HC Deb 02 February 1939 vol 343 cc371-2
58. Wing-Commander James

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Middlesex County Education Committee on 12th December, that refugee children should be admitted to secondary schools at a nominal fee, but that the committee regarded this as a temporary measure, pending the adoption of a national scheme dealing with the education of refugee children; and whether, having regard to the assurances given by the Government in Parliament, he will immediately call the attention of all education authorities to the fact that in no circumstances can refugees be allowed to become a charge upon public funds during their stay in this country?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)

As regards the first part of the question, my information is that the Middlesex Education Committee decided as a provisional arrangement to admit qualified refugee children to their secondary schools, not at a nominal fee but at the normal fee for county children. As regards the second part of the question, the assurance to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers is no doubt that given on 6th December last by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) which relates to expenditure by his Department. I have already stated in a reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Forfar (Captain Shaw) on 28th November last that the duty of a local education authority to enforce the law of school attendance is equally applicable to British and alien children resident in its area. The position in regard to secondary schools is that if an alien child passes the normal entrance test and is in a position to pay the prescribed fee, he is eligible for admission.

Wing-Commander James

Are we to understand from that answer that however many alien refugee children the Home Office admit, they do in fact become chargeable to the public funds of this country for education?

Mr. Lindsay

I have stated the existing law on the matter.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Can the hon. Member give an assurance that the Government of this country are not going to join in the persecution of these children as implied in the suggestion of the hon. Member's question?

Mr. Lipson

Is it the practice of the Board of Education to interfere with the discretion of the local education authorities as to the terms and conditions on which children should be admitted to the schools?

Mr. Lindsay

No, Sir, nor have I said it is.