§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Before I commence to explain the provisions of the Bill, I should like to make it clear that the Bill has nothing to do with what is called the post-war problem of the public schools, that is to say, with any question which may have to be considered after the war of bringing the public schools into relation or association with our State educational system. No doubt that problem will have to be considered when the war is finished, but the Bill, as is clear from its Title and provisions, is purely a war-time Measure and is expressly limited to the war period. Its provisions will automatically terminate when hostilities are concluded. I am aware that this fact will make my speech must less interesting than it would otherwise have been, but it would also have been longer if I had been able to discuss post-war problems; but to do so now would implicate me in the more serious problem of making my present speech completely out of Order. Accordingly, I must confine myself to the provisions of the Bill.
The Bill is designed to help certain schools to meet special difficulties and embarrassments which have arisen as a result of the war and of enemy action. The House will remember that powers are"contained in somewhat analogous Measures, particularly in the Universities and Colleges (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, which dealt with the financial difficulties of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the colleges there. There was another Act of the same date, the Chartered and other Bodies (Temporary Provisions) Act, dealing with the financial difficulties which might arise in certain other universities. This Bill comes logically as third in a series of measures introduced since the war in order to render assistance to, and to mitigate certain difficulties of, universities, colleges and schools.
When the history of the war comes to be written, a very interesting chapter will be its effect upon the fortunes, and no 590 doubt upon the future, of these schools. In the beginning of September, 1939, schools in many parts of the country began to migrate. As the war changed, further difficulties arose, and further evacuations took place from the more dangerous zones. Some schools found their fees drop very seriously and in certain cases suffered material damage from enemy action. Broadly speaking, the grant-aided schools of the State system have been free at any rate from one anxiety, in that they have not suffered financial embarrassments. Schools under the local education authorities and in direct relation with the Board of Education have obtained special help. All the State schools have enjoyed the benefit of the State system and of the Government evacuation scheme.
The schools affected by this Bill have not been so well placed. They have had to rely mainly upon their own resources to meet very difficult, unforeseen and almost insurmountable new burdens. Take, for instance, the effects of evacuation. A school originally not far from here has had no fewer than three evacuations in 18 months. When war began it was the welcome guest of two schools on the South coast. Then after the occupation of France it had to transfer to the West country, where it received the hospitality of a university; then at the end of the summer it returned to London, but the air attacks which commenced on a severe scale in August caused it once more to remove to the West country, where it received hospitality in houses and homesteads spread over a wide area. I am sure hon. Members will appreciate the intense anxiety which has beset those responsible for this school. We must give them all credit for the enterprise and perseverance which has enabled them to undertake this hazardous and protracted Odyssey.
Again, some schools have suffered a severe decline in numbers. One very large school not far from London has had its numbers reduced by nearly half. One hopes that that condition of affairs is only temporary, but one can see an immediate problem for those responsible in the adjustment of their staff and overhead expenses to a very substantial decrease in annual income. Then there is the problem of taxation. These schools normally meet their expenses from fees and from their endowment income. They have no 591 public funds from which to relieve the parents of their pupils, for whom, as we all know, heavy taxation has made matters very difficult. There is also actual damage which premises have suffered. I know there is compensation under the War Damage Act for that, but it will come after the war, and in the meantime the question of repairs, so far as they are carried out, is urgent and necessitates the provision of liquid resources.
Many of these schools have endowments which, by the terms of the trust or the testamentary disposition which created them, cannot at present be used outside those terms or which cannot be more profitably employed so long as those terms are adhered to. Perhaps I had better give one or two instances. In certain cases there are school exhibitions to enable pupils to be sent to a university. It may happen that, owing to the calling-up of so many young men, the prescribed number of candidates is not available and the income is not required for the actual purpose of the trust. Then, in some cases, scholarships are limited to boys from a certain district or parish, and it may happen that boys are not available in that particular district. It does not seem unreasonable to say that the income might be better used in such cases if the terms were widened, so that the money could be applied to the more general maintenance of the school. Another instance occurs to me. In some cases the income is devoted under some trust fund to the purposes of rebuilding premises or erecting new school buildings. In these times it cannot be said that such purposes are urgent. It is impossible to carry them out, and it would seem reasonable to make provision for more urgent needs to be met. In other cases funds are expressly provided for foundation scholars. Sometimes there may be a surplus from such a fund which might well be used to help needy pupils who are not foundation scholars but whose parents have suffered by war damage or difficulties, I think, therefore, that there will be general agreement as regards the modifications in the use of income from these funds during the war.
As the House probably knows, a question has been raised elsewhere as to the use of capital. First of all, I would point out that there is nothing unprece- 592 dented in the use of capital in an emergency for the purpose of maintaining a college or school, and indeed the House, as recently as 1939, has accepted that principle in the Universities and Colleges Act to which I have just referred. I entirely agree, however—and I am sure the House will be of the same opinion— that it is most undesirable to spend trust capital on current needs unless it is abundantly clear that that capital is superfluous or can be replaced. Let me give three instances which I think are relevant. First of all, in certain cases we find that unspent income has been accumulated and invested as capital. Again, it may be found that certain funds have been destined for the preservation of amenities or for developing a school estate. It seems to me that little harm could result if some part of such a fund were used for preserving the school itself. After all, the school is the central feature of the whole foundation, and if we were to say to it that it must keep such a fund absolutely intact because it would be very useful after the war to extend the school amenities or preserve its estate, that school might very well reply that unless the school were preserved in the meantime, there might be nobody left after the war to enjoy the amenities in question. Further, capital may be avail able as collateral security for a source of income to be repaid later. I very much doubt to-day whether a school could obtain a loan on mortgage, and in any event I think it is undesirable on the grounds of public policy for a school to go into the money market for such a purpose.
From what I have said I think the House will realise that the main purpose of this Bill is to put the schools dealt with by it in a position to exercise a little self-help. That is all we are doing. We have no intention whatever of bolstering up a decaying institution by allowing raids to be made on the bequests of pious founders, still less is there any intention, whatever to carry through a scheme to bring the public schools into relation with our State system by a purely war time Measure of this kind. In view, however, of the anxiety that has been expressed that Trusts may be improperly disregarded, substantial safeguards are proposed in this Bill, and I will draw the attention of the House to them.
593 First of all, no step of any kind can be taken unless and until the governors make an application. That is a condition precedent to any step at all. Secondly, when as sometimes happens the trustees of a fund are a body separate from the governors, the views of the trustees must be taken and their representations considered. Thirdly, nothing at all can be done under the Bill, and there can be no result of any application, without an Order in Council in the case of the first two categories of schools mentioned in the Bill or, in the other category, without an Order of the Board of Education or the Secretary of State for Scotland. And when the order has been obtained, no trust funds can be diverted, or sinking funds interrupted or varied, without the special consent of the Lord President of the Council in the case Of the first two categories of schools or my consent or that of the Secretary of State for Scotland in respect of the other category. Finally, as regards capital no proposal to divert capital can be accepted until both Houses of Parliament have had the opportunity for 40 days to raise objections. I think it desirable that those safeguards should be inserted and I believe they are adequate.
Obviously, finance is the chief difficulty with which, as far as we can in this Bill, we would like to deal and of which We would like to relieve the schools as far as they can be relieved of it. But there are certain other difficulties specified in Clause I (3) paragraphs (c) and (d). For instance, it may be difficult to secure the appointment of governors in these days, or to hold meetings at the proper intervals, or to obtain quorums. There are other minor embarrassments, chiefly of a machinery nature, which one cannot foresee. Provision is made in the Bill to enable such difficulties to be overcome should they arise. The position is that if any school comprised in the Bill wishes to take advantage of the powers in Clause I (3) it can apply for an Order in Council or order. Schools under the Public Schools Acts or Royal Charter have to obtain their authority from the Privy Council and schools under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education or the Secretary of State for Scotland, from the appropriate Department. The Board of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland already possess powers under the Charitable Trusts Act.
594 One merit of the Bill is that it would enable us to deal in a sensible and expeditious way in war-time with matters, in connection with which the existing procedure is long and cumbersome—appropriate enough in peace time but difficult and indeed undesirable in war time, if only because of the shortage from which so many suffer, of staff and facilities necessary to carry out more complicated arrangements. I hope the House will appreciate that I am as I have said fully sensible of the need and share the desire of the House that the sanctity of trusts and testamentary dispositions should be fully observed and borne in mind. But I do suggest that neither I nor the House can, in these days, ignore the difficulties to which these schools are subject or deliberately refuse them the means of mitigating those difficulties in the way suggested in the Bill. If we refuse to allow this Measure of self-help to the schools, it may well be that in one, or more, or many cases, we shall stand the risk of losing a great deal of what is and has been a great national and educational inheritance. The public schools have played a very important part in our educational development and in our national development too. I hope they will continue to play an important part and 1 suggest that it would be Very Unfair, and indeed Wrong, to take advantage, in the present war-time emergency, of the innumerable difficulties which have fallen upon these schools and for which they are in no way responsible: it would be, I say, wrong to take advantage of such an emergency to prevent them from using, as far as they possibly can, their own resources to overcome acute and unforeseen difficulties. I have tried to combine in this Bill as far as possible a reasonable latitude in dealing with this problem with adequate and proper safeguards, and I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
Before the Debate proceeds there is one question which I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. It was difficult to hear him at times, and he may have dealt with the point already. But could he tell the House, now, what parties are involved in this Bill? Has there been consultation or agreement between representatives of 595 the governing bodies and of the headmasters, and if so, what other bodies are involved in any agreement which exists?
§ Mr. Speaker
In that case I do not mind, but it seems to me more appropriate and convenient that it should be dealt with in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I am prepared to answer that point now. I did not deal with it during my opening remarks, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would probably have dealt with it later in the Debate. Shortly, the point is this: The initiation of this Bill came from a joint conference of headmasters and governors—five of each, I believe. I understand that at present there is no one body of governors speaking for all and that that is a matter which the governors of schools generally have in hand at present. As far as I know, the initiative taken at the conference to which I refer has not been repudiated by other members of governing bodies.
§ Mr. Ammon (Camberwell, North)
I think the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has brought out some valuable information, namely, that there is, actually, no body of representative opinion behind this Bill, that is to say, no body which has been appointed in a representative capacity at a conference. At the outset I wish to make it clear that I, for one, regret very much that a Government constituted as this Government is did not take this opportunity to reform the public school system. I think it is a curious anomaly that a time of national emergency—and in this I differ from the right hon. Gentleman—should have been used to bolster up a system which, in the opinion of many people, is to a large extent outworn and which calls for change.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope the hon. Member is not going to embark upon a debate as to the merits of the public school system.
§ Mr. Ammon
I am not going to do so, Mr. Speaker, I submit however that in 596 this case there is involved the supply of money which is meant to maintain the system. [Hon. Members: "No."] To a certain extent, indirectly, the House is being called upon to assist financially in this respect. [Hon. Members: "No."] At any rate, the authority of the State is sought. In this connection I want to point out that the Bill proposes to bolster up a system as to which there is a great deal of dispute about whether it should be allowed to continue or not under present conditions. It has been said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but it can now be said that the Battle of Britain was won on the playing fields of the provided secondary schools of this country. [Hon. Members: "And all other schools."]
I turn from that to another point. It has been stated in another place that the Labour party supports this Bill and is not against the public school system as now constituted. I say categorically that no one has any warrant for making any such statement on behalf of this party. Again and again, we have given intimation to that effect and I think the right hon. Gentleman when he said that it was not intended to deal with post-war problems, showed an understanding of the fact that this question is in the melting-pot and is a subject for discussion.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I thought the hon. Member was going to raise a point concerning your Ruling, Sir, as to how wide and how narrow the Debate was to be. We ought to get that straight now, in preparation for our own speeches, if we are fortunate enough to be called; because I assume, from what you said, that the Debate is to be extremely narrow. It seems difficult to separate the Bill from the implied assumption that the public schools ought to receive this relief if they are to continue.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is quite right; this is a very narrow subject. The Bill merely allows the schools to use their endowments or funds in a manner different from that laid down in the trusts. That is the whole point.
§ Mr. Speaker
The question of relief does not arise. The only question is whether the funds should be disposed of 597 in a different manner from that laid down in the trusts.
§ Mr. Speaker
A trust can never be interfered with unless this House gives power for it to be done. That is what the Bill proposes. There is no question of relief.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a very backhanded way of getting into the Debate some expression of dislike of the public school system. I cannot allow it in this Debate.
§ Mr. Bevan
May I respectfully submit that it would give rise to considerable, and even more acerbity in Debate than otherwise would arise if the House were asked to do a novel and unusual thing in this way, without an opportunity of debating the merits of the institutions which it is proposed should be helped?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is no suggestion of help. There is no question of help or relief in this Bill at all. I think the Minister pointed that out.
§ Mr. Speaker
In my original Ruling, I described exactly what the Bill is for. It is to enable the trust deeds to be altered and the money to be disposed of in a different manner. There is no question of any extra money.
§ Mr. Ammon
I only hope. Sir, that the Debate will not be drawn too narrowly. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a number of reasons why the public schools 598 find themselves in this position—difficulties over evacuation, the fact that they have been bombed out, that they have suffered from shortage of staff, and so on. But those difficulties are common to all businesses. We have to remember that the term "public schools," in this connection is a misnomer. They are privately run businesses, and they have to put up with the same problems as face other private businesses. They are not in the same position as State-aided schools. The term "public schools" leads to misunderstanding. I see no reason for this Bill. Under the Education Acts, money can be supplied for higher education, under the local authorities or under the ordinary education system. These organisations should have taken their stand and have been allowed to do the best they could under the ordinary competitive system, like any other businesses.
Too much consideration is being given by this Government—and that I regret, the Government being constituted as it is —to the maintenance of caste and class distinctions. The provision of money in this way helps that process. I would point out, in passing, another direction in which this is being done. I have raised this matter again and again. We all applaud our gallant Air Force. In that force a commissioned officer, doing the same work as a sergeant pilot, gets a higher decoration because he comes from a different school. This Bill proposes to perpetuate that kind of thing. It is very difficult, indeed, to debate the Bill under the conditions of your Ruling, Sir; but the Bill proposes, by the money which is being voted [Hon. Members: "No."]—by the provision that this House is making for further sums of money [Hon. Members: "No."]—unless this House passes this Bill the schools cannot get the money to carry on; that is where this House comes in, and why we wish to discuss the Bill fully in every respect.
Whether you like it or not, the effect of passing this Bill will be to give these organisations power to raid certain funds intended for other purposes, and so to perpetuate the caste system of education. The State spends large sums on providing University scholarships, and it seems incongruous to propose that scholarship funds should be 599 alienated for an entirely different purpose. If a school has funds left to it for scholarships and there is not sufficient demand in that school for the use of those funds, it would be far better to throw them open to much wider application than' to use them for this particular purpose. There is nothing in this Bill that says that the problems for which this money is to be used are to be war-time problems; they may be problems going a long time back. I know that the insertion of the Amendment passed in another place provides that nothing can be done to interfere With these funds without this House having an opportunity to discuss the matter. That is, in itself, a valuable safeguard, and it is an answer to some of the criticisms which have been expressed.
I feel that we can do no more than register our strong disappointment and disapproval — disappointment that an opportunity like this has been missed, that, with a Government constituted as the present Government is, the opportunity has not been seized to make a further sweeping amendment of the public schools system. The Minister has given us clearly to understand that this Bill is not to be used to prejudice the post-war position. The Amendment which was inserted in the Bill provides that any ordershall state specifically the maximum amount of the capital that may be applied by virtue of the powersgiven under this Bill. I presume that that means that a stated sum only, and not the whole of the resources available, may be utilised. We have the right to some clarity with regard to that particular thing. If this Bill Is carried, it can be utilised to the disadvantage of poorer people. It means that money that has been left by people to provide opportunities of higher education for the children of parents unable to pay high fees at secondary schools, and perhaps at the universities, may be used for other purposes. The Bill, by diminishing these funds, will certainly have the effect of reducing the number of poorer. students going to public schools. Therefore, a blow is being aimed at the poorer students, while those who are in a more favourable economic position will be more strongly entrenched. I have in mind, for instance, the school at Sutton Valence, 600 in Kent, in connection' with which a certain amount of money has been made available for the benefit of poorer students. It will be possible to take away funds allocated for the use of students in Battersea in order that they may go to Sutton Valence School and use them for any other purpose in connection with the school fabric, salaries and so forth. I imagine that the answer that my hon. Friend will give is that the matter will have to come before the House, and therefore we shall have an opportunity to raise the question and dispute any proposals, but there are certain inherent risks in that procedure, and it may well mean that there may be a considerable loss in that connection.
I agree that, in present circumstances, parents may find themselves at a considerable disadvantage because of the war and hot be able to allow their sons to continue attendance at a particular school; nevertheless, though I do not ask my hon. Friends on this side of the House to vote against the Bill, we feel that we have every right to express our disapproval of it and to make it clear that we are not prepared to accept it in any way as prejudicing what may happen- in the future. We shall take the opportunity as and when it arises to raise the whole question of the public school system.
There is one other point that I want to raise. The House has been called in indirectly to show some concern about the finances of these public schools, and therefore we have the right to demand that these schools shall publish their accounts, just as the universities are compelled to publish their accounts, in order that the public may know how the money is spent. At the present time nobody knows anything about their funds or how they are spent. Now that the assistance of the House of Commons is being asked and they want the approval of the House in diverting any of these funds, the House of Commons has the right to say, "Let us see exactly what your balance sheet is like, and how the money is being spent. Tell us what is your income and expenditure." We shall then have a much clearer picture of the whole problem.
I had hoped that it would have been possible to have arranged for a somewhat wider field of discussion than your ruling, Mr. Speaker, has allowed to us, though I do not challenge or controvert 601 your Ruling. But I hope that sufficient has been said to indicate that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction, and not only on this side of the House, that a Bill such as this should be brought forward at this time when an opportunity might have been taken to raise the whole system and to consider whether or not the time had not come for a thorough overhaul and change in the public school system. Though, as I say, I shall certainly not vote against the Bill, I feel that a great opportunity has been missed and that the Government are taking advantage of the present opportunity to perpetuate the system, which they have no right to do, and which is likely to lead to friction which ought not to be allowed to arise in present circumstances.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
One of the tragedies of the great conflict in which the country is engaged is that all forms of education, the elementary, secondary and public school systems, have suffered, and, what is the really serious part of it, the children in particular. It is not only in the public schools, which are a comparatively small matter, but in London children from all sections of society and in all kinds of schools have lost education, and it will want a lot of leadership on the part of the Board of Education if we are to make good the loss of education to the coming generation. As I understand it—and I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker—this is a comparatively small, and, although it has implications, an unimportant Bill, but I think we are entitled to have the assurance that, while this Bill should not be used to destroy the so-called public school, it should at the same time not be used to bolster up schools that are in decay or out of date and are not worth preserving The larger policy of the whole nation wants exploring, but it is more suitable for a Royal Commission than for a debate, incidentally, on a little Bill of this kind. I hope that the President of the Board of Education will use his powerful influence to persuade the Government either to appoint a Royal Commission to deal with the whole public school system or, if that is not possible, to adopt the shorter and sometimes more practical method of appointing a Select Committee of this House. It is long overdue, and I think it would represent the general feeling of the House.
602 The one assurance that I want is that, when the Board administers the provisions of this Bill, care will be taken that money meant for poor scholars will not be used for the purpose of restoring or repairing buildings. The scholar should be the primary charge. We have heard a good deal already about the playing fields of Eton. It might be argued that this war is on the way to being won on the hills of Harrow, for the Prime Minister was a distinguished scholar of that school. But anybody who has studied the history of that great school of John Lyon's will know that the foundation originally provided for helping the education of the poor scholar. But the poorer scholars are not to be found on the Hill, but in what is familiarly called the lower school of John Lyon, which is an excellent school. We want some assurance, when the Parliamentary Secretary comes to reply, that the main responsibility will be to safeguard the interests of the poorer scholars and to see that facilities for scholarships are not reduced and that money intended for that purpose is not to be diverted to building or to repairing buildings.
§ Mr. Hely - Hutchinson (Hastings)
I have the advantage of having left my notes at home to-day. The House will share that advantage, because my speech will be the shorter. In the course of the speech by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), in which he appeared to pour a specially selected type of oil on troubled waters, he made two very valuable contributions to the Debate. He pointed out that these so-called public schools are in fact private enterprise in a free economy and properly subject to its pains and penalties, and that there is no basis at all for appropriating taxpayers' money to support this or any other private enterprise. I heartily agree with that view. He made another interesting suggestion, which was that the so-called public schools might give greater publicity to their accounts. I certainly hope they will. I have never attempted to prevent any disclosure of any of my own money affairs, because I have nothing in my life to be ashamed of; and I do not think the public schools have anything in their lives of which to be ashamed. On the subject of scholarships for the benefit of those who are not well-off, may I say, as one who as a boy benefited from just 603 such a scholarship, that I have always determined— and I will fulfil that determination— to repay the school which benefited me and so gave me the means whereby I have been able to live my life, in order that some other boy shall obtain the same benefits that I myself was lucky enough to obtain.
When I first heard about this Bill I am bound to say that I felt considerable apprehension, both on general and special grounds. On general grounds there is the secular danger of interfering with endowment and testamentary dispositions. An interesting case came up only the other day and was reported in the "Scotsman" of 5th March. It was a case where the Corporation of Glasgow applied to the Court of Session for an alteration in the terms of a charitable endowment in order that they could apply the funds to some purpose other than those which were set forth in the trust deed. The court disallowed their application. Unfortunately, I have not got the article with me, having left it at home, so I am unable to quote the dignified words in which their Lordships gave expression to their disapproval. But perhaps I might without lèse majestè give an indication of what was said. It was to the effect that if this kind of thing was allowed to happen, it would choke off people from giving any endowments at all in the future. So I am glad to see, by the terms of the Bill and the explanation of it given by my right hon. Friend, that no such procedure is here contemplated.
The special apprehension which was aroused in my mind was the fear lest the circumstances of the war might be used to affect unfavourably the possibility of public schools being able after the war to help themselves as private enterprise always should help itself. That fear is also disabused by the terms of the Bill and the explanation which the President of the Board of Education gave. In his closing words my right hon. Friend referred briefly to the maintenance of a great national heritage. As I do not wish to transgress your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I will not in any way discuss whether or not it is a great national heritage. I would only say that on the specific question of the finances of so-called public schools— which are in fact private schools— it is vitally necessary that they should help 604 themselves in order that they may maintain their character of private enterprise. I hope my right hon. Friend will be interested to be kept informed of the ways and means which are now available and can be extended, whereby this heritage, such as it is, can be expanded over an ever-widening field, so that it may be possible in the future to extend its benefits and also remove some of the misconceptions which surround this whole subject.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I must confess that I rise to speak to-day with considerable difficulty, because the Ruling which you gave earlier, Mr. Speaker, has amputated a very large portion of my speech. I had intended to make some very general observations about public schools, but I gather that it is slightly more in order to praise them than to condemn them. So I will not transgress your Ruling in any way, although I must say that I might be tempted, in view of the fact that this issue cannot be properly ventilated in so narrow a Debate, to ask the House to Divide and deny the Government the powers for which they are now asking. However, that will depend to some extent on what happens.
This is a very important Bill, narrow though it is, because it interferes between two citizens by diverting to one citizen the money intended for another. It is no use saying that the public schools are asking that the money intended for one part of the school shall now be made available for the whole of the school or that the capital invested on behalf of the public schools should now be realised as income. What is really intended is that the money which is left by one citizen, sometimes 100 years ago, shall, by Act of Parliament, be diverted to the use of another citizen. This Measure means that money left a long time ago to finance scholarships for boys in certain schools shall be used to pay the salaries of school masters at this time. That is a more realistic way of putting it and a more correct description of what is intended to be done. I thought myself that it would have been proper to say that so unusual an instrument should be exerted only on behalf of some institutions which are so desirable that there is universal agreement about it. Instead of that, this unusual procedure is being asked for an behalf of the. maintenance of institutions about which there is very considerable disagree- 605 ment, and I suggest that the emotions that were introduced into the remarks thrown across the Floor half an hour ago show that the products of the public school system are unable to think of these matters without a certain sacerdotal note entering into their speeches.
§ Mr. Bevan
I cannot help believing the worst of education that prevents a man from taking a dispassionate interest in public affairs of this kind and causes him to be so heated that he cannot think clearly and correctly about it. I intend to oppose the Bill, first, because I do not think it proper for money to be diverted in that way and, secondly, on the ground of—
§ Mr. Bevan
If emotion is clear in my speech, I am certain that it would interfere with my argument. I say that on general public grounds it is undesirable for this relief to be given. I understand that in boarding schools in Great Britain there are at the present time some 20,000 pupils, and that in the whole public school system of England, Wales and Scotland there are about 70,000 pupils. It is only a few weeks ago that the House was asked to pass a Bill enabling the President of the Board of Trade to close down a very large number of private businesses because it was not in the public interest, and did not conduce to the successful prosecution of the war, for them to continue. No relief was suggested for them. They are to be closed down and their business is to be absorbed by large corporations. I have not heard of any Government Measure to enable those businesses to start again after the war, or even to compensate them adequately for the death which the House has inflicted upon them. But when the same war threatens to close down, wholly or partially, that institution which is the public school system, its devotees and the victims of its education come to the House and ask for assistance.
I suggest that if it is desirable for small businesses to be closed down in the peace sector in order that their labour and resources may be transferred to the war sector, it is equally desirable that class 606 luxuries of this sort should be discontinued in time of war, and that those establishments should be closed down in the interests of war economy and their students allowed to enjoy a better education in the broader streams of the State schools. If I had a child, I would not inflict a public school education upon him. The machinery of the State schools is in existence, and in many places in Great Britain— I admit in areas that are not quite so safe— there are empty seats. There is available the whole of that machinery, which could easily absorb children from the public schools. Those great establishments could be closed down and a large number of women who are working in them could join the Minister of Labour's women's army and many of the gardeners employed by them could be transferred to other work. A great deal of the expenditure that is now being wasted could be used to feed the war effort. Instead of this being done, instead of the Minister coming to the House to ask for powers to close down a form of private enterprise which is unnecessarily absorbing the national energy, he asks the House to maintain the waste.
§ Mr. Speaker
When a Bill is narrow it does not follow that one must necessarily widen the Debate. As the Bill is narrow, the hon. Member must confine himself to the proposals made in the Bill, and not discuss some other Bill that he would like to see on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. Bevan
In my respectful submission, Mr. Speaker, the Bill is exceedingly wide. The Minister said, in precise terms, that unless the House passed this Measure it might happen that some public schools would be closed, wholly or partially. I am making the contention that in the interests of the war, it is desirable that that should happen. Is that out of Order?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sure that we can sometimes chaff one another in the House without losing our tempers.
§ Mr. Bevan
I submit that I have kept my temper in this matter, and that it has nothing to do with your functions to describe statements made in the House. I submit that the remark I made was relevant. My remark will not be regarded as senseless in my constituency, where miners are being tied to the pits at the present time in the interests of war economy, and are now to learn that the House has been passing a Bill to enable 20,000 young boys and 70,000 other boys to be maintained in schools which ought to be closed in the interests of the war.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not propose to be dictated to by the hon. Member. I have told the House my Ruling with regard to the Debate, and how much can be said upon the Bill, and I stick to that Ruling.
§ Mr. Bevan
I respectfully suggest that we are entitled to argue that these powers should be denied to the Government, and if they are denied to the Government, the institutions will be closed down and thereby there will be an economy in. the interests of the war effort. That, I submit, is. a relevant proposition, and it is one of the main reasons I oppose the Bill. In view of the course which the Debate has taken, I shall, if I get any support, Divide the House against the Bill at the end of the Debate. I have nothing more to say about the matter. I think the Government ought not to have brought forward this Bill. I believe that it will cause a great deal of strong feeling in the country, that it will be very greatly resented by large numbers of people, and that it will do a considerable disservice to that unity which up to now has prevailed.
§ Mr. R. Morgan (Stourbridge)
Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I 608 find very great difficulty in addressing myself strictly to the Bill, but in accordance with your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I assure you that I intend so to do. While the Minister was speaking, I wanted to put one or two questions to him, but I refrained from interrupting. With regard to the endowed schools, is it not a fact that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners al ready have the powers which it is sought to give them under this Bill? I seem to remember many occasions when endowed schools have applied for, and have received, the sanction of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to vary their trust deeds.
As has been pointed out, the main purpose of this scheme is not to link up the public schools with the State system. I agree with an hon. Member opposite in wishing that this were a Bill to do that. Had it been such a Bill, it would have given us a chance to discuss the real merits and advantages of the public school system. The purpose of this Bill is to promote the economy and efficiency of the schools concerned and referred to in the Bill. Would it be out of Order to say that there are many ways of effecting economy and efficiency— I emphasise efficiency— in our public school system by reorganisation within the schools them selves? For instance, the elimination of the farming-out system is one thing that occurs to me. If public schools are to economise, as is presumed in this Bill, it means that one of two things will happen. Either these public schools are going to do less and give less to the public, or they are going to be assisted in a way which is not outlined in this Bill.
I fee, unlike the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), that we should do nothing to close down the schools If this country, because our schools are already insufficient in numbers owing to enemy action. If we shut any section or class of schools, we should be doing wrong. Some of us have in mind what happened during the last war; although it is not contemplated in this war, I think it is bound to come. Many schools, for the very same reason which impelled this scheme, were forced then by reason of their tottering finances to come to this House and ask for assistance, but when money was again plentiful and the need for assistance did not arise, the help from this House was calmly renounced, and the doors of these institutions were bolted 609 and barred once more. We have a real grievance or complaint because this Bill does not go further. The difficulties of the President of the Board of Education are numerous. We have dual and quadruple control, and now we are to introduce a fifth control about which we have never heard. Perhaps, whoever replies to this Debate will give us some idea when we may expect a further Bill to enable us to link up the secondary school system and the public school system in a sound, sane and rational State educational scheme.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
Like other hon. Members, I find myself in some difficulty owing to the narrow scope of this Bill. However, I hope it will be in order for me to say that, as far as the provisions of this Measure are concerned, I am deeply disappointed with the reaction of the Government. I should have thought that the Government, as a war-time measure, would have faced up to the needs of our educational system. As a matter of fact there is no warrant on educational grounds for this Bill at all. Nor is there any warrant for it from the point of view of the quality of education or the numbers involved. How many pupils are involved by this measure? The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was a little wrong in his figures. I believe it will be found that the number of pupils involved is about 25,000 to 30,000.
§ Mr. Cove
They turn out about 10,000 pupils a year. It is therefore perfectly obvious that this Bill makes no contribution to the educational efficiency of this country. What is it doing? It is doing what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said. It is diverting specific funds in order to maintain an institution— an institution which has as its primary mark a social purpose. There can be no doubt that this Bill is designed to maintain an educational social institution, with social implications attaching to it, during a period in which it finds itself in some difficulty. I am sorry that the Government have not waited a little time in order to present a large-scale educational policy. Why should we wait until the end of the war for that? I am afraid that if we wait until then, the President of the Board of Education will not have such a good scheme as he would desire. I think 610 it would be far better during a period of war, when men's minds are ready for it and when the country is read for it, for the right hon. Gentleman to bring for ward a large-scale proposal.
Piecemeal legislation of this kind, designed to keep this or that institution alive, which does not help any larger scheme, will thwart and retard the bringing forward of that scheme. The mind of the Government is diverted to relatively small matters from the educational point of view, and therefore they will not be quick in bringing forward a larger educational scheme. I do not wish to prolong the Debate, having regard to the Ruling, but I must protest very strongly indeed that a Government in which labour is represented should, in the middle of a war for democracy, be concerned with the preservation of plutocratic schools. That is what is happening. I am waiting anxiously to hear the Parliamentary Secretary reply to the Debate. I always like to hear the hon. Member, and I shall be interested to hear him justify this policy, because, after all, he has no love for private schools. I have some recollection of his attitude on a committee, when my hon. Friend was against the preservation of these schools. To-day, I am afraid he has the task imposed upon him, which I do not think he will enjoy, although he may pretend to enjoy it, of justifying this Measure. After all, he has a past in this connection, and I should have thought he would have been able to influence the Government to bring for ward a Measure designed on a broad basis to deal with the educational problems which confront this country.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
This is a very modest Bill, hut it has aroused a surprising amount of heat and controversy. I am afraid it suggests that our so-called national unity is not as strong and real as one would like it to be. I must say that it gives point to the plea which has been made, that it would be a good thing if the whole question of public schools could be taken out of the realm of controversy. Perhaps the best way to do that would be, as has been suggested, through the appointment of a Select Committee of this House at a time when there is a National Government. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) taunted the Government, because they included members of the Labour party, for bring- 611 ing forward a Bill of this kind. I would say, All honour to the Labour Members in the Government for not using the opportunity to further purely party views or party legislation, and for recognising that in a National Government every interest has a right to be considered. When the taunt is made against the Parliamentary Secretary that he supports this Bill in spite of his past record for condemning private schools, I think he may well remind the hon. Member for Aberavon that there are private schools and private schools, and that the private schools which were very rightly and properly condemned by the Parliamentary Secretary are not the private schools which are likely to benefit by the Bill.
I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words in support of it, and I do so with the greater pleasure because I represent a constituency whose chief industry is education and which has for its town's motto "Health and Learning." I regard this as an educational Measure. When I regard the modest nature of the proposals themselves, I feel justified in adapting the words used by the Prime Minister in another connection: "Never has an institution which has done so much for this country—
§ Mr. Lipson
I am subject to the Ruling of the Chair, and, if I have gone outside the terms of the Bill, it is for the Chair to remind me and not the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member must have patience. When I think the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) is out of Order, I will stop him.
§ Mr. Lipson
And I promise you, Sir, that I will accept your Ruling unquestion- 612 ingly. The Bill does not ask for the expenditure of any public money. It simply asks that money which has been left to the public schools for one purpose may be diverted to other purposes, which are really very closely associated with it, and I am surprised that hon. Members should object to the diversion of money which was left a long time ago for a purpose not quite identified with that. I think such objection would have been more properly made from this side of the House, because it is part of their political philosophy to divert a great deal of money intended for one purpose to another. It has been urged by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) that one result of the Bill would be to injure the poorer schools and that money intended for poorer scholars would not be used for that purpose. That is a misreading of the intention of the Bill. One of its purposes is that, out of money belonging to the public schools, it will be possible to enable poorer children to obtain the benefit of those institutions, which otherwise they would not be allowed to do. There fore it is quite untrue that there is any thing in the Bill which is a blow at the poorer children.
The critics of the Bill do not seem to have realised that this is a war time Measure, that its operations are limited to the period of the war and that the difficulties which have made it necessary have been caused by the war. Some of them were mentioned by my right hon. Friend. I would add another— the requisitioning of public school buildings by Government Departments. That has materially added to the financial difficulties of a number of public schools, and it is therefore only reasonable that, when those schools ask that they should be allowed to use their own money in the way in which they think present circumstances will enable them best to fulfil their purpose, the Government should be willing to give them that measure of relief.
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend how many schools there are which have the right to be termed public schools, as far as the Bill is concerned, and how many of them are likely to benefit by the Measure. It is clear that only some schools will benefit, and it will only give partial relief to them. I do not regard this as purely piecemeal legislation. I believe it is vital for the survival of certain schools. The suggestion that 613 children from them could be sent to secondary schools is not a very practical one, because all our secondary schools are full to overflowing. [Interruption.] In the safer areas it is true. If the hon. Member is suggesting that these children should be sent to dangerous areas, per haps he will get up and say so, but I am not prepared to support it. The suggestion of the hon. Member for North Camberwell that, if the public schools want money for scholarships, they should seek public funds, seems to come at a very strange time. This is surely the wrong time to make unnecessary demands on public funds, and, if the public schools have within their own resources, funds which they are not able to use, surely during war-time one ought to give them every facility for using them. I welcome the Kill as a temporary Measure which will bring some relief to certain schools, and I hope my right hon. Friend will give serious consideration to the suggestion that fuller consideration should be given to the much bigger problem.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
I regret that I, too, must have a somewhat critical attitude to the Bill. I take the view that it raises the whole question of the public schools in relation to the State educational system. I should very much have preferred that my right hon. Friend had come to the House with a comprehensive statement on the whole of educational policy and explained the necessity for the Bill in relation to the larger educational problem. As a number of Members have pointed out, the preservation of certain of the public schools depends largely on the passage of this Bill. I have no fond liking for the public school system. It has brought a dual system into our national educational arrangements which, from a social point of view, has not been healthy but has tended to create in education a snobbery which has had the most unfortunate results. I do not believe that the public schools have made any great contribution to educational method, practice and experiment. Consequently I am not enthusiastic about Measures which tend to perpetuate a type of institution which as such, could very well be dispensed with.
I would have been far happier if the proposals for diverting funds had taken the form of the conservation of moneys for scholarship use in the days after the 614 war. If incomes from scholarship endowments cannot be used at the present time, they should go into a public educational fund, and, when our educational system is reorganised, made available for giving wider and more equal facilities to children belonging to all sections of the community.
The Bill opens out the whole question of endowments. I agree with what has been said by other Members that the time is ripe for some inquiry into the origin, history and use of endowment funds. I would like to see alongside such an inquiry an investigation into the place of the public schools in our national educational system. I hope that as a result of this Measure the Board will take steps to insist that schools shall publish their accounts and that a public and intelligible statement shall be made periodically as to the amounts of educational endowments, the sources, how controlled, and how expended, in order that the public may be better informed of the situation in regard to these funds.
I would also ask that immediate consideration be given to the possibilities of further economies. If money has to be diverted in order to maintain these schools we have a right to ask whether, in order to avoid such diversion, other economies might not be effected. There readily occurs to one a number of means of effecting economies in these rather expensively run institutions which might conceivably ease their financial position.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I would suggest, for instance, that there might be some grouping of these schools or certain changes in respect to the kind and extent of provision that is made at the schools. There are other ways in which economies might easily be made. That is not a matter which can be discussed under the Ruling of the Chair. We cannot regard public schools as just private institutions. Education is a social responsibility, and we can not divest the social effects of the public school system from the working of the rest of our educational system. Accordingly, I suggest that if the public is to make some provision, whether financially or otherwise, to perpetuate the existence of these institutions, a beginning ought to be made in public representation on the 615 somewhat archaic governing bodies which control these schools. For these reasons, I regret that this Bill has been introduced at this stage, and I hope that at the earliest date the President of the Board of Education will give us a comprehensive statement on educational policy and will deal with the rather controversial point as to the relations in the days to come of the public school to the rest of the State educational system.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
As the second Clause of this Bill deals with Scotland, I thought it wise that at this moment I should intervene to explain Scotland's position as affected by the Measure. With an accuracy for which the Scottish education system is famous, we do not call private schools public schools or public schools private schools. We know exactly what those phrases mean. A public school in Scotland is a school under the control of an elected authority, the representatives of which are directly responsible to the electors in the particular locality. On the other hand, we have private schools. We do not, therefore, get mixed up with these things in Scotland as we do in England. Scotland has one or two schools which will be affected by this Bill, and they come under two categories. Incidentally, Scotland gave a lead to England by inquiring into endowments. We had a Royal Commission which sat for about eight years. I can vividly remember the discussions when that Commission was set up. It was suggested that it would take only three years to do its work, and I well remember pointing out that it would take far longer. It actually took eight years, and even then it did not complete its task. It did, however, survey the field of endowments in Scotland. This Bill will apply toany school with respect to the endowments of which the Secretary of State has power to frame schemes under the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Acts, 1928 to 1935.These Acts empower the Secretary of State to frame schemes for any educational endowments more than 20 years old and, at the request of the governing body, for any educational endowments less than 20 years old. No school, therefore, is excluded 'from the scope of the Bill merely because its endowments, are of recent date. The 616 Scottish schools to which this Bill will apply are in two categories. The first consists of seven schools affiliated to the Headmasters' Conference. They are Edinburgh Academy, Fettes College, George Watson's Boys College, Glasgow Academy, Loretto School, Merchiston Castle School and Trinity College, Glen-almond. The second category consists of any school, whether under an education authority or under voluntary managers, if it has an endowment. The power which the Bill will confer on the Secretary of State cannot be exercised unless the governing body of the school or the education authority wish to take advantage of it. If they do, they will make application to the Secretary of State, who, if he is satisfied, may by ordermake such provision as appears to him to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of securing economy or efficiency in the carrying on of the work of the school under war conditions.There seems to be a fear in the minds of several hon. Members opposite that its application to England— though I am not going to deal with that aspect— may take away certain rights in connection with secondary education. In Scotland we are in the happy position that it is the inherent right of every child born in Scotland whose capacity to benefit by secondary education can be proved by tests set by the local authority on standards fixed by the department of Education to be provided with free secondary education. For many years I served on an education authority in whose area education was free right from the infants school up to the doors of the university; there were no fee-paying pupils within that particular county. Therefore, there is not the same fear in my mind as some hon Members have.
I am quite prepared to defend this Bill. I am not at this Box defending the private school systems of England or Scotland; that is not my duty. My duty is to defend this Bill, with which I am associated, and which deals not with the general problems of education, which will have to be tackled in the future, possibly before the war ends, and certainly immediately the war ends, but with problems which have cropped -up as a result of war conditions. Frequently we have to bring in Bills which do not deal with major problems but with immediate problems which have cropped up during the war. 617 I thought it wise to point out to my Scottish colleagues and td the Scottish people that in the matter of free secondary education this Bill will not affect Scotland by one iota. It may be that a second-class form of education may become too expensive for those who have paid for it up to the present. I have always thought that our public education system in Scot land provided the best, and I will defend it against any education provided in our private schools, and if people are still wealthy enough to buy that second-class form of education, expensive though it may be, they can just go on buying it, but we will provide the best possible education in our public schools in Scot land.
The Order to which 1 have previously referred may deal with such matters as (a) the use of the income or, with proper safeguards, the capital of scholarship funds or other revenues assigned for specific objects for the general purposes of the school; (b) the suspension or reduction of sinking fund payments; (c) the variation of rules regulating the appointment of governors arid the con duct of school business. If the Order confers powers under (a) and (b) it must provide that those powers shall not be exercised without the consent of the Secretary of State. If the Order confers powers to deal with capital funds it must give the full particulars and must be laid before Parliament for 40 days, and if either House passes a Resolution against the Order it shall not come into operation. In Scotland the Secretary of State a ready has powers to deal With all these matters by schemes made under the Educational Endowment (Scotland) Acts, but the procedure under those Acts is complicated and takes a lot of time, and this Bill confers no new powers or status on any of the schools, nor does it give the Secretary of State a larger measure of control than he already possesses. All it does is to provide a simpler and more expeditious method of meeting difficulties due to the war. Although few of the Scottish schools to which it applies may have any substantial endowments, we thought it was desirable to give them the same facilities as will be available to similar schools in England. I associate myself with this Bill, and, as a Labour member of the Government, without any^ apology, because it is a Measure to enable 618 us to deal with problems as they arise, and in supporting it I am in no way sacrificing my ideals in connection with education.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who is not now in his place, said he did not think arty Members from the old public schools could take a dispassionate view of this Bill, and of the rather more controversial matter which the Chair does not permit us to speak about, but as an old Harrovian I hope that I shall be able to take a dispassionate view, especially when I say that I too agree with him in desiring to see a revolution in our educational system in which, however, I hope the public schools will play their part. But I do not think the present time, in the middle of the war, is the occasion for bringing about a revolution in our educational system, and certainly it is not the occasion to throttle and destroy those old institutions which may perform a useful function, provided they are completely altered in their social structure and brought into our educational system. Therefore, I do not agree with some of my hon. Friends on this side who object to this Bill. I think my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) said he objected to the Bill because it would perpetuate a class system of education. I do not see that that is the case.
§ Mr. Price
If the hon. Member had listened to me' he would have heard me express the hope that, although I am an old Harrovian I can take an objective view of this matter. I hope he will give me the satisfaction of thinking that I can do so. I can see in this Bill the thin end of the wedge of State control over the public schools, and although I know I should be on delicate grounds if I expanded my remarks on that point, never the less I think I am in Order in just hinting at it. This is an important Measure because, in a very small way, it introduces a form of State control through the right of the Minister of Education to give sanction to financial alterations which the governors suggest and which this House can, if necessary, stop by a negative Resolution. I am satisfied that the public schools themselves are realising 619 that they have to fulfil an entirely new function. I know there are governors and head masters who have realised it for some time, and although I agree that there may be dangers in permitting governors to alter the application of their funds— which may have the effect of decreasing the number of poor students going into public schools— still, there is a safeguard against that in the Bill.
There are many public schools to-day which, for purely financial reasons, because there are not so many rich people to send their sons to those schools are looking out for ways of trying to keep their heads above water financially. If, however, there are governors who seek to abuse the power conferred upon them by this Bill, I am satisfied that there will be power in the Minister of Education and in this House, by negative Resolution, to prevent abuses of that kind. Because I see in this Bill the possibility of extending still further the principle of State control, so that ultimately we shall be able to get a national system of education in which the public schools play a certain part, and I think a useful part, I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hannah (Bilston)
Surely it would be a very bad day when any considerable body of opinion in this country wanted to abolish our public schools. That they must be open to the people is common ground all round, I think, but it is obvious that after the war, it may not be possible to keep up the public schools on the old lines. There will not be enough people with sufficient money to send their boys to such schools. We must, by scholar ship or otherwise, open these public schools to all children. That is, I hope, common ground to all parties and all sections of our community. The idea of one educational system controlled by the Government is totalitarian and not democratic. We do not want it here. Even in the United States, where they started that system, public schools have grown up and have been found to play a very useful part. I hope, therefore, that we shall be able to bring the public schools into the general system of education in this country and that the Bill will help to a certain extent to do so.
As far as the details of the Bill are concerned, there is one point on which 620 we want a little further information, about applying, during the war period,the income or capital of any endowment of the school for purposes other than those for which, apart from the provisions of the Order in Council or order, such income or capital might be applied.I hope that those words will not mean that capital can be used for temporary purposes and spent as income. It is extremely necessary to keep the endowments of those schools, very insufficient in many cases, completely intact. I welcome the Bill as a small beginning of what, I hope, will be a very great reform, bringing the whole of the education of the country into one general co-ordinated system, but preserving, as one of our most priceless heritages, the great traditions of the past which are centred round our public schools. These public schools are not merely Eton, Winchester, Harrow and Westminster; they comprise some of the smallest schools like Birkenhead and quite small organisations of that kind, that have their very useful part to play. If anybody says that these schools are in every case merely the refuges of the rich and merely centres of reaction, it is pure ignorance.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I rise to support the Bill. I may say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) that totalitarian—
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present. House counted; and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Lindsay
The reason why I feel impelled to speak, if only for minutes, is that, having been at the Board of Education for three years and the Bill being an entirely new departure, not in accordance with previous policy—a departure due to the war— I would like to express my own views on it for what they are worth. I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston that, in totalitarian Scotland, we have had a system of public education for many years. Indeed, at the time when education was being linked up with Factory Acts and so forth in England, there was a public system of education in Scotland which took in, for the most part, all children in the country. Therefore, it will not be very difficult for the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to say that he is not giving away any principle by his support of the Bill. I leave my hon. Friend, who is to follow 621 me, to discuss with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) their own private conflict, if there be one, on the Bill. In a previous Debate it is on record that he said:' When my hon. Friends on this side have the responsibility of government, one of the things we shall have to do is to see that the ancient endowments of education are restored to the people for whom they were left."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1940; col. 338, Vol. 358.]I have no doubt that he will stick to that expression of opinion. He has, by his presence, as chairman of a committee on private schools, also given his views on the whole question of that class of school in no uncertain language. These questions, however, are quite outside the scope of the Bill. One of my reasons for supporting the Bill is that it is purely technical. My own view with regard to the public schools— which I am not allowed to express in general, owing to previous Rulings— is in accord with the step taken in the Bill. They must put their own house in order. It will be a great pity if the heat which was beginning to be engendered is to follow the discussion which will inevitably take place in the future and, I hope, in the fairly near future.
My own view is that the public schools, apart from having a long and glorious history and being undeniably very much a part of the educational system, are a private venture. There is no such thing in law as a public school. It is undefined. I took some pains the other day to look up the latest and most erudite authority I could consult, and I could still find no definition. I therefore take it that the Bill refers for the most part to endowed schools, some of them, perhaps many of them, founded in the middle of last century, which was the prolific period for the foundation of schools. Others, of course, date back to the Tudors and the Stuarts. It is no new thing to divert the purposes of ancient trusts. My hon. Friend behind me seemed to think that that was a very novel and revolutionary thing, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will know some of the troubles we have had recently. In my own constituency money has been left by ancient founders of trusts for the specific purpose of sending children to the academy or the university. I have seen that money taken away from the locality — and it is locality very often that 622 matters more than anything else— and devoted to educational research. That was rather difficult for some of us to swallow at the time, but I take it that this is a Bill merely to help certain endowed schools put their own houses in order.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
Not necessarily always endowed schools.
§ Mr. Lindsay
But schools included in the public schools list— I think there are 183 of them— include a great many which are rate-aided or grant-aided, and I take it that these schools will not come into the scheme,
§ Mr. Ede
This Bill is drawn so that application may be made by the governors of these schools for a variation under the Bill if it becomes necessary. The hon. Member knows very well the infinite variety of relationships which exist between the local authorities and the various types of schools, and of the extent to which they have guarantees or grants.
§ Mr. Lindsay
That is very important; I have gathered, in consultation with my hon. Friend, that schools which, for instance, had a special grant from the State or the local authority would not be included. If so, other questions will arise, because some of these schools have free places the number of which might be affected by any change. Perhaps in reply my hon. Friend would clear up the position, for I am not very clear about it myself. I thought that for the most part it related to endowed schools which were not assisted either by the State or the local authority. In general, I believe it is up to these schools to put their own houses in order. I do not agree for one moment with the points which have been made to day about the future of the education system and the public schools, and I only say now, in order to put it on record, that there seems to be such a misunderstanding both of the functions of public 623 schools arid of their relationship to the State that it is high time the President of the Board of Education made the position clear to the country. Perhaps we might have a Debate on it. It is not a question, as one hon. Member said, of throwing open the public schools to all children. If I were to continue on that line, I should be trespassing on the Rules of this Debate, but when we do discuss the relationship between the State and the public school's, we must have full notice of what we are discussing. In that', the first person to agree with me will be the Parliamentary Secretary himself.
On the grounds, therefore, that this is a technical Bill, dealing with finance and with nothing more, to enable certain schools to carry on during these difficult days, I support the Bill whole-heartedly. I hope the President will give us an opportunity before long of going into the wider matter very much more fully, and that perhaps he will prepare the ground so that we shall be able to discuss it with as little heat as possible and with a maximum of light.
§ Mr. Ede
Perhaps it would be as well if I dealt first with one of the points made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), in order that we should have clearly in our minds exactly how many schools— and which schools — are covered by this Bill schools as defined by the Public Schools Acts of 1868 to 1873 are seven in number: Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster, Shrewsbury, Rugby and Charterhouse. These seven schools have been defined in those Acts as public schools. In addition, there are certain schools administered by bodies incorporated by Royal Charter. I believe there are some 24 of those. They form the two groups of schools whose governors will have to make their applications to the Lord President of the Council if they desire to benefit from the terms of this Bill. After that, we have the schools which have an endowment. Their number is very large; it may be somewhere between 300 and 400, and the amount of endowment varies very considerably. I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Chairman of the London County Council, the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), will have had the same experience as I have had administratively. There are some schools whose endowment works out 624 at about 7d. or 11d. per pupil, to be used towards aw education costing between £30 and £40. They are, nevertheless, endowed schools. There are, of course, others which have exceedingly wealthy endowments, covering a far higher share of the cost of education than that which I have just indicated They are all endowed schools, and, of course, the Board of Education, which acts for them in the position of the Charity Commissioners, has from time to time diverted money in the most extraordinary way and has prevented the clutch of the dead hand destroying the real purpose which animated the minds of the original benefactors. This Bill really does nothing more in regard to these schools than make the power which I have just instanced capable of quick, rapid, and practical application.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
I think my hon. friend has just said that the Charity Commissioners have already diverted excess funds in the case of endowed schools. Are we to understand that this is going to give some power, over and above what they already possess, to divert endowed school funds?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
Order! These interruptions of the Debate are getting rather disorderly.
§ Mr. Ede
From time to time the Board of Education, acting as the representative of the Charity Commissioners for the purposes of educational charities, has made considerable diversions in the way in which educational endowments can be applied. There can be few hon. Members with administrative experience who 625 have not known of cases where the only way to get the money spent is to go to the Board of Education and to ask for a scheme to enable a variation to be made. I have been a trustee of several apprenticeship charities in an area where apprenticeship is dead, and where the money was accumulating. The only purpose for which it was being applied was to pay the clerk to the charity £10 a year for calling us together to pass the annual account, which said that the only purpose for which the money was being used was to pay him his £10 a year. Trustees have gone to the Board from time to time to get the money to spend on technical schools and travelling expenses, and generally for carrying on work which would be in line with the original objects for which the money is intended.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not responsible for that Ruling. But may I point out that any action which the Board takes in this matter can now be discussed in two ways — first, when the Order is presented; and, secondly, when the salary of my right hon. Friend is under discussion; or even whim the miserably inadequate remuneration which I receive is under discussion if it is thought that I have unduly influenced my right hon. Friend into making a wrong decision in the matter. So, as far as effective action is concerned, the House is not at all prejudiced in this matter. I want to make it quite clear that this Bill does not involve the voting of a single penny of public money. The moneys with which we are concerned are the endowments, or the income from the endowments, of the various charities which have established these schools. When my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell asks me for how much may the governors ask, the answer is quite clearly that they cannot ask for more than they have got. It will be for the Board of Education or the Privy Council, as the case may be, to consider, when a certain sum is asked for, whether they shall be allowed to use the whole of the sum for which they are asking.
§ Mr. Ede
I think that it clearly means the amount of the capital they wanted to use. My hon. Friend went on to ask— the point is really connected with this— whether we ought not to be able to get the accounts of these schools. He will see that one of the governing principles of the whole Measure is that set out in Clause 1, Sub-section (1), enabling His Majesty, by Order-in-Council, tomake such provision as appears to Him to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of securing economy or efficiency in the carrying on of the work of the school under war conditions.In order that the Privy Council or the Board of Education may make an Order embodying that principle, it will be necessary for them to know the financial condition of a school; and I can see no other way of finding out than by examining the accounts.
§ Mr. Ammon
I hope that my hon. Friend will not think that I am touchy, but that is not the same thing. What I asked— and I think I was supported by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson)— was that the accounts should be published. These are private businesses; and, therefore, if they are to be allowed to use funds for purposes other than those for which they were intended, we ought at least to know the state of their finances.
§ Mr. Ede
The demand is limited to the schools which apply for an Order. We cannot do anything, under the Bill, to a school which does not apply for an Order. I think it is quite clear that the Board of Education, or the Privy Council, will have to get such a statement. Then, if the Minister's decision were criticised by Parliament, the Minister would have to defend himself by making a very frank statement on the position of the school as it had been revealed to him. I cannot imagine that he would be able to escape during a Debate without doing that.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is already provided that when the order is laid before the House, the House can, within 40 days, challenge the order. It is the intention of some 627 hon. Members, when we come to the Committee stage of this Bill, to move an Amendment to provide that the balance-sheet of the school shall be available, so that the House, and not only the Minister, may have the information.
§ Mr. Ede
Nor do I imagine that, if they are hard up, they will be reluctant to disclose the extent of their embarrassment in order to obtain as much assistance as possible. The hon. Member also asked about schools, like Sutton Valence and Emmanuel, which are connected. Quite clearly, in cases like that, the Board will have to take into account the full implications of any application which is made. While there may be some complicated cases, I do not imagine that it will be beyond the wit of man to see that justice is done.
The right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) asked about the position of poor scholars. I am quite sure that whoever has to administer this Bill will always have to take into account very seriously the position of the poor scholar, and see that no one who is en titled to benefit under the original trust is injured unnecessarily by any alteration that is made. But I have a letter here from the Headmaster of Winchester College, who was the chairman of the meeting from which this Bill was originally asked for. In the letter, he says:I think you can perfectly well assure the President that if the Privy Council and other bodies are instructed by Parliament to make it a condition of their approval that the interests of the poor boys will not be affected in the award of scholarships to the school and from the school to the universities, that condition will at once be accepted and indeed welcomed.
§ Mr. Lindsay
That means the scholars in the public schools who would otherwise be paying a portion of the fees, and not free places?
§ Mr. Ede
I have read the letter that I have received from the Headmaster of Winchester, and if any further explanation of his words is required, I shall have to ask him to deal with the point that the hon. Member has raised. There is one particular class of scholar for whom, in the ordinary publicly supported system of education, we make very careful pro vision, and who sometimes in this type of school is prevented from getting the benefit that, I imagine, in justice you would say ought to be allowed to him. In the ordinary secondary school, when we grant a child a special place, we make arrangements whereby, if the parents' circum stances worsen, there may be a remission of fees or the payment of a maintenance grant may be increased. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock will know, even with regard to the fee-paying people, we have in the Board's regulations a suggestion to local education authorities that, where a fee-payer is in a secondary school and the family circumstances afterwards worsen, arrangements should be made to see that, either by the remission of fees or by the payment of a maintenance grant, or possibly both the child's school life should be continued.
There are many schools in which the scholarships are limited to foundation scholars, and owing to the exigencies of the war the number of foundation scholars at the moment is not sufficient to absorb all the income. It seems to me that the governors of such a school would be perfectly entitled to ask that they should be allowed to apply the surplus annual in come for foundation scholars, where they cannot use it for foundation scholars owing to lack of candidates, to assist these children whose parents, owing to the circumstances of the war, may find them selves in worsened financial conditions and unable, otherwise, to continue the child at school. That is one of the forms in which, I imagine, some of these applications will be made, and it seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate way in which to deal with the problem of not merely the poor scholar who has come in as a foundation scholar, but of the scholar whose circumstances have worsened since his admission to the school.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Does not that mean the subsidising of the education of the well-to-do and of the rich?
§ Mr. Ede
In the first place, the money is the property of the school, and secondly, on my hypothesis, the person is no longer well-to-do or sufficiently well-to-do, and I cannot see why, if the son of a labourer at a secondary school is entitled to an additional maintenance allowance if his parents' circumstances are worsened, the child of the person in some other walk of life, if his family circum stances are worsened, should not get some benefit from the foundation if no-one is going to be injured by it.
§ Mr. Ede
I want now to come to the speech of my hon. Friend, if I may so call him, the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan).We had from him a speech in which, it appeared to me, he used two arguments which were mutually destructive. He argued, first, that in no circumstances must we agree to this diversion of the original purposes of the trust. I am bound to say that it seems to me to be an extraordinary view for a Socialist to take.
§ Mr. Bevan
I did not advance any such proposition. What I really said— I am within the recollection of the House— and I was establishing the importance of the Bill, was that it was proposed to divert money intended for one person to another person, and that if such a diversion was to be asked for, these purposes should be justified. I did not argue against the diversion of the trust.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend went on to argue that all these schools should be closed, that the entire idea of the orginal testator should be completely destroyed and that there should be a diversion of the school funds. That has never been contemplated. [Interruption.] I have listened to the hon. Member with what, I hope, will be regarded by the House as exemplary patience, in view of the provocativeness of his remarks, and I think I am entitled to ask for reciprocal courtesy. He suggested that these children in the so-called public schools— that is, the 183 schools whose names are put down in Paton's List of Schools; I do not think it will be disputed that that is a fair definition of what the ordinary person regards as the public school— should be sent, so I gather, to the various county and municipal secondary schools of the country.
§ Mr. Ede
Really, the hon. Member for Aberavon and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley [Mr. Key] sitting behind him, and I, have had enough rows with headmistresses of infant schools about the age at which they transfer their children without having to send boys of 17 and 18 there. There are 30,000 of these children at the moment. Out side the evacuation areas (and I do not suppose, when we are trying to persuade other people to send their children away from the evacuation area secondary schools, it will be suggested that we ought to send these children into the danger zone) secondary schools are exceedingly tight for accommodation, and I doubt whether in the whole country we should be able to find even accommodation for the first thousand of that 30,000.
§ Mr. Ede
At the moment that would not be true. During the last four months I have been visiting education authorities in every part of the country. I have not been through the hon. Member's county, but I spent a considerable time in the 631 neighbouring county of Carmarthenshire going through their secondary schools. When you take resident children and evacuated children, those schools are quite full, and we see children now going to places like Ammanford, which the hon. Member will know. We are teaching children in a mining college and other buildings which we have taken because we have not room in ordinary secondary schools, although there is a large secondary school in that particular town. That is generally true of neutral and reception areas. Therefore, on practical grounds it would not be possible at the moment to absorb these children into a State system of education and give them the kind of education to which they would be entitled.
The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) asked me about endowed schools. Suggestions were made that they availed themselves of a similar kind of arrangement during the last war, and shortly afterwards no longer took their money from public funds but reverted to the closed system. There is only one school, so far as we can trace, that did that. [An Hon. Member: "Dulwich."] Yes, it was Dulwich, of which my right hon. Friend is a governor, and I only hope that when they come this time he will endeavour to see that their relation ships are rather longer in their term than they were on the last occasion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon, expressed surprise that a Government with Labour Members should be bringing forward a Measure for what he described as the plutocratic schools. These schools vary very considerably in the fees they charge and in the class of persons who send their children to them. Paton's List, for instance, ranges from Eton, with its fees of £290, to Haverford-west Grammar School, with its fees of £6 a year. (An hon. Member: "Is that a public school?") It is a public school according to the agreed definition.
§ Mr. Ede
If the hon. Member had been following me, he would have recalled that I said I did not think we could get a more agreed list than Paton's List, which is the 632 list from the Headmasters' Conference. Hon. Members opposite nodded in. assent when I said this, and I did not think the point was disputed. With regard to this question, there are raised by this Bill issues which give rise, owing to the history of education in this country, to deep and passionate feeling. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spared me the necessity of quoting, as I intended to do, from the last speech I made on this subject when I was speaking on behalf of hon. Members opposite. From that speech I could not depart in the least. It is quite clear that in any reconsideration of the educational system which was due before the war, and which has become increasingly necessary as a result of the war, the position of the so-called public schools must engage the attention of my right hon. Friend and this House.
I hope that these ancient endowments will in some cases be restored to their original purpose. I may not be speaking for everybody on this side of the House when I say this, but I am quite sure there has been, with regard' to some of these endowments, a substantial diversion in spirit during the course of the centuries. I am also well aware that if we take the residential public schools, we might find it difficult at the moment, if we tried to throw them open, to get a sufficient number of genuine elementary school entrants to sit for an extensive number of free places. My experience as an administrator, which I have no doubt is shared by others, is this, that working-class parents are very reluctant to part with their child to a residential school. I can understand the reasons for it, and I think some people who, on the public schools side, think they will get a solution of this problem merely by saying that they will throw open their doors to admit a number of boys and girls from elementary schools, will be rather disappointed as a result. What would probably happen would be that some impecunious professional man would see a cheaper way into a public school by sending his child to an elementary school for a short period in the hope that he would thus gain entry to a public school.
§ Mr. Lipson
Is the hon. Gentleman acquainted with Rankin College, in Gloucestershire, which was founded for children from elementary schools and is successfully run on public school lines?
§ Mr. Ede
I will not dispute that, but so many people have interrupted me to-day that I hope such a giant in that form of activity as the right hon. Gentleman is not about to take up the running now that others are beginning to tire. May I remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister returned to his old school just before Christmas? I heard him described to-day by one hon. Member as a distinguished scholar of his school, but the autobiography by the right hon. Gentle man which I read makes me think he would not use that exact phrase with regard to his connection with his school at the time he was a pupil. At the school my right hon. Friend dealt with the point that in this war, whatever might be said about the last, there has been no distinction of class in the way in which the dangers of the battlefield and the nightly dangers of the bombed cities have been met by people, irrespective of the places at which they had been educated. They had proved to possess the spirit necessary for victory, and in his closing words my right hon. Friend said:When this war is won, as it surely will be. it must be one of our aims to work for the establishment of a state of society where the advantages and privileges which hitherto have been enjoyed only by the few shall be far move widely shared by the men and youth of the nation as a whole.My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education is giving the most earnest attention to the way in which the educational system of this country should be organised. He has made speeches in various parts of the country in which he has pointed out the dangers and difficulties that confront us now by the social stratification of our educational system. To such limited extent as I have been able to do so, I have endeavoured to support him in that view with regard to the problem of the future. Into that system we shall have to weave these ancient endowments and the schools that 634 have been established as a result of them. If we destroy them now, we may have. the money perhaps at the end of the war from the endowments, but we shall have lost the institution, and, I am not ashamed to say, the tradition that goes with it. I am not ashamed of the tradition of the public elementary school from which I came. It is a different tradition from this with which we are dealing, but neither of the traditions, taken by itself, represents the whole sum of English history and the English spirit. The pity is— and it has been exemplified in the House in this Debate— the line of cleavage that past injustice has drawn between those two traditions. I believe we have got to act in the spirit of the Prime Minister, and each of us has to share the tradition and privilege of the other, and the way of uniting these traditions and privileges has to be worked out in the very near future.
I am bound to say that I do not think a Royal Commission would be the best way of dealing with this matter. I hope it will be possible to produce for the discussion of this House and the country a scheme of education that will enable the best to be made of all the very different kinds of schools and traditions that we have in this country. All that this Bill enables us to do is to meet small and immediate practical difficulties in an expeditious way, and it enables certain institutions that otherwise might not be able to continue to carry on. The Bill is limited to the duration of the war, it is limited in its scope, and I sincerely ask the House, in view of the fact that we have the whole matter of our educational system continually before us, to give the Bill a Second Reading, so that this part of the system— which cannot, when it has a deficit, merely send a bill to the county hall and say "We anticipated a deficit of £4,500 this year but we regret to find"— I have sometimes thought they rejoiced to find— "there will be a deficit of £6,500," and get a cheque from the county treasurer— shall be able in these very difficult times, without in jury to the spirit of the original endowment, to carry on and be in a position, when the appropriate time comes, to make its full contribution to the post war effort in education in which, I am quite sure, it can play a very helpful part if we stand by them to-day.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
|Division No. 15.]||AYES.|
|Adams, Captain S. V. T. (Leeds W.)||Grimston, R. V.||Ridley, G.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h. Univ.)||Hannah, l. C.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Silkin, L.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Harvey, T. E.||Spens, W. P.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Boles, Lt.-Cot. D. C.||Holdsworth, H.||Stuart, Rt. Hn. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Jewson, P. W.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lindsay, K. M.||Tomlinson, J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lipson, D. L.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Martin, J. H.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Denville, Alfred||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Westwood, J.|
|Edmonson, Major Sir J.||Paling, W.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Frankel, D.||Peake, O.||White, sir Dymoke (Birkenhead, E)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E.T.P|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Price, M. P.||Windsor, W.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Pym, L. R.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W. J.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Rankin, S. R.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Mr. Boulton and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Horabin, T. L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Bevan, A.||Key, C. W.|
|Groves, T. E.||Sloan, A.||TELLERS FOR'THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, Agnes||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Mr. Cove and Mr. Parker.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.— [Mr. Whiteley.]