§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
I beg to move, in page 26, line 18, after "of," to insert "elementary and."
I apologise for the fact that this Amendment has not been put on the Paper, but is merely in manuscript form. It would make the paragraph read as follows:'Education authority' means a local education authority for the purposes of elementary and higher education under the Education Act, 1921.I understand that at the moment the duty of running the junior instruction centres will be the duty solely of those authorities responsible for higher education—what are generally known as Part II authorities, which in the main are county authorities. I desire that not only those authorities which are responsible for higher education alone, but also those authorities which are responsible solely for elementary education, and are generally termed Part III authorities, should have powers in this respect. I know that there are arguments on both sides with regard to this matter, but it is rather significant that the national body representing the education authorities is keenly desirous that this power should be in 1821 the hands of the Part III authorities. I believe that representations have been made to the Ministry by the Secretary of that body. I observe that, curiously enough, the Minister himself has put down an Amendment to include the attendance officers of the Part III authorities, in order to compel attendance at instruction centres. Of course, that would be inevitable; but it seems to me that, as the Minister himself is endeavouring to secure the service of the attendance officers in Part III areas, the authorities in those areas should themselves have the power to run, organise and control the junior instruction centres.
In my own constituency the authority responsible for the junior instruction centre is the county authority. The county authority, however, is far away, and the local education authority in my constituency is only responsible for elementary education. In view of the fact that the authority there is responsible for elementary education, is keenly interested in the children in its schools, and is directly concerned with them in that area, it seems to me that that authority also ought to have the chance of following these youths into the junior instruction centre. I cannot quite understand the refusal of the Ministry to meet the request of the education authorities in this respect, because I should have thought that a local authority like my own Aberavon authority, if it had control, would show very much more interest in that particular centre, and what applies there would apply in many other areas. If the authority had the control, the appointment of the staff, and so on, the general conditions of the centre would be much better, the work done would be more effective, and I should imagine also that the follow-up would be better.
Speaking for my own area in particular—and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will listen to this—I said the other night that the junior instruction centre in my constituency was really a disgraceful building, as indeed it is. It is filthily dirty, and there seems to be no live local interest in it, as far as I can see. I am firmly of the opinion that, if the education authority in that area had the control and organisation of the junior instruction centre, they would 1822 have found a far better building—they would have found a sanitary building to begin with, instead of an insanitary one—and they would have found a building where instruction in metal work, woodwork, and all the general practical subjects that are taught could be given far better than in the present building, simply because of local interest and local pride. The junior instruction centre does not fill the bill. It is no substitute for raising the school age. On the other hand, I frankly admit that, if junior instruction centres are to be established, we should make the best job we can of them. Let us get the fullest local interest. Let us get the best types of teachers that we can in order to get the best work out of the centres. If you had the thing organised locally, you would find an even greater keenness about the choice of instructors and teachers, apart altogether from the physical condition. You would find a tremendous local interest and you would, therefore, have the best people chosen for the job.
I have been thinking of some of the county areas where you have almost a complete rural organisation with one, two or three industrial areas. The junior instruction centres, in the main, will be in the industrial areas. Your county authority, being a rural authority, I will not say with a rural mind, but concerned in the rural side of the business, would be somewhat remote in attitude to the junior instruction centres. I think it would be really a good thing in those areas, to get the powers under the local education authority, which is responsible for Part III. I am told that there may be some powers of delegation, but that, I understand, will rest upon the decision of the county authority. I take it that there will not be any compulsory powers. If I am wrong in that, I should like to have it explained. As I understand it at present, it is intended that the county authority may delegate. There are no compulsory powers that I know of. Since the junior instruction centres are there, I am keen for local interest, which, I believe, will result in a keener desire to fulfil their functions, not only within the area of the centre itself, but I believe local interest will also find points of contact with the chidren as they enter into the industrial field, and will follow them with a keener and more lively interest than a county authority, which is far away 1823 in distance and may be remote as far as interest is concerned.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I have no complaint of the hon. Member bringing forward a manuscript Amendment on the principle that one good turn deserves another, but I hope to show not only that there are reasons against the Amendment, but that, on the whole, it is not necessary. In the first place, as far as I am able to appreciate it, it would go a great deal beyond the actual object that the hon. Member has in mind, because the whole basis of the educational side of the Bill is that junior instruction centres are within the category of higher education, which is the province of Part II authorities. I will give one or two reasons which will show that the object of the Amendment is not advisable. In the first place, on the whole, the smaller the number of authorities dealing with the matter the better. Juvenile employment must depend to a great extent on the industrial position in the area. That industrial position is not determined by the boundaries of any particular urban district or non-county borough, but extends much further outside into adjacent parts of the county. If the Amendment were accepted, the Part III authority would only have powers within its own area, and would not be able to deal with adjacent portions of the area which, for industrial reasons should be and would be included as the Bill now stands. With regard to the teaching staff, in many cases no doubt the authority would utilise the services of part-time teachers in evening institutes and technical colleges. Those are under Part II authorities, and complications might arise. The teachers would be serving two masters, and considerable administrative inconvenience would ensue. Also, some of the young unemployed would go to evening courses in suitable technical institutes. Those evening courses are not under Part III authorities but under Part II authorities. That, again, would cause complications and difficulties.
It seems to me that the actual practice that goes on now is a sufficient answer to the point that the hon. Member has in mind. At present, in most of the 1824 larger county areas a system of informal delegation is in operation as between the county authority and the Part III authority. The higher education committee works with the district higher education committee, which contains a substantial proportion of local people who understand the needs of the children in the neighbourhood for technical education, and, as far as I know, they work most admirably with the higher education committee of the county council. I know of no cases of friction, and, as far as I know, local wishes and aspirations are carried out. In the case that the hon. Member has in mind, where there is a dirty building, I hope that as the result of the Bill the building will become very much cleaner and brighter before many days are past. As regards keenness, there is very great keenness now in the district higher education committees so far as secondary technical education is concerned. I see every reason why there should be just as much keenness among local people and district higher education committees to make the instruction centres a success. I can assure him that it is my right hon. Friend's intention that there should be ample discretion given by way of delegation from the county councils to local authorities.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
That is so, but if you take the analogy of other forms of higher education, there is very ample delegation by country authorities to local authorities at present, and I imagine that without compelling them by statute but relying on voluntary action, as we have done in the past in secondary and technical education, we shall get the same keenness and the same co-operation. That being so, I suggest that the hon. Member should not press the Amendment, but should allow the same method of working to operate in connection with juvenile instruction centres as already operates between Part II and Part III authorities for higher education.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I am not quite sure where we stand with regard to the powers of delegation that are now exercised by Part II authorities to Part III authorities. In Walthamstow we come within the area of the Essex County Council as the Part II authority, we ourselves being the Part III authority. We have delegated to us now under the Education Act, 1921, and the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1923, the administering of schemes. The Minister has two Amendment down, and I have been endeavouring to understand whether they concede the point that I am endeavouring to arise in a later Amendment of mine. There is a difference of opinion between two authorities on this matter, I being one, and my own Director of Education the other. It is probable, because of his more intimate experience of the administration of education, that he is right, and I am very anxious that he shall be right, but I have considerable doubt. The Minister's second Amendment says:an authorised course shall in relation to such powers and authorities, be deemed to be a school.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If I permit the hon. Member to pursue this line of argument in relation to Amendments which are not yet before the Committee, those arguments cannot be repeated when the Minister's Amendments are moved.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The hon. Gentleman appeared to me to deal with the very point that is so closely associated with this Amendment, the Minister's Amendments and the one that I was hoping to move, though I understand that I shall not be permitted to do so. I want to know exactly what is to remain in the Bill as a consequence of all these Amendments.
§ Mr. McENTEE
It is not merely a matter of explaining. If the explanation does not happen to be satisfactory, I might desire an opportunity of voting against them. The whole point is whether the hon. Gentleman is really expressing the position as it is going to be after all the Minister's Amendments are carried. Will the county authorities still have the power that they have under the Education Act, 1921, of dele- 1826 gating to a local authority such as my own powers under this Act, and could my authority, assuming that the county were willing to delegate powers, carry on the administration of these training centres? If the Minister will make that clear, I shall be very much obliged.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education has made one of his usual charming speeches, but under it there lies a very deep question indeed, and I hope that he will forgive me if I plead for a few minutes on behalf of the rights of Part III authorities. Under Clause 13 the question arises as to whether county councils are or are not to be empowered to delegate the right to run juvenile instruction centres. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the fewer authorities employed the better, and I agree, but when you get towns with a very strong local life of their own, is it not right that they, and not the higher education authority, should be the authority to run the training centre? There is the case of Stockton-on-Tees, which has a population of 67,000 inhabitants. I believe that juvenile training centres are already in operation there including one run by the education authority—the Part III authority. I want the Government to concede, where there is an agreement between the county council and the education authority, delegation in those cases and in those cases only. I agree that the smaller county borough or urban district has no case for delegation, but when you get a local authority like Walthamstow with 132,000 inhabitants, or Hamilton with 39,000 the case is different. My answer to the first of the Minister's points is that the older of the smaller local authorities has a very distinct right to come in here as the authority to run the juvenile training centre.
His second point, I agree, at first sight, appears very strong. He says that the area of the smaller local authority does not correspond with an industrial area, and that the higher education committee is the proper authority. There, again, as the Mover of the Amendment said, a great many of the urban authorities and non-county boroughs are industrial in character and situated in counties which are rural in character. The work to be dealt with 1827 by the Part III authority is more in keeping, situated in an industrial area, than if the whole county was an industrial area. That is so in many cases. The delegation would only be at the joint request of the county council and of the smaller authorities. The Parliamentary Secretary said that informal delegations at present exist, but I think that that does not come under the Part III authority. I urgently plead that where the two authorities agree, definite power should be given to a higher authority to delegate, and I would add that the consent of the Minister must always be required. The Minister knows well the difficulties of the question and the arguments which are used. The trend of modern administration is to fix the limit of the non-county borough fairly high, and you give to that authority powers which we formerly gave only to the county, or to the county borough. Where you get large non-county boroughs with populations of 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 or 100,000 or over, there is a strong case for delegation.
§ Mr. DENMAN
On a point of Order. I want to ask your advice, Captain Bourne, whether this Amendment means anything whatever. We are on a definition Clause which will read, if amended:'Education authority' means a local education authority for the purposes of elementary and higher education.An education authority can mean a local authority for the purposes of either elementary or of higher education, but it certainly cannot mean a local education authority for the purposes of both. If you try to read it into Clause 13 in that sense, it produces pure nonsense, and I submit, therefore, that the Amendment is out of order.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Amendment was handed to me only a very short time before I called upon the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) to move it, but I understand that the point which he wished to raise was that in administering the training centres, what is commonly known as a Part III authority should be responsible as well as a Part II authority. I understand that that would be the effect of the Amendment if carried in respect of Clause 13, but whether Clause 13 would 1828 still remain workable it is not for me to express an opinion.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
It may be that the language of the Amendment does not give effect to the intentions of the Mover, but the important point is that we should try to extract from the Minister an agreement that at a subsequent stage the necessary alteration shall be made. That is the important point. The discussion having gone so far, it seems to be a piece of pedantry to point out this matter.
§ Mr. DENMAN
In that case I must really press my point of Order. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can give us his assistance.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) has already risen to a point of Order, and I must deal with one at a time.
§ Mr. DENMAN
My point of Order is that the whole Amendment is completely out of order. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary can give assistance on this point. Does it mean anything to him, with his long experience of education, when he is told that an education authority means a local education authority for the purpose of elementary and of higher education? I submit that it means nothing at all.
§ Mr. DENMAN
It is an elementary rule of the House that an Amendment should make sense. If hon. Members fail to produce Amendments which make sense, I think that the Committee should pass on to the Amendments which do.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Very frequently the Chair has to invite the assistance of the Minister on various points.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
Although the form of words might not be the correct one, it seems fairly obvious to myself and I think to the Committee that the intention of the Amendment was that the 1829 powers of the Part II authorities should be extended by statute to the Part III authorities.
§ 6.66 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Gentleman who a little while ago addressed the Committee has perhaps not done entire justice to his case. He said that boundaries fixed by Part II and Part III authorities may cut across each other in the organising of training centres. I do not quarrel with him. It is easy for the Committee to visualise circumstances in which the number of juveniles outside the boundaries of the Part III authority would be inadequate for the formation of a training scheme of their own, and would have to be brought into the area of the Part III authority. Would it not be possible for the Minister to make an alteration in language to say that it should be a Part II or Part III authority as may be determined by the Minister? Obviously there would be circumstances in which a Part III authority would be the best authority to carry out the work.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
As I have already said, the Part II authorities can arrange for informal delegation to the Part III authorities.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I think it is a general experience that they cling most jealously to their power. The point I wish to make is that the local givernment unit in Great Britain has been enlarged for purely financial reasons. The reason why the small local authority has grown into the large authority in the last 50 years is largely because of the desire to spread the burden over a wider unit of revenue raising, and it has followed no functional lines at all as far as we know. It has followed financial pressure. I do not wish to argue either for Part III or for Part II. We think that the Minister should give himself powers to organise a training school wherever it may be most desirable to do so. That is what I want, and I believe that the powers which the Minister is taking unto himself prohibits 1830 him from doing this sort of thing, because if the county authority does not decree, the Minister cannot impose a new scheme on that authority.
I will reinforce this by a further point. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education said that the county authorities appoint district committees, but my experience is that a sub-committee of a county authority is a much more devitalised body than a committee of a Part III authority. The sub-committee always has to secure the approval of a county authority for anything it, does, and it is usually a body with no vitality at all, a perfunctory body. It has purely recommendatory powers to the county authority, is very often overridden, and in fact the director of education is often the committee. I want to plead for as much centralisation in educational administration as is consistent with efficiency. There is far too much centralisation now. Is it not possible for the Minister to reserve to himself the right to determine whether the authority for this portion of the Bill shall be the Part II or the Part III authority? We are asking for a small concession, and the power will be used in the best interests of the children themselves later on.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD BANKS
The constituency of the Borough of Swindon is one of those large industrial centres in the middle of a rural area which are naturally much concerned in this matter. It exercises a great many powers which are delegated to it by the county council: the choice of employment work under Section 107 of the Education Act; the administration of the Unemployment Insurance in the case of juveniles under the Act of 1933, and most of the higher education within the Borough of Swindon and the adjacent area under a block grant from the county authority. It has very little doubt indeed that the county council will be perfectly ready to delegate powers to it in connection with the work under this new Act, but it is far from clear that in the future the county council will be able to do so. There is no question that delegation has taken place in the past quite satisfactorily and harmoniously, but the Swindon Borough Council wants to feel quite sure that, if the county authority desires to delegate the work to be done under this new Act, 1831 as we have every reason to suppose, it shall be able to do so. The question is one of such great importance that no ambiguity ought to be left. If the provision simply remains as a definition, the county authority might say that it was very sorry, that it would like to delegate powers under the new Act, but could not do so because it was not properly so constituted.
I can give that assurance to my hon. Friend. There is no question that the authority has power to ask the Part III authority to act for it informally.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment suggested that considerable difficulty might be experienced by certain industrial districts in the rather enervating sphere of a county council with almost entirely rural interests; but there are possibly a large number of industrial boroughs which might wish to free themselves from the perhaps rather too stimulating control of a county council—for instance, in Durham. It is a remarkable fact that, owing to the attitude which the Central Government has now taken for many years to prevent by any possible means the formation of new county boroughs, there are a large number of industrial boroughs which ordinarily would have found themselves in a position in which they would have enjoyed equal status. I should not like to go as far as the Mover of this Amendment in saying that the non-county borough should have an absolute right to demand that the authority shall be Part III rather than Part II.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
I am perfectly satisfied with the voluntary delegation of power, but I would ask the Minister between now and the Report stage to look further into the matter, because it affects the very life of these boroughs. The constituency I represent some time ago started an excellent scheme on the lines of the Bill and indeed the Government is two or three years behind us. If the Minister decided that a certain delegation of power was to take place, it would be quite fair as between the authorities under Parts II and III, and 1832 if no agreement could be come to between them, the Minister should take powers to make a decision after considering the facts. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that suggestion before the Bill becomes law.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 7.8 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 26, line 19, at the end, to insert:and for the purposes of the powers conferred on education authorities by Sub-section (3) of Section fourteen of this Act but not for any other purpose includes a local education authority for elementary education under that Act.The object of this Amendment is to make quite sure that the officers of elementary education, authorities shall be officers of a "local education authority for the purposes of higher education" in connection with the enforcement of school attendance between the ages of 14 and 16, and that they shall carry out the duties which might otherwise be regarded as coming outside the Education Act, 1921. In the ordinary course of events the higher education authorities would make any necessary financial arrangements with the Part III authority.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
The Parliamentary Secretary was absolutely stubborn about our previous Amendment. The hon. Gentleman by his side might, if he had been in charge, have permitted it to us, but we have a very obstinate Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. It is therefore remarkable that after refusing our request that the Part III authority should consult their ratepayers in organising new centres, he is prepared to come forward now with the proposal that they shall use the "Whippers-in," as we used to call them at school, in order to get the children into the instruction centres. The proposal is that the county authority shall commandeer the attendance officer, the man who is going to whip them into the centre. That man is employed by the Part III authority; it is giving the county authority the power to use him to drive the children into the juvenile instruction centre. It is a piece of bare-faced effrontery to these local education authorities, denying them the right to take a live and real interest in the centres and then using them for the worst piece of work they could possibly do.
1833 Is this a testimony to the efficiency and pride that the hon. Member feels in the ability of the county authorities to get the children into the juvenile instruction centre? If there is all this reliance on the county authority as the best authority for doing all this, if the county authority is the authority that can organise the centres where the children will go without any pressure at all, why does the hon. Member come down to the House and ask that the Part III authorities shall provide them with a policeman to drive the children into the centres? If I were trying to divide the Committee, I should divide it on this Amendment as a protest against this stiff and deadly obstinate attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary and against putting this worst of all duties on to the Part III authority after denying them the right to do the real educational work and organise these centres.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
If it be necessary for the Part III authority to employ additional attendance officers, who is to pay their salary? Is the county to have the right to compel the Part III authority to increase its rates in order to discharge the function that properly belongs to it? I can see endless friction arising between the two authorities under this proposal that one authority should pay the officer and the other should use him.
In the unlikely contingency that the hon. Member has in mind, the higher education authority would undoubtedly be responsible for the expense involved.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
Does not this proposal cut out the possibility of delegation to the Part III authority, and are the Part III authorities included in the terms of the Amendment? It excludes, by implication at any rate, the power of informal delegation with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education made considerable play, because they are not to be included "for any other purpose." It goes further than we were before, and the Part III authorities are worse off. Will my hon. Friend consider the matter between now and the Report stage? Of course, if he can go further we should prefer it, but will he agree not 1834 to give them this back-hander which knocks them out of account?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 7.14 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 26, line 40, at the end, to insert:(3) The powers and duties of education authorities under this Part of this Act shall be exercised and performed as part of their powers and duties under the Education Act, 1921, and the powers and duties under that Act of local education authorities for the purposes of higher education shall extend to authorised courses; and accordingly an authorised course shall, in relation to such powers and duties, be deemed to be a school.This Amendment is designed to secure that education authorities shall have the power to extend to these children those services which are laid down in the Education Act, and, in particular, to place their medical service at the disposal of the juveniles who attend the juvenile instruction centres.
§ Mr. COVE
We on this side of the Committee would welcome those words, but do they cover the right to provide school-feeding for these children? We welcome the provision of medical services being extended to these centres, but we should be still more pleased if the powers were taken here to enable local education authorities to feed the children as well.
I will look into the matter and let the hon. Member know for certain, but I am nearly sure that these powers do not cover the provision of a school meal. They cover the cost of travelling, of enforcing attendance and of the medical services.
The hon. Member knows very well that that opens up a very wide field and has all kinds of repercussions, and I cannot give a promise now.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Government are taking powers of punishment, but they are not taking powers that would be advantageous to the child. One of the things that Act for feeding of school children was meant to overcome was the lack of 1835 food and to make it easy for a child to attend school. Having taken the powers of punishment the Government, in common fairness, ought to take all the powers of decency alongside it. They take the power of punishment without giving the attraction of the school at the same time. It is unfair to take over punishment Clauses and to leave out the feeding of little children. I hope the point will be pressed.
Where children are unemployed and their parents are unemployed there will be, under Part II, considerable scope for questions of this kind to be raised and dealt with.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I gather that the Minister wants to give an opportunity to children from 14 to 16 years of age to enjoy the benefit of medical services in these centres. Is it proposed by the new Amendment that all the advantages that go to children up to the age of 14 shall go to children between the ages of 14 and 16? If there is to be the power of punishment, will there be also the advantages which children attending elementary schools up to the age of 14 now enjoy?
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I strongly advise those who have raised the point to allow the Amendment to stand as it is because, in spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, it is perfectly obvious from these words that the local education authority will have the same power in regard to school meals in the junior instruction centres as they have in the elementary schools. That is obvious, and the least said about it the better.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
We were under the same impression, but we have had a statement from the Front Bench that that will not be so.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I should like the point to be made clear. The Noble Lord is not in charge of the Bill. Can we have a clear answer from the Parliamentary Secretary? Will the children who go to the training centres, if they need meals, 1836 have the same right to meals as children who attend the elementary schools?
With all respect to the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Noble Lord, I think that he is wrong. I am glad that he has raised the point, for if he is right we shall have to move an Amendment on the Report stage, because our intention is to do nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. BEVAN
This is a point of first-class importance. What we now understand is that it is the Government's intention that if a child attends a training centre at the age of 14 and needs meals he shall not obtain them. That is the intention of the Government. It is a monstrous proposition. If a child attends an elementary school up to the age of 16 it can have meals if it needs them. The Government propose that if a child leaves school and fails to find employment and goes to be trained in a training centre it shall not have food, if it needs food. Many of these boys and girls may have to travel distances from their homes. School feeding is taking place at the present time in regard to the children of parents who are in employment. The Act said that a child shall be fed if, through any physical consequences of under-nourishment, it cannot take advantage of the education provided. Is it clear that the Government do not intend that these children shall be fed? If so, and if it is clear from these words that the children are not to be fed, will the Parliamentary Secretary give a promise that, on the Report stage, the necessary alterations will be made in the Bill so that the children may be fed? If what he says is true I can promise him that he will have a lot of trouble on the Report stage. There are boys and girls in my constituency who are suffering from grave under-nourishment, and the Parliamentary Secretary is not going to be permitted to take those children to training centres and try to teach them if they are not fed properly. I can promise him a big pocket of trouble on the Report stage.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I hope the Minister will enlighten us. The Necessitous Children Act would apply except that the Government are going out of their way to annul its provisions. It is an obligation now upon every local educa- 1837 tion authority to see that no child should from hunger be unable to take advantage of its education, and I agree with the Noble Lord that that condition would apply under this Bill except that the Government are going out of their way to put in a special Clause.
§ 7.24 p.m.
I have no reason whatever to anticipate that any child attending these centres will suffer from lack of meals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The centres are not the same things as schools. In the great majority of cases the children will only attend for about 15 hours a week, and they will be able to get home for their mid-day meals. Where they cannot get home for their mid-day meals arrangements will be made for the meals to be cooked at the centre. In the case of a child whose parent is in work, presumably, there will not be a case for school feeding; but in the case of an unemployed child attending the centre if that child is the child of an unemployed parent and if the conditions and resources of the parent are such that the child is in need, he will be able to go to the Unemployment Assistance Board and get an adequate amount. There can, therefore, be no justification for the suggestion that any children attending these centres will not be able to take advantage of the instruction available owing to their being underfed. The centres are not the same as schools and the children who attend them will not be in the same position as children attending schools. With that explanation I hope the Committee will realise that the decision come to by the Government is, in all the circumstances, reasonable.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Does the Parliamentary Secretary not know that there are junior instruction centres now where feeding takes place and where charitable organisations have to put money down in order to feed the children?
That may conceivably be the case. If the hon. Member assures me that it is so, I take his word for it, but I would point out that Part II of the Bill has not yet come into operation, nor have the circumstances under which the parent of a child between the age of 14 and 16 gets assistance.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
There are thousands of cases that will not come under Part II. Thousands of children will be left out. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter very seriously, not merely from the human aspect but from the point of view of making the instructional centres more successful than they are likely to be. The provision of a mid-day meal would make a tremendous difference to the spirit in which the children would go to the centres, and the spirit in which their parents would send them, and it would certainly make a tremendous difference to the work of the teacher in endeavouring to do this educational work. If it is true, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, South-West (Sir P. Harris) says that the Ministry of Labour has gone out of its way to deny this provision for the children, I would ask them seriously to reconsider it, so that all the opportunities available now for children attending school shall be available for the young people attending the instruction centres. I agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) that unless the Minister can, before the Report stage, satisfy us on this subject—
§ It being Half-past Seven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 19th December, to put forthwith the Question on the Amendment already proposed from the Chair.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments proposed by the Government of which notice had been given and the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at Half-past Seven of the Clock at this day's Sitting.