HC Deb 15 February 1944 vol 397 cc33-78

Question again proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

When the clock interrupted us last week, I was discussing some of the general issues arising under this Clause. I realised that, in one sense, the Debate must be rather narrow now, because the major issue will come up on the Schedule. There is the fact, however, that this Clause lays it down that the local education authority is to be a county council, whether of a county or of a county borough, and I am saying this now in order that the Minister may turn over in his mind the kind of situation which will arise. Some of the urban district councils, and some of the municipal boroughs are, in fact, larger in population than many of the county boroughs. So this Clause, as it stands, does not deal with the real issue which is: Is the local authority large enough to do the job? The selection of the county councils and the county borough councils by that test is a bad one. It is bad from many points of view.

Let us take the case of a large county which happens to contain a municipal borough with a population of approximately 200,000, and it is about 50 miles from the county town. At the present time education is managed by people on the spot. Unless there is a real modification in this Clause, the control of the education of this large town will be transferred from the place where the education has been carried on hitherto, to a much smaller town 50 miles away. The people who are now engaged in this task are called to serve on the local authority or, if co-opted members, on the Education Committee and it is possible to do so, but in future any effective part they play will involve them in a journey to the county town, which means a whole day to attend a committee meeting. That is going to take out of our municipal and educational life many very able and enthusiastic persons. People can give up part of the morning or part of the afternoon to attending an important committee meeting, but to ask them to give up a whole day is an entirely different proposition. Therefore you are going to exclude from participation in educational administration a great many of the most valuable people now engaged in it.

This Clause raises one of the most important questions in the Bill and I am quite certain that if, for example, one of these strange by-elections we are now having, broke out in one of the towns affected by this Clause, any candidate who stood for the preservation of the educational rights of the existing local authority would be successful over any candidate the Government cared to send along. I should be delighted to oppose any one of His Majesty's Ministers in a borough like that, and I would be returned with an overwhelming majority. They could talk as much as they liked about winning the war, the Prime Minister, and the magnificent men he has around him, but that would not affect the electorate in the least if they thought my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education was taking away their local powers. This is the first time this issue has arisen in connection with the Government reconstruction legislation. It is going to be a first-class issue and I hope the Government will consider, at this early stage the very strong feelings of those interested in local government.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)

I have been trying to find out exactly what is the effect of the operation of Clause 6, because I had hoped to come down on the side of the Minister. Looking at it quite impartially, and with a desire to understand a very difficult provision, it seems to me a much straighter and neater scheme that there should not be these patchworks of educational monopolies all over the country, but that there should be a larger authority which would deal with the problem of the education of the country out of its larger resources. Nevertheless, having said that, I certainly have many doubts and misgivings about how this scheme is going to operate, and I should like to put one or two questions to the Minister. It is an extraordinary thing that local authorities are always complaining of the burden Parliament imposes upon them; yet whenever one suggests that the burden should be lightened there is tremendous opposition. But that is not an unhealthy sign. It shows how extraordinarily interested local authorities are in the administration of government and how proud they are of their traditions.

There is one point which is not clear in the Bill. Under this Clause, as from 1st April, 1945, apparently, the officers of a borough or urban district are transferred to a county. They are transferred when Part II of the Bill operates. Later, when we come to the Schedule—I do not want to go into details but I must illustrate my point—the borough or urban district has six months within which to claim that it is an exempted borough or district. A borough with more than 60,000 population has six months within which to give notice to the county authority that it is exempted. Thereafter, it frames a scheme of divisional administration which is submitted to the county council and so on to the Minister of Education. If the officers of the excepted authority of my imaginary borough are transferred from 1st April, 1945, who frames this scheme of divisional administration? The officers have, apparently, gone to the county council, yet it will be the officers of that council who will draw up the scheme of divisional administration within the six months from 1st April, 1945. Am I wrong in my interpretation? Are the officers of the excepted borough or district transferred only when the scheme of divisional administration is framed and prepared and submitted to the Minister and the Minister has made an Order to that effect? If my latter interpretation is right, it would be for the convenience of the excepted borough or district that it should obtain absolute control over its officers while this scheme is being drawn up. There is another point: can the excepted borough or district, in framing its scheme of divisional administration, include in its area a contiguous area, such as a rural district which it normally serves?

The Chairman

I do not think that question arises here. It arises later in the Bill, on the Schedule.

Sir G. Shakespeare

I accept your Ruling, Major Milner. It is very difficult to distinguish between the Clause and the Schedule. However, I will leave that point for the present and ask the Minister to reply later to my question about the transfer of officers.

Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)

I want to take up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) in his speech a few minutes ago. This Bill is the first step towards national reconstruction after the war and this Clause involves the first step towards the centralisation of authority. That is an issue which will arise in all our post-war policies and I want to say, quite frankly, that I shall oppose centralisation, the removal from local authorities of their power, unless it is proved to be absolutely essential. This Clause has aroused consternation, not only among members of local authorities but among our ordinary citizens. I have been stopped in my constituency by many parents, with children at local schools, who are filled with concern at the effect of this Clause.

I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon. Under this Clause authority may be vested 40 or 50 miles away. In Lowestoft to-day, we have a vigorous authority and a population of nearly 50,000. Under the Clause, the new authority will be 44 miles away—an 88 mile journey for those who have to attend its meetings. What will be the result? The professional man, the shopkeeper and the working man, who are members of the local education authority at present, with full powers, will not be able to participate in full administration. An ordinary working-man can attend a committee meeting in the evening. He cannot spend a whole day going to Ipswich and back. In Lowestoft our municipal elections are vigorously contested. In the 25 years I have been a member of the county council I have never known an election for a county councillor in Lowestoft. Why? Because most people have not the time to attend meetings. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) said that the proposed scheme would be more efficient. Efficiency is a means towards an end. The mistake we are making to-day is to make the means into an end. The object of efficiency in government should be to give the fullest opportunity to the individual to participate in the democratic administration of the country.

I say to my right hon. Friend that the onus of proof that this Clause is necessary rests on those who propose it. It must be proved to be absolutely necessary. I would challenge my right hon. Friend to prove that this Clause is necessary on the grounds of efficiency. Take the record of the Part III education authorities. Over 80 per cent. have certificated teachers, as against 60 per cent. for the counties. Take their record under the Hadow reorganisation scheme. In 1934 the boroughs carried out 59 per cent. reorganisation, the counties 39 per cent. and the Part III education authorities 71 per cent. It may be said that you must have the whole matter of education under one authority. Is that the argument? I would answer that if that argument is used we have to include the universities; by including the universities we are on the road to regionalisation and it is therefore an argument against the county councils. The hon. Member for Norwich suggested that the Clause is desirable on financial grounds, but we can prove, by the progress of reorganisation under the Part III authorities, that that argument does not apply. It can be proved in another way. I think many of these large Part III authorities contribute more to secondary education than they receive back in the cost of their secondary schools. I can prove that in my own case.

This Clause cannot, therefore, be defended on the grounds either of efficiency, of progress or of finance, and I would say quite bluntly that the Department has always been prejudiced against the Part III authorities. In 1908 they issued a report under the Balfour Act hinting that Part III authorities would have to be abolished. The Hadow Report suggested that Part III authorities could not carry out reorganisation, but that has been proved to be entirely wrong, because they have carried it out much better than the other authorities. Inquiries to examine the whole question of Part III authorities have been asked for, but they have always been refused, and now those authorities are to be abolished without any inquiry. I would refer to one remark which the Parliamentary Secretary made last week. He made an attack upon the Lowestoft Education Authority, using the phase: I can remember days when the hon. Member could hardly have wished to be associated with the Lowestoft Education Authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1944; col. 1829, Vol. 396.] Was that remark either wise or generous? The Lowestoft Education Authority made one mistake more than 20 years ago. To bring that up after this lapse of time is surely ungenerous. Any continuing corporate body always makes mistakes; even individuals do; even such exalted individuals as Parliamentary Secretaries may occasionally make mistakes; but a long record of public service should make us forget those mistakes and Lowestoft has such a record. It is a live, progressive authority.

The Chairman

I do not think the hon. Member ought to proceed with a discussion of the record of Lowestoft.

Mr. Loftus

Surely I may point out, using it as a typical Part III authority, that it has been more progressive, more in advance than the county authority.

The Chairman

The hon. Member was going into more detail than that to which he is entitled. Matters of that sort should be left until we come to the Schedule.

Mr. Loftus

Could I say in general terms, in answer to that remark of my hon. Friend, which was resented, that secondary schools and technical schools were established in Lowestoft some ten years before there were any in the county? I am rather cramped by your ruling, Major Milner, but I would point out that this Part III authority in Suffolk contains a very large proportion of the population of the county and represents as much as a quarter of the rates. My right hon. Friend may answer that a Part III authority representing a population of 50,000, and with 6,000 or 7,000 pupils in the elementary schools, will have delegated powers. That answer is not satisfactory, for the reason that these delegated powers will not make it a real authority but a puppet authority. I have looked in a dictionary for the definition of "puppet" and find it is "A small figure controlled by wires—one whose actions are controlled by another."

If we take away the power of the purse, the power of raising rates and loans, if, in short, we take away the power of finance we take away the reality of power. I would conclude with this final remark. I believe that this centralisation will be destructive of vigorous local government spirit in this country. We ought to encourage such a spirit rather than to discourage it, because on it depends our great power of self-organisation which was so invaluable three years ago. Therefore, because I believe this Clause is an injury to the whole spirit and vitality of our local government, if it comes to a Division I shall vote against it.

Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)

I understand that when this Clause is passed by the Committee the Part III authorities will cease to exist.

The Chairman

No, that matter will still be open for discussion on the Schedule because the Clause says that it is subject to the provisions of Part I of the First Schedule.

Mr. Viant

I am much obliged for that point. Nevertheless, the Debate, so far as it has gone and as it has been reported in the Press has caused a considerable amount of apprehension among those who have been serving on Part III authorities. We were given to understand that the underlying principle of this Bill as far as finance was concerned was to level up the poorer areas, and that if that were to be done it was essential that the administrative areas should be considerably enlarged. To that end the county has been accepted as the financial area. I am not persuaded that this will ease the financial disparities. Counties are in no way equal as regards either population or rateable value, and so the main purpose of the Bill in that regard will not be achieved, though the position will undoubtedly be improved. I observe that county boroughs, some with a population of 60,000, are still to retain their powers. That in itself will create a disparity so far as finance is concerned, and that has naturally disappointed boroughs such as there are in the County of Middlesex, with populations ranging from 60,000 up to 200,000, who have hitherto had administrative powers which are now to be vested in the county. They are naturally aggrieved at such a suggestion.

The point made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) is a very important one. I know from my personal experience of the 14 Part III authorities in Middlesex that they have serving on them some of the outstanding administrators in education. These representatives will be unable to afford the time to go to the county hall. It was easy for them in the evening after they had finished their business, to go to the local town hall and give their valuable services in the interests of the community. We shall lose a good deal as a result of this change, and I am not sure that the proposals which have been put forward will outweigh what we shall lose. We must appreciate, also, that we shall not remove all the anomalies which have been pointed out. The differences in population in different counties will make that impossible. I have had an opportunity of discussing this question with some of the people affected, and they tell me candidly that they will be unable to serve in their local areas because they fear that they will be nothing more than a rubber stamp. The county authorities will make all the important decisions, the reports will be sent to the local areas and the authorities there will be asked to place a rubber stamp on them and carry out the decisions. We are not likely to get these exceptional men and women, with years of service on these administrative authorities, to serve in that capacity. They want to have some semblance of power, want to be able to exercise some initiative, want to be able to bring forward proposals, and unless they get that power I feel that we shall be deprived of their excellent services. Therefore, I hope that when we discuss the Schedule in relation to this Clause the Minister will be able to make some proposals which will persuade those good folk that they will have some real power and be able to put their impress upon the education of this country.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

This Clause does raise extremely important issues, and I hope the Committee will be well aware of what those issues are before it agrees to pass it in its present form. It not only envisages changes in educational administration by restricting, subject to Part I of the First Schedule, educational administration to county boroughs and county councils, but it also makes a revolution in local government. The argument advanced by the President of the Board of Education for this change is that there are too many local authorities with whom he has to deal. If that argument is accepted by this House, so far as education is concerned, why should it not be accepted so far as other services are concerned? We have been told that we are to have new proposals—

The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)

I must say that the hon. Gentleman is giving his own conception of my speech. If he likes to base his argument upon his own view of what I may say, he is quite entitled to do so. Perhaps my views are rather broad.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to discuss proposals for the devolution of local government because, if so, others would like to answer the hon. Gentleman?

The Chairman

No, that matter should not be discussed here. I hope that the Committee will assist me in this Debate on this Clause. It is a matter of some difficulty to know precisely what hon. Members are going to say and to pull them up at the appropriate time. I hope hon. Members will confine themselves solely to the general question and not enter into details.

Mr. Lipson

There is tremendous concern in the country at the proposals laid down in Clause 6, and it is no good hiding the fact. I wonder if there is any way of putting forward a discussion on a vital issue of this kind. We have to discuss the details of handing over education to an area unit, which will not be decided until the end of the Committee stage of the Bill under Part I of the Schedule and it does make it difficult if there is no way of having a basic discussion at an earlier period.

The Chairman

There is no way of doing that and, if the hon. Member will forgive me for saying so, it does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is discussed in the early part of the Debate, or in the later part.

Mr. Lipson

It is the view of those who are opposed to this Clause, that if they allow that Clause to go through in its present form, without some reassuring statement, it will be extremely difficult for them to be able to make their point of view clear on the Schedule. Clause 6 definitely lays down that the effective educational authorities are to be the councils of county councils and of county boroughs, but there is nothing at present—

The Chairman

The provision is subject, of course, to the provisions of the Schedule.

Mr. Lipson

As the First Schedule is drawn up, there is nothing which can give any controlling power to the existing Part III authorities unless the Minister is prepared to make concessions. I want to say that I consider that the President has been ill-advised in the test which he has applied in deciding which should be the education authorities to carry out the proposals of this Bill. It is vital for the implementing of this Bill that the education committees which are to carry out its proposals should be those in which the President can have absolute confidence. To decide this it is necessary, therefore, that he should look at their past record and if there are some authorities which have shown themselves in the past to be great friends of education, which have shown a high standard of administration in that their buildings are good and also that they have selected a high proportion of fully qualified teachers and if they have carried out previous schemes of reorganisation, surely it is to those authorities that the President ought to turn rather than to the less progressive ones.

I am concerned that the right hon. Gentleman should have singled out county councils and county boroughs as the education authorities to the exclusion of the Part III authorities. I wonder whether the Minister has given consideration to the fact that under post-war conditions it is going to be extremely difficult for people who have to work for their living to be able to give the time to county council administration and that therefore it is doubtful whether county councils will be able in the future to be as effective even as they have been in the past. In these proposals the Minister is sacrificing some of the best friends of education. We have been told that the reason for this is that the President is anxious to establish a national system of education. I hope that in his reply he will give some clear indication as to what he means by a national system, because this Bill does not provide a national system of education. There cannot be a national system of education which excludes the public schools and the direct grant-earning schools.

The Chairman

We cannot go into that question on Clause 6.

Mr. Lipson

I want to say that the Part III authorities are extremely anxious to be able to continue to play their part in the administration of this Bill, but they do not see how they can do it if their powers are to be taken away in the manner envisaged in Clause 6. I must, therefore, ask the President if he will give some reassurance to the Part III authorities that he has in mind, some means by which their powers can be as effective in the cause of education in the future as they have been in the past. I am not asking that the Part III authorities should not play their part in providing the county rate. One of the reasons advanced for this proposal is that the President is anxious to spread the rate burden over a larger area so as to equalise opportunity in education, but it would still be possible to allow Part III authorities to produce their own budget and to pay the county rate. There are two ways in which this could be done.

The Chairman

That point certainly does not arise in Clause 6.

Mr. Lipson

It appears to me, Major Milner, extremely difficult far those of us who want to put the case of the Part III authorities to do so, owing to your Ruling, but I must accept it. I have to say in conclusion that they feel that the proposal in Clause 6 which means, in effect, that over half the present education authorities will cease to function, is something that is bad for education and also bad for local government in this country. They fear that if they accept this proposal for education, other services will, inevitably, go and that local government as it has existed in this country for so long, will cease. The real life of local government exists in the borough rather than in the county, and as one of the purposes of this Bill is to create better citizens, it seems to be very unfortunate that at a time when that is the objective to be attained, you are going to weaken local government and deprive large numbers of citizens of the opportunity of taking effective part in local affairs.

Mr. Cove (Aberavon)

I do not intend to go into any details even if I were allowed to do so. I want the Committee to consider the broad issues—there are not many—and I would also like them, if I may say so in all humility, to look upon this question apart from any personal interest they may have. I have two Part III authorities in my area and I have told them, quite plainly and bluntly, that I think, in the interests of education in that area, they ought to go out of existence. They have neither the numerical resources as far as population is concerned, nor the financial resources to make a proper contribution to a national system of education. I have much sympathy with Part III authorities and it is perfectly true that a number of them have been progressive. It is equally true that many county authorities have been progressive, but it has depended largely, as a matter of fact, on who has been in control in these areas. Therefore, I do not think that it is, essentially, a matter of machinery but the fact that at the moment these Part III authorities do not control their education. Lowestoft, for instance, has no power to have secondary schools. It is silly that Part III authorities have no power to erect a secondary school. They have control of elementary education, but no control of secondary. How can you get a unified progressive system if you have got that kind of administration? The principle is thoroughly unsound and reactionary.

Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)

May I point out to the hon. Member that if he will examine the Amendments that have been put down on this Bill, he will see that nobody is defending that system.

Mr. Cove

I am not going into details, but the fact remains that Part III authorities have no control over the secondary school system and therefore there is a cleavage, as it were, in the development of the education system in these areas. The children in such areas have not the rights and the facilities enjoyed by children in other areas. I say, quite definitely, that the principle enunciated in this Bill by the right hon. Gentleman for the unification of what is now being called the "all purposes authority" is absolutely wrong. There may be adjustments here and there, but the principle is absolutely wrong. I will not go any further. I am not going to transgress, and my main purpose in getting up was to make those general points. I conclude by saying: let us try to secure a national system of education. Let us try at the beginning of the Bill to approach it in that manner. Let us realise that the unification of the education system is essential. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) goes even further. He wants the whole thing to be financed out of the National Exchequer. I wholeheartedly support the passing of the Clause so that we may get on to other details.

Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)

I will do my best to keep within the terms of the strict Ruling which you, Major Milner, have given and confine myself to the question whether or not Clause 6 should stand part of the Bill. With a good deal of what the hon. Member who spoke last has said I heartily agree. I hope he will not accuse me, because I have one or two Part III authorities in my constituency, of taking a narrow and prejudiced view, but I am very much concerned about whether or not the authorities named in the Clause, as it stands, are in fact the right bodies upon which to rely in the future for the administrative work of education. I was inspired in one part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister when, in asking the Committee to bow to your Ruling as to the narrow limits of the Debate, he said: If they do, that, they will find that the Government will be ready here and now to declare that, if they are not satisfied with the opportunities, the Committee must look again, in the succeeding stages of the Bill, at Clause 6. We do not want to try and rush the Committee on Clause 6, but to have a proper look at it after the Committee has had a chance of looking at the First Schedule."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1944: col. 1861, Vol. 396.] I interpret that to be a statement by the Minister that he will bring up the Clause to the Committee again if we find, on getting to the Schedule, that some of the provisions we desire and agree to insert cannot be properly inserted there. I was dispirited, however, to find in another part of his speech that my right hon. Friend said, that in considering the First Schedule, hon. Members would first have the opportunity of considering the addition of extra authorities. On that he said he would be misleading the Committee if he were too hopeful of their being successful. I am sorry to see that, because I think that is really the crux of the situation and is to some extent the cause of the lengthy discussion on this Clause. Certainly I, and some of my hon. Friends, would like my right hon. Friend not to be so emphatic in his rejection of the idea that the main bodies are to be the county councils and county boroughs. It is important to remember this. Although my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has questioned whether it would be in order to discuss it—

Earl Winterton

I never discussed anything of the sort. I raised a point of Order.

Sir A. Maitland

Whether it is appreciated or not, it is a fact that the matter to which I will briefly refer is exercising the minds of some Part III authorities.

Earl Winterton

May I ask for the protection of the Chair? There is a longstanding custom of the House that a point of Order shall not, subsequently, be the subject of Debate. If my hon. Friend wishes to refer to my point of Order, I shall claim to have the right to reply, but I submit that it is contrary to the practice of the House.

The Chairman

I think the hon. Member would be well advised to pass on from that subject.

Sir A. Maitland

If I have transgressed I apologise to my noble Friend but, in bringing him to his feet, I may have proved myself a better advocate than I ever hoped to be. However, I will not trespass further. Clause 6 sets out for the first time in one of the first of our Reconstruction Measures that these two authorities shall be the type of authority on which the Government of the day rely, namely, county councils and county boroughs. It is upon that decision many persons are concerned. I hope my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the general principles that are involved and the anxieties that are involved in the passing of the Clause. I accept his assurance that it can be brought back to the Committee if necessary and I hope it will be the case that when we discuss the Schedule some of these Part III authorities are included as local Education Authorities. Surely the test should be their efficiency.

Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)

The speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) shows how very desirable it is that this discussion should not be unduly curtailed. He pointed out, quite rightly, that there are many existing Part III authorities who are not possessed of the necessary resources or population to undertake the responsibilities which the Bill would impose upon them and that the existing system, under which responsibility for elementary education is separated from responsibility for secondary education, is a system which is really indefensible. We shall all agree with him in both those criticisms. That shows how very desirable it is that at an early stage of the Bill the Committee should appreciate what it is that the local education authorities are asking. Unfortunately our discussions hitherto have taken such a course that we have had no opportunity of explaining what it is that the local authorities ask. A short time spent now in discussing the proposals which the local authorities may put forward when we reach the right place will not be wasted.

The Chairman

That would involve repetition. We cannot have a Debate on precisely the same subject on a later occasion. It is in the interest of the Committee that that detailed discussion should be postponed to the appropriate place, having regard to the fact that the position is safeguarded by the opening words of the Clause.

Mr. R. Morgan (Stourbridge)

I think it would help us to get on with the Bill if the Minister could give us an assurance that, when we get to the First Schedule, this will be fully threshed out and the facts put before us. We are afraid that if the Debate lingers on we shall come to the Guillotine stage, and this will not get the proper hearing that it ought to have. If we could get an assurance at this stage it would shorten the Debate.

The Chairman

The Guillotine is a matter for the Government and not for the Chair. It seems to me common sense that the less time we spend on the matter now the more time will be available on the Schedule, where I have given my assurance that as far as the Chair is concerned, there will be the fullest possible opportunity.

Mr. Hutchinson

I have no wish to enter into details, but the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon shows that the Committee hitherto has not understood what it is that the local authorities want. It is desirable that, before we enter upon the 104 Clauses which lie before us, the Committee should appreciate what authorities are likely to become the local education authorities.

Mr. Cove

I think I know what they want.

Mr. Hutchinson

If the hon Member knows what they want, then a good deal of his speech might well have been omitted. The local authorities, as far as I am able to speak for them, entirely accept my right hon. Friend's proposal that there should be a single authority in each area to administer all branches of the educational service. They recognise that that authority must necessarily control an area of suitable size and must be possessed of adequate resources. They recognise, too, that there exist authorities which are not possessed of the necessary population or resources to make it possible for them to undertake the responsibilities that the Bill would impose on them, and must therefore necessarily be entrusted with delegated authority. What is it that the local authorities are asking the President to do? There are two principle matters. First of all, we want him, if we can persuade him to do so, to agree that authorities which are neither county councils nor county borough councils may, nevertheless, be local educational authorities under the Bill if they are in possession of the necessary population and resources to enable them to discharge the extended functions of local education authorities with full efficiency.

The Chairman

The proper place to do that is on the First Schedule. The hon. and learned Gentleman must confine himself to the question of the Clause standing part and not go into other matters which will be discussed at a later stage.

Mr. Hutchinson

I will endeavour to keep myself properly within your Ruling, Major Milner, but may I remind you that the local authorities have had very little opportunity hitherto of stating what their case is. There is a certain amount of misunderstanding as to what their case will be when we come to the Schedule. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) pointed out, it would be a good thing if we had some idea here of what the Committee will be asked to put into the Schedule hereafter.

The Chairman

The hon. and learned Gentleman can discuss on the Schedule Amendments that have been put down to effect the purpose he has in mind. This is not the occasion to put them forward.

Mr. Hutchinson

Let me, therefore, in conclusion say this. I have indicated that those local authorities, for whom I am sometimes able to say something, appreciate that there will be authorities which are not possessed of the necessary resources to undertake these extended responsibilities. In the case of those smaller local authorities we shall endeavour to persuade my right hon. Friend to agree that the functions of the local education authorities shall be delegated, not to the new body called a "divisional executive" which this Bill proposes to bring into existence, but to the councils of the existing Part III authorities. We are asking that where there exists a Part III authority—

The Chairman

The hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to be asking for that now. He ought to ask for it when we come to the Schedule. I have no desire to be unduly critical, but I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will confine his remarks to the Clause as it stands.

Mr. Hutchinson

I must, of course, keep within your Ruling, and I am trying to do so. I would point out, however, that we are discussing Clause 6, which provides that two authorities, and only two, subject to the provisions of the first Schedule, are to be the local education authorities.

The Chairman

Precisely, "subject to the provisions of the Schedule." I am sure the Committee will appreciate that it will be competent to discuss the authorities which hon. Members may desire to make education authorities when we come to the Schedule, and that the field will remain open in the meantime.

Mr. Hutchinson

I am grateful for what you have said, Major Milner. There is no doubt in my mind that the field will be fully open for discussion on the Schedule, but before we proceed with the rest of this Bill, the Committe ought to understand what the case of the local authorities will be. I suggest that that is not out of Order on the Question "That the Clause stand part." As I have already said, there are two principal matters: first, those local authorities which are big enough to undertake the burden ought not to be wholly excluded from the opportunity of doing so; and, second, those authorities which are not big enough to bear the burden ought to be given the opportunity of receiving delegated functions from the local education authority, instead of having set up in their areas these new bodies which will have to take over from them so many powers which they have long exercised.

Major Woolley (Spen Valley)

I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee are grateful for the categorical assurance which you, Major Milner, have given that there will be a full opportunity when the First Schedule is debated to discuss the point which is so much in the minds of Part III authorities. The only two Members who have spoken in favour of Clause 6 are the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) and the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). The hon. Baronet mentioned that he had come down on the side of the Minister, and he seemed to give as his reason that it was a neater sort of setup. The hon. Member for Aberavon mentioned that he did not want people to take a parochial view. Neither neatness nor parochialism is the thing that is stimulating some of us. What we are concerned about is the education of the child, and some of us believe that the only two authorities mentioned in Clause 6 will push authority further away from the heart throb of the people and that that is not calculated to be beneficial to the child. We should keep that in mind. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) mentioned that the Government were introducing this rather novel set-up and said it might be the type which we shall use for local government administration in other directions. I ask the Committee to appreciate that the further away we push local authorities from the heart throb of the people, the less efficiency and less interest at the centre shall we have.

Mr. Parker (Romford)

I wish to say on behalf of my hon. Friends that if this matter is pressed to a Division we shall support the Government. We gave a pledge at the beginning of the Debate that if we felt that the Bill was being hindered or injured by any vested interest we would rally to the support of the Government and we feel in this matter that the Part III authorities and their supporters are vested interests. We take the view that in educational administration we should choose the best form of public authority to carry it out. We do not feel that the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) and others would lead to the best form of educational administration. We feel that for many reasons the suggestions of the Government are the best form of local government machinery for carrying on education.

Mr. Hutchinson

May I put this to my hon. Friend? My right hon. Friend suggested that 12 county boroughs with a population of less than 60,000 were suitable bodies to carry out the extended responsibilities under this Bill.

Mr. Parker

That is a point that may be gone into further at a later date. We feel that it is desirable, on the whole, to have a fairly wide area for the levying of the education rates, for the recruitment and promotion of teachers, and for planning and carrying out the full national system of education. We also take the view that there should be as much decentralisation as possible in certain areas.

May I take the case of my constituency, which is a large part of the county of Essex? In that area there is one Part III authority in Barking and there are other towns, like Dagenham and Hornchurch, which are much bigger but which are not Part III authorities. Essex will be the education authority for the area, but it will devolve powers to large towns of 60,000 inhabitants which will have initiative in drawing up plans for education in their area. Above these individual towns there will be committees covering two, three or more of them, which will have powers for further education. The whole will be worked into a plan of the county council, which will be the rate levying authority. I suggest that some such machinery would be a good workable type and would be a reasonable compromise between the suggestions put forward in the preliminaries before this Bill was introduced.

Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)

I would like to ask the Minister to clarify the last three lines of this Clause: and shall be employed by that authority upon the terms and conditions upon which they were employed by the council of the county district immediately before that date. Do the words "terms and conditions upon which they were employed "mean" the same character"? I had an Amendment, which was not called, to add the words "and not necessarily upon the same duties." Would the Minister explain whether it will be essential that the officers should be employed on the same duties as they performed before?

Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)

The drafting of this Clause is unfortunate because it leaves open essential matters of principle which cannot be debated until we reach the Schedule. That is under your Ruling, Major Milner. Therefore, we shall not know how we stand upon essential matters of principle until we have reached and finished with the Schedule. If, under the Schedule, the limitation of authority to the county councils and county boroughs is removed Clause 6 will have to be amended because it transfers both property and personnel of an educational character from the county districts to the county councils. Therefore, if under the Schedule, as it may be amended, certain county districts are created education authorities, they will find themselves without educational property or personnel. Upon educational grounds alone, apart from other considerations, it is undesirable that the Committee should give general acceptance to the proposition that prima fade the county councils should be education authorities to the exclusion of the county districts. County councils are often the least convenient and least efficient authorities for the administration of what is essentially a local service. They are remote geographically and remote in understanding—geographically because the county towns are often far distant from the outlying districts of the county; and remote in understanding because it is difficult for county councillors to keep in close touch with all problems throughout the county.

Everybody recognises that the authorities which will be constituted education authorities must be authorities for virtually all educational purposes, certainly for primary and secondary education. They must be large enough for that purpose and also small enough to preseve local interest. County councillors can only be familiar with the affairs of their own districts. It is impossible for them to travel round the county in order to appreciate the peculiar circumstances of districts other than their own. The result is that on the county councils only a few councillors have any real knowledge of the details of the affairs of any district within the county, and the affairs of the county councils—and this applies particularly to education—inevitably remain to be determined by the permanent officials. The result is that they tend to become more and more miniature bureaucracies.

I think that that affects the democratic structure of local government and, if the Clause remains without considerable amendment, will seriously prejudice the future. My right hon. Friend recognised, when he spoke before in the Debate, that the Clause comes down on the side of the county authorities and he held out very little hope of adding other authorities. I recognise that in this matter the interests of education must be paramount and that extraneous matters should not be confused with it, but from that angle and the angle of education alone, the Clause provides a very clumsy form of restriction. Several hon. Members have pointed out that it admits as authorities units of local government which are much smaller than many which it excludes. That rather shows that the structure of the Clause is purely for departmental convenience. It ignores the merits of particular cases. In my constituency there is a borough, the royal town of Sutton Coldfield, which has administered education for over 400 years. That borough retains absolutely nothing, under the Bill as at presented drafted.

The Chairman

The place for discussing the merits of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield as an education authority is during the Debate on the Schedule.

Sir J. Mellor

I thank you, Major Milner, and I will not pursue that very important subject at this stage. The Clause also ignores the rapid changes which have taken place in population. There is an urban district in my constituency, Solihull, whose population more than doubled between 1931 and 1939, and similar changes have taken place elsewhere. The purpose of the Clause could be equally well achieved without this balanced form of concentration and I hope that the Committee will not accept the principle of the transfer of authority from the county districts to the county councils at least until after the matter has been considered in more detail than is possible at this stage and, indeed, until after the Schedule has been considered.

Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)

In case it should go out to the country that this Committee is unanimously condemnatory of the Clause, I should like to point out that there have been only three speeches in support of it and mine will be the fourth. It is very natural that people who come from parts of the country where there are Part III authorities in office should have heard that side of the question discussed, and that side alone, but those of us who come from counties and other parts, have heard the other side of the question. I believe that there is much greater concern in the country in favour of the extinction of Part III authorities than against it.

One of the alarming features of the development of education in the last few years has been the progressive localisation and provincialisation of education. A county council, at best, is provincial, and the Part III authority is more provincial still. I am going to content myself with giving to the House one example of what happens in my area. There is, in Glamorgan, a very good Part III authority, the Rhondda Education authority, which happens to be the only authority in the country which has control of secondary education as well as of primary education. A boy or girl living in the Rhondda and who has never been out of the Rhondda, goes to one of the four secondary schools. Having passed out of one of the four schools, he or she goes down to the University college in Cardiff, twelve miles away. He goes home every night, never lives in Cardiff at all and never mixes with the other students. He takes some sort of degree in Cardiff, and immediately afterwards is appointed on the staff of one of those four county schools. The whole of the Part III authority is in-bred from top to bottom, and, so far as I have been able to understand, they are all in-bred throughout the country. That is one of the greatest menaces to education in Britain.

Mr. Hutchinson

The Bill will not be put an end to that system. It will still exist in county boroughs.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)

We are getting a little wide of the Rulings on the Clause.

Professor Gruffydd

I was only giving an example, and I am now going to sit down. I hope that the Committee will bear in mind that the vast majority of Members who have spoken have put one point of view, but that does not mean that it is the view of the majority of the Committee or of the country.

Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

My right hon. Friend has shown such consideration to every reasonable criticism and constructive suggestion that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland), I hope that he will see his way to look at the Clause again. According to the present proposal, the qualification for being the education authority is the status obtained many decades ago, when population and general conditions were entirely different. It seems to me that there should be two tests: one, its record as a progressive education authority; secondly, its financial ability to carry the burden. Unlike the hon. Member who spoke earlier, I have in my constituency a Part III authority with a very fine record for progressive management of its education and it is in a very strong financial position. I realise that the Minister has chosen this rather rough and ready way of choosing education authorities in order to save time.

Mr. Butler

No, not at all. After two and a half years of close study of the problem, I have come to the conclusion that this proposal represents the best chance of getting a proper education service.

Mr. Spearman

I certainly would not criticise my right hon. Friend if that were his object. I am sure that in getting the Bill into working order at the earliest possible moment my right hon. Friend would be doing exactly what the country wants. I am not going to support any course which would make for material delay, but I suggest that there need not be much delay in having an inquiry and making the choice of educational authorities, according to the two tests I have suggested; I would remind my right hon. Friend that as a tailor made suit lasts very much longer than a ready made suit, and the money and energy spent on them are amply repaid, so a little more time spent on selecting who should be the educational authority might be amply repaid in obtaining a better administration.

I should like to refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), who referred to contact between the educational authority and other localities. There is a Part III authority in my constituency which will be three hours by train from the proposed education authority, if you are lucky, and you are not often lucky in these days. A journey of 160 miles in a day is a considerable deterrent to close contact. It is inevitable that there should be a lack of contact between local interests and the education authority. I am not convinced that an education authority so far distant from a town will know all the local circumstances and I suggest that there will be, under the plan, a very definite loss of local interest which I know my right hon. Friend would deplore. The distance in this particular case might be exceptional, but there are many others varying in degree. In the interests of maintaining local interests in education, I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at the Clause again.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

I renew my mild protest, which I made earlier, against the incompleteness of the discussion at this early stage of the Bill. I do not know whether it is the fault of my right hon. Friend or of his predecessor. My right hon. Friend has' been two and a half years grappling with this problem, and many other problems, but this is only one of them. It was my opinion five years ago, as it is to-day, that this matter should be put before a proper inquiry. It is on record that I advocated this procedure many years ago. We could not do it in my time, because it was bound up with a question of finance. One hopes that this might take place. The Minister without Portfolio had some say on the question. It is typical that the question of administration is held to be a matter for the Schedule, but, in education, administration is extremely important. That is my protest. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) talked about parochialism in the Rhondda; what about some of the counties in Wales, and in England? If he is going to tell stories about teachers born in a place going back to that place to teach, I could give him some examples of counties, as well as Part III authorities. There is nothing in that at all. There is, again, the experience of Scotland, which does not support this Measure.

When you come to local interests, which my right hon. Friend has rightly mentioned in the White Paper and in his speeches because he wants to preserve and stimulate local interest, surely there are many other ways of doing it besides through locally elected authorities. I must not go into the question of parent teacher's association and governing bodies at this stage, but I must say that we are all inhibited here, because we cannot discuss the real problem. My protest is that we have to discuss how technical or further education is to be organised, without agreement on areas. I agree with my right hon. Friend that you need large, all-purpose areas and I am going to support the Minister. It is very unfortunate that we cannot have a fuller Debate. It would help both the Minister and both sides of the Committee and I am sure that my right hon. Friend would like to have a full-dress Debate on this matter. I stand up in the name of education and say that this is not a thing which you can just put into a Schedule and say "We shall have a Part II or a Part III." There are first-class principles involved. It is a great pity that we cannot get this out of the way without having it hanging over us until the Schedules are debated. There are areas in this country which are unsuited to be all-purpose authorities, but, as my right hon. Friend and I both want a comprehensive and varied service, it has to be a reasonable size when it comes to the appointment of teachers. But do not let us tool ourselves that by having Part II instead of Part III authorities you are going to get rid of many of the scandals—for that is what they are—about the appointment of teachers which are happening all over the country.

Sir Reginald Blair (Hendon)

I promised not to enter into any detail but I would like to make one observation before we pass this Clause. Like many other hon. Members who have spoken I regard this as a most vital and important Clause affecting our constituents, particularly my own. I put down Amendments the consideration of Which has been carried over to the Schedule. It seems to me that I have blotted my copybook all round in my Division, because I represent a borough which is under Part III, I represent 80,000 electors in Harrow which is not an education authority, and part of the borough of Wembley which has not been an education authority and does not want to become one. I represent a large part of the county of Middlesex in the Hendon Division. I put it to the Committee, What is a Member to do in that case? He represents three different authorities all pulling different ways. All I want to do, representing the Hendon Borough Council, is to see Hendon gain under this Education Bill rather than lose.

Mr. Hutchinson

May I suggest that the hon. Member should transfer his support to the Amendment put down in my name. He will find—

The Deputy-Chairman

We are not discussing an Amendment.

Sir R. Blair

As I was saying, I want Hendon to gain by this Education Bill rather than lose. It is true they can frame schemes in agreement with the county council, but I must tell the Committee that agreements with the county council in other forms of local government schemes are sometimes not very happy so far as Hendon is concerned. Consequently, when the Schedule is reached I shall, very probably have to support the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I do not want to make a long speech. In fact there have been very few speeches opposed to the view generally expressed, because there are some of us who want to get this Bill. But I want to say, in case the Minister should imagine that there is an overwhelming consensus of opinion against the Clause, that such a view would be wrong; There is wide support for the Clause as it stands. The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to Middlesex. In Middlesex there are non-Part III authorities who would be excepted districts and who desire the Clause. There are Part III authorities in Middlesex who desire the Clause.

Sir R. Blair

May I ask the hon. Member which of these authorities in Middlesex want the Clause?

Mr. Messer


The Deputy-Chairman

I am afraid this discussion is getting rather wide.

Mr. Messer

The area which I share the honour of representing, Tottenham, wants the Clause. I merely want to say that the Minister in drafting this Clause has not been able to look at one Part III authority or one county; he has been compelled to look over the country. This Clause does not represent what everybody who wants to see a unified method of education in this country would desire. There are some of us who believe it could be improved but we know that what we would suggest would perhaps throw the balance in the other direction. This is a happy mean and we are prepared to accept it, but if the Minister were to go very far to make concessions on this Clause he would find another fight on the other side. I think it is as well he should remember it is not just a case where the Part III authorities who want to retain their power and indeed want to add to it have got behind them the whole of public opinion. It is not true.

It has been suggested that county councils are out of touch with the people. Let us examine that proposition. If it is true, it is because the localities have elected the wrong type of people, and I am of the opinion that at times when we are criticising what is an instrument, we lose sight of the fact it is a piece of machinery, and compare it with the work done by inefficient people who, if they were on Pant III authorities would still be inefficient. Is it true to say that the small local authority is democratic but that the people who are elected from that authority area on to the county council are undemocratic. Is a county council undemocratic?

Sir J. Mellor

Could the hon. Member explain how it is possible for county councillors as a whole to know about all parts within a county? Is it not only possible for county councillors to know in detail about their own particular districts?

Mr. Messer

I do not intend to concede that. It would mean that in my own capacity as vice-chairman of a public health committee I did not know anything about the county except Tottenham. That is not true.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Would it not follow from the hon. Member's argument, that the hon. Member, as Member for South Tottenham, would know something about Tottenham but not about the rest of the county?

Mr. Messer

That might be logical but when the House of Commons becomes logical I become hopeless. What is the county council? It is a body of people elected from each division. Every Member of the council is elected, and if the county council is wise in the administration and delegation of its powers what it will do is to see that members drawn from these areas shall be a committee representative of those people who will keep that day to day touch which has been referred to. What is the truth about this contact with the public? It is the secondary schools that have successful parents' associations, where the county is responsible for the secondary education, not the elementary schools. There may be another reason for it but that is a fact and I am dealing with facts.

I have been addressing parents' meetings. I have heard from no one of them any criticism of the Clause as it stands. What I have heard is that if there is a certain Part III authority which gets secondary powers what is going to happen to a neighbouring authority which is a poorer authority from every point of view, admitting that there will be an equalisation of rates over the county? There is something more than finance in questin. Let us take two districts. Hendon, which is so ably represented by the hon. Member, is one of the biggest districts in Middlesex. Its next door neighbour is poverty-stricken Acton. You cannot give to Hendon an independence that is not going to affect Acton, and if the Part III authorities are looking at their miserable selves without regard to the effect on their neighbours, then they are not acting wisely. I am standing for the highest measure of efficiency in education, not because I want to support the mandarins of the parish pump, but because I want to see the child get equality of opportunity. I. believe this Clause gives that. I do not want it to be believed that the overwhelming consensus of opinion is against the Clause.

Major Gates (Middleton and Prestwich)

I interpose only to ask one question for my own guidance. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) said just now, speaking from the Front Opposition Bench, he was speaking on behalf of his hon. Friends. My hon. Friends on this side attach great and proper importance to any pronouncement made in such a way. The hon. Member for Romford used a phrase which he attached to Part III authorities in this instance, the phrase "vested interests." It would be of great assistance to my hon. Friends and myself if he or one of his hon. Friends—I am sorry he has left the Chamber—could define what exactly he meant by attaching the phrase "vested interests" to Part III authorities. I have two in my own constituency.

Lieut.-Commander Tufnell (Cambridge)

I wish to say a few words because I regard the principle in this Clause as fundamentally wrong. It is depriving hundreds of local education authorities of control of their own educational policy however efficient they may have been, and in spite of the many years which they may have taken to build up their education policy. To my mind, this principle seems to be a retrograde manner of doing things and a measure which naturally rankles in the minds of many of those authorities who have taken pride in their education administration. In my right hon. Friend's explanations I can quite understand the desire to reduce the number of authorities and to have a greater efficiency. But could this not have been done by building up on the authorities which exist all over the country, and building up on a sound principle upon the authorities which have undertaken their educational responsibilities so efficiently? By the method in this Clause the power is taken away and is to be allowed to be delegated back in another part of the Bill. But the excepted authority such as the Borough of Cambridge is still to be subject to the financial control of the county and inevitably that means that the education policy remains subject to county control.

To my mind these excepted authorities ought to have complete control themselves, because they have the officers, they have the financial resources and they have the necessary experience. Under this Clause, as has already been mentioned, you will have the anomaly of a county borough with a population of 24,000 next door to an area with 60,000, with the county borough having complete control and the other with the bigger population having no control beyond the excepted authority control. Incidentally, you may say that it will give greater efficiency. I understand that in the borough which I represent there will be an increase of a 1s. in the £ in the rate, through the operation of this Clause. To my mind, there is an unanswerable case for the very considerable alteration of the Clause, and, although I will not oppose the Clause, because I hope that it will be altered on a further stage, I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider what has been said.

Sir Ernest Graham-Little (London University)

I would support the plea for reconsideration of a plan which seems to me to carry its own condemnation. Surely, it is individual effort which makes for success in all spheres of action. I would like to draw a comparison from my own experience of the value of local knowledge and individual effort, without which human endeavours will not succeed. I have spent a great part of my life working in a voluntary hospital. The voluntary hospital is a small institution, and it owes much of its success to the ardent interest of persons who know all about it and love it. I suggest that local knowledge and local interest are more important than anything that can be secured by the spreading out of responsibility and interest which seems to me likely to come from this Clause. I have no direct interest in either local or county authorities, but, on the general principle, I am sure it is better to have individual knowledge and interest than generally-spread interest. I am much more concerned to secure efficiency than to secure democratic principles. If efficiency is secured, I would let democracy go.

Major Procter (Accrington)

I oppose this Clause because I feel that if it is not amended it will stop efficient local authorities carrying on one of their most important functions I represent a division which looks with apprehension on this Clause, which, if unamended, and if no attention is given to what we regard as an encroachment of the Government in local affairs will result in the filching from local authorities of functions which they have carried out very efficiently in the past. This Clause is another example of the attempt by Whitehall which we have seen more and more in the last few years to govern towns by a system of remote control. By a gradual process local authorities are having their functions taken away and transferred to bigger authorities That was done in the case of the police and fire services, and now we see the same influence at work in this Education Bill. It looks as if the war is being used as an opportunity for civil servants to take out their pet schemes, which they have filed away for years, dust them, put them into Bills, and get them passed into law without people understanding what is being done. In Lancashire we do not like to see these powers taken away from our local education authorities. We do not like it, and we want the Minister of Education to know we do not like it. Why should towns like Accrington, which, for years, have done excellent work, have their powers taken away? You are striking a grave blow at civic patriotism if you pass this Clause without amendment. Eventually, unless we say to Whitehall: "Hands off our local councils," we shall get to the position where there will be merely town halls without councillors, with only a caretaker to keep the place warm and comfortable for a local political commissar, who will govern our towns under the direction of the county and by the command of Whitehall.

The Deputy-Chairman

This is getting very far from the Clause. Quite a number of red herrings are being introduced.

Major Procter

I want to prevent one of the vital functions of my local council's being taken away from men and women who have done well, and transferred into the hands of these remote controllers in Whitehall. For that reason I hope that the Minister, when he comes to the Schedule, will preserve the Part III educational authorities and not destroy them. Lancashire looks with pride on what they have done, and as there is great concern about this matter, I hope he trill give attention to their claims, and allow them to carry on their work in the same efficient way they have done in the past.

Mr. Messer

Is it not true that Lancashire has 16 county boroughs?

Mr. Butler

One is naturally sympathetic to those hon. Gentlemen who have with such faithfulness represented the point of view of their own constituencies. Their attitude is to be expected, because this Clause is, from their point of view, a severe one; and I understand their position. But I hope that, having taken up a certain part of this precious day and a large part of the previous day, and in view of the undertaking that their whole case can be raised again in detail on the First Schedule, they will now let us have the Clause, although I have no desire to limit discussion or to prevent them having an opportunity of looking into these matters. There has been an opportunity, however, to-day to hear the views of a great many Members, whose seats I have before me on the list, on the difficulties of typical authorities who are, in their view, going to be hurt by this Clause. [Interruption.] I think I know where most hon. Gentlemen sit for, and I have in many cases investigated the position in their areas on the spot. Unlike the previous approach to this problem, I have, with the Parliamentary Secretary, visited the main areas in England where this problem, exists, and I have held public meetings with the representatives of those authorities, and those who thought they were going to be decapitated have had every opportunity of discussing the question of their execution in their own districts on the spot. I hope it will be realised that in this matter we are perfectly sincere and that we do not want to do violence to anyone if we can help it.

There are at present a great many local education authorities, 169 of which are responsible only for elementary education. Under this new Bill, with its definitions of education completely recast, with its conception of a national system ranging from the age of two, up to the age of 18, and with a definition of secondary education which takes in a portion of the present elementary field, it is vital to consider first who shall be the education authorities and what shall be the range of their duties. In doing that, we have come to the conclusion that the plan set out in this Bill is likely on the whole to be most fair and most efficient in work-mg. Our desire is to produce an educational plan that will work. I think there is a general idea in the Committee—and I do not want to take any unfair advantage—that it is quite impossible for these Part III authorities to undertake the wide range of duties set out in this Bill. In the previous Bills of 1896 and 1902 there was great interest in Parliament in this matter. In 1902 a concession was made to non-county boroughs with a population of over 10,000, accprding to the census of 1901. That was partly due to the pressure to which the Minister of Education of that day, who happened to be the Prime Minister, was subjected. Much as I sympathise with the difficulties of Part III authorities, I must place before myself a a criterion the interests of the children. If I tread on any corns, or upset any of my friends who are so sympathetic themselves to education, it is not due to my desire to take away any of their powers or to upset them in any way; it is-in the interests of the Bill as a whole.

The Committee have had an opportunity of considering this matter quite fairly. I hope they will let us have this Clause. When the Clause is passed, as it will be, by the Committee, there will be an opportunity for dealing with all the matters raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), who has such special knowledge of the matter on the Schedule. As I said the other day, and as has been said again, if it is necessary to review the whole matter on the Schedule, we shall have to do so, because it is quite clear that if hon. Gentlemen succeed in making any substantial changes in the Schedule it will be necessary for us to consider how that affects the Clause. But I hope that hon. Members will not imagine that we are going to have limitless and unending discussions on this matter, because we have so much else to do. Subject to that warning, I hope they will consider that they are being treated quite fairly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nor-wich (Sir G. Shakespeare) raised the point of the difficulty of an excepted district in having its officers available. My answer to that is that, as I explained on the last Sitting Day, under subsection (2) of Clause 99 of the Bill, the Minister has power to accelerate the operation of Part II. That would enable him to take any necessary action to deal with this question of the officers. If the hon. Member will discuss the matter with me, I will explain to him in greater detail how that point which he has in mind is met.

Sir G. Shakespeare

Can the Minister describe how the new authorities will come under the new county authority?

Mr. Butler

If the hon. Baronet will read Clause 99 (2) he will see that the Minister, in the exercise of his powers—

The Deputy-Chairman

I should warn the Minister and the Committee that we ought not to go into Clause 99 (2) now.

Mr. Butler

I should prefer to leave the matter, but, as the point was put and admitted by the Chair, I thought it my duty to answer it.

Dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), who asked about the transfer of officers, and raised the question as to whether they might not necessarily be engaged on certain duties, my answer to that is that, in order to preserve the continuity of service of these officers, their service is to be secured in the way the Bill suggests, and, after transfer, they could be put on other duties, or, to take the most pessimistic view, they could be dismissed, but if any-one did suffer in that way they would be eligible for compensation under the terms of the Bill. The real answer to the point is that they could be used upon other duties.

In concluding this discussion, I must say a few words on the question of local patriotism. One might imagine from the picture presented by the most patriotic of all local patriots, that their education ex-perts, many of whom have devoted lifelong service to the children, would motor in-credible distances to some remote county capital, where the whole administration would be carried on at one focal point. That is a totally wrong impression of what we are proposing to do. What we have in mind is that, as was put forward by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), we want a large catchment area for children and one for teachers, and for which we hope to provide a proper range of education. We shall have authorities of large and variable size, but that does not mean that we wish to deprive such experts in education as are represented by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) of the oportunity of looking after their own children. Our desire is that there shall be set up within the framework of these counties, and also subject to the considerations put forward by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), such new machinery as will preserve local interest. When I am told by hon. Members that things are to be taken away from these Part III areas, my answer is that a great deal more is going to be put upon them. These authorities exist at the moment to administer elementary education, but, under the terms of this Bill, it may well be that the whole range of education, especially in the primary and secondary spheres is delegated to them, and, therefore, far from removing responsibility from local experts, it is our wish to impose new duties and responsibilities upon them. That is the answer to those who imagine that we are rapacious and unkind. I attach great importance to the continuation of local interest. Without local interest, you cannot look after local children. I, therefore, hope that the Committee will not be so craven at this stage as to imagine that we cannot build up something new and valuable in the sphere of local Government. There is nothing in this Bill to alter the general structure of local government as a whole. What we are doing is to reassign certain educational functions, and, surely, it is a sad attitude to adopt at the outset of a great Bill if we are to feel that we have not the wit and the wisdom to invent, under the machinery of Schedule I, a proper individual life for our areas, and I invite hon. Members to help me to make that machinery better than it is.

Mr. Hutchinson

Will the Minister say something about the position of those authorities which will not be excepted districts under the Bill?

The Deputy-Chairman

No, I think that is just what we cannot do.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.