HC Deb 16 February 1944 vol 397 cc243-6

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY:

In page 6, line 2, to leave out "nursery schools or."

Mr. Lindsay

I propose not to proceed with this Amendment and the others in my name, because of the safeguards which the Minister gave earlier to-day. The reason for the first Amendment—

The Deputy-Chairman

If the hon. Member is not moving I must call the next Amendment.

Mr. Butler

I beg to move, in page 6, line 20, to leave out from "schools," to "which," in line 21.

This Amendment is necessary in order to secure that the expression "nursery schools" is not confined solely to those schools maintained or assisted by a local authority. It is quite clear that there may be, and indeed there are, many such nursery schools and special schools which depend on voluntary effort. This Amendment and the next one in my name on the Order Paper are more of a drafting character than anything else.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 6, line 25, to leave out from "schools," to "which," in line 26.—[Mr. Butler.]

Mr. Key (Bow and Bromley)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 36, after "maintained," to insert "or assisted."

I understand that a local authority, where it is not in a position or does not think it wise to make provision itself for maintaining the school, has the power to decide that the children for whom it is responsible shall attend a school to which it gives assistance. The Clause, as drawn, places on the local authority only the duty of seeing that the premises to which the children are sent are adequate if the authority itself maintains the school. It is only right and fair that if children are to be sent to schools that are assisted by a local authority, it should be the duty of that authority to see that such schools come up to the same standard as the schools maintained by itself.

Mr. Butler

I must explain to the Member that I cannot accept this Amendment because it would be drawing the Bill rather too wide to insert the words "or assisted." It would mean that in the case of a grant given by a local authority it would be a statutory necessity for those premises to conform to the Board's building regulations. That would be a great inroad on present practice and a great thing to demand in return for, perhaps, a small grant, and we could not accept these words. The position of independent schools will be radically taken in hand in Part III of this Bill and, therefore, I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment, although it was valuable to elucidate the point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 37, at the end, to add: and such regulations shall prescribe standards which shall achieve parity of conditions for all types of secondary schools maintained by a local education authority. Sub-section (7) of this Clause provides that the Minister shall make regulations requiring local education authorities to secure that the school premises of every school maintained by them shall conform to such standards as may be prescribed. In the Bill the various types of secondary schools are not referred to, but in the White Paper there are three types of such schools mentioned—modern, grammar and technical. The White Paper states that it is desirable that there should be a free choice as to whether a child attends one type of secondary school or another, that it should be according to his particular ability, and then goes on to say: It is manifest that the different conditions in different types of secondary schools shall be broadly equivalent. That recognises that the status of these three types of secondary school shall be equal. At the moment the status of the secondary school is far higher than that of the senior school or, unfortunately, even that of the technical school. I was pleased, indeed, to find that the White Paper recognised the desirability of the status of the various types of secondary school being equal. That ought to be reflected in the type of premises. The object of the Amendment is to provide that, in making Regulations, the Minister shall ensure that the premises of the various types of secondary school should be equivalent. Of course they must not be equal, because there are different types of schools, but I want an assurance that there will be no priority of the grammar school over the modern or over the technical. In view of the fact that the principle has been accepted in the White Paper, I anticipate no difficulty in the Minister accepting, at any rate, the principle of the Amendment.

Mr. Butler

I have no difficulty in accepting the principle, though I would rather not specify one particular question which has been put into the Bill as having to be included in the Regulations. I will accept the hon. Member's plea that similar, or equivalent, standards shall be applicable to secondary schools as a whole. He was wise enough to say one cannot get complete equality, owing to the different types of establishments which exist now, but we can ensure that, when a child enters the secondary sphere, it may have similar standards laid down for the physical surroundings in which it finds itself, with equivalent opportunities for recreation, physical or mental, and that, I think, will assure the hon. Member that we intend to accept the spirit of his Amendment, though I would ask him to leave the matter to the Regulations. If he wishes to be assured that Parliament will see the Regulations and know what the Government has in mind, he will realise that they are to be laid before Parliament.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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