with the difficulties in the way of making both ends meet, the man who is out of employment is under a great temptation always to bring a little money into the home by sending out his boy, who is only too willing to help his parents earn a little money, and as long as it is volun- 1204 tary, the case is unanswerable, because it is not fair that one parent should have his children bringing in money to the home while in another case the child is compelled to stay at school. I can understand and appreciate, from my intimate knowledge of working people, how hard it is to resist the temptation; but we are responsible people, we are politicians, whose job it is to think out these questions, and when they understand that the result of the passing of this Bill into an Act of Parliament would be less wastage in the industrial army—that parents will keep their jobs —they will recognise the justice, wisdom, and sound policy underlying this Bill. I beg the House to make this contribution to what has come to be recognised as the system of a planned society to make the best use of our resources. This is a small contribution in that direction. and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
Before the hon. Member sis down, will he say exactly what he is going to do with the voluntary schools in this Bill?
§ Sir P. HARRIS
It would have been quite out of order to put in a financial provision. I should not have had a Second Reading, because a private Member cannot move anything which would involve a charge, and my Bill, therefore, is within the four corners of those requirements. As far as I am concerned, if that is the obstacle, much as I dislike it, I would rather give a contribution, to meet the special necessities of an exceptional case, to some of these schools than that the children should be robbed of the opportunity of using their powers.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
I beg to second the Motion.
I do so, not because the Bill goes as far as I would like it to go, but because I feel that it is at any rate a substantial contribution to the solution of a very serious problem. The ground has been traversed pretty exhaustively, but I would like for a few moments to give the ground of my support under two heads. Both have been referred to by the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), who introduced the Bill, and the first is that, whatever happens, if this Bill be rejected to-day, 1205 the Government will have to embark upon a very considerable expenditure in respect of juvenile unemployment. We have to-day I suppose, anything from 140,000 to 180,000 juveniles who are unemployed.
§ Mr. EVANS
I know the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has omniscience, which I cannot claim, but I do know the figures in this case. But anyone who knows anything about the conditions knows that there is a very large number of juveniles between 14 and 16 out of employment. I repeat that we have probobly something between 140,000 and 180,000 juveniles out of employment, but if reference be made to the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," it will be seen that the number at juvenile instruction courses and other approved educational institutions on the 25th October was only 15,622, out of 140,000, to put it at a minimum. I have taken some care to make as accurate a computation as I can, and in Wales I think I am riot over-estimating it when I say that we have 15,000 juveniles who are unemployed. I put that as a minimum, and only a few over 3,000 of those were present at instruction courses on the 25th October.
Under the Unemployment Bill which was introduced yesterday, the Minister of Labour proposes to embark on an expenditure and to exercise compulsion. These youths who will now come on to the registers of the Employment Exchanges and juvenile employment centres will be compelled to attend courses of instruction. I think that is perfectly right. I do not object at all to the placing of these unemployed juveniles under some discipline and instruction, but my feeling, having visited a large number of these courses and having given quite a considerable part of my time to lecturing at them and helping in various ways, is that it would be infinitely better if these lads were kept in school. Compulsion exercised after a boy or a girl has left school, once there has been a break, is entirely different from continuous compulsion. Once a lad has left school, there flow into his vision horizons of employment, and there is a certain amount of laxity from the removal of the discipline and comradeship 1206 of the school. A subtle psychological effect takes place, and then the enforcement of compulsion, even if it is after a gap of only three months, is different. Indeed, the three months after a child leaves school are very critical months, and I would much rather, not merely on educational grounds, but on economic grounds as well, that the child should continue in his class in the school. The Ministry of Labour proposes to expend a considerable sum of money in bringing these children back, but I suggest to the Ministry of Education that, by virtue of its special responsibility to the children, it should demand control over the lives of these boys and girls for a longer period. Money has to be spent, and the question to decide is, in what way it can have the maximum return for its expenditure, by continuing the education of the children in the schools or to cause a break and then to throw them together under new conditions and new instructors.
The other point that I want to make is this that if we are to be at all realistic in our vision of the economic situation, we must appreciate that this problem of juvenile unemployment is one which has come to stay. It is not a phase due to a temporary economic depression. May I have the indulgence of the House to speak of an area which I know better than other areas, namely, Wales, and particularly South Wales? I had gone to some trouble to study, as judicially as I could, the figures and the facts relating to our economic life. I am certain that however much the Government may do, however much trade may improve in the country as a whole a very large number of industrial workers, young and old, in South Wales are committed to permanent unemployment. We have the highest percentage of unemployment of any area in the country. If the hon. Member for South Croydon will check the figures in the Ministry of Labour "Gazette," lie will find that we have 621,620 insured workers, and that of that number on the 23rd October 34.6 per cent. were out of employment. The nearest approach to it is Scotland with 24.4 per cent.
Anyone who has an intimate knowledge of industrial conditions in South Wales, in those basic industries on which our economic civilisation there has been built, 1207 must realise that there is no hope of recovery. In the coal industry, which has absorbed the largest number of industrial workers, it is a tragic tale. From 1923 onwards fewer and fewer people have been employed, coming down from about 280,000 in 1923 to about 213,00, and of these, something like 58,000 are unemployed. There are sitting above the Gangway miners' leaders who can vouch for these facts, and who know very well that there are districts that have become utterly derelict. There is not a scintilla of hope of new avenues of employment in areas like Merthyr, Rhondda and Ebbw Vale. The question is: What are we going to do? How do the House and the Government view their responsibility in this matter? In the iron and steel industry the percentage of unemployment in South Wales is higher than it is in any other part of the country. In tinplate there has been a certain amount of improvement. I do not want to put up in any way a polemical argument, but I would appeal to the economic sense of the House. Even there, where we have a considerable amount of improvement, I cannot view the future with equanimity. We are to-day producing the steel bars for our tinplate and sheet industry, and we have a grip on many foreign markets, but we have to face the possibility that Belgium and other countries which sent steel bars here will now put up their own tinplate and sheet works.
No matter where I turn, I cannot find a bright spot. There is an industry of which I have a good deal of first-hand knowledge which has had an experience in the last few months which I think is symptomatic. Our economic environment has developed and become more and more complex, new problems have come into view, and I am not certain that political capacity has grown apace with economic change. If an industry decides to increase production you might say that there is a prospect. of employment for a proportionately increased number of people. The industry which I have in mind doubled its output in six months, but it did not double the amount of employment. It increased the output by 100 per cent., but owing to technological advances it employed only 10 per cent. above its normal labour. That is a line of development which is likely to take place 1208 all over the country. I have no doubt that when political capacity really becomes adequate to tackling the new economic problems we shall cut down the industrial personnel at both ends so that people will retire earlier and go into industry much later.
All that we are asking in this Bill is that we should make a small contribution. A vast number of children are leaving schools every year, going into the streets, going through that most demoralising of all phases of human experience, without hope, without horizon, without any sense of vocation, and surely it is not beyond the humanity and the capacity of this House to attempt to stem this degradation. What we are asking is really very paltry. If we had moral courage, it is not the kind of solution we would enforce All we are asking is that inasmuch as money has to be spent on junior instruction courses we should continue to keep the youths in school, in the classes, under the same teachers, under the same type of discipline, and with the same cultural environment. It is much better to leave them there. We are not putting forward this Bill with the feeling that we are making a stupendous contribution, but I think that we are doing something to focus the attention of the House and perhaps create a conscience.
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whilst applying to the solution of the problem of juvenile unemployment cumbrous and impracticable methods, fails to secure any educational advantages proportionate to the cost involved.The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) twitted me because the Amendment is not quite the same as that which I orginally put on the Paper. When I read the Title of the Bill a week to-day, I naturally assumed that he was, from his point of view, at least as advanced as he was in 1930 when he supported the Bill promoted by the late Labour Government. I naturally assumed that he would have the courage to introduce now what he supported then, but apparently the hon. Baronet has changed his mind in the meantime. As I found he had changed 1209 his mind, I made the Amendment to suit the less fierce proposal that he is actually bringing before the House. His group are, I suppose, the historic standard bearers of the party that used to claim as its slogan, "Peace, retrenchment and reform." Their peaceful instincts are shown by the fact that they spend more time abusing their fellow Liberals than doing anything else. So far as retrenchment is concerned, it is a policy they have completely abandoned, for you can invariably rely upon the group to which he belongs to support every madcap scheme that would increase public expenditure. I, on the other hand, take a different view, for reasons which I will explain.
The hon. baronet recently crossed the Floor of the House and committed an act of burglary or housebreaking in so doing because he took the Bill introduced by my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) across the Floor with him. He did not take all of it, however, because I find on page 2 of my Noble Friend's Bill there are printed certain words in italics, and those words do not appear in the hon. Baronet's Bill. At the conclusion of his speech, I asked him what he was going to do about the voluntary schools, and he explained that it would not be in Order for him to put it in the Bill. I agree it could not be put in the Bill in the House of Commons sense until the necessary Financial Resolution had been passed, but at least he could have shown his intentions by printing in italics in the Bill the same proposal that was in my Noble Friend's Bill. The real truth of the matter is that he knows his Bill is quite impracticable [Interruption]. No, it would not be ruled out of Order. It would not be in the Bill in the House of Commons sense, but it could be in the printed text for information, and would come into the Bill the moment the Financial Resolution had been passed. Therefore, he was not quite candid with the House when he gave his explanation of why he did not make provision to defend voluntary schools, all of which would be wrecked if his Bill were passed in its present form. He thought I was an ill-informed person when I laughed about 1st April, 1934, being the date for the Bill to start. I was not only laughing because that was All Fools Day, but because in 1934 1st April happens to fall on a Sunday, and, therefore, that would not be 1210 an appropriate date for starting operations in any event. Further, I am not unaware that for certain purposes the school year begins on 1st April, because I happen to be the son of a schoolmaster. He was a very good schoolmaster, but one thing he could not do was to teach me to read.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Therefore, he sent me to stay with an uncle in North Wales, and there I attended a public elementary school. I started there on that day in 1892 on which free education came into operation, and, therefore, I am one of the first products of the free education system of this country. I hear it suggested sotto voce that I am a very good product. The hon. Baronet suggested that I did not know anything about education. It is always rather rash to hold that other people have no qualifications to discuss a 'subject.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I must take such time as is necessary for the exposition of my point of view. I am not one of those who trespass unduly upon the time of the House when I do speak. But I happen to be the son of a schoolmaster, have one brother who is a schoolmaster, and one who used to be, and when I was a student at a university—one of the modern universities, where we were all very poor—I used to help myself by giving specialist teaching on Saturday mornings. Therefore, I have some personal practical experience of education. I remember that my father, the son of very poor parents, having trained himself as a teacher, taught for two or three years in order to save up enough money to take himself to Cambridge. I come from stock which has been willing to make personal sacrifices for education, and is not always screaming out for the State or some other institution to pay. Therefore, I rather resent the suggestion that I do not 1211 approach this Bill from an educational standpoint. My own father used to walk nine miles a day to a secondary school. There were no free omnibuses to take him in those days.
We have been told that under this Bill there will be 500,000 more children at school than otherwise would he the case when the Bill comes into full operation. That will represent a substantial sum of money. What will be the results to education of imposing this charge? Clearly it will postpone for a long period a reduction in the size of classes. The greatest educational reform we could carry out would be to have smaller classes. Everyone who has had practical experience of teaching many subjects will agree about that. If we waste money by keeping in school great masses of children who do not want to stay, and who, if they do stay, will gain no advantage—and I have still to meet the teacher who in private conversation supports this proposal—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
You may deny that. We know perfectly well what animates the hon. Member. The teachers think that if there is an increased demand for their commodity there will be a bigger demand for teachers.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is a pleasant way of putting it. Perhaps the hon. Member, who represents the teachers—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) must not interrupt.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I was going on to say that the teachers are looking forward to the time when their salaries will be restored to a higher level. Is it to their advantage to impose a new charge on education which must of necessity delay the restoration of their "cuts." The hon. Baronet, to whom I paid considerable attention while he was speaking, said Lancashire was always in the van in these matters. At the moment, for a variety of reasons. Lancashire is in another vehicle, rather in the cart. We have demands coming from many parts of Lancashire, for what? For relief as regards local expenditure, because some of their areas are depressed areas. Is this a time to impose upon such local authorities a great new charge? I do not understand this constant demand for relief from the burdens of expenditure and at the same time constant pressure for increased expenditure.
I apply to every proposal of social reform coming forward at this moment the crucial test: Will or will it not increase the number of persons in employment? This morning, 2,250,000 persons woke up in this country with the knowledge that nobody wanted them. Spiritually that is the most demoralising thing in the world —to know that you are unwanted. assert that one of the outstanding causes of this unemployment is the abnormal pressure of taxation. Why are most of us in public life? Because we want, so far as we can, to leave our country a little better than we found it, and I resist, and shall go on resisting, every proposal in this House, however beneficient its object, which well delay the restoration of employment to those of my fellow citizens who have gone through purgatory in the past few years. That is my approach to this problem.
Educationally, I do not think much of these proposals. My own view is that those who are likely to gain by education continued after the present school period should find the doors of the school open to them, as in the case at present, and that where some higher form of education is required it should be made available as and when our resources permit us to offer increased help in the form of scholarships and the like. The idea that continuing the education of great numbers of children will be conferring an advantage on them is a complete and abso- 1213 lute delusion. Many of those who are engaged in the teaching profession think it is their job to advise the public as to the school age. I suggest that teachers should place themselves rather more in the position of civil servants, and realise that it is their duty to carry out the policy decided by the elected representatives of the people but not to dictate that policy. There is far too great a participation in politics by those engaged in education.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Yes, they have citizen rights, but not more than those rights. Those who enter the public service sacrifice some of their citizen rights. Obviously, no person in the Board of Education would be allowed to carry on propaganda outside the Board which happened to be contrary to the policy of the President; and it is only by the chance of administration that the teachers are employés directly of the local authorities and not of the Board of Education. No teacher ought to engage in public controversy to influence the policy of the Board of Education, any more than a soldier or a sailor or a postman ought to seek to dictate the policy of his respective department.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The soldiers do it here. The other day I heard admirals and captains and generals take part in a discussion and advocate an increase in the Navy and Air Force.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have never failed to protest whenever I have seen a serving officer take part in a controversial issue, because I think that is in complete conflict with the system of responsible representative government. It is an intolerable invasion of the rights of the general body of citizens. Those who enter the public service have the advantages of the service, and must accept the disabilities. There is no other body of public servants which attempts to do it.
We have had some information from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) on the subject of the magnitude of the unemployment problem. I am going to suggest to the hon. Member that his figures are very misleading and without statistical foundation. We have comprehensive information with regard to 1214 the juveniles from 16 to 18. With regard to those from 14 to 16, we have not the same comprehensive information, but one is in a position to judge the situation in the unemployment areas by the surrounding circumstances. At this moment juvenile unemployment is not a problem at all in most parts of the country. It has ceased to exist as a problem except in a few special areas. Juvenile unemployment at this moment is nearly half what it was 15 months ago. It is lower than at any time since December, 1929. The proportion of insured boys of the total insured shows that they have practically all got into employment except those going into agricultural and domestic service and uninsured occupations. The figure is now down to 5.7 per cent., and among girls to 4.1 per cent. If my hon. friend the Member for Carmarthen will look at the analysis of the applicants for benefit—boys and girls—he will find, that out of 15,607 boys who were applying for benefit at the end of October, 13,826 had been out of work than less than three months.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
I am not contesting for a moment the statistical accuracy of the hon. Member, but would he from the document he has in front of him read out the aggregate number of juveniles on the registers of the Employment Exchanges and the employment bureaux?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I will read all if the hon. Member will give me time. At the moment when I was interrupted I was dealing with details, and did not see the relevance of the hon Member's interruption.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I listened with great patience to the two long speeches which have been delivered and never interrupted. I am interrupted because I am giving facts nearer to the situation than those which have been put before the House. I said there were 15,607 boys applying for benefit, and of those, 13,826 1215 had been out of work for less than three months. The number out of work for a longer period than that is trifling. It is true that the total number of registered juveniles out of work is about 90,000 out of a total between the ages of 14 and 15 of nearly 2,000,000. No fewer than 31,000 were placed by the Exchanges alone in the month of October, of whom 8,740 got their first jobs since leaving school. The numbers in August, at the end of the summer term, were naturally much larger, and the bulk of the children got their first jobs, not through the Exchanges but through their parents. Fathers are busy looking round during the last weeks of the term, and the bulk of the children enter into employment at that period with great rapidity. There are many parts of the country where juvenile labour cannot be obtained, and I protest against the gross inaccuracy with which this case has been treated in the House to-day.
Let us take a case where this system is in operation. What has been the effect in Plymouth of raising the school age to 15? It is rather interesting. The proportion of juveniles out of the total people unemployed is higher in Plymouth than the average for the rest of the country. Of the unemployed in Plymouth, 4.4 per cent. are juveniles. If the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) does not believe it, she can do the calculation herself. The information is to be found on page 420 of the Ministry of Labour Gazette where it will be seen that, whereas the percentage is 4.4 in Plymouth, the average for the rest of the country is 3.8. I happen to be dealing with the Noble Lady's constituency. It might be worth while listening.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The teaching of the Noble Lady is impossible to anyone, but it is worth making a trial. One of the few towns in the country which has already introduced the system shows, in relation to the total unemployment, a larger proportion of juveniles than the rest of the United Kingdom. That is a very strange state of affairs. The other day I was present at a dinner under the auspices of the National Union of Teachers. It was one of its branches, and one of the principal guests was the 1216 President of the National Union of Teachers. He made this statement:—Hundreds of thousands of children were leaving the schools yearly to go on to the streets, because there was no employment for them.That gentleman was not making a false statement. He was perfectly honest; he thought it was true. I think it is intolerable that people holding a responsible position like that should say that hundreds of thousands of children yearly are going on to the streets because there is no employment for them, when the statement has not got the slightest truth behind it. When you find a Bill supported on information so hopelessly inaccurate, what are you to think of those who promote such a Bill and are not prepared to take the trouble of indulging a little study, a lit le self-education to explore the facts of the situation before they ask this House to involve itself in a heavy expenditure which has got to be paid for? If this Bill passes, you delay the reduction in taxation and you delay the restoration of cuts. People approach the problem as if when you pass a Bill involving expenditure it does not react on every other aspect of public life believe that the whole of this House has not been as efficient as it might have been as a guardian of the finances of the people. It is the people's money we spend when a proposal is brought forward politically to impose new burdens on the people at a time when they are crushed by their existing but dens. I shall at any time have not the slightest hesitation in resisting proposals which, I believe, will make the position of our people worse than it is to-day. We have to rescue this tragic army of unemployed. We have made a good start. We have got to go on with that work, and I believe that we shall succeed. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Carmarthen that the problem is permanent is a policy of despair. If the hon. Member's point of view is true you can keep boys in South Wales in school all their lives.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
It is not merely a question of keeping them in school, but of keeping them off the streets.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Obviously, in a district which has become derelict as the result of strikes—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish "]. Does anyone deny that the miners representatives have ruined 1217 South Wales? They have brought about the gravest conditions of life by destroying the markets of that area, and to-day it is clear that the solution of the problem is not involved in keeping the boys at school. There has got to be migration from those districts. Every- body has to face up to the fact that there are parts of South Wales which will never give the employment that they gave in the past. What is the use of asking the over-burdened ratepayers, in areas which cannot pay their way to-day and which are virtually bankrupt, to assume new burdens, in order to keep at school in South Wales children who ought to be going to work in other parts of the country? Let us have a little realism about this matter. I have quoted a mass of statistics, to the great discomforture of hon. Members opposite, and nobody has proved that they are wrong. Every time I have made a statement which upset one of the hon. Members, he has got up, but without much success, and I have never hesitated to make way for him, because I always believe in letting the victim hang him- self. There are many other things which I should like to say, but this is a Debate which occupies the minds of many Members, and many wish to take part in it.
§ 12.27 p.m.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I would like to congratulate the hon. Baronet the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and his hon. Friends, upon the moderation with which they have presented their proposals. Their most illuminating passages were those which gave information about the Bill itself. We congratulate the hon. Baronet, who has had a long experience in this House, upon being successful in drawing the first Friday place. He said frankly that when he was successful in drawing that place he was very surprised, and I think that that surprise is reflected in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) jocularly suggested that the hon. Baronet would not be surprised at the House rejecting the Bill. His speech gave that impression.
I do not think that I shall be accused of injustice if I summarise his speech in 1218 this way: The scheme is not going to cost anything. That was the hon. Baronet's first argument, and he went on to say that he could prove that. Finally, when he had submitted all the facts and figures, he made the statement that he could not prove it. His next point was that this was an economy Bill, and he gave some figures which, to my mind, were fallacious. He said that the cost of public elementary school education, was about 5s. per head to the State, and then he Assumed that, if children were not retained at school, the cost to the State would be, not 5s. per head, but £1. Finally—and this was the most naive suggestion of all—the hon. Baronet asked that we should pass the Second Reading of the Bill, not on grounds of economy in expenditure, but as a vote of personal confidence in those who were responsible for its presentation. I have many times heard the hon. Baronet in his role of critic, whether his party has been in office or in opposition, make use of a certain phrase, whatever may have been the subject before the House. I have repeatedly heard him say that the problem was being dealt with in the wrong way and at the wrong time. I have no hesitation in making the same observation in regard to the hon. Baronet's proposal.
It is unfortunate in some respects that private Members have so few opportunities of introducing legislation, but it is incumbent upon them to refrain from introducing legislation which might mean a further burden on the country's financial resources and upon local authorities. In making that statement, I am sure that it will not be asserted that those of us who are opposing this Measure are unmindful of the problem with which it seeks to deal. So far as I am concerned, the main objection, is not based upon grounds of obstruction, because I have not very much sympathy with some of the methods which are used in the House, and which are quite Parliamentary, in obstructing proposals which are brought forward. I am sure that it would be the general sense of the House that we prefer our judgment to be guided by reason, and our decision to be dictated, not by obstructive methods, but by convictions.
May I put one or two reasons why I shall oppose the Bill. I cannot accept the hon. Baronet's airy suggestion that no 1219 cost would be involved. I have often thought that the initial joy and fascination of a statistician, and particularly the politically-minded statistician, is in the search for figures, and for such figures as will demonstrate the accuracy of deductions which he has previously determined to make. The temptation, in the search for figures, is to ignore other figures which effectively prove the contrary, and it is for us to decide whether we shall accept figures which put our point of view or the figures which put the other point of view. I think that that is admitted upon all hands. It has been stated from time to time, in connection with the raising of the school age, that the cost would be partly borne by the Exchequer, and partly by the local authorities.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
Yes, including the maintenance grants. It is rather difficult to obtain anything like a proper estimate of the cost of the hon. Baronet's proposal, and I should be very grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education could give us his Department's estimate of the cost. I know that that will be very difficult, because there are so many loopholes, to one or two of which I will refer in a moment. We may assume that there will be from 300,000 to 400,000 children affected, and that, therefore, the cost of this Measure in full operation would be something approaching £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, roughly two-thirds of which would have to be borne by the Exchequer, and one-third by the local authority. It is pertinent to emphasise the point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon, that we have been pressed on all hands to restore the cuts in teachers' salaries. Those cuts were temporary, but we are being pressed for expenditure which would involve, if those cuts were restored, a sum of about £5,500,000.
If we are going to embark upon expenditure of that kind, I think it is not inappropriate that we should have some regard to the increase in the cost of elementary education since 1914. At that time there were 5,400,000 children in the public elementary schools, and, for the purposes of comparison, I have taken a few figures from the latest 1220 Statistical Abstract, dated 1933. The number of teachers has increased only by 7,000—from 150,000 to 157,000. The total increase in expenditure, on public elementary education alone, in England and Wales, between 1914 and 1931, amounted to £40,000,000. It rose from £26,000,000 to £66,000,000. I will not weary the House with further figures on this point, but, if any hon. Member is sufficiently interested, I shall be happy to show him the figures which I have prepared indicating exactly how this increase is arrived at. There are certain people who cannot in any circumstances be said to be personally opposed to education, but who are very doubtful whether we are getting real value in an educational sense for the money that we expend for educational purposes. I would suggest that it is incumbent upon the House, at the present or at any other time, to satisfy itself, if there should be any further increase of expenditure on education, that we are going to secure the fullest educational benefits from it.
Very exceptional figures are sometimes taken for the purpose of arriving at the peak of the bulge to which reference has been made. Having in mind the difficulties of the education authorities, I would ask the House to consider this aspect of the matter: The education authorities have to confront various uncertainties arising from the increase in the number of children attending school, mainly due to the increase in the birth rate immediately after the War. There are three sets of figures which are sometimes employed in order to fix the date of the peak. The first set represents children who are just going to school. Then there is another set representing children who are just on the verge of leaving school, and a third set which assumes that the total number of children attending school is the proper basis. Whichever set of figures is taken, it is certain that, because of this variation in the number of children attending our elementary schools, our local authorities have certain difficulties to contend with, and the hon. Baronet knows that the effects of this bulge are already being felt. From an educational point of view I would ask him whether he suggests that the children whom he proposes should be retained at school for a further period—the children of the 1221 14–15 group-should be kept at school with the children of the 13–14 group I If that be his suggestion, I think, myself, that it is educationally undesirable. If the children are to remain at school for a longer period, it is the bounden duty of those who are responsible for keeping them there to see that they get educational facilities of the highest possible class. I am not, as a matter of general principle, opposed to the hon. Baronet's proposal to try to arrange for a gradual increase in the school attendance age, but I do not hesitate to say that in my view it is our first duty to see that proper facilities and adequate accommodation are provided for the children whom we propose to keep at school.
The hon. Baronet dismissed rather lightly certain difficulties of a vital character. I have referred to the uncertainties and difficulties confronting local authorities, and I would like to ask the hon. Baronet if it is not the fact that this Bill would add still more uncertainties? For example, how many additional children will come into the schools term by term, and over what localities will they be spread? Moreover, as my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, certain education authorities have now to deal with another problem, arising from the new housing areas, and in the counties of Kent and Surrey today they are experiencing extraordinary difficulties, even in existing circumstances, in providing for some of the children in localities for which my hon. Friend's authority was formerly responsible. Again, how many exemptions are there to be; what is to be the ground of exemption; and what is meant exactly by "suitable employment". I see that the Bill says that the local authority is to define "suitable employment". Is there any machinery for appeal, and how will uniformity of interpretation be secured as to what suitable employment means? I think also that we must have some regard to the views of the parents; but the policy of the Bill almost seems to be that the parent has nothing to do with the education of his children.
I notice that the Bill devolves a rather serious duty upon the Board of Education in regard to the conditions and nature of the employment and the hours of work. The Board is to be asked to settle the conditions and nature of the employment and the hours of work. Is 1222 it proposed to provide also that the Board shall deal with the question of wages Moreover, does it mean that the Board of Education must decide the individual case of each applicant? If so, I can visualise at once an army of officials which entirely destroys the hon. Baronet's argument that the operation of the Bill will cost nothing. The hon. Baronet rather disarmed criticism when he suggested that, although the Bill might be a very bad Bill, the House should be given an opportunity of considering it in Committee, but I think that that is hardly a satisfactory argument to offer to the House, and it is one which leaves me quite cold.
My view is that in the initial stages the House should make up its mind as to whether the Bill is good or bad, and deal with it accordingly, and, if that were done, a great deal of the time of the House might be saved. While I appreciate very sincerely the desire of the hon. Baronet and his friends that an opportunity should be given to the House of discussing the very important problems, about which we are all very much concerned, in connection with these young children who are just on the verge of entering employment, I suggest to him that, with the best intentions in the world, there is a great danger of confused thinking in trying to link up educational questions with the question of unemployment. I recognise that it is an attractive suggestion, but I suggest that, if we are really going to advance the cause of education, we have to consider educational measures as educational measures alone. I believe that the machinery provided for the Bill would be impracticable, and I am reluctantly compelled to oppose it.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has served an affiliation order on me in introducing this Bill. I feel rather like a parent whose child has been abducted by wandering gipsies in the course of their wanderings through the House and, when I eventually recover it and am asked to recognise it, I say it looks very like it, but when I see how it behaves, when I listen to the hon. Baronet's speech, I wonder whether it is my child after all; for my friends with 1223 whom I work in these matters and for whom I speak had a completely different conception of the problems that we were trying to meet. The hon. Baronet has been most courteous in consulting me and endeavouring to restore to the Bill some of the points that he had left out, but still I do not think it is as good as the Bill that I introduced. Substantially it would have the same effect, subject to certain drafting matters, as the Bill that I introduced, but the hon. Baronet appears to be supporting it, and my hon. friends appear to be opposing it, on grounds completely out of relation to the purpose which appears on the face of the Bill.
After all, what, is the problem that we are trying to solve? It is no good referring to what we said in 1930. We are trying to deal with 1933, and one of the difficulties of democracy, one of the things that threaten the existence of democracy, is the difficulty of inducing people to discuss an old subject from a new angle. We continually seem to be locked in debate on the old lines entirely ignoring the actual situation that we have to deal with. The problem to my mind is this. You have, not only in this country but in every industrial country in the world, a tremendous wastage, moral and economic, of valuable young lives. The President of the National Union of Teachers may use exaggerated language. He is not alone in using exaggerated language. We all know how difficult it is not to do so, but there is that wastage. But analyse it a little more. It arises between the end of school life and the beginning of employment. There is often a very serious and very deleterious gap, and we all agree, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) agrees as much as anyone, that if you could keep children at school until they got employment it would be an advantage to every young worker in the country. The wastage arises, secondly, at the age of 16 or 18, after blind alley employment.
Analyse that blind alley point for a moment. We often continue to talk as if blind alley employment to-day were confined to van boys and lift boys. It is not so. I would rather see my son become a van boy than go into certain occupations in highly organised indus- 1224 tries, very often including actual apprenticeship. Take a highly organised industry with a very high standard of technical apprenticeship—printing. I have known more than one case of firms quite frankly taking boys on solely in order that they may serve their apprenticeship and dismissing them at the end of the term. That is far worse than the blind alley employment of a van boy.
The figures of juvenile unemployment reflect the wastage of those who are waiting for employment at 16, but they do not at all reflect the wastage at 14. if you are to solve that problem, it seems to me that the solution lies in two directions. One, and the most important, is that every organised industry should be called on to define its policy in the recruitment and training and subsequent employment of its juvenile labour. Every industry ought to have a code of juvenile employment. We often talk about a corporative system, copying the language of Fascist Italy. We often talk—the hon. Baronet has talked a great deal—about planning industry. I sometimes wonder whether we are not concentrating our attention too much on the most difficult type of planning, the production and distribution carried on by industry, which the State may be driven to do but which the State is not particularly qualified to do, and forgetting another sort of planning, making industry responsible for certain social matters for which industry and not the local authority is the natural unit. That is so with regard to juvenile employment. Until you have a recognised policy established by the representative bodies of industry in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, you will have no certainty as to what kind of employment is blind alley employment and what is regular employment. It is one side of the problem of juvenile employment to hold industry responsible for its own policy in regard to it. It is obvious that that should be the responsibility of industry. If I might attempt to lay down a general principle it would he to say that if capital has one responsibility to the community it is the responsibility to employ labour regularly. Until you have focussed that responsibility upon the owner and manager of capital whoever they may be, public authority or private capialist, you will never get any really novel reform in this country.
1225 That is one branch of the solution. The other branch of the solution is in gradually strengthening your vocational guidance action in the schools and in the local authorities. I do not know that I ever heard a sentiment with which I so utterly disagreed as the sentiment enunciated by my hon. Friend who seconded the rejection of the Bill, that you ought to keep education distinct from employment. That seems to run counter to everything which we in this party, and, indeed, Members all over the House, have been saying and insisting upon.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
I should like to make the point clear. What I had in mind was, that it was a mistake to link up too closely the question of the educational system of this country with that of the solution of unemployment.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I do not think that you can possibly link it up too closely. Unless you can feel fairly assured that the child who is leaving your school is fitted, as well as he can be at that age, whatever the age may be, and is recognised as being fitted, for a certain job, and can get placed into that job directly from school—the placing of that child is as much the business of the teacher and the local education authority as it is the business of anybody else—unless you admit what is, after all, the movement which has been undertaken throughout your educational system from the public schools upwards and try to identify teachers with this movement by appointing careers masters, and so on; unless you make the transition from school to employment as natural, smooth and immediate as possible, then one-half of the good of your education will go by the board. That is why I very much regret that my hon. Friend, in producing this Bill, has dropped the local vocational guidance authority which I put into my Bill entirely out. I know that it is not a new authority. I have no doubt that very largely it was only a new name which was given to it in my Bill, but what one wants to do in these matters is to focus the attention of the House and the public upon certain principles and constructive proposals. That was my aim and that of my friends in the Bill we introduced.
I do not care how much, as a result of the present Bill, the leaving 1226 age is actually raised or for how many children. I should be content to see 75, 80 or 90 per cent. of the children exempted before they reached the age of 15 provided that it was the reflection of a policy on the part of industry, not only to 'employ boys at that age, but to train them and give to them opportunities of permanent employment from the age of 18 upwards. My object has been to link up with industry in that way and to give the Government power to establish co-operation with industry and to control the flow of juvenile labour from the schools into industry for the purpose of establishing a joint employment policy with industry. Something on those lines will have to come. I am not sufficiently simple to suppose that any private Member, whether it is myself or my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green, can draft a comprehensive measure on such a subject as this which can really be accepted by the Government as the proper basis for dealing with the matter. On the other hand, I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that the Government at the moment have only half a policy on this matter. The provisions of the Unemployment Bill deal very drastically and on a very large scale with the problem of salvage and salvage at the earliest possible moment, but they do not cope with the problem of prevention and do not attempt to arm the Government with the powers which are necessary to secure real co-operation with industry. Such co-operation must be established. Do not let us for a moment think that there is anything novel about these proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon called them cumbrous and impracticable. If he had a little greater knowledge, I do not say of education—I know that he has a great knowledge of education—but of the administration in other countries, he would realise that those cumbrous and impracticable measures had been in force for years.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
If you are to deal with young people between the ages of 14 and 16 you must have class-rooms prepared for them. You cannot accommodate these young people in existing buildings. You must reconstruct the buildings in order to do the job.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I will deal with that point. The "cumbrous and impracticable" system is one which is in operation in many of the States of America and has been in operation for years. There is nothing novel or extraordinary about it. We are only extraordinary in this country because, alone of all the industrial nations of the world, we have not yet adopted any method of dealing with the problem of juvenile employment. Every other industrial country in the world has one scheme or another. Generally speaking it is not a scheme of raising the school leaving age to 15 for anybody. The main part of these foreign schemes is part-time education from 14 to 16 or from 14 to 18, either for everyone, or for apprentices in certain industries. The weakness of those schemes is the weakness which I pointed out a little time ago, that apprenticeship now has ceased to have the old meaning, and that apprenticeship may quite well be more a blind alley employment than unorganised employment. We have, there fore, to treat the problem of permanent employment in industry on a much broader scale. Other countries have adopted one expedient or another. The purpose of my Bill was to give the Government power to adopt any of these methods in combination. So far from being a Bill to raise the school-leaving age to 15 it was much more, and it is much more as now drafted in the present Bill, to enable the Government to compel juveniles to attend part-time class instruction, not only between the ages of 14 to 16 but up to the age of 18, and to compel industry, after consultation with industry, to adopt certain minimum provisions.
I come to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon. In so far as the operation of this Bill may necessitate the keeping of children at school whole time up to the age of 15, the answer to him is that, broadly speaking, if you started the operation of the scheme in April, 1935, instead of 1934—there is no reason why it should not be postponed until then; that is entirely in the discretion of the Government—you would not get into the senior schools, you would not be keeping in the senior schools more children than would be compensated for by the natural reduction in the number of the seniors.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
What am concerned about is the number of additional classes in the schools and not the total number of children.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That being so, the question of the gross numbers does not make any difference. But the hon. Member says: "You would have to put your children of 14 to 15 years in a separate class and, therefore you would want additional classrooms." We shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Education what is the position in regard to this matter. In 1927 I suggested to the local authorities that in view of the fact that, quite apart from any compulsory raising of the school-leaving age, local authorities were already under the obligation under the Act of 1921 to retain in school and properly educate any child who wished voluntarily to stay on at school, and as an increasing number were staying voluntarily at school beyond the school-leaving age, they should plan their senior schools on a four-year basis and not on a three-year basis. Whether the intervening President of the Board of Education, Sir Charles Trevelyan, continued to carry out that policy, I do not know.
My hon. Friend has displayed an extra ordinary lack of a sense of proportion wihich arises from his not realising the statistics with which he is dealing. He says: "You need not be so alarmed about this bulge.' The juveniles are being absorbed far more quickly than in the last two years and you need not bother about them, because we shall absorb all of them." I do not take such a sanguine view of the future of industry as he does. We were all talking like that in 1927, and the hon. Member was talking like that then, but it did not happen, and I am afraid that the present Government are going to be caught in the same complacency of mind as we were in 1927. We have not yet had to deal with the "bulge." My hon. Friend asks the House to believe that our success in placing juveniles at the present moment is a sign that we are thoroughly competent to deal with the problem, but surely he knows that the nadir of the birth-rate was reached in the early months of 1919. Even in the third quarter of 1919 the birth-rate only began to go up slightly. It was not until the last 1229 quarter of 1919 that we had the leap in the birth-rate and not a single child born in that last quarter of 1919 has yet emerged from school.
If we are to weigh against each other the alternative of pouring a great stream of children from the schools beyond the capacity of industry to absorb it, or keeping the children in the schools, even if they do not have separate class-rooms, so long as you keep them there with the definite intention of giving them a better vocational chance and as part of a definite policy of vocational guidance, surely there can be no doubt or hesitation as to which is the most practical thing to do, and which would give the child the greatest chance. I regret that the Debate has tended to get back on to the old, old lines as if it was merely a question whether you should or should not raise the school-leaving age to 15. One thing is certain, and that is that you will not solve the problem with which we are trying to deal by raising the school-leaving age to 15. That in itself has only the remotest connection with the problem. It is by bringing into one scheme the raising of the school-leaving age—which is the least important part of the policy—part-time education up to 18, apprenticeship and, much broader than apprenticeship, agreements with industry, that you can hope to succeed. Unles you can bring all these things together into one comprehensive policy and insist on definite responsibility on the part of the local education authorities for vocational guidance, you cannot begin to tackle the problem successfully.
My Bill was put before the House as an indication of the scope that any such scheme would have to take and as a confession of my belief that it was urgently necessary for the Government to bring forward such a scheme as a. necessary complement to the juvenile Clauses of the Unemployment Bill. I am not simple enough to suppose that a Bill like this one can be taken wholesale by the Government as comprehensive and practical enough now. Nevertheless this Bill, which is slightly deflowered from what it might have been, is substantially a repetition on paper of the manifesto on policy which my Friends and I tried to issue, and therefore we shall support it.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
Those who are interested in education will welcome the attitude taken up this afternoon by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). We are glad that at last he has realised that something must be done. At one time we regarded him as an enemy of these proposals, but that does not make our welcome any the less warm this afternoon because we are glad to welcome anyone who is prepared to look at this question not from the narrow point of view of any particular vocation or if you like from the narrow point of view of the teachers, but from the point of view of what is best in the interests of the children and this country generally. I do not say that I agree with all the constructive parts of his speech, but I do agree with the main tendency and outlook he has developed this morning. We shall undoubtedly have to develop education more closely to the needs and changes in industry. I would emphasise this point, that I think the Noble Lord under-rates the importance of the actual raising of the school-leaving age. In my view it will be found absolutely essential, not only from the educational point of view and the organisation of our educational system but also from the point of view of relating education most efficiently to the technical needs of industry that the school age should be raised.
I do not propose to detain the House very long because the intervention of hon. Members on this side of the House only seems to inspire hon. Members opposite to further argument, but let me say this. I do not accept the Bill as a solution of the problem. It is a small effort; small not because of any lack of courage on the part of the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) but because he realises the presence of hon. Members like the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Williams) and has tried to meet him in the most reasonable manner. As I see the situation, there is no need in modern society for children to go to work, there is no demand for the productive capacity of children, we can produce enough without exploiting them in our factories and workshops. As a. matter of fact, not only do we not as a nation need the productive capacity of the children but the employment of children is actually causing an uneconomic expenditure in other ways and other directions. It is, 1231 therefore, a sound economic proposition for the nation to say there are too many workers in this country relative to the amount of employment at our disposal, and all the examinations and investigations which have been made point to the fact that there is not only a temporary but an absolute and permanent surplus of labour in this country. If hon. Members will look at the Report of the Royal Commission they will find there a summary of the investigations carried out by the University. They say:These illuminating studies are concerned with the wider aspects of the problem presented by persistent unemployment, but they confirm the indications of the general statistics that certain industries have a large surplus which is never likely to be reabsorbed in those industries.We have a permanent surplus of labour. The hon. Member for South Croydon is an adept, an expert, at statistics. He seems to swallow them as some people might swallow tintacks and he is very uncomfortable after having swallowed them. I should have imagined that the hon. Member would have enjoyed himself at the Croydon dinner. He was invited there for, I imagine, two reasons; first, because of his importance as a Member of Parliament and, secondly, I presume they invited him because they thought he had a capacity to enjoy a dinner. It might be that they were wrong in both respects. At any rate, he has been uncomfortable since that dinner. I do not know why he should be so uncomfortable after such a dinner. But his own Minister of Labour yesterday warned the House that—This problem is likely to assume considerably larger proportions during the next few years, owing to the large increase in the birth-rate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933, col. 1084; Vol. 283.]That was admitted by the Minister of Health and, therefore, it is absolute folly to allow the problem to grow bigger and make no intelligent or effective contribution to meet it. I agree with the Noble Lord except that I would use the words "merely salvage" about the proposals of the Government. They are tackling the problem from the wrong angle. If they want to do something preventive then they must take the same line as he adumbrated in his own Bill, and which is partially laid down in the present Bill. The proposals of the Unemployment Insurance Bill are no contribution to the 1232 problem of the unemployed child or to the technical interests of industry in this country.
§ Mr. COVE
I agree, but I say that there will not be enough money spent upon them to provide a scheme, and that the intermittence of their attendance will make any planned scheme, which the Noble Lord wants, quite impossible. If there is to be planning for education and industry it cannot be effective along the lines of the proposals of the Unemployment Insurance Bill. To be effective it must be along the lines of this Bill, and the Bill of the right lion. Member. This is the position; a large surplus of labour, and blind alley occupations no longer limited to the distributive trades but now found in our staple industries. It is a blind alley occupation for a lad to go into the cotton industry or into shipping, or into the coal industry. You have permanent unemployment, a permanent surplus, and blind alley occupations invading our erstwhile staple industries, and I say that to meet that economic situation it is necessary that the school age should be raised.
A wise course to take would be not to let children push out their elders into the street, but to raise the school age and allow the elder ones to leave industry. If there were sufficient jobs for children between 14 and 16, and if we were quite certain that they would be able to retain these jobs for some considerable time, it would still be necessary for them to be kept at school. It is clear that children are pushing men out of jobs. There is a huge bulge in unemployment also between the years 18 to 24; then right up the scale to 40 and 45 years of age, a large surplus of unwanted labour. It would be a good thing for this country to raise the school age. I want to keep my promise that I would give other hon. Members a chance to speak. I would have liked to have said very much more about these proposals.
§ Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members being present—
§ Mr. COVE
I was about to say when I was so discourteously cut off that the position of the children at the moment is this: Industry itself does not provide 1233 manual training and dexterity for them. Nor do we provide it in our schools. We allow the children to go on the streets unemployed. They have to face years of sporadic employment; they are in and out of occupation. Many thousands of our children have nothing definite for which to hope. A wise nation doing the best for itself and its children would pass this Bill in principle as a necessary step in the right direction.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Captain SPENCER
I would like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) on the good fortune that has favoured him in what I understand is his first success in a game of chance. I hope it will not induce him to indulge over-frequently in lotteries. I think the House can be congratulated on the opportunity that is given us to discuss a question which is assuming increasing importance in the country. It is a question to which a large body of people are giving a great deal of attention at the present time. I think it is true that with the general proposition that the time is ripe for an increase in the school age, few educationists will be disposed to disagree. I ask the hon. Baronet to believe that in any criticisms or adverse comments we have to make upon this Bill we are actuated, not by antagonism, but by a real and live sympathy with the object that he himself has in view. I assure him, in addition, that I do not share in the main the objections that were raised to the Bill by hon. Members behind the Government Front Bench. But I must register a protest, and one that I would put very strongly, against the very wide view now held that education and our school system should in some way be made an unemployment relief scheme. I cannot bring myself to support any Bill which is based vainly upon relieving the pressure on unemployment in such a way.
The first question I ask about any Bill dealing with the school age is how far that Bill is calculated to equip the child in a more efficient manner as a citizen and for the battle of life. My experience has taught me, and no doubt others who have been engaged in the schools will agree, that one of the greatest weaknesses of our system of 1234 education is this: When the child leaves school it cannot find its way, whether in the world of books or in the world of tools, as we should like it to do. I think we must devise a scheme so that the child shall be able in after life to find its way about. But there is nothing in this Bill and nothing in what has been said by the promoters of the Bill which leads me to think that the position will be any better than it was some years ago when we had what was called the ex-seventh standard in the schools.
Then you had boys who were retained compulsorily at school but with no special accommodation or provision for them. They spent their time going over and over again the work which they had done the year before, and when they were not doing that they were employed in what was probably the most profitable part of their stay at school—in filling ink pots and dusting boards and running errands for the teachers. That certainly brought them into practical relation with life, but it did not justify their being kept at school for an extra year. The result was naturally that they were overcome with weariness of spirit, so that when they did get outside the school buildings at the age of 14, as it was then, they never wanted to see books, teachers, or anything connected with the schools again. Unless the promoters of this Bill can indicate some practical system which will cope with this new class of scholars, we ought not to allow this Bill to go forward.
The problem cannot be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. A comprehensive measure is required, and arrangements must be made to deal with the problem on a scientific basis. In my opinion it must be so devised that not merely a selected portion of the school population between the ages of 14 and 15, but the whole school population between those ages, must be catered for. There are one or two things with which I would like the Minister to deal in his reply, particularly in view of the speech of the Mover of the Second Reading. The hon. Baronet assured us that his Bill was quite innocuous, that it would entail no extra expenditure. In fact he held out hopes that it would save expenditure. He said there would be no necessity for more classes or more teachers. But those very claims, if they were true, are the biggest condemnation that the Bill could receive.
1235 I want to know whether it is proposed that these young people who are to be kept at school are to be peppered about amongst the classes. If so, they are going to waste their extra time at school entirely. If the Bill is to be any use at all extra classes must be formed; extra teachers must be employed, the curriculum must be rearranged and the whole educational system must be reshaped so that that last year shall be made, as it should be, the most profitable year of the child's life. At any rate, I hope that for the sake of economy we are not going to have children housed during the extra period in tin sheds and Army huts such as disfigure many schools at the present time.
There is a question which has been raised once in this Debate and to which I should like to refer. That is the question of the non-provided schools. The fact that no reference to this question appears in the Bill, either italicised or in any other way, will not enable the hon. Baronet to forget it. It is a very important question and we are entitled to know how the promoters propose to deal with it. Are they prepared to give a grant to the non-provided schools to enable those schools to cope with the increased school population and the reorganisation of plant and equipment which will be necessary if the scheme is to be made a success? Or, is it their view that the children at present in the non-provided schools should be passed on to the council schools and the provided schools? If that be the case, I have no need to warn the promoters of the Bill that there will be bitter and prolonged opposition. I regret that this question should arise at this time because I have been told that there is an increasing disposition on the part of those responsible for the non-provided schools to come to an amicable settlement with the Board of Education and with the provided and council schools.
On one or two minor questions I should like more information from the promoters. I should like to know something more about these exemptions for which provision is made. I believe that six authorities in the country have adopted by-laws for the extension of the school age to 15. In one of these areas the exemptions are as high as three out of 1236 four, that is to say, out of four children above the age of 14 three are granted exemption. In another area I am told the exemptions are as low as ten per cent. or, in other words, only about one child out of ten obtains exemption. There will, and must be, considerable variations in practice as between different districts. I can imagine that in some rural districts, where farm workers are required and where the majority of the members of the local education authority are farmers, there will be widespread exemption at various times of the year, whereas in some other areas, under some of our progressive local education authorities, it will be almost as difficult to get exemption as for the camel -to pass through the eye of the needle. We ought to know upon what principle the local education authorities will be recommended to act in granting or refusing exemption. Under the Bill as at present drafted we should come to a state of chaos in regard to that matter. We ought to be told by what standard ex-emptions are to be measured. I fear if left in its present state the Clause would simply mean that the most retrograde authority would set the standard —a thing which nobody desires.
I also fear that the industrialists would have something to say to the Bill as it is drawn. I share the view of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) in that respect and I welcome the speeches which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board has made in the country, focusing the attention of those interested in education, and those of the general public who are disposed to listen, on the increasing importance of bringing education into relation with industry. The industrialists would, I think, have cause for complaint in the Bill as it is drawn. It seems to me that the brightest boys in the school and those most adaptable would be the first to secure exemption. They would receive certificates, they would pass out and be absorbed into industry and those left behind would be branded from the very outset of their industrial lives as the misfits or, to use a colloquialism, as the "duds" of the schools.
In view of that and other considerations this is not a question which can properly be dealt with in a Private Member's Bill. It is a question calling 1237 for the attention of the Government as a whole. It needs careful and long consideration and not only the teachers, and the trade unions but the great industrialists and, may I say, the parents, have a right to be consulted upon it. It is not a thing to be dealt with as a result of an hon. Member drawing a lucky number in a ballot one day and having a Bill ready two or three days later. I appeal to the Minister to take up this question, to examine it thoroughly and to do his best to bring before the House a comprehensive piece of legislation, for which the ground has been carefully prepared, so that we may tackle this question, because if we do not tackle it now we shall be compelled to do so within a very short time.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
I am very glad that my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) emphasised the point that this Bill is not associated with what we may now call the old campaign for the raising of the school age. As my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill pointed out it approaches the problem from an entirely different angle. I am not sure, however, that the Noble Lord did justice to the situation when he suggested that the connection between the raising of the school age and the problem with which we are mainly concerned to-day, is remote. I do not think it is quite as remote as he seems to think. However that may be I am glad that this Bill has received the Noble Lord's influential support. Although it may not be his own child, it is a very near relative and, on behalf of those who have promoted and are supporting the Bill I wish to say that we are grateful to him for the very authoritative support which he has given it.
If we wished to get arguments in favour of the Bill in the facts as they exist today in the country, we should find them in two directions. In the first place, the Bill which the Government presented for its Second Reading yesterday is concerned to a great extent with the necessity of giving instructions to unemployed people during the period of unemployment. That is not to be done for any idealist purpose but because it is felt by the Government to be necessary. It is properly felt by them that the provision of these courses of instruction for 1238 the unemployed is a matter of high policy, and it is a matter upon which the Government have decided after mature consideration. If that were not the policy of the Government, that it is the right policy is shown by the efforts of local education authorities, charities, and persons interested in the industrial situation of the country at the present time.
My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill referred to the conditions in South Wales, and one of the most important features in the social life of South Wales in recent years has been the great emphasis which has been laid by all interested in the problem upon the necessity of associating educational and cultural movements with the occupation of the time of the unemployed. It is true that the Amendment suggests an opposition to the Bill on the ground of the cost involved, but I noticed that neither the proposer nor the seconder of the Amendment cared to indulge in a statement of the cost which he thought would be involved. That point was dealt with by my hon. Friend who introduced the Bill, but I think the time has come for this country really to make up its mind with regard to the question of the expenditure of effort and money on our educational system.
I have always advocated the raising of the school age on educational grounds, on the ground of its value to the children, and on the ground of the contribution which it would make to the well-being of the country, but when people complain about the great amount of money which we are spending on education, I often feel tempted to remind them of the old adage, familiar to all of us, which regrets the necessity of "spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar," and it seems to me that that is what we are trying to do with regard to our educational system. We are spending a lot of money, but for the expenditure of a little more money we might get much greater value for what we are spending now. I think that is the line of approach. I have no doubt the bargain basement is a necessity in life, and that it is very useful, particularly to the shopkeepers, but it is not the department to which one goes for the enduring and permanent features of one's home, and if this country showed a little more courage and initiative in the matter 1239 of its educational system, we should probably get very much better results from it than we are now getting.
This Bill approaches the problem, however, from a different angle, and I have been listening to the Debate in order to find out what the opposition to the Bill is. The last speaker mentioned two objections. One was the hoary and hackneyed one that it is a private Member's Bill, but that is always raised on every private Member's Bill. The other was that the Bill does not provide for the accommodation which would be necessary in regard to teachers, classrooms, equipment, and so on.
§ Mr. EVANS
I think the hon. Member exaggerated those difficulties very greatly, because if this Bill were put into operation, I should be very much surprised if the Board of Education and the local authorities could not produce within a month all that was necessary in those respects. The other opposition came from the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the rejection of the Bill. One of them complained that my hon. Friend was not frank enough, and the other complained that he was too frank, so I think we might take that on the basis of fifty-fifty and agree that he leaves the court without much of a stain on his character in that respect. I am sorry the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill is not here at the moment, but I must say that his speech was one of the most lamentable speeches that I have ever listened to in this House. The most powerful statement that he made in opposition to the Bill was that he himself was one of the first products of free education in our elementary schools, but apart from that, it seemed to me that his speech had very little relevance to this Bill. I regret and resent very much the attack which he made upon the teachers in the suggestion that a Bill of this character was being advocated by the teachers from purely selfish motives and for personal gain.
Apart from that, of course, there is a fundamental difference in the mentality of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) and myself, and I am glad there is. He said that he approached every suggestion of social reform from the point of view of whether it would or 1240 would not increase the number of unemployed. I quite agree that we have to take into consideration the number who are unemployed, and that one does not want to add to the difficulty of any of them, but there are higher considerations than that, which affect the moral and spiritual welfare of this country, and if he were in charge of the country and approached every problem from that narrow point of view, we should very soon land ourselves into an even deeper mire than we are in at the present time.
He gave in illustration the statement that there is practically no problem of juvenile unemployment now, and he supported his thesis by quoting from the figures of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," which shows that there are, as he said, about 93,000 juveniles shown on that page. But he did not tell the House that those figures refer only to the numbers of juveniles aged 14 to 18 on the register of the Employment Exchanges and juvenile employment bureaus; and anyone who knows anything of the industrial conditions of the country will be aware of the fact that those figures do not by any means exhaust the number of juveniles who are unemployed. In fact, I should imagine that the figures can be at least. doubled, and probably very nearly trebled, in respect of those who are really out of employment.
The hon. Member said that there were parts of the country where it was very difficult to get juvenile unemployment. I dare say there are, and I am glad there are, because, as the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings pointed out, we have to revise our old idea and theory about what they call blind alley occupations. To-day, I am glad to think, there is a higher conscience in the community, and not only are we averse to putting children into some of those occupations which, in the old days, were called blind alley occupations, but there are other occupations not previously included in that class to which, as the right hon. Member for Hastings said, he would not like to see any of his children entering, and which probably none of us in this House would like to see our children entering.
The other part of the hon. Member's opposition arose from the fact that he is not willing to commit himself to anything which involves the spending of additional money, except possibly on armaments or 1241 other unremunerative expenditure of that kind. I quite agree that it is a matter of primary concern that we should examine every item of expenditure in which the country is asked to indulge, but there is one thing that is more important than the amount, and that is the way in which the money is being spent, and I suggest that by the adoption of a Bill of this character, in which we are doing something to increase the physical, moral, and spiritual well-being of those upon whom the responsibilities of citizenship will in a very few years devolve, we are doing something to add to what is, after all, the greatest asset of any nation, namely, the character of its people.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
Whatever may be the fate of this Bill—and I am afraid that its prospects are not very favourable—it has at any rate produced a most interesting Debate and elicited from my hon. Friend the promoter of the Bill the admission that ne would be prepared to treat with due generosity the voluntary schools. That w, as not the attitude of his group when Sir Charles Trevelyan introduced his Bill for raising the school age, and I hope that on this occasion the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) speaks for the whole of those who sit with him. This Debate has been intensely interesting. It has changed to a large extent the angle from which we regard the question of the school age, and that is largely due to the speech to-day, and former speeches, of the noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). It is common ground with all those who care for education that if—and this is a most important proviso—the right form of education, the right training, the right teachers, and the right teaching are provided, you must approve of the principle of raising the school age. We have to take considerable heed of that word "if".
That is one ground for raising the age, but there is the other ground behind it which has been more powerful in the minds of my hon. Friends opposite. It is that by raising the school age we should keep the children off the streets, and prevent them from interfering with the employment of older people; but these two Bills would have the effect of raising the school age in a large number of cases with the view not merely of 1242 keeping the children off the streets and of improving their character, both of which are essential, but of making them more capable of obtaining employment when they leave school. In other words, we must look at the question from a vocational point of view, and that is most important. I have lately seen something of the teaching in the selected central schools. There we have to a large extent some solution of our difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green said that victory in industry will be won by the most intelligent workers, and I think that is true. We have had lately a Debate on Japanese competition and how we are to meet it. We can meet it by shutting out what is due to unfair conditions and competition, but we must meet it primarily by producing the best. The fact that our trade marks are so often imitated is a tribute to the excellence of British workmanship. We must make that workmanship better and better, and it is by such training as they get in the selected central schools that that result can be obtained.
An important point common to the two Bills is the provision with regard to continuation schools. Let me mention a remarkable result of continuation school work. The dockyard apprentices are taken into the dockyards from the elementary schools. They give two evenings of their own time a week, and the dockyard gives three of their afternoons. Every year the work is tested by an examination, and those who do not reach 60 per cent. of the marks are rejected. The apprentices are passed through a sieve and the standard achieved is wonderfully high. One of the results is that every one of the great naval architects to whom the modern vessels of the British Navy are due have been dockyard apprentices. That is evidence of what can be done by the combination of practical experience and work in the classrooms. Last year two of His Majesty's inspectors went to a conference on a tour of inspection. They visited France, Holland, Belgium and Czechoslovakia with the object of seeing something of the working of the trade schools and education for industry in those countries. I would like to read these few lines from their report.Continental countries devote their main effort to giving a severely practical training for recruits before they enter industry, 1243 their full time in employmnet schools being, in fact, a part of the industrial rather than the educational system. The inspectors came to the conclusion that the present part-time basis of technical education in this country should be retained and they consider there should be a more general adoption of the plan of releasing young employés during the daytime for the purpose of attending technical schools for vocational instruction.That is the principle embodied in this Bill. There will undoubtedly be large practical difficulties in the working of the Bill, but I believe that its principle is sound; and I am disposed to agree with the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green when he said that the system proposed in his Bill is better than that proposed in Clause 14 of the Unemployment Insurance Bill now before the House. Unless the courses proposed in that Bill are very much better organised and much more practical than they are at present, I am of opinion that what is proposed in the Bill before us now is preferable. It seems to me to contain a sound principle. It has the merit of making us look at the matter from a new and vital point of view. I should like to see the Bill go to a Committee and all its points thrashed out because there are contained in it matters of essential importance which should be further examined.
§ 2.3 p.m.
I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) say that this Bill made us look at this question from a new point of view. It does not, however, make some of us look at it from a new point of view because we have been trying to get the school age raised since 1918. I was interested in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) who talked about our being the only country that had no constructive policy for the children of from 14 to 16. Then he spoke of other countries having continuation schools, and so on. I want the House to remember that we were nearly the first country that had a constructive scheme for national education in 1918. We had a marvellous Bill brought in by the late Minister of Education, and if that Bill had been put into force in its entirety it would have saved the country millions of pounds. It would also have saved thousands of children from walking the streets and from the degradation that has followed.
1244 By whom was that Bill defeated? It was defeated by Members of Parliament with the same mentality as that of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). Those Members got up in 1919 and made exactly the same sort of speeches, because they had the mentality that has really been one of the most destructive things in our public life. They had no vision and thought only in terms of cash without any regard for spiritual or moral values or of the teaching—Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.If those people had had any sense of moral or spiritual values, they would have seen that the Bill of 1918 would have saved them millions of pounds.
§ Sir EDWARD CAMPBELL
I think that Bill did become law, but was practically killed by the local authorities not putting it into force. It was in fore in London, but the other authorities did not operate it.
Yes, but it was not put into operation, except in London, and was dropped after a while, under the same sort of mentality as is shown by the hon. Member for South Croydon. We had exactly the same sort-of people working against it, asking questions here time after time, always with the burden "Look what it is going to cost."
No, I do not want to hear any explanation. The noble Lord the Member for Hastings supported the Bill, but I was amazed at some of the things he said. HE talked about the blind alley occupations of van-boys and lift-boys, and appeared to think that in some ways such occupations were preferable to those in which girls are taken into industry and then turned out. I think it is better to take them into industry even if they are turned out than to put them into blind alley occupations. because they 'are also turned out from those. But we need not worry so much about that, because the Government have shown a certain amount of vision in the new Insurance Bill, and I only regret that there has not been more co-ordination between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour, because then 1245 we might have had a perfect plan. The noble Lord wants to make industry responsible for its juveniles. I do not see how he can do that unless the Government control industry.
I agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) in saying the time has come when juveniles ought not to be in industry. I feel that a great many people think so. The age of 16 is early enough for children to enter industry of any sort. I am sure that is the rising feeling throughout the world. Between 14 and 16 is the most sensitive age with children. For 15 years I have sat here, and I am amazed at the blindness of people about education. There is a great wastage in education. One of the greatest wastages arises from the fact that 37 per cent. of the children who enter our elementary schools are physically defective. If the Minister of Education had had the vision of Margaret MacMillan he would have seen that it would have been better to have had a plan under which the age of compulsory education was raised to 7 and such education was carried oh to the age of 16, and at the same time to have had in industrial areas voluntary open-air nursery schools. There are 400,000 children under the age of 5 who live in crowded areas. If there had been such plan for dealing with children from the ages of 2 to 7 they would later have come into the elementary schools physically and mentally fit to take up their education.
Complete lack of vision is also shown in turning out children from school at the age of l4. We who are parents know that our children do not begin to learn until they are 14. Why should parents when in the House of Commons behave so differently from how they behave in private life? There is not a Member who would not make every sacrifice possible to keep his children at school, and I am perfectly certain the country is ready to make any sacrifices. But not a very great sacrifice will be required if the Government accept this Bill. In Plymouth we have a by-law on practically the same lines as this Bill, though it gives no power to insist on continuity of education while in jobs, as this Bill does. The local education authority do inquire, however, whether a job is progressive before granting a 1246 leaving certificate, but in fact 50 per cent. of the children go into blind alley occupations and fall out at the age of 16.
Before this by-law was put into force there were 2,000 children in Plymouth entering the labour market at 14 years of age. Now 1,000 stay on at school till 15, and another 1,000 leave at some point between 14 and 15, under certificates, to go into jobs. That relieves the labour market of 1,000 children a year, and—this is the interesting thing—it has had me effect of putting ah end to unemployment under 16. Only 4 per cent. of the juveniles between 15 and 16 are out of work and none between 14 and 15. That by-law has been in operation since 1927,. and we have found it a great success. Many people regret that exemption certificates are granted, because they have rather muddled the scheme of education down there. It was a progressive system, some people thought it too progressive, but these exemption certificates were a reaction. I am sorry we have to have them, but I do not think this Bill will get through without them. The Education Committee of Plymouth estimate that, in the case of half the children who stay on, there is no extra cost, because they are dealt with in existing classes. The other half require some extra teaching and equipment, but the whole of it comes to less than the 50 per cent. grant in respect of the extra Number of children which the local authority get from the central board. The total cost of each child between 14 and 15, therefore, is less than half the cost of those under 14. The cost per head of children up to the age of 14 in elementary schools in 1931–32 was £13 2s. 6d., and those between 14 and 15 cost £6 11s. 3d.
Therefore, I do not think there need be any great additional charge on the local education authorities, and I think it will be found that many authorities will welcome the proposals. There is a real movement in the country for the extension of the school age. A number of local authorities have passed by-laws requiring children to attend school up to 15. They are Cornwall, East Suffolk, Carnarvonshire, Plymouth, Bath and Chesterfield. Educational authorities which have recommended the framing of by-laws to raise the school age are Birmingham, Cheshire, Cardiff, St. Helens, Northumberland, 1247 Wigan. Local authorities which are discussing the question include Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Aberystwith, Blackburn, Cheltenham, Winchester, Weymouth, Monmouth, Shipley, Worthing and Prestwich. The proposal has also been recommended by the National Joint Advisory Committee for Juvenile Employment for Scotland, the Bristol Advisory Committee for Juvenile Employment, the Blackpool Advisory Committee, the Rochdale Trades and Labour Council, the Weymouth Advisory Committee for Juvenile Employment, and the Workers' Educational Association. Therefore, it is not right to say there is not a move towards extending the school age. There really is. As a matter of fact, we should not have had any education at all if we had waited for a popular call. All social reforms have had to be fought for, in the teeth, not of opposition, but of apathy, and we do look to a National Government not to be apathetic on this great question of education.
Many of us are deeply disappointed that the Government have not gone forward with their own banner instead of waiting for private Members' Bills. Certainly the country is much concerned about this appalling question of juvenile unemployment. We talk about the cost of things to the country. I wonder whether the House knows the enormous increase of juvenile crime in the last few years. In 1931, there were 40,000 boys and girls under the age of 21 who were convicted of offences, and that was 42 per cent. of all persons convicted. Nine per cent. of all the criminals were between 14 and 16; 21 per cent. between 19 and 21, and this was an increase of 11 per cent. over the preceding year. In 1931, 35 per cent. of all those convicted of breaking in were. under 16, and 20 per cent. were under 21. The largest increase in shopbreaking and shoplifting was in the ages between 16 and 21. The chief constables report that a large part of the increase in these crimes is due, not to professional criminals, but to young persons. We have to remember that unemployment, overcrowding and a real lack of vision on the part of Governments are the cause. Some of us have been preaching and telling them what was going to happen, but they turned a deaf ear. I wonder whether they realise what the cost of these chil- 1248 dren is a year. It is £78 in each ease. We have 1,600 delinquent children sent to the Home Office schools as unmanageable every year.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Noble Lady must not accuse me of being funny. She must remember that she is addressing me, and nobody else in the House.
I always wish to do the right thing. I take your rebuke. Anybody who has anything to do with these young offenders cannot understand anybody making a joke about it. The other day I went into one of our remand homes, and saw a child who looked about six, but was really 12. I asked him, "Why are you here?" and he said, "I am uncontrollable." I said, "What do you do"? He replied, "I steal money". "What do you do with it"? "I goes to the movies". I went into his home. There were eight of them living in two rooms, one of which you could hardly call a room. That child did not get a chance. I say you are taking away the chances of thousands of children unless you have a more scientific way of dealing with the question of education.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I was accused just now of being funny. The last thing I should do about children's crimes is to be funny. No one in this House takes more interest in the question than I do. The Noble lady quotes figures. I was asking to which authority—Plymouth, my constituency or where—these figures of crime relate. I was very serious.
The hon. Member can hardly think we have 1,600 delinquent children in Plymouth. It may not have been funny, but it was extraordinarily ignorant to ask a question about that.
Throughout the country. They are in. the Home Office schools. I thought I had made that pretty plain. Our problem as a House of Commons is to remember that we have got 4,000,000 people living in what are called slum areas. That means that we 1249 have 1,000,000 children under 15 living in those areas. What are we going to do about them? No matter what Government be in power, or what slum clearance schemes they have got, we know perfectly well that for years to come we shall not clear them all up. We know, too, there is an enormous amount of un- employment. It is no use saying we cannot afford this. We have got to have some national plan for children up to 16 years of age. I know perfectly well that this House has got a far better conscience than any House before, and I do not think we shall ever get another House to do the right thing; but the Government do not seem to realise that they have got a House that will do any- thing for the good of the country. They are more behind than the House of Commons itself. I am certain it is not the Parliamentary Secretary. If this Bill went through I am sure no-one would be more delighted to go back to his Minister to get things done.
I believe that any Minister of Education who had vision could bring before the House of Commons a co-ordinated scheme dealing with children from two onwards, and dealing with the whole circumstances of juvenile employment. I think that the Noble Lord, the Member for Hastings had the chance of a life- time, but he had to go against the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time, and he was always frightened of him. I always wish I had the ability of the Noble Lord, or he had my courage. He was one of the ablest Presidents of the Board of Education we have ever had, but he did not quite know how to deal with the hight hon. Member for Epping. He did not quite get his measure. If he had, I think the whole history, certainly of our elections would have been different. If we had gone for- ward in that way since 1918, if our party had visualised the situation and brought to the House of Commons this great problem of juveniles, we would have carried it not only here but throughout the country.
I do resent very much the slur of the hon. Member for South Croydon about teachers wanting this so as to give them more work. I do not hold with them in their attitude to politics. I think politics have been an absolute curse to the teach- 1250 ing profession, but there are hundreds of them not politically-minded, and we have got some of the noblest characters in England to-day who are teachers, so that I think that was an unworthy slur. As for people telling me that our system of education has failed, I say, look at England. We are the sanest democracy in the world. Does that look like failure? I think it is remarkable that it has done so well considering how very blind we have been. But I do not complain about our system of education, because I think we have made the most amazing strides since 1881. The progress has been perfectly astounding. In elementary education in 1881, there were 3,000,000 children; in 1932, the number was 5,500,000. In secondary schools, in 1914, there were 187,000, and now we have more than 450,000. In technical schools in 1914 there were 17,000, and now the number is 36,000. In universities in 1920 there were 4,900 young people and to-day there are 6,200.—[Interruption.]
I do not go about the country speaking against the present system, but it needs overhauling, and it needs vim, and I hope that the National Government will show that it is alive to this wastage of education between the ages of two and five and the appalling wastage between the ages of 14 and 16. That is the pinnacle of education. It is for the Government to show that their hearts are in the right place in this matter.
I am sorry to have occupied so long, but for years I have had an uphill fight in my party over this question of education. I am not saying that my party is worse than any other, because we know that the Labour party had it in their programme for years, but it was so far down that they never got to it. When Sir Charles Trevelyan was Minister of Education, he had a majority in this House for raising the school age. We went to him and said, "You have a majority for it", but he said, there and then, that it was not possible. We said, "We know that it is not possible. We do not fight for it because it is possible, but because it is right." It was never more right than now, when there is this 1251 appalling increase in juvenile crime, and this different orientation of industry. The National Government is pledged to put national interests before party considerations, and I hope very much that the Prime Minister will take a bold stand on this question. If he does so, he may find that other by-elections will be as successful as Market Harborough.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I have listened to this Debate and think that the hon. Baronet who moved the Second Reading of this Bill must have been delighted with the reception that the Bill has met with. If he has achieved nothing else, he has produced from the Noble Lord, the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) a memorable speech. I always read the writings of the Noble Lord, and listen, when I can, to his speeches. There is one feature about what he says when he speaks; I recognise a voice and not an echo.
I make no apology for frankly following him, as an echo as it were of the language in which he addressed the House. The importance of this Debate lies in the fact that the House is now recognising the essence of the problem which some Government must face, and which I very much hope the present Government will face. That is, the problem of dealing with the period from school to work and turning that period into an orderly transition from school to industrial occupation. That is the central problem that must be tackled. We all realise that the danger of the sudden plunge, whether it is at the age of 14 or 15, from school into unskilled work, that falls to the lot of so large a portion of our children, must be a highly perilous enterprise, and often a disastrous one. What we have to construct is a bridge that will make the transition an orderly process. The Noble Lord indicated two types of ways in which that bridge could be constructed. You can have industry so organised that the earlier years of industrial life are themselves educative. That was the system in the old days, in the apprenticeship trades, and, going farther back, it was the theory of the system of guilds. There is the second possibility, which must, I am afraid, be the normal course in these days, in which so much work cannot be educative, of com- 1252 bining deliberate schooling with the entry into unskilled work. We all know that that was the solution which the last National Government endeavoured to devise.
The Noble Lady referred to the Act of the Government of 1918. I had an interest in that, because I was then devilling for Mr. Fisher, when he was engaged on the construction of that Bill, from the beginning to the time when it became an Act of Parliament. What he devised was not a theoretic plan but a practical scheme for continuation-school classes. It was carefully worked out, in association with different industries. I remember well the prolonged discussions which took place between the Minister and Lancashire. The cotton industry was carefully provided for, and agriculture formed a special problem which was dealt with with great care and skill. Without doubt, had that scheme been put into operation, and been working from then till now, we should have had precisely that ordered scheme, and that co-operation between education and industry, the need for which the Noble Lady emphasised as so necessary. That chance went by. Some Government, and I hope this Government, will take up that problem, and will provide the progressive bridge. It will involve some work, but we have had a certain amount of experience and the question is ripe for treatment.
I am not ungrateful to the Government for what they are doing. I am extremely grateful for the way in which they are dealing with the employment of children from 16 onwards. We are told in the King's Speech that that is going to be regulated. I believe that that was last in a King's Speech in 1913. Those of us who have been working at it have had to wait a long time. In the Bill discussed yesterday, there is an advance of a most important kind. The defects are equally obvious, and are as obvious as the advance. To begin with, the instructional courses will operate in certain localities only; they cannot become a general scheme. In the second place, they do not touch that large number of children who go into unskilled and blind-alley occupations, and do not become unemployed.
In the third place—this point was mentioned by the hon. Baronet—education that lacks continuity, that is an in-and- 1253 out process, that is taken up after a prolonged gap and a period of indiscipline, cannot have anything like its proper educational value. The money spent on these instructional courses can only give an educational return far less than the same money spent on a proper, ordered scheme, relating to all children. That is really the essence of what I want to say to-day. The Minister and the Government will not take a vote in favour of the Bill as indicating a lack of appreciation of what they are doing; it is a lively request for more. I sometimes wish that Ministers would remember the opening speech of this Parliament, when their chosen spokesman, the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Lloyd), urged them to be bold and courageous, and said that the one thing the country would not appreciate was neglect of experiment and a lack of courage. I wish that Ministers would periodically read that speech, delivered, as I say, by their chosen and appointed spokesman. They have an unrivalled opportunity for building the bridge of which I have spoken between education and industry. I am sure that they do not lack the knowledge or the vision; let us here supply them with the will.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN
This Bill has had all sorts of adjectives applied to it during the Debate to-day. It has been called a puny Bill, and it has been called a very good Bill, but, as I read it, it is a challenge to this House to say whether at is prepared or is not prepared to raise the school-leaving age to 15 by the year 1936. It is in the answer to that question that I am most interested—more so than in any other part of the Bill. I know that all three parties in this House have paid lip service to the fact that we were going to raise the school-leaving age at some time or other, but nobody can ever find out from either of the parties when that time is ripe. As regards my own party, in 1927, the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who, I believe, was then their spokesman, spoke to this effect:I do not suppose that we shall raise the school-leaving age for another five years, or it may be seven, or it may even be ten.That was in 1927, so obviously the Noble Lord had in his mind that the latest possible date would be the year 1937, a year later than the hon. Baronet's Bill 1254 proposes. I do not propose to go into the question of what is going to happen to the labour market as a result of releasing a few thousand children in stages such as are proposed in this Bill. I refuse to believe that you can convulse a labour market which has already 2,000,000 unemployed by raising the school-leaving age in easy stages such as are proposed in this Bill. Not only have the three parties paid lip service to the raising of the school-leaving age, but I think that, if you were to take a line of succession of different Presidents of the Board of Education, and were to read their speeches, you would see that they too have prophesied that the raising of the school-leaving age would be one of the essential things to be done in connection with education in this country. The Psalmist spoke about some people whose words were sweeter than honey—
§ Mr. MORGAN
If I might translate the Psalmist's words, I should say that some of us who talk about raising the school-leaving age might be charged with using sweet words, but having the poison of apathy under our lips. We have had this problem from the year 1880 onwards. In 1880, I think, the school-leaving age was something like 10. It took 13 years after that to raise it to 11, and it took 25 years after that to raise it to 14. It will be very interesting if somebody, preferably the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, could tell us now, 18 years after that time, when we might reasonably expect the school-leaving age to be raised to 15. When is this time coming?
I have had some experience, both practically in the school and as an administrator, and I want if I can for a moment to raise this question, I will not say to a loftier plane—that would be immodest of me—but I would like if I can to leave out all heat and all argument, and to say that my experience is that, if it were possible to fix the two golden years of a child's life, I should say that they were the years between 14 and 16. It is then that the memory is most retentive, and the receptive powers are at their highest; but there is something more important than that. Between the ages of 14 and 16 there comes to the average child something that is of the 1255 utmost value. It is at that stage of their lives that children begin to get a love of knowledge for its own sake. Hon. Members who have had any experience in secondary schools will understand what I mean when I say that, if you were to go to an average fourth form in a secondary school, you would find among the young people there a certain amount of irresponsibility and a need for supervision that you would not find in the sixth form, simply because those in the sixth form had arrived at a stage at which they could appreciate the value of knowledge for, as I have said, its own sake. We want to see that principle extended to the elementary schools of our country.
If my hon. Friends who oppose this Bill would not think it impertinent of me, I would like to ask them, what attitude are they adopting in their own families towards this question of cutting off as with a knife the educational possibilities and facilities of their own children? I desire to refer also—and here. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will not take my remarks in the wrong way—to the failure to implement the Hadow Report in the senior schools. 'There ought to be, there at least, some four-year course, but in none of the schools that I have visited of late is a four-year course possible; in fact, the possibility generally is that it is less than three years. The raising of the school-leaving age as proposed in this Bill would give local authorities a chance to carry out what was forecast and foreseen by the Hadow Committee, and, until they get that chance, the Hadow Report can never be fully implemented. I know we are told that we have not the necessary school space and that we have not the necessary staff, but I have in mind the appalling position of many teachers in this country. I do not want to exaggerate it one iota, but there are many teachers who, to my own personal knowledge, having had a four-years' course of training, and having left the university with exceptionally good degrees, are still, after 12 months, without suitable posts. These people would be very well occupied if the Bill were accepted, and I appeal to the House to give the hon. Baronet support and to allow the Bill to be considered by a Committee, which may mould it into a useful piece of legislation.
§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I was rather intrigued by the remark of the Noble Lady who spoke just now that this was a pitiful Bill. In my opinion it is a pitiful Bill inasmuch as it, acids to the many difficulties which the country already has to suffer through the introduction of many injurious Clauses in the Young Persons Bill. I do not think there is any objection to raising the school age to 40 or 50. It would be a good idea; in fact, it is necessary in many cases. While we do not object to the school age being raised, we object, to it being compulsory. It is the compulsory aspect of raising the school age that meets with a great deal of objection among my constituents. We are in a distressed area in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and there is a large number of boys who go to work at the age of 14. When you take into consideration that such things happen in the world as women being left widows with one or two boys or girls and at the age of 14 they go out and bring money into the family coffer, a Bill of this sort would make things rather difficult. It only raises the age from 15 to 16, but in Committee it might be raised to 17 or 18 and, as the Noble Lady suggested, there would be no limit. For that reason, I think that this is a bad Bill. There is a Clause in the Government's new Unemployment Bill which, in my opinion, gives most of what the promoters are asking for.
There is another grossly unfair thing. The Bill is asking for money for certain schools, but it is not provided for Church of England, Catholic and voluntary schools. Hon. Members who bring in Bills ought to consider the feelings of all parties so that they may at least secure their blessing. I have just returned from the north of England and walked into the House and find it considering a Bill which does not provide fair play for everyone, and it is a. similar Measure to one that was introduced by the last Government which some of the more conscientious Members of the Socialist party were instrumental in defeating. I think the House would do well to refuse to pass the Bill as long as the raising of the school age is made compulsory, and we should refuse to consider seriously any future Bill which interferes with the liberty of the subject
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
Compared with the very deep study which obviously many who have spoken have given to this subject, particularly perhaps the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), the introducer of the Bill and the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan), it may appear impertinent of me to address the House on this occasion, but it was really the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) that tempted me to make some remarks. When a man has a really weak case, he begins with a personal or a party attack. The hon. Member accused my hon. Friend of something like conspiracy. It is a pity that he did not study the criminal law before describing it as burglary or housebreaking. It was, of course, adopting an orphan. The hon. Member for South Croydon seems to think that he has only to hurl a number of figures across the 'House with sufficient vigour, and he will sweep all before him. He talked about 90,000 juveniles being unemployed at present and asked out of how many—out of 2,000,000. I should not be so generous as the Noble Lord in saying the hon. Member is really a well-wisher to education.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
The figure was absolutely accurate, but the deduction that I should draw from it is the very opposite from that which the hon. Member put forward. He went on to say that there were some 2,000,000 juveniles who were actually in industry. Is it the policy of those who support him that those 2,000,000 should be in industry? I should have thought the better policy was that they should be not in industry but in education, allowing their elders to take the positions in industry which they at present have.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
The 2,000,000 are roughly those up to the age of 18. Do—I understand that the hon. Member proposes that the school age should be raised to 18?
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
No. I am proposing that a proportion of them should be taken away. I should like the age to be raised rather more, but half-a-loaf is better than 1258 no bread, and a half-loaf proposal is now before the House. The hon. Member went on to say it was a delusion that the raising of the school age and the maintenance of more people in education for a longer period would be for their benefit. After that he can scarcely be considered a well wisher towards education. Is it better that they should roam the streets? It is not just a matter whether you think the particular system of education that we have is good or bad. It is a matter of comparison. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment drew attention to the lack of accommodation educationally and otherwise, in the schools at present. There again, is it not a matter of comparison? Would he not sooner have those children in the schools with poor accommodation, for poor it is, than in the streets, where to-day their lives may be completely ruined? There are many grounds upon which this Motion should commend itself to hon. Members and to the House, and one of them is general. Surely, ate whole march of civilisation has been towards the increase of leisure on the part of civilised countries. We have to prepare for that increased leisure and to embrace it. We ought to be pleased that we have more leisure. Let us therefore make our educational instrument a proper one by extending it rather than by cramping it by criticisms such as we have heard today from the hon. Member for South Croydon.
The second ground upon which I would urge the House to consider the Bill very favourably is a more particular one. We have heard in the last few days a good deal about Lancashire and cotton and in particular we had a very technical speech from the senior Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley), who tackled the problem honestly and straightforwardly and in a common sense way. We heard how the Japanese have been coming into the Lancashire market and have cut them out.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member must not refer to a Debate which has taken place in this House during this Session. There have been references, which I have been watching very carefully, to the Unemployment Bill before the House, but that is another matter. When it comes to the matter of 1259 discussion of speeches and views in Debate on a different subject, I think the Rule must be adhered to.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not wish in any way to disobey your ruling.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
As I am afraid that this matter may be misunderstood, may I ask whether we understand you to rule that we may not quote now, according to the Rules of the House, from Debates which have taken place in the House on a previous date.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Rule is definite that a Debate which has taken place in this House in the same Session must not be referred to. It is true that it is a Rule which in recent years has been enforced only with a certain amount of elasticity, and therefore I thought that it was for the convenience of the House and rather essential that the connection, so to speak, between this Bill and the Bill which we were discussing yesterday should be referred to. But I think that the Rule should be adhered to when we come to a discussion of the speeches made by hon. Members in Debate on another subject, Japanese competition.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Strictly speaking, no, but, if it is a mere quotation from a speech for the purpose of such references as the hon. Baronet himself made in his speech, I do not think that I should feel it to be my duty to interrupt. As I have explained, I only do so when it comes to discussing personal opinions expressed in speeches made in the House on another subject.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
May I follow up the point? If we are to be precluded—and I am merely asking for guidance and am not challenging your Ruling—from referring to speeches made during this Session in the House, how are hon. Members to be safeguarded in regard to raising questions arising out of speeches relating to ministerial policy?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think that there are some words which perhaps I did not mention, but if the hon. Member 1260 will refer to page 127 in the Manual of Procedure he will find thatA Member while speaking on a question must not—(i) refer to any Debate of the same Session on any question not then under discussion.I did not attempt to interfere with the hon. Baronet in his references to the Unemployment Bill, hut, as I have said, I think that when it comes to discussing speeches which have been made in previous Debates on another subject it is time that the Rule should be applied.
§ Mr. HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
Is it not a fact that the Debate on Japanese competition and the cotton industry has great relevance to a Debate on education, seeing the need there is for increased technical education in this country, and may therefore be referred to?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
According to my Ruling, no. I think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks were a transgression of that Rule which I ought not to allow.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I wish to keep within your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My intention was to show how extraordinarily necessary it is in all industrial matters, not only in those connected with Lancashire, to see to it that we have in this country an industrial population well equipped from an educational point of view. It is rather by such methods as those than by any restriction or wage-cutting or hour-cutting that we should endeavour to meet competition from without. Here is a Bill which tends in that direction. It is long overdue, and I beg of the Government to give it serious consideration now that we are discussing it in this House.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I only intend to be brief, as I desire to leave to the Parliamentary Secretary ample opportunity to reply to the debate in order to indicate the attitude of the Government to the Bill, and to my hon. Friend below the Gangway to wind up the Debate. I associate myself very heartily with other hon. Members in offering congratulations to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) upon the good luck which has fallen to him in being enabled to introduce a Bill, especially as he has chosen 1261 such a subject. Last Wednesday we had a discussion on air expenditure, and next Friday I believe we are to have a discussion upon spending money upon beer, and I do not see why the children should not have a look in. Therefore, to-day, we may congratulate ourselves that the children are getting a share of our attention. I would make one observation concerning the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). He rightly said that there is a change of mind and attitude concerning this problem which has been manifested during our discussion here to-day. I think that most of us who support the general principle of the Bill will welcome the change of mind which has been so manifested. But there is another change which the hon. Gentleman overlooked. His Amendment was seconded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) and the House will remember that it is not the first time that we have had a discussion upon the principle—not the details—embodied in this Bill.
When my friend Sir Charles Trevelyan and I were responsible for introducing a Bill into the House three years ago nearly, the raising of the school-leaving age, an Amendment was moved by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), the purpose of which was to raise the school-leaving age by stages and by school teems. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman who seconded the rejection of the Bill that he actually supported the Noble Lord in the division lobby on that occasion and therefore supported the principle of raising the school-leaving age by terms on that occasion. Therefore, it seems to me rather singular that he should tell us that he does not want to approach this matter from a mere fractious opposition, but that he prefers his judgment to be guided by reason. If his judgment is to be guided by reason to-day, why does he not do precisely what he did in 1930 when he supported the Noble Lord in the direction I have indicated?
I do not propose to follow hon. Members along the lines which they have mostly travelled. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green will not expect me to say any less than this, that this Bill does not go the whole 1262 direction that I should like to see it go, nor I presume does it go the whole of the direction that he would like to see it go. Like other hon. Members who have had the duty of introducing a Private Member's Bill, he had to decide whether he would introduce a Measure embodying large principles, merely for propaganda purposes, or confine himself to a more limited Bill, in the hope of getting something accepted by the House. I stand very largely where I have always stood on this question of the school-leaving age. I do not primarily, speaking for myself, emphasise the importance of this matter from the standpoint of its effect upon employment and unemployment. Its first claim is its educational claim. I stand for the advantage of another year of school life added to the child's educational career because it would give the education authorities a chance of having another year and thereby being enabled to outline a definite four years post-primary course of education. Therefore, it is the educational value of the proposal that I stress first. Those of us who follow educational opinion as expressed in the country know that national opinion is overwhelmingly demanding the raising of the school-leaving age by one year at least. I would go further and make it two years at the earliest possible moment, because of the educational advantage to be derived.
This morning the aspect of the matter which has been brought before the House has been mainly its implications in respect of the employment position. I do not deny that in the present position of the country's distresses the import of a Bill like this must be considered in regard to the contribution it will make to our economic difficulties, I think many people argue wrongly on this point. It is suggested that because at a given moment you may keep, say, 400,000 children out of the labour market, by keeping them in school, you are thereby providing automatically an equal number of places for adults in the employment market. That is not strictly true, because, obviously, one adult will not always take the place of one child. That it will have some effect upon employment is undoubtedly true. I do not care what figure we may agree upon, whether we say that this proposal would mean extra work for 50,000, 80,000 or 100,000 adults; my point is, that so long as it does favourably affect the prospects of the 1263 employment of adult people or older people than juveniles, it is a worth-while contribution to our unemployment problem.
The hon. Member for South Croydon spoke of the fact that to-day the conditions in regard to juvenile unemployment are undoubtedly better than they were a year or two years ago. That fact is beyond dispute. I think that he under stressed and under emphasised, the situation, because the Juvenile Employment Committees in their Report for 1932, said that in addition to the number of registered unemployed juveniles there were a large number of unregistered unemployed juveniles and that you should add about one-third. I think myself that that is an under estimate. In September of this year the figure of registered unemployed juveniles was 96,996, and if you add one-third you get a total of about 130,000; a very substantial figure. Whether that figure is exactly right or not it means, broadly speaking, that there is a substantial amount of unemployment among these juveniles. But that is not the worst of it; that is the number this year. From 1934 onwards we shall be confronted with a much more challenging proposition, because we shall have the effect of the increased birth-rate of 1920 and a larger number coming on to the industrial market without very much possibility of their absorption. The hon. Member for South Croydon said that the Bill should be rejected on the grounds of economy, because it fails to give educational advantages proportionate to the cost involved. I admit that it may cost a certain amount of money, but I ask the hon. Member which is the better course for the State, to face the cost of keeping these juveniles at school for an extra period or to face the inevitable cost of having to pay them a certain amount of unemployment benefit and getting nothing in return except the prospect of their inevitable demoralisation?
I hasten to bring my remarks to a close in order to give the Parliamentary Secretary time to reply. Let me add this observation on the Bill itself. When we introduced our Bill in 1930 we felt that it might mean a serious injustice to many working-class homes if they were deprived of the income which children might earn, assuming that they went 1264 into employment, and in order to recoup the family income to some degree for this loss of potential income we provided for maintenance allowances to be paid. In this Bill there is no such provision, and from the Labour party point of view—hon. Members below the gangway will appreciate the point—we think it is rather a, serious blot on the Bill. Although from an ideal point of view there are certain faults in the Bill, it does not go far enough or perhaps fast enough, still half-a-loaf is better than no bread at all, and on that ground we are prepared to give our general support to the principle embodied in the Measure. When the Bill comes to Committee we shall take our share in trying to improve it. But as a gesture of good will, to indicate our continuing faith in the soundness of the principle of raising the school age, we shall support the Bill if it goes to a Division. I can only say to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that I hope we shall not hear from the Government to-day an unhelpful statement upon the matter. If the Government say that they cannot accept the principle of this Bill or of a like Bill, then it becomes the bounden duty of the Government to declare what their attitude is to be regarding the difficulties and the pressing problem which confronts large numbers of these boys and girls who are thrown out of school at the age of 14 or thereabouts.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Ramsbotham)
The House will agree that the discussion we have had upon this Bill has been most interesting, and that the Measure itself is a most interesting Measure. The House will feel grateful to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) for introducing this subject in the form of a Bill so that the actual proposals can be examined in detail. I shall deal mainly with the details of the Bill, and these the House will be able to consider before coming to a decision. The House is also grateful to the noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). I do not want to intervene in a dispute between parent and foster-parent, but I think the paternity of the Bill was admitted by the hon. Baronet to belong to the noble Lord. Some few 1265 weeks ago he deposited his baby within our precincts, and the hon. Baronet, seeking to indulge an affectionate nature, and suddenly called upon to exercise the function of a, father, pounced upon the child and brought it into this Chamber. As the noble Lord pointed out, certain alterations in its clothing had been made by the hon. Baronet, not to its advantage, and he also found pinned to it a label which read, "Employment and Education of Young Persons Bill." For some reason he altered that label into "Education and Employment of Young Persons Bill." I think he hoped that the word "Education" would catch my eye first, that I would not read further, and would offer the Bill Government hospitality. But there is some substance in this change of title.
As the House will have gathered from the Debate, this Bill is really an employment Bill rather than an education Bill. That was the intention of my noble Friend in first begetting it. I propose to deal with the Bill primarily from the point of view of employment, and only secondly from the point of view of education. In this respect the important Clause of the Bill is Clause 2 relating to the grant of employment certificates. I propose to point out a few grave practical difficulties which sooner or later would have to be solved by this House or by the Committee if this Bill gets 'as far as a Committee. With the best will in the world I do not see how we can solve those difficulties. Clause 2, Subsection (1) provides that a parent who applies to a local education authority for a certificate has to show to the satisfaction of the authority that the child has been offered suitable employment. know that that is done now but there are many administrative difficulties. One of the results will be that in a certain area the local authority may hold one opinion as to what is suitable employment and the authority of a neighbouring area may hold a different opinion. Thus you will have grievances arising and perhaps the children in a non-exempted area will find their occupations taken by children from an exempted area. That is an example of a very real administrative difficulty.
§ Lord E. PERCY
As the hon. Gentleman has accused me of the paternity of this Bill may I point out that under 1266 my proposals that function was to be in the hands of the Ministry of Labour and not of the local authority.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
That is why I made an unfavourable comment upon the re-arrangement of the infant's clothing. There is the difficulty of interpretation. Even where the interpretation becomes uniform there is a tendency for the policy to descend to the level of the least progressive local authority. You would have the policy of exemption becoming less and less restrictive. Then, are we to take it that this Sub-section refers to the suitability of the employment to the particular child? I think if I were trying to redraft this Clause I would refer the phrasing which is used in Section 46 of the Act of 1921 dealing with the existing by-law procedure which allows exemption on such conditions as the authority thinks fit in any case where, after due inquiry, the circumstances seem to justify such exemption. That is what is at present in operation in certain areas, but even in these existing by-law areas, the rate of exemption in some cases is very high. I have figures here to show that the average percentage of exemptions in those areas, of children between 14 years and 14 years and three months is slightly over 50 per cent. Even there it will be seen that as soon as the children come under the operation of the by-law a majority go at once into employment and that the number of those who stay on and who run the course, so to speak, is very small.
If we assume a uniform and satisfactory definition of the word "suitable" what happens? According to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 the local authority may, with the consent of the Board, attach to a certificate conditions as to the nature of the employment, the hours of work and so forth. As I read that proposal it relates to each separate individual. I do not see any other possible interpretation. Thus the Board would have to give its consent to the attachment of certain conditions in every individual case. That, with several 100,000 children, would be an absolutely impossible proceding. It seems to me that the only Amendment which could be made in the Clause to meet that difficulty would be to substitute individual areas. There again, you have 316 areas, and to enable the Board to carry out its functions, a detailed and 1267 accurate knowledge of the industrial conditions in all these areas would be necessary before you could honestly refuse this or that certificate or attach this or that condition. As at present advised I see no possible way in which the machinery at our disposal could cope with such a task.
Then we come to Sub-section (3), which is really the meat of the whole Bill, a very large joint, provided in this case by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings. I think he admits that he has put this up as a ballon d'essai, without expecting the Government to get into the balloon and explore the stratosphere which he has described in his speech. I would say a word or two about the implications of this Sub-section (3). As I understand it, it means that the Ministry of Labour will have to make general, that is, national regulations, applying as far as possible to the whole country. Industry consists of thousands of groups, and the regulations would have to be applicable, not merely to this or that group, but to every group, and I should be very doubtful indeed if anything like a substantial area of industry were covered by these negotiations by 1937, when this Bill would be in full operation. Again, the regulations may very well be acceptable to the North and not to the South of England because the conditions are different in the South. On the other hand, if the regulations are piecemeal, I can see that inequalities and injustices might very easily arise. If young children cannot come into a particular industry till they are 15 years old, that leaves a certain number of children still available for other industries, and the industry to whom the restrictions apply will have just complaint that it is losing the pick of the children who are getting employment in other industries before them. That is an instance of the kind of trouble that would arise.
The policy here, I take it, would make the State responsible for the conditions of employment, and those conditions would certainly include wages. That being so, it is a very big question indeed if you are going to bring the State so far into the industrial field. It may well be that the words of the Amendment are too strong, but the kind of difficulties that I have shown existing under Clause 2 is so serious that, although I have taken much 1268 time in examining the Bill carefully, I very much doubt if it is possible to make any kind of Amendments which would render it workable. The Noble Lord says that something has been done in the United States of America in the way of labour permits. I have not the knowledge that he has, I must confess, of what has happened there, but at the present moment there is no great sign that this House is likely to welcome experiments such as are being carried out in the United States, though I think it is highly probable that in the future something of this kind may become the policy of the Government of the day, and when it does I can imagine the Noble Lord as a brilliant member of the brain trust that will be required to operate the new English National Recovery Act.
I will say a few words on the educational aspect of this Bill. It is very much smaller in scope than the employment aspect. I feel, as other people feel, that on the educational side it rather carries out the waiting room policy in school where the children are kept in the waiting room or in the cloak room hung up on pegs until somebody comes along to take them down. The effect of the proposal cannot fail to impose on local authorities the duty of arranging from the 1st April next to accommodate new classes and to provide new teachers. Apart from the cost, I am bound to think that educationally such a movement might be held to be premature and almost harmful until further progress has been made with the scheme of reorganisation which is now going on. I will give figures later to prove the advances which have been made. One of the main objects of our reorganisation scheme is to grade the children in accordance with their ages and ability and to prevent them marking time. I feel that if another class were added it would tend to make teaching a good deal more difficult in the all-age schools; and as regards reorganised schools it is certainly contrary to the policy hitherto adopted by this Government and previous Governments to lump another year into the existing schools. The number of schools where accommodation for children of 14 to 15 now exists is not a large percentage of the whole.
Where schools are reorganised I believe that it would be difficult to plan proper educational courses with classes that are 1269 continually changing and shrinking. If the experiment were tried, it might bring discredit on the whole system owing to the comparative educational failure of the new classes, and that is why I feel that the cloak room policy is not a good policy educationally. Reorganisation has not yet sufficiently far advanced for the raising of the school age to be considered. The advance, however, is going steadily ahead. In March, 1931, for instance, the percentage of children of eleven and over in reorganised schools Ns as 28. In 1932 it rose to 37 and in March last to 43. Since last March a further 657 departments have been affected by reorganisation, and I am hoping that by next March I shall be able to give a figure of something like 50 per cent. That is a steady advance, year by year, of about 7 per cent. in the progress of reorganisation. I am prepared to admit that if there had been no financial stringency I should have been disappointed if that reorganisation had not gone further and faster, but under the financial difficulties with which the situation has bristled I think it is a steady rate of progress towards a very desirable end, and, as far as I can, I shall do everything to see that that progress is continued and, if possible, accelerated, because I attach the greatest importance to the reorganisation of our children in senior schools.
I do not believe, however, that it is sound educationally to raise the school age either this way or any other way until one can be pretty sure that there is better reception for those children than exists at present. Incidentally, those who are concerned with reorganisation are not ungrateful for the breathing space they have had. It is a great experiment, one of the biggest educational experiments the country has ever carried out, and it is possible to make grave mistakes. If in reorganising factory a mistake is made the machinery can be scrapped, with the only consequence, perhaps, of a bad balance-sheet for a year or two, but in the case of schools we are dealing with human beings and we cannot scrap them. That is why it is not possible sometimes to make the rapid advances which enthusiastic people would prefer. Coming to the question of cost, the hon. Baronet raised my hopes at the beginning of the debate by indicating 1270 that this Bill would cost nothing at all, or at any rate very little.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
But I gather that the cost would be negligible, otherwise I am sure that neither ne nor the group to which he belongs would ever have proposed the Bill. I must qualify his prediction, however. I gather that his point was that owing to the fall in the number of children in the next three years, teachers and classrooms will be available for the new 14 to 15 class without further expenditure. Roughly that was his argument, but there are one or two fallacies in it. In the first place, the fall is not evenly spread. In some parts of the country the increase in the number of children has become almost embarassing to local authorities. There has been a great increase of children in some parts, and even in some parts of the same area compared with other parts of the area. Also, where there has been a fall in any area it is not always spread evenly over the age-groups. To accommodate the new class—without exemptions, taking the biggest figure—we should have to provide for something like 500,000 children by 1936–37. The fall in the school population between 1934 and 1937 will amount to some 430,000 children. Therefore, it may be said, roughly speaking, that the fall in the number of children will enable me to provide for my 500,000 senior children by 1936.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I am taking the proposal without exemptions. The difficulty is that the fall of 430,000 is distributed over all the ages, and we get a fall of about 200,000 under 11 and only 100,000 in the senior group. Therefore, the fall in the school population gives help only to the extent, perhaps, of that 100,000 in the senior group, whereas accommodation would have to be provided for something like 500,000, less whatever number were granted exemptions. It is a precarious estimate to say that such an undertaking can be carried through without appreciable cost. As a matter of fact, I have had an estimate made of the probable cost, which works out, without exemptions, at a sum rather over £3,000,000 per annum by 1936–37, 1271 two-thirds to fall on the Exchequer and one-third on the rates. I do not know, and the hon. Baronet cannot tell me, what the figure of exemptions will be. It depends largely on trade and upon the views which certain local authorities take, and so forth, and because of the difficulty in estimating the figures of exemptions, the local authorities would feel themselves compelled to make educational provision for what might be a maximum, although it might turn out to be only required for a minimum; so that you have a great deal of wastefulness and extravagance simply as a result of precautions which local authorities themselves would be bound to take.
That is the difficulty in making any close estimate of this Bill, but, as far as I can gather, taking the proposition without exemptions, the sum would be something rather over £3,000,000 in three years' time, and would be reduced by a certain amount dependent upon the rigidity or looseness with which the policy of exemption was carried out. I am afraid that I cannot endorse the hon. Baronet's suggestion that this is an educational Measure which can be carried out without any considerable cost to the State, and, while I am on this point of cost, I am bound to refer once more to a question asked earlier in the Debate as to the position of voluntary schools, because clearly that is an item of cost in this matter. I understood him, in his reply, speaking with the authority of his group that he would be prepared to support the Government if they decided to introduce a Resolution authorising the non-provided schools to be assisted in their building programme out of public funds, and if that is his view—and it should be—that, of course, would throw additional cost on the public funds. I know of one authority who as a result of making provision for this Measure, would have to find for capital building £250,000, and very largely that would have to be on account of voluntary schools. The position of the voluntary schools must be borne in mind in considering the cost of this Measure. The last point with which I have to deal is the question of maintenance allowance. Of course with the introduction of this Measure local authorities must inevitably be faced with a demand for maintenance allowances.
1272 I have given the House as briefly as I can—I have had to rush rather—a survey of the very great difficulties which occur to anyone examining this Bill impartially, and asking himself. How am I going to make this work? In theory it has a very great deal to commend it, and with its objects every humane person is warmly in support; but, from the point of view of the Government, or the point of view of anyone with some responsibility for the Department, that is not quite enough, because legislation has to be made to work. You cannot just print a Bill, and then expect it to behave itself. It would be very difficult to make this Bill work. The administrative objections, so far as I can see, are insuperable, and I am afraid that it is not a measure for which the Government can accept any responsibility.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Can the hon. Gentleman make any announcement of alternative Government proposals, or is he not in a position to do so?
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
I think that the House has heard without surprise, but with a good deal of regret, that the Government are not able to give the Bill an unqualified welcome. The concluding sentences of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech were a true portrayal of the feeling of the House, as shown in the course of the Debate. If not the arguments, at any rate the sentiments, of hon. Members are strongly in favour of this Measure being given a trial. I was more disappointed—I am speaking entirely for myself—that the Minister was not able to say that the Government have alternative proposals which they are considering.
We have no wish to minimise in any degree the difficulties which exist, and which would have to be solved, before a Bill of this kind could be brought into operation, but listening as carefully as I could to the objections which were raised, and to the administrative difficulties which the Minister pointed out, I was, broadly speaking, impressed with the fact that they were an argument for a bolder measure than this, one for the raising of the school age all round. Clearly they were difficulties which could 1273 properly and with advantage be considered in Committee. I believe that that is the right conclusion from what we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary.
Whatever may be the result of the Division, it is clear that the matter cannot rest where it is; neither are the Government absolved from responsibility for keeping this matter alive and carrying it on. It was pointed out by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) that a measure, not in this precise form but of this kind, has been rendered more essential than ever, as a complement to the large measure of salvage work which is proposed in the Unemployment Bill now before the House. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) pointed out that if Clause 14 of the Unemployment Bill came into operation, there must be a complement to it in the development of some educational scheme on these lines. I have no wish to decry or to depreciate the work which is being done by juvenile employment centres. I know that many men are doing extraordinarily good and faithful work in those centres, in dealing with the most difficult of educational tasks that are being attempted at the present time. The main criticism of the salvage proposals of the Government is that the juvenile employment centre is far too narrow an approach to the whole problem of education. The necessities of the time call for something much more flexible and much wider, to meet a greater variety of needs. It is essential that the proposals in the Bill, or extension of education upon these lines, should be proceeded with.
We are open to the reproach, I think, of being a most disorderly people in many ways. We are giving a great deal of attention at the present time to the planning of various aspects of our industrial economy; we are preparing plans for milk, for poultry and for pigs; but the children of the country are really, so far as careful planning is concerned, being left very largely out of the picture. I hope that hon. Members will not think I am exaggerating or using a wrong word when I say that our line of thought has been disorderly in this regard. In the words of the Noble Lord, we allow at the present time an enormous waste of young life. We are allowing children to crowd into industry, where they are jostling 1274 even with their parents for work; we are permitting an immense amount of juvenile unemployment to exist in our midst, with all its unfortunate consequences; and at the same time, in other industries and in other directions, we are allowing children to work far longer hours than their parents would be allowed to work under trade union regulations. It is up to the House and the Government to remove from this nation the reproach, which is true to-day, that it is disorderly in the arrangements that it is making for the welfare of its children and for safeguarding the industrial future of this country.
The policy of doing nothing in this regard will have the inevitable effect of reducing the industrial efficiency, and thereby reducing the standard of life, of this country in years to come. Undoubtedly our industrial supremacy in the past has been due to the fact that we had a long start—a flying start—in the industrial race. While the European countries were engaging in war and turmoil of one kind and another, we had a long start, and we had an additional advantage in the fact that we had large quantities of raw material under our hand. These advantages have passed away from us, and we can only hope in the future to retain our industrial efficiency, and to maintain a fair standard of life for the people of this country, if we have a population which is fully educated in all senses of the word, which is physically fit and active in mind and body, and which is prepared to adopt new experiments and to try new methods to meet all forms of competition, from whatever direction they may come.
If this House is dilatory, if the Government are dilatory, in dealing with this matter, it will be forced upon us by the pressure of circumstances. In any conditions which can be foreseen at the present time, having regard to the fact that we are living in a machine age, when machines are doing more and more work and men are being called upon to do less, we are confronted, as was pointed out by the Noble Lord, with the fact that many occupations which used to provide a man with a life's work of skilled craftsmanship have now become blind-alley occupations, It is, therefore, essential, if we are to provide anything, that we have to provide an alternative, a life outside industry, for a very large num- 1275 ber of our citizens. That cannot be done by our present methods. It cannot be done by the methods that are forecast, by the development of juvenile employment centres, in the Unemployment Bill. Those are not the means which can bring to our people that resource, that mental attitude, which is necessary if they are to make the best use of their new leisure.
There is no reason why the displacement of labour by machines should be looked upon as an evil or a lamentable thing. Let the machines release men to do work which only men can do. Something of this kind will be forced upon the country sooner or later. The Parliamentary Secretary asked my hon. Friend whether he had made inquiries into certain aspects of this question—whether he had approached certain industries. In a matter of this importance it is rather for us to ask him and his Department whether they are making these inquiries, because this is not a matter that can be allowed to drop. I hope, whatever may be the result of the Division, the Government are determined to pursue the matter so that we may rid our nation of the reproach of being neglectful of the interests of its children and of the future of its children.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Deputy-Speaker with-
§ held his assent, and declined them to put that Question.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Dr. O'DONOVAN
Those who support the Government would not support it for a minute if pigs were in the front of its programme and children at the back. I am positive that one of the earliest matters that will engage the attention of the Government is some means of raising the wages of school teachers, and that will be followed by some means of improving the higher education of those who have charge of the children, and when those two essential and preliminary steps are taken in hand, then and then only, will it be proper to consider some compulsory measure of putting the elder children under the care of our teachers. There is no Member who has not the same experience that I have had of going to school after school on different occasions—
§ Sir P. HARRIS rose in his place, and claimed to move "That, the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 68.1277
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[4.3 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||John, William||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Bernays, Robert||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Briant, Frank||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Lawson, John James||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Cove, William G.||Leckie, J. A.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. H n. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock)||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Daggar, George||Loder, Captain J. de Vera||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Mabane, William||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Denman, Hon. R D.||McEntee, Valentine L.||White, Henry Graham|
|Edwards, Charles||McKie, John Hamilton||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Viscountess Astor and Sir Percy Harris.|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Moison, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Campbell. Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Cooke, Douglas|
|Balniel, Lord||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Copeland, Ida|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Courtauid, Major John Sewell|
|Bossom, A. C.||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Clarry, Reginald George||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Denville, Alfred||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smith, Sir J. Walker. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Munro, Patrick||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon, Herbert H.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nunn, William||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Penny, Sir George||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hornby, Frank||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ross, Ronald D.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Mr. Herbert Williams and Mr. A. Maitland.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nhem)|
Main Question, as mended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whilst applying to the solution of the problem of juvenile unemployment cumbrous and impracticable methods, fails to secure any educational advantages proportionate to the cost involved.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Twelve Minutes after Four o'Clock.