HC Deb 03 May 1934 vol 289 cc605-13

10.38 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 8, line 3, after "infirmity," to insert : irrespective as to whether arrangements for such instruction have or have not previously been made.

Clause 10 lays down the definition of "dependent child" part of which is as follows : in relation to a person entitled to benefit, any child, younger brother, or younger sister, of his who is between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years and is maintained wholly or mainly by him and is either … or a person who is unable to receive such instruction by reason of physical or mental infirmity. The words formerly were : person who was unable to receive such instruction. The Umpire decided that a person between the ages of 14 and 16 could not be said to be prevented from receiving instruction unless it could be proved that definite arrangements had been entered into prior to the child becoming unable to receive instruction. In consequence of that, many perfectly proper cases were disallowed by the Umpire, The intention of the Amendment is to make it clear that, in the case of a child or person between 14 and 16 years of age, who is suffering from some physical or mental infirmity, the parents of the child will be entitled to dependant's benefit for the child, whether arrangements had been made for the child's education or not. I presume that that is the intention of the Government now, but, owing to the Umpire's decisions in the past, that intention has not been carried into effect. The Umpire has said, really, that, where no arrangements for the child's education had been made, it was wrong to give the dependant's allowance because the child was sick or ill. If these words are put into the Bill, they will ensure that dependant's benefit is paid in all these cases, irrespective of whether arrangements have been made for the child's education or not.


I beg to second the Amendment.

10.41 p.m.


The House will remember that during the Committee stage we had a certain amount of discussion on this point. In order to make the meaning of the Bill more clear, in the Bill as it was originally introduced a slight change was made in the wording of the existing Act. Hon. Members opposite took exception to this, and moved to reinsert in the present Bill the original words of the existing Act, in substitution for those which formerly appeared in the Bill. I pointed out that their Amendment made no difference at all, and on this ground I accepted it. For some three-quarters of an hour afterwards I was criticised by hon. Members opposite for having accepted their Amendment. I am in the same difficulty now, because these words make no difference at all. They certainly do not achieve the object which the hon. and gallant Member wants to achieve, judging by his speech, because they would merely allow dependant's benefit to be paid irrespective of whether arrangements for such instruction had or had not been made. That is the present position. The Umpire does not require that arrangements for such instruction should previously have been made, but requires to be satisfied that but for the infirmity the child would have been receiving education. These words would not add anything to the Bill. If anything, they would serve to confuse the situation, and I am afraid we must resist their insertion.

10.43 p.m.


Does the hon. Gentleman assure the House that at present it is not necessary for a parent to satisfy the Umpire that arrangements have been made for the child to be educated before he can draw benefit? I understand that the Umpire insists on proof of that sort, and the object of the Amendment is to dispense with that proof and do as the hon. Gentleman says is done at present, that is to say, to permit dependant's benefit to be drawn when the child is unable to receive instruction by reason of physical or mental infirmity, irrespective of whether such arrangements have been made or not. I am assured that the hon. Gentleman's interpretation is not the correct one.


If I may speak again with the leave of the House, I can only repeat that I am assured that the Umpire merely requires to be satisfied that, but for the infirmity, the child would have been receiving the education.

10.44 p.m.


Will not the hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter? When it was before the House originally it was thought by most Members present that in the case of a child with an infirmity the parent would receive benefit for the child until the child reached the age of 16, that is to say, that any child with an infirmity would be treated as a child until the age of 16, and that there was to be no test of education. You have altered the law and the unemployed man will now get the 2s. for the child even if he is giving him no education. In the old days there was this to be said, that you were not penalising them, but now the infirm child is deliberately penalised to that extent. I would ask the Minister if he could not reconsider the matter and agree to a form of words which would be accepted in another place. It is a small but a very human matter.

10.48 p.m.


When a claim is made in respect of a child suffering from an infirmity, it must be proved before the court of referees, the insurance officer, or the Umpire that the infirmity is such that it cannot receive education, and that, if it were not suffering from the infirmity, it could and would receive education. I think the Parliamentary Secretary might take advantage of the suggestion of the hon, Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and go further into the matter. These words may not carry out the object in view, but it is necessary that the least possible difficulties should be put in the way of the parent with a child so infirm that it cannot receive education.


I will look into it. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.49 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 8, line 14, at the end, to insert : (2) Where a person to whom paragraph (b) of the foregoing sub-section applies attains the age of sixteen years during a school term he shall be deemed to be a dependent child until the expiration of that school term. This Clause extends the dependant benefit in respect of a child from 14 to 16 if the child is in full-time attendance at a day school, but the moment the child becomes 16, dependant benefit in respect of that child will cease. The Amendment seeks to provide that, if the child becomes 16 in the middle of the school term, the benefit shall continue to the end of the term. The reasons are obvious. The child is at a secondary school and the parents have had a very considerable struggle to keep the child at school until he is 16. To force him to leave the school in the middle of his term might ruin the educational opportunities that could be obtained, and I feel sure that the Minister, in view of the fact that it is probably just a drafting question, will accept the Amendment to enable the child who has been kept at school at such a cost to reap the advantage at a very small cost to the Exchequer.

10.51 p.m.


This Amendment is designed, evidently, to give effect to a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) in the course of the discussion in the Committee stage. The House will remember that I promised to look into the matter. I have done so, and I am afraid that the Amendment will not secure the object the hon. Member has in view, because I find that in a very large proportion—I do not know if it is a majority of cases, but certainly a very large proportion, the parent who has sent the child to a secondary school has to sign an undertaking, with a monetary penalty, to keep the child at school not only to the end of the term in which he attains his 16th birthday, but to the end of the summer term following. Therefore, this Amendment would not serve the purpose of encouraging people to keep their children at school and give them a secondary education. In addition, it suffers from the defect that it breaks what has hitherto been the definite age line between the juvenile of 16 and persons over that age. If we made this concession it would undoubtedly be only a stepping-stone to further concessions. At the end of the summer term there would be no reason for refusing to extend it further, and this would open the door to other difficulties.

10.53 p.m.


May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he has made any inquiry of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland as to whether what he has said is consonant with the educational conditions of a child at a secondary school in Scotland? He is using, as an argument against this Amendment, conditions in the educational system in England that do not prevail in Scotland, and I would suggest that he should do, as he did on a previous Amendment, have a consultation with the Secretary for Scotland and see if something cannot be done to meet the purpose of the Amendment.

10.54 p.m.


I hope that this decision is not final. This Bill will go to another place where the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education sits. Anybody who has had, as I have many years' experience of education knows that it is essential, and is provided in the Act of 1902 on which our whole education system is organised, that a child shall be required to complete his term before he leaves his education. It does apply already to a child of 14, who cannot leave school and go into benefit, into the insurance scheme or into employment unless he remains, not only until he reaches the age of 14, but concludes the term. Surely, if it is applied to the child of 14, it should apply equally to a child of 15. Educationally, it is very important, There will be a tendency, directly the child reaches the age of 16, for the parent to bring pressure for the child to be withdrawn. Everybody knows that a vast number of these scholars will be at central schools, and it is possible to withdraw children from the central school at the age of 16. Therefore, it would be to the advantage of this most interesting experiment which the Government are trying for the small concession to be made. I hope that it is not the final word of the Government on the subject, and that they will take the opportunity of consulting the Board of Education. I am sorry that the Board of Education is not represented to-night.

10.56 p.m.


May I supplement what has been said by the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot)? I think that the hon. Gentleman opposite must not forget that the more we reorganise schools, the more we shall have

central schools in operation, and the more central schools we have in operation, the more will children at the secondary schools leave school between the ages of 14 and 16. When parents have kept their children in school until 15½, the educational career of the children is reaching an important stage and, therefore, it is very important that the Government should do nothing to put impediments in the way of their staying until the end of the term, which is the 16th birthday.


Of course, in this matter we have consulted the Board of Education, and the President of the Board entirely agrees with the attitude my right hon. Friend has taken upon it.

10.57 p.m.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the London County Council considered this matter from the educational point of view, and that they have asked me to say that they would be very glad if this concession could be made?

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided : Ayes, 50; Noes, 211.

Division No. 235.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mainwaring, William Henry
Attlee, Clement Richard George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Mallaileu, Edward Lancelot
Banfield, John William Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Batey, Joseph Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maxton, James.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Mliner, Major James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Groves, Thomas E. Nathan, Major H. L.
Buchanan, George Grundy, Thomas W. Rathbone, Eleanor
Cape, Thomas Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Rothschild, James A. de
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Harris, Sir Percy Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cove, William G. Janner, Barnett West, F. R.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jenkins, Sir William White, Henry Graham
Daggar, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Kirkwood, David Wilmot, John
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawson, John James
Edwards, Charles Leonard. William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Logan, David Gilbert Mr. C. Macdonald and Mr. D.
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) McEntee, Valentine L. Graham.
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Conant, R. J. E.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cook, Thomas A.
Aske, Sir Robert William Brown, Ernest (Leith) Craven-Ellis, William
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Browne, Captain A. C. Crooke, J. Smedley
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cadogan, Hon. Edward Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)
Bateman, A. L. Caporn, Arthur Cecil Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Carver, Major William H. Cross, R. H.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Culverwell, Cyril Tom
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Clayton, Sir Christopher Denville, Alfred
Blindell, James Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Dickie, John P.
Boulton, W. W. Colfox, Major William Philip Drewe, Cedric
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Colman, N. C. D. Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)
Dunglass, Lord Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Runge, Norah Cecil
Eillston, Captain George Sampson Lyons, Abraham Montagu Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Eimley, Viscount MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Russell, Hamor Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. McCorquodale, M. S. Salman, Sir Isldore
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Salt, Edward W.
Fermoy, Lord Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Ford, Sir Patrick J. McKie, John Hamilton Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Fox, Sir Gilford Macmillan, Maurice Harold Selley, Harry R.
Fraser, Captain Ian Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Magnay, Thomas Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Ganzonl, Sir John Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Shute, Colonel J. J.
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Marsden, Commander Arthur Skelton, Archibald Noel
Gledhill, Gilbert Martin, Thomas B. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Glossop, C. W. H. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Somervell, Sir Donald
Goff, Sir Park Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Goldle, Noel B. Milne, Charles Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Spens, William Patrick
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Morrison, William Shephard Stevenson, James
Greene, William P. C. Moss, Captain H. J. Storey- Samuel
Gretton, Colonel Ht. Hon. John Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Strauss, Edward A.
Grimston, R. V. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Hammersley, Samuel S. North, Edward T. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hanbury, Cecil Nunn, William Sutcliffe, Harold
Hanley, Dennis A. O'Connor, Terence James Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry O'Donovan, Dr. William James Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Thorp, Linton Theodore
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Palmer, Francis Noel Todd. Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Penny, Sir George Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Hepworth, Joseph Petherick, M. Tree, Ronald
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Hornby, Frank Pike, Cecil F. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Horsbrugh, Florence Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Howard, Tom Forrest Procter, Major Henry Adam Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.) Pybus, Sir Percy John Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Ramsbotham, Herwald Wells, Sydney Richard
Jamieson, Douglas Ramsden, Sir Eugene Whyte, Jardine Bell
Ker, J. Campbell Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Reid, David D. (County Down) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Kerr, Hamilton W. Held, James S. C. (Stirling) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Reid, William Allan (Derby) Womersley, Walter James
Law, Sir Alfred Remer, John R. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Law, Richard K. (Hull. S. W.) Renwick, Major Gustav A. Wragg, Herbert
Leech, Dr. J. W. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rickards, George William TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Ropner, Colonel L. Lord Erskine and Commander
Lindsay, Noel Ker Ross, Ronald D. Southby.
Lloyd, Geoffrey Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)

It being after Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 19th December and 1st May, successively to put forthwith the Questions on the Amendments moved by the Government of which notice had been given.