HC Deb 04 April 1944 vol 398 cc1929-31
Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

I beg to move, in page 70, line II, after "may," to insert: in respect of individual educational areas. Perhaps the Minister may be willing to accept this Amendment. Part V of the Bill deals with facilitating the putting into effect of Part II of the Bill. It would appear that this Clause would allow the Minister only to make an order within the whole of the county. It appears that the Clause might operate in a way which would prevent one area within a county from having the advantage of an order. We ask therefore that the words should be inserted, or that the Minister should give us an assurance that the Clause will not affect an area within the county in the way I have described.

Mr. Ede

The Amendment goes far beyond the internal arrangements of a county. Throughout the Bill, the proposals have been so framed as to be brought into operation simultaneously throughout the country. Those of us whose memories go back to 1919–20 will recollect the great difficulties that the London County Council had when they attempted to operate the day continuation schools, while the areas around London did not do so. The consequence was that a large number of employers in London said that they would sooner take a child from the outer regions who was not liable to attend a day continuation school than a child living inside the county of London.

That was one of the contributory causes of the breakdown of the Fisher Act. Throughout these proposals, if we attempt to operate them on the basis of isolated areas being allowed to bring in the proposals ahead of somebody else, especially their neighbours, I am afraid we shall be faced, over a wide range of educational endeavour, with the same kind of opposition, leading to the same kind of ill-feeling, and the ultimate breakdown of the arrangements. We desire under this Bill that the school-leaving age shall be raised to 15 on one day throughout the country, young people's colleges shall be established on one day throughout the whole country, and the school-leaving age raised to 16 on one day throughout the whole country, and thus that these problems affecting the borders of areas which have taken a progressive view shall not arise I think my hon. Friend will realise, that from experience, we have learned that it would be very dangerous indeed to operate on the lines suggested by his Amendment.

Sir J. Nall

What the Parliamentary Secretary says is all very well in relation to the school-leaving age, but is it quite sound to say that day continuation schools or young people's colleges cannot be operated until every authority is ready to do so? What is going to happen in the Borough of Rugby, which is the only one where that provision of the Fisher Act obtains?

Sir P. Harris

I wish to endorse from my own experience what has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary. I went through the sad experience of the experiment made by London, in all good faith, to introduce continuation schools. Immediately, they became very unpopular amongst the parents, while children outside came pouring into London to take jobs which would otherwise have gone to London children. The first question an employer asked an applicant for a job who was between the ages of 14 and 16, was, "Are you in London? Are you required to go to a continuation school? If so we will not employ you. We will take a child from Hendon, Willesden or one of the neighbouring counties." Our experience was that it was fatal to run continuation schools under those conditions. I am convinced that if we are to have young people's colleges we will have to wait until the whole country is prepared to work the scheme. If not, we will have the same misfortunes, the same irritations, the same annoyances that happened in the last experiment. I therefore support the very wise remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary, which I am sure will be endorsed by anybody who had experience of London education in those years.

Mr. Ede

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) for the remarks he has made. I was engaged in one place just across the border, and I saw the same problem from the other point of view. I am quite sure that anyone who went through that experience would not desire to see it repeated. It would lead us to disaster. So far as the very interesting experiment at Rugby is concerned, I think it is one of the proofs that the old system broke down, that only one small town has been able to operate a scheme. We shall do what we can to help the Rugby experiment to remain alive in the interim period, but it is quite wrong to base any general proposals on the very isolated instance of Rugby. After all, Rugby has some particular advantages, especially with regard to some of the big industries that have grown up there in the last 20 or 30 years. Its experiences have not been shared by any other part of the country. We will endeavour to keep that experiment alive.

Sir J. Nall

My point was whether the whole country is to wait until every authority is ready. Rugby is a case in point, where the authorities were able to agree to get this scheme going. Under this Bill there may be similar cases all over the country. Are they all to be held up until every authority is ready?

Mr. Ede

I hope there will be a wide measure of experimentation on a voluntary basis. The problem arises when an attempt is made to apply compulsion, and thus upset arrangements between employer and employed.

Mr. McEntee

In view of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, in page 7o, line 14, at the end, to insert: and Section forty-one of this Act shall have effect as if for the reference therein to date of the commencement of the said Part II there were substituted a reference to the date of the expiry of the order. This is consequent upon the Amendment which my right hon. Friend introduced into the Clause dealing with the establishment of young people's colleges. It has been decided on the appropriate Clause that an order establishing them is to be made not later than three years after the day on which the school-leaving age is raised to 15. This Amendment is necessary to link up that Clause with the Clause now under discussion.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 100 ordered to stand part of the Bill.