HC Deb 18 July 1939 vol 350 cc354-8

Order for Second Reading read.

11.49 p.m.

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

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

Hon. Members will recall that from time to time there have been questions about schools in Liverpool. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Liverpool education authority to contribute towards the provision of voluntary senior schools in the city. Three years ago the House passed the Education Act, 1936, which enables local education authorities to make building grants towards the cost of the provision of voluntary senior schools. Liverpool, for a variety of reasons, did not see their way to operate that Act. They recognise, however, the urgent need for remedying the condition of the denominational schools in Liverpool, particularly in the dockside area, and, accordingly, they have put forward this scheme, which may be called a "build and lease" scheme. It has the assent of all parties in Liverpool, and under it the authority will acquire the sites, build the schools, and then lease them for a term of 50 years to the denominational authorities; but the freehold reversion will remain in the ownership of the Liverpool education authority.

The Bill involves no permanent or continuing alteration of the law, since its provisions apply only to the building of schools for which the denominations have already submitted proposals under the Act of 1936 within the time prescribed by the Act, and the proviso to Clause I makes it clear that the measure of assistance accorded to these bodies can be no greater and no less than under the Act of 1936. The only other provision of the Bill to which I need make specific reference is that contained in the latter part of Sub-section (3) of Clause I, where the provision relating to the teachers in the schools is exactly the same as under the Act of 1936. With regard to the finance of the Measure, I would refer the House to paragraph 2 of the explanatory memorandum. Although there is a Financial Resolution, there is an actual saving of expenditure under the Bill, so that in one sense it is unnecessary.

Anyone who knows the condition of the schools in Liverpool— I have known them for some 15 years— will appreciate the responsibility that is involved in allowing these schools to continue for a single day longer. That responsibility will weigh very heavily now that at last we have unanimous local assent in Liverpool, and I hope the House will be equally unanimous in passing the Measure.

11.53 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I welcome this Bill because in my judgment it is a very necessary Measure, and I am glad to note the unanimity with which the proposal comes before the House from the City of Liverpool. Everyone interested in education and its development was staggered at the dispute which had arisen, and felt that the problem was going to be a very difficult one to solve. I am happy to be able unhesitatingly to support the manner in which a solution has been found, which will in my judgment achieve a result just as good as that which would have been achieved had the dispute not arisen. I should, however, like to ask a question with regard to the explanatory memorandum. It suggests, with regard to cost, that with respect to Scotland the charge upon the Exchequer would be increased by eleven-eightieths of £ 16,000. I cannot understand why a reference is made to Scotland when the Bill applies to Liverpool and must of necessity be limited to proposals put forward under the Act of 1936 by the Liverpool authorities. I would like to have an explanation from the Minister.

The second question, in regard to public administration, is whether agreement has been arrived at as to the utilisation of the schools. I can understand the financial arrangement whereby 4 per cent. expended on the building of the school comes from the money that would have been provided by the authorities under the Act of 1936. That is covered in Clause 2. The question arises as to the use of the school outside school hours by the denominational authority, and the proportion of the expenditure that will be borne by the State for the upkeep of the school for use in that way. With regard to our denominational schools, there is an arrangement whereby if they are used for other than day-school purposes a certain proportion of the expenditure shall be borne by the school authorities. I want to know whether, in the agreement arrived at, the utilisation of the school will be a charge upon the Exchequer or will be borne by the school authorities.

We are entitled to know how this perfectly admirable scheme will be worked so that it may become a precedent for other districts when similar difficulties arise. This is the first time in this country— I am not speaking of Scotland— that the dual system has been put on a real workable and sound basis. I hope that it is only the beginning, and that others of a similar kind will be put forward.

11.57 p.m.

Mr. Maxwell Fyfe

I want to express, on behalf of the whole of the people of Liverpool, our gratitude for this solution of a most difficult problem. We realise that it has meant great effort. We are grateful at the same time for the grant of public time to pass this Bill through the House. We hope that we in Liverpool will be able to repay all this by the cooperation of all creeds and sections of the city in the advancement of our people and the education of every section of our youth.

11.58 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

I think the whole House will join in feeling thankful that so happy a solution has been reached to what threatened to be a very painful situation. The Bill is, of course, illogical, as so many of our British Acts of Parliament are, but I believe that it will be very satisfactory in practice. It is illogical because it states in Clause 1 that the school provided by the local authority shall be deemed to be not provided. That is entirely characteristic of our British way of approaching a problem. Our genius as a nation has shown itself again and again in working by methods which, superficially, seem to be illogical. As I have already said, we have, in the Bill, a method of approach to a problem which has been long troubling other countries than our own and the method may be followed in other cases. My only regret is that this was not the method employed in the original Act from the first. If it had been given as an alternative it would have been made use of, with great advantage to the cause of education, because voluntary bodies have great difficulty in getting the necessary funds. The Bill will provide the means for the voluntary and non-provided schools to be adequately planned and built. I hope that the spirit which has been shown by both sides in the controversy— that we all regret— in adopting this solution augurs well for a happy future to the growth of education in our country.

12.1 a.m.

Mr. Logan

I rise only to say how thankful we are that the Government have been able to get a solution, I do not want to raise any acrimonious question in regard to the compromise that has been arrived at; it has been a wonderful solution and is an illustration of good government by all the parties concerned. On behalf of my co-religionists I will say that we had doubts at first; but there are no doubts now. The solution has been accepted in the fullest spirit. Anybody who is acquainted with these matters in Liverpool will know that they get to fever heat at times and one wonders whether education is to be jeopardised or not. All parties, even those who were most vehement against the Bill, have decided to give the fullest support to it. My co-religionists fully accept the Bill and commend it to the House.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Select Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Three by the Committee of Selection.

Ordered, That all Petitions against the Bill presented at any time not later than five clear days after the Second Reading of the Bill, be referred to the Committee.

Ordered, That Petitions against the Bill may be deposited in the Committee and Private Bill Office, provided that such Petitions shall have been prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of this House relating to Petitions against Private Bills.

Ordered, That the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents, be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to report from day to day the minutes of evidence taken before them.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Three be the quorum— [Mr. Lindsay.]