§ Considered in Committee, under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred—
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. R. A. Butler)
The Committee will see that the terms of this Resolution are broadly drawn. The Government's object is to enable us to discuss the many financial issues involved in the Education Bill in the course of its further stages, a course which has appeared to the Government to be desired by a large number of Members in the Committee. For the sake of hon. Members who are present I will just run over some of the heads, so as to explain how they are drawn and to indicate the Clauses of the Bill to which the various paragraphs relate. I need not detain the Committee for very long, since, as the object of the Resolution is to give an opportunity for discussing questions in more detail later, it would surely be a great pity if we were to discuss them in great detail now.
I should make it clear to the Committee that the Government's attitude towards the financial issues involved in a Bill of this magnitude has been expressed in the course of the speeches which were made by myself in introducing the Second Reading of the Bill and by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. The fact that 1067 the Government do not ask the Committee at this stage to accept a Resolution drawn in very rigid terms means that the Government desire to afford every opportunity for discussion. But our desire for that full and frank discussion must not be taken as involving any change in Government policy. I think it is necessary to say that because we are very keen to discuss all these matters. But I do not want any wrong interpretation to be put on the fact that we have drawn this Resolution in broad terms.
Coming to the paragraphs I think they speak for themselves. I will simply indicate any limitations they may contain so that there may be no misunderstanding at later stages. There is nothing more odious to a Minister than to think there is any misunderstanding as to limitations in the Committee stage after a Financial Resolution has been passed. Under paragraph (a) there is this slight limitation in that the remuneration is such as the Minister… may with the consent of the Treasury determine. …That is the only limitation there. That is concerned with the staff which the Minister may appoint. I think that is quite understandable.
Then we come to paragraph (b) dealing with the question of… paying grants for local education authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by such authorities in the exercise of their functions relating to education,The Committee will see that it is drawn in very broad terms, and should be read in conjunction with Clause 93 (1, a) of the Bill.
Paragraph (c) relates to Clause 93 (1, b) and is equally widely drawn.
Paragraph (d) is the paragraph about which certain representations were made to the Government and it is so drafted as to permit a discussion of the nature or amount of any financial assistance likely to be involved in repairs and alterations to the premises of aided and special agreement schools. It will also permit a discussion about whether financial assistance can be given towards the provision of new schools of these types. I must remind the Committee that Government policy on the subject of new schools is set out in Clause 15 and Clause 96. I would just 1068 remind the Committee that these Clauses provide for a grant to be paid where new premises are required for schools to take the place of accommodation formerly provided by another school or two or more such schools. We envisaged, in originally drafting the Clauses, cases of disturbance arising through town planning, slum clearance and similar interventions. It will be seen by the Committee that paragraph (d) is widely enough drawn to permit freedom of discussion on these various points at a later stage.
Paragraph (e) does not, I think, require any special comment. It speaks for itself. It refers to Clause 93 (1, c) of the Bill.
On paragraph (f) it would be possible for me to give the Committee a dissertation upon the methods of Welsh finance, a matter on which I see at least one expert present, but I think it would be a pity if the Committee were to enlarge the scope of the discussion on this paragraph because it does not relate to grants in general but to a special grant. It is specifically stated that the special annual grant paid to the local Welsh Education Authorities in respect of the schools maintained or assisted by them under Section nine of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, are not to exceed the sum payable under that Section in the year ended 31st March, 1929. It would not therefore be possible in Committee to increase the amount of grant under that particular head. That particular head is one to which I believe certain importance is attached and it would be wise to retain reference to it even though it will not be possible to increase it. But paragraph (f) does not refer to the main education grants.
Paragraph (g) is subject to the same limitations as paragraph (a) and provides for paying to any persons appointed to be members of Independent Schools Tribunals such remuneration and allowances as may, with the consent of the Treasury, be provided for. The paragraph relates to Clause 71 (1) of the Bill.
That, I think, is all I need say at this stage. I trust that we have met the convenience of hon. Members. I attach great importance in the case of a Bill of the magnitude which we shall be considering later to seeing that we should, as far as possible, meet the convenience of hon. Members, even though we cannot 1069 always agree with them. I trust, in moving this Resolution, that the Committee will let us have it without undue difficulty.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
We are all deeply indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for giving instructions that this Resolution should be framed as widely as possible to admit of the freest possible discussion. I quite understand the caveat which the right hon. Gentleman rightly put in, that it does not mean he is going to deviate in any way from the policy he laid before the House during the Second Reading. I shall certainly not enter into this question of Welsh finance under that particular Sub-section, but I do desire a little enlightenment on a point I raised during the Second Reading. It will be within the recollection of the Committee that I drew attention to the inequalities arising from the part of the expense being borne by the Treasury and the part being borne by the local authorities. My own suggestion was that all the expense should fall upon the Treasury. When I come to refer to this paragraph I see that it does provide for payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurredin paying grants to local education authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by such authorities in the exercise of their functions relating to education.I take it that one would be in Order during the course of a Bill in moving an Amendment that that grant should be 100 per cent. I am not quite sure whether one could then during the course of the other stages of the Bill move such Amendments as one to Clause 8 which deals with the provision and maintenance of primary and secondary schools. Clause 8 (1) reads:It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure that there shall be available for their area sufficient schools"—If I may put a hypothetical case I would leave out "local education authority" and make it read:It shall be the duty of the President of the Board of Education to secure that there shall be available in all areas sufficient schools,and so on. That would mean, of course, that the whole burden would be thrown upon the Treasury. I am wondering whether this Resolution is wide enough to enable me to raise that in that form, although I can conceive, and I should 1070 like to know the President's view on this, that possibly I can meet it by asking that the grants that shall be made to the poorer education authorities, or indeed all education authorities, shall be 100 per cent. of the cost they are incurring in educational matters. With this I end. It is a matter which is fundamental and vital. That is why I am raising it.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
I have been asked by the county education authorities to draw the attention of the Committee to the grant comparisons which are included in Table 11 on page 4 of the Bill. I am in somewhat of a difficulty, because having consulted you, Mr. Williams, and also in view of the observations made by the President in introducing the Resolution, I am informed that I should not be able to expand that, not to dilate upon the question of the rate burdens but only that of taxation.
I think it would be better if I made the position quite plain. Any Member is entitled at this stage of the Financial Resolution to say that the Government should give more money, that the Government should increase the financial contribution, but they are not allowed to go into the question of poorer or better off local rating authorities, or discuss in any way the incidence of rates as between different authorities. It is only the matter of finance, and an appeal can be made to the Government for more help, but we must leave out the provision of the rate.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
Thank you, Mr. Williams, for that explanation. I take it that it is within our right to deal with all the types of education for which this Financial Resolution provides?
I am not quite clear about that. I think I would like to see it when it comes up.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I too should like to thank you, Mr. Williams, but I am not quite sure now whether what I intended to say would be appropriate at the present time. Mine was not so much a comparison between district and district as between the national rate borne charge as against the taxation contribution. In view of what you have said I will take a rather different course at the moment and say that I will not go into that detail now. But I want 1071 to safeguard myself and the authorities against the point arising later on, that not having mentioned the question at this stage we were precluded at a later stage from bringing the matter before the House when in Committee.
As far as I am able to understand the hon. Member I do not think it will prejudice hon. Members on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I am obliged for that assurance. It is really what I required. I am aware that in Clause 93 the Minister has the power to make these grants. I am now saying that we do not consider that the grant will be adequate, and that we shall at a later stage put forward our applications and detailed reasons as to the statement made on our behalf. May I confine myself simply to thanking the Minister for the inclusion in the Resolution which has been placed on the Paper since the Bill was printed of paragraph (b), which does give us an opportunity of raising the matter at a subsequent date, which I hope to do on behalf of the Association at that time.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I want to commend the statement made by the President of the Board of Education because I felt very anxious to know what the Financial Resolution would allow. His statement tells us that on the Committee stage we shall be allowed to discuss the various points. Hitherto in many Bills we have had a Financial Resolution so circumscribed that when we have got to the Committee stage we have been told from the Chair "You cannot go further than that." I have been anxious to know what the Minister has in mind. I know he has been very fair over this matter. I want it to be the will of the House as to what financial aid shall be given. I want a wide scope of discussion on this matter on the Committee stage. I am particularly concerned with Clause 95, that is the one dealing with the aided school. This Resolution allows us on that Clause to make an appeal to the Committee for better financial aid than is being given in the Bill. It will be a matter for the Committee to decide as to whether or not they think something better should be given. That is all I ask. In matters of this kind I have always been a democrat. When we have been able to put our case before the Committee without any restrictions 1072 I shall accept their verdict, I do not say with pleasure, but I shall accept it. The Resolution gives us full opportunity, and I thank the Minister for what he has said.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I know it is rather late in the day, but I would like to join hon. Members who spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill in expressing gratitude to the Minister for the clear and persuasive way in which he put forward his educational plans for this country. I have thought at times what a relief it must be for him to be planning himself, instead of resisting the planning of others, which he frequently had to do when he was at the Foreign Office. Like many others who failed to catch the Speaker's eye on the Second Reading of the Bill, I would like to thank the Government for the wide and generous way in which they have drawn up the Money Resolution. It seems to me to provide, in paragraphs (b) and (c), an opportunity for us still to contribute some views about the educational requirements of this country. According to the Bill and to the Financial Resolution, this House, through the Minister, is making itself responsible for the entire payment for schools of which the Minister has Control and for practically a 50 per cent. payment for schools of which he has part control. It seems to me, therefore, that this House has a fairly free hand in advising the Minister or, through him, the educational authorities on what is to be the form of education in those schools.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was kind enough to remind the Committee that he did not catch the Speaker's eye on the Second Reading. This is the Financial Resolution, and we cannot have anything approaching a Second Reading speech. He must confine himself very strictly to the Financial Resolution.
§ Sir T. Moore
Yes, Mr. Williams; but may I also remind you that I thanked the Government for having drawn the Financial Resolution so widely that it enabled us to make certain contributions on the subject of teaching in the schools, for which financial provision is to be made?
§ Sir T. Moore
Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Williams; but may I draw your attention—I know you will probably have made a study of them—to paragraphs (b) and (c). Paragraph (b) deals with expenditure incurredin paying grants to local education authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by such authorities in the exercise of their functions relating to education.Surely, if we are giving, under this Resolution, the money to be spent on matters relating to education, I suggest, very respectfully, that it is within our prerogative to suggest to the Minister the matters to which we judge local authorities should pay attention in expending this money.
There, again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman could do it on Second Reading or on the Clauses of the Bill, but not on the Money Resolution.
§ Sir T. Moore
Most respectfully, I am not trying to be smart or anything of that kind, but I understood that the Financial Resolution was not, in its original form, quite acceptable to either the Minister or the House, and that, as a result of certain representations that were made, the Resolution was withdrawn and (b) and (c) were put in, in order to make this Debate as widely spread as possible.
No, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not quite got the point. They were put in so that the matter could be dealt with on the Committee stage, not on this Resolution but on the Bill itself.
§ Sir T. Moore
Yes, Mr. Williams, I see your point; but there is a question which, despite the width of this Resolution, I am not sure could be dealt with in an Amendment. That is the point which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in his most admirable and witty speech, the question of forming a pool of teachers, or potential teachers, from among serving members of the Forces. Even now, casting my mind well ahead, I do not see how it would be possible to put that into an Amendment to the Bill.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am getting into the strait-jacket of Parliamentary procedure, but I still see one opening. I will leave for 1074 the moment the Parliamentary Secretary's most admirable speech, and deal with a matter of very high Imperial importance. That is the question—and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister will pay particular attention to this point—of establishing a two-way traffic in teachers between the Dominions and ourselves.
§ Sir T. Moore
I admit that that was out of Order; therefore, I will end these very inconsequential and disjointed remarks—that is not altogether my own fault—by appealing to you, Mr. Williams, and your colleagues, when we come to deal with these points on the Committee stage, possibly by Amendments that will meet our wishes, to view our efforts with more kindliness than you have shown me to-day.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
I am sure that every Member will be grateful to the President of the Board of Education for having drafted this Resolution so broadly, but some like the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), who desired to speak to-day, will regret that the Debate is on so narrow a question, but the Resolution is broad, and it will present opportunities for Members when the Bill is in Committee. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) suggested that there should be a 100 per cent. grant. I hope that that will never happen; that would remove much local influence and control. I think it would be a very regrettable thing, because it would remove a great deal of the local interest, and our educational system would tend to become deadly uniform in character. On the other hand, I would like to ask the President of the Board of Education whether, under this Resolution, the obligations placed on the local education authorities by Clause 8 of the Bill can be carried out. Is there sufficient finance available, or are the grants high enough to enable all authorities in the country to carry out their obligations under the Bill? That is all important. It was suggested by one hon. Member that if the President of the Board of Education gave 100 per cent. grants he would then have the onus of providing the standards. I do not want a no per cent. grant, but I want grants of such a standard that every authority will be able to carry out its obligations.
1075 We hope in this Bill to set a high standard of education. The main responsibility for that rests with the President of the Board of Education. We must never place upon any body a greater burden than we know they can bear. If we were to do that, we should be false to our trust. I know that the President is particularly anxious about this: no Member has a higher regard to the work he has done in connection with this Bill than I have; but I want to fix that responsibility definitely upon him. This Bill must not go on the Statute Book until he is absolutely satisfied that every authority operating under this Bill is able to carry out its obligations financially. Obviously, we shall have opportunities when the Bill is discussed in Committee, but I want the President to see that the grants are high enough to put every authority in such a position that it can reasonably be expected to carry out its obligations.
§ Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris (St. Pancras, North)
What I had intended to say has been said by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), so I will content myself with saying, on behalf of my Catholic colleagues on this side, that we are very grateful for the way that my right hon. Friend has had paragraph (b) drawn up, and we hope that that augurs well for the future.
§ Mrs. Wright (Bodmin)
I want to add to what a previous speaker has said about those areas which will not be able to meet the expenditure involved in the Bill without undue hardship or greater financial assistance from the Board. I admit that, like the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), I came here to-day hoping that I might get off my chest a speech which I did not get the opportunity of making on the Second Reading. However, I have the good fortune to come after him rather than before him, so I have learned the error of my ways, and I have cut the several pages of my remarks down to a few sentences. I still would like, with your permission, Mr. Williams, to stake a claim on the Committee stage of the Bill on this Question. The phrase "to stake a claim" was used advisedly to me to-day by a man of considerable authority in this House, and, obviously, it was a leader to me on what I could and could not say. Those of us who are not admittedly 1076 allowed to say to-day that we represent areas which have a low rateable value, nevertheless, can say we represent counties which are extremely poor. We do not want to see these counties suffer. Naturally, the Financial Resolution as it stands is very wide, and, if we like to think optimistically, can provide the necessary moneys so that we can see in our areas adequate schools and teachers, and the Bill carried out not only to the letter, but in the spirit in which it has been so nobly conceived.
Those of us who represent poor rural areas hope that, in the intervening period between now and the Committee stage of the Bill, the President of the Board of Education will not have allowed his mind so to crystallise that he deprives himself of our valuable advice on this matter, because it is a matter of very great concern to those whom we represent. I believe that I am not allowed to mention that the rating in Cornwall is considerably lower than the rating anywhere else and, naturally, I shall not pursue that point, but it is, nevertheless, true.
§ Mrs. Wright
I naturally bow to your judgment, Mr. Williams, but I was going on to say that in paragraph (d)—I am here sticking to the letter of the Financial Resolution—reference is made to the carrying out of repairs and alterations. In my area these repairs and alterations are going to be more necessary and expensive than in certain other areas, and I hope that, in interpreting this particular paragraph of the Financial Resolution, the President of the Board of Education will bear that in mind. It is extremely difficult for those of us who want to voice the opinions of our constituents on this Bill to await a time when, possibly, parochial matters will not have their place in the Debates, It is not out of any desire to be either mischievous or difficult that I stand here to-day and try to worm my way into the heart of the Chair. It is simply that it has been a little difficult to get a Ruling on what we might be allowed to say and what we might not. In view of the fact that Cornwall, like Wales, considers itself to be a foreign country—and there is a paragraph entirely devoted to Wales—I felt that possibly my contribution 1077 on behalf of Cornwall might equally well have been permitted to-day. I beg the President of the Board of Education to remember the very dire needs of these rural areas, which have been backward only because of their financial situation and not at all because of their lack of purpose or ambitions. We need every possible assistance from him, and the grant as it stands, I am afraid, will not see the results envisaged in the Bill. I do not say that we should have 100 per cent. help from the Board, but we need far more help than do other areas.
§ Mr. Eccles (Chippenham)
I am completely at a loss to know what would be in Order and what would not, and I will ask your advice, Mr. Williams, straight away, so that I may know whether I shall be in Order or not. I want to discuss the figures in Table 1 of the Financial Memorandum which constitute the estimate presented to the House of money that will have to be found under the Financial Resolution, and, in particular, I want to talk about the capital cost of the building programme which, I feel, has not been sufficiently explained.
This is a fairly complicated table and I would rather like to hear what the hon. Member has to say. If he will keep away from what is not in the Financial Resolution, it will be all right. He can say what he likes about increasing taxation, as was put so excellently from another hon. Member.
§ Mr. Eccles
I am a newcomer to Financial Resolutions and Memoranda, but as I see it the Financial Memorandum and therefore the Resolution stand in relation to the Bill as the underwriter's guarantee should stand in relation to a company prospectus. When I look at the Financial Memorandum I see no guarantee that the money, labour and materials will be forthcoming when the Bill gets into operation. I am particularly concerned with the lumping together of the capital sum required for the building pragramme with the current charges, like teachers' salaries. The result of that is that in Table 1 we have no idea of the size of the building programme, and yet, in paragraph (4) of the Financial Memorandum we are told that the whole development of Part II of the Bill depends upon whether the material, labour and money will be available. That puts us in a very awkward position.
1078 My right hon. Friend in his speech said that the competing claims in the building industry were such that he could not say whether priority would be given to the building of schools. Can he give us before the Committee stage the capital figures which are included in Table 1? We want to know the burden falling on the building industry, and whether the capital figures included in Table 1 really cover the true costs of the programme as tar as can be seen now. To what proportion of the various types of new schools do they refer? If they refer only to a small proportion, the financial burden of the Bill will be greater than can be seen at present. I do not know what the capital cost of the building programme is going to be, but I would ask my right hon. Friend whether these two comparisons are not fair—first, that it is less than half of the amount spent by the Ministry of Aircraft Production on the construction and equipment of aircraft factories in this country, and, secondly, that it is no more than the production cost of heavy bombers in the last four years. In both of these cases the amount spent has been spent in a considerably less time than that in Table 1 will have to be spent. Supposing we were not here in January, 1944, but say, in January, 1941, and the Minister of Aircraft Production came to the House and said, "The Cabinet have decided to increase the bomber programme; I shall have my production plans ready in three years but I cannot promise any aircraft to the Secretary of State for Air, because labour and materials may not be available." Such a statement in regard to a vital weapon of war would be ridiculous, and a similar qualification in regard to what I think is a vital weapon of peace should be equally ridiculous.
We are given no hope at all that, in the period of reconstruction, any priority will be attached to the capital cost of this Bill. That means that the Government think that there will be such a scarcity of materials and labour even after 1947 that they dare not attach any priority to the schools. I see you looking at me, Mr. Williams, and I therefore want to ask the President of the Board of Education two things: first, may we have the figures on which the Committee can judge the importance of the school building programme relative to other projects of reconstruction; and secondly, will he ask his colleagues to get a priority attached 1079 to school building at least equal to the repair of houses and the re-equipment of industry.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The Financial Resolution is important. Unless we can get the finance of the Bill right, any hope of its being implemented must go. If the finance of the Bill is to be put right, it is obvious that the Government grant must be very much bigger than has hitherto been contemplated. I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) that local authorities should receive 100 per cent. Government grant for the whole of their education expenditure. If they were to be given such a grant they would have no claim to local control. But there is certain expenditure involved in the Bill which the Government might bear up to 100 per cent. I have in mind new capital expenditure. This expenditure would only be incurred if the Board of Education had first expressed its approval. Once it had decided that the capital expenditure was necessary and night, the Government must be prepared to pay 100 per cent. grant.
In certain areas there is a special expenditure involved, which will be increased under the Bill with the provision of new secondary schools, such as the transport of school children. There, again, the Government might consider whether a special expenditure of that kind should not be met by 100 per cent. Government grant. The lessons of the past with regard to our not being able to make greater progress in education are, again and again, that local authorities, with the best desire in the world to carry out the intentions of Parliament, have been unable to do so for financial reasons. The only way in which that difficulty can be overcome is for the Government to give more financial help. I, therefore, hope that my right hon. Friend will be successful—and I am sure he desires it—in trying to persuade the Treasury to be more generous to education in the matter of grants. We know from experience of the Home Office in Civil Defence that it was only when the Government were prepared to give 100 per cent. grants for shelters that the job was done. I think that that will happen in regard to schools. I can assure my right hon. Friend that any efforts he may make to try to persuade 1080 the Treasury to loosen the purse strings and help in financing this Bill will meet with support from all quarters of the Committee.
§ Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)
I would like to join my voice to that of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) in expressing the hope that the Government will be able to undertake a larger share of the cost of educational development. All who represent rural areas cannot help relating this enormous programme to the resources of those areas. We are imposing tasks on local authorities, but when we examine their resources they are not equal to those tasks. Thus we come to the right hon. Gentleman and ask if he will be prepared to carry a large proportion of the capital expenditure required for the provision of new buildings, or, alternatively, carry a larger proportion of such items as the transport of children to school, or the maintenance of children, if it is necessary for them to live away from home. In paragraph 10 of the Financial Memorandum there is a sum of £900,000 which has not yet been allotted but which will pass for additional grant to the poorest areas on a basis yet to be settled. The County of Holland in Lincolnshire is not regarded among the first in educational advance at the present time, but that is due, simply and solely, to the difficulties of financing this programme on a local basis. Without consulting other Members for Lincolnshire I am quite certain that this £900,000, divided between Kesteven, Lindsey and Holland, would enable us to do this work to my right hon. Friend's satisfaction with extreme promptitude. But I bear in mind that there are other backward areas——
I think the hon. Member is getting rather far from the point. If we are to refer to every backward area we shall be getting on dangerous ground.
§ Mr. Butcher
I had a feeling that I had better return to a more prosperous area to bring myself more into line with your view, Mr. Williams. I want to tell the Minister that there is a genuine desire on the part of all people to make our future education plans work, but unless we are prepared to make a clean sweep of this job once and for all, particularly in terms of capital equipment, we shall not be able 1081 to do much. This problem of capital equipment is of first importance for many areas, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow us to help him in making sure that substantial finance is really available to make a first-class job of his Bill.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
I am grateful to the President of the Board of Education for the wide terms of this Resolution. But I am not certain that I have not discovered something which hon. Members wish to discuss and which would not be permitted and, therefore, I want to ask whether it would be in Order for us to move that managers may raise money on the same terms as local authorities.
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not wish to move it here, Mr. Williams. I intended to ask whether it would be in Order to move it on the Committee stage. Would such an Amendment be in accordance with the Financial Resolution? I should be grateful, also, if Clause 96 could be made clear, because I find some doubt among educationists about its meaning. After reading the Clause carefully I have come to the conclusion that it authorises the Minister to pay 50 per cent. of the cost of the new schools. But the Minister is precluded from using the word "new" and in the Financial Memorandum talks of the cost as 50 per cent. of the cost of the "substituted schools." That has caused doubt, and I should be grateful if we could know what is exactly meant.
§ Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
I am sorry it has not been possible for me to be here throughout the whole of this Debate, but I have been detained on other business. I would like to join with other Members in welcoming the manner in which this Money Resolution has been drawn. It reflects the open mind, not only of the Minister but of the Government in general, towards this difficult and controversial problem of finance in relation to education. I would like to say that if the Government find it possible to meet us on this question of finance, there will not be any unnecessary and unfortunate haggling on the Floor of the House later. I hope the Minister will find it possible to assure us to-day that negotiations might take place behind the 1082 Chair, so to speak, in order that unnecessary Amendments will not be placed on the Order Paper for the purpose of bargaining. From the Second Reading Debate it must have been obvious to the Minister that there was a great deal of feeling on this point, reflected in all parts of the House, by Members of all religious denominations, and that the Bill as introduced in its restricted form would not meet with that unanimous reception which a Measure of this kind should meet with if it is to be worked satisfactorily to all concerned.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) will forgive me if I say that it is my experience of Parliament that not all is well when everybody congratulates the Minister. To me it looks like the calm before the storm. I have seen that happen before. However, I do not intend to be critical, because I think the Minister has dealt with this problem skilfully, and that the Money Resolution is wide enough to deal with all that the Bill intends it to do. But might I say that I do not think the President would, have succeeded so well, if his Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), were not his deputy?
I want to raise two small points. I sat on the Manchester education committee for some years and that is the only reason why I have any title to speak. I want to know whether this Money Resolution will provide local authorities with sufficient money to make secondary education absolutely free in this country, where that is so desired. I am not sure of that. I was responsible for moving in Manchester some time ago, a resolution to make secondary education free in that city. But financial restrictions came along, and the Government induced the local authority to abolish the system of free education in our city. My next point is this: The real problem about this Money Resolution is connected with the cost of building schools and the cost of each school place. That is a very important issue. I assume that, as happened after the last war, the cost of these buildings will naturally come down in the future, and I do not think we ought to criticise the Government if they are assuming that the cost of school buildings and school places will come down. We 1083 cannot possibly think that a house which cost £300 to build before the war and which now costs £1,100 will always cost that amount to build.
In two or three Clauses of the Bill it is intended to alter, modify or, at any rate, amend the problem of educational administration in connection with the employment of children during school hours and holiday time. I am not allowed to deal with that now, but I hope to do so later. I am not bold enough to say that I am staking the claim to speak on this subject later, but I am wondering whether the Board think that by Resolution there is sufficient money to deal with the administration of this very important question. Perhaps we can be told something about that. Having kept within the limits of Order, Mr. Williams, let me finish by saying that I understand there have been some negotiations about this Money Resolution. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff will again forgive me for saying so, I am not enamoured of consultation behind the scenes. If there are any money problems to be dealt with the Floor of the House is the place to deal with them. Whatever private discussions on money affairs there are behind the Chair, they have to come here to be ventilated.
§ Colonel A. Evans
I am sure it is well in the mind of my hon. Friend that in all matters of legislation—for instance, as that affecting the Home Office, with which he was so familiar when he was such a distinguished member of that Department—negotiations have to take place of a preliminary character which must, in the nature and order of things, come to this House for subsequent confirmation. I merely suggested that in the event of preliminary negotiations taking place they should be largely settled in detail before coming to this House.
§ Mr. Davies
I am sure there is no difference of opinion on that score. It is always the duty of a Minister to try to make arrangements, but it is the duty of Members of Parliament to see that those arrangements are brought here.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
I gathered during the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) that the only thing 1084 he said that was in order was a compliment he paid to the Parliamentary Secretary. As modesty prevents me from doing that I may find myself in some difficulty even in dealing with some of the points made by my hon. and gallant Friend in the course of this Debate. But I would like to thank the Committee for the way in which they have recognised the determination of my right hon. Friend the President that there should be no limitation, so far as we can avoid it, upon the discussions in Committee. I think the manly and democratic way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) acknowledged that and said that after discussions had taken place he would be willing to accept whatever decision the House arrived at indicated that the offer was being accepted in the spirit in which it was tendered. We do not desire that at any stage anyone should be ruled out from submitting a proposal to the House on the ground that it is outside the Money Resolution. I have spent more time in Opposition than in office in this House and I know the annoyance felt when one rises on the Committee stage of a Bill with a proposition that seems perfectly reasonable, and when one feels one has the majority of the Committee with one, and is told that the narrow drawing of the Money Resolution has ruled one out of Order. We hope that no one will suffer that feeling of frustration in the course of our forthcoming discussions.
We have had a characteristic speech from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) who suggested an amendment to the wording of Clause 8 that would alter the position of the Minister and the local authorities as it is set out in Clause 1. We are well aware that in England and Wales there is so wide a diversity of the spread of the population and of the pursuits of the people who look for employment for a great majority of our children that it would be impossible to lay down in the office of the Board the way in which education should be carried on, except in the most general terms Therefore, we regard the local authorities as our partners in the work of administration. It is true we take more powers in this Bill than we have hitherto had to spur the laggards. I recollect Lord Eustace Percy saying in my presence that the duty of the Board was to restrain the hasty and spur the laggards. I replied 1085 that I had noticed him more frequently exercising his first office than the second. We have drafted a Clause which we hope will enable us to spur the laggards without unnecessarily restraining those who are anxious to experiment. I am bound to say that it is my experience, after 35 years of local government, that the higher the percentage of grant the more Departmental control comes in. I am quite sure that, if this House was paying 100 per cent. of the cost of education, there would be an insistence that national ideas should prevail, sometimes against the legitimate wishes of the locality. I often recollect that, on my own County Council, where at one time we would not meet the men employed on the highway through their trade union, the minute the trunk roads were 100 per cent. the Ministry of Transport insisted that we must have a Joint Industrial Council with our men. While I rejoice at the result, I am not sure that in other cases it might not be wrong to apply the same principle.
The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) spoke on behalf of the County Councils Association. We recognise that there is grave misgiving—I use the adjective advisedly—in some quarters as to whether the existing grant regulations, even as we have proposed to amend them, will enable the benefits of this Bill to be extended to secure, as Clause 1 makes imperative, a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. The principle on which we proceed is that, according to age, ability and aptitude, every child in the country, no matter where he is born or where he may reside, shall have an equal opportunity of developing his talents. We shall have to pay attention to the feelings expressed in the House, both to-day and on Second Reading, that this may be denied to certain children because the incidence of local expenditure may be too high. Last year my local authority gave a boy £230 a year with which to go to Cambridge because they thought that he was worth the investment. A penny rate produces £52,000. In my hon. and learned Friend's constituency a penny rate produces £600. If his local authority gave such a grant people would turn round to see a halfpenny rate walking down the street. We know of these problems and there is a genuine desire on the part of the Board that they shall be solved, because, unless 1086 we are able to solve them, it is quite clear that a large number of children of our country, often those most in need of help, will not secure the benefit of great parts of this Bill.
The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins) supports the view I take with regard to having no 100 per cent. grant. He thinks he would like to get nearer to 100 per cent. than I, but I hope he will not be too certain of that too soon. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Pancras North (Wing Commander Grant-Ferris) supported the view expressed by the hon. Member for Leigh. The hon. Lady the Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright) asked the President not to allow his mind to crystallise. May I say that of all people I have come across in my experience I know of no one with a mind so crystal as the Minister, but I have also observed that he never allows its crystalline clearness to be obscured by letting ideas crystallise too soon. Having watched my right hon. Friend closely for a very long time, before I took office, when I used to sit opposite, I can now assure the hon. Lady that she will be perfectly wise in trying to worm her way not into his heart but into his mind. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) asked for certain capital figures. I want to assure him that we will do our very best to meet him. I hope that on the question of priority he will recollect that it is a very great thing to get into the Pool of Bethesda first. So far as the social reform programme of the Government is concerned, we stepped into the waters as soon as we saw the Angel troubling them. We hope we shall receive the blessings that were promised.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) made a suggestion about 100 per cent. grant in certain circumstances. We shall examine everything that conies from him with the utmost care, but I am not sure that his suggestion that we should rely on the A.R.P. precedent was a very helpful one, because by giving some people 100 per cent. after others had done the job well, we did not get very much satisfaction expressed by the local authorities. In fact there were accusations that there had been a breach of faith in the matter—quite unjustifiable, as I said in the House at the time. We have to be very careful that, by increasing the grant to a considerable extent after certain people have done the job reasonably well, we 1087 do not penalise those who have been getting on with the job. For instance, some authorities have got a very long way with the task of reorganisation, while some have not started at all. To give the latter 100 per cent. in respect of jobs which other people have been doing with a lower scale of grant, would not, I think, encourage local authorities to work the grant system in partnership as it should be worked.
§ Mr. Lipson
What I asked for was that there should be 100 per cent. at the outset for all capital expenditure required by this Bill.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Does it not mean that the child has been sacrificed in the past because of the failure of the local authority, and that the child is also going to be sacrificed in the future, and does the hon. Gentleman mean to tell the Committee now that the well-being of a local authority is more important than the education of children?
§ Mr. Ede
No, my hon. and learned Friend is taking a most unjudicial attitude in considering my crime. We have greater powers in this Bill to compel the local authorities to attend to the child than we have hitherto had. When this Bill becomes an Act, the powers of the Minister will be such that we shall be able to deal with cases where the well-being of the child has been sacrificed in the past.
§ Mrs. Wright
Presumably, the hon. Gentleman is taking into account whether they can afford it or not? What provision is being made to see that they will be able to go ahead in future? That is the whole point.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) asked whether loans for school managers would be available on certain terms. That is a form of assistance, and is, therefore, we hope, covered by the terms of the Financial Resolution. In fact, the Resolution was 1088 so worded that such a discussion could take place on the Committee stage of the Bill.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) made a speech generally in support of the speeches made by the hon. Member for Leigh and the hon. and gallant Member for St. Pancras North. We are now at the stage where discussion takes place in this House, and, quite clearly, any arrangements that may be made, or may have been made in the past, will have to be submitted here for the decision of the House. We have so drafted the Resolution that I doubt whether even the ingenious mind of the hon. and gallant Member can suggest a provision so vague as to be outside the terms of the Financial Resolution.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked whether secondary education would be free. After all, up to the moment there has been no statutory requirement that secondary education shall be free. In fact, there has been no explicit duty on an English authority to provide secondary education. They have done it, and I tremble to think what would have happened to any of them who had declined, but there has been no mandatory requirement. Clause 59, Subsection (1), will make it statutory that all secondary education provided in schools maintained by the local education authority shall be free. It will clearly need another Act of Parliament to go back on that decision, once it is enacted by this House.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
But is there anything there to preclude a local education authority from making certain charges, even though, legally, secondary education must be free?
§ Mr. Ede
If there is any doubt on that, I will examine the Bill to see, but certainly we do not intend children to be weighted out of certain schools by charges for uniforms and sport, and the hon. Member will find that in Clause 76 (a) we give the local education authority powerto defray such expenses of children attending county schools … as may be necessary to enable them to take part in any school activity.Certainly the spirit of our desire is on the lines that my hon. Friend would desire. I will undertake to examine the Bill to make sure that the specific point that he has raised is dealt with.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If my hon. Friend reads the next paragraph he will find:To pay the whole or any part of the fees and expenses payable in respect of children attending schools at which fees are payable.
§ Mr. Ede
Inasmuch as these are schools at which fees are payable, they cannot be schools maintained by the local education authority. The words my hon. Friend has read enable a local education authority to assist, let us say, a parent who can pay part of the cost of sending his boy to Eton but cannot pay the whole of it. It clearly cannot allude to any school maintained by an authority, because no fee may be charged there. My hon. Friend also tried to draw me on the question of the employment of school children. We have been advised that an Amendment of the law relating to the employment of school children cannot be brought within the Title of an Education Bill and for that reason it would clearly be out of Order for me to say anything about it now but we are aware of the point that he has in mind and he can rest assured that he has the sympathy of my right hon. Friend and myself and that we hope that legislation with regard to this matter, which is not within our purview, will enable a movement to take place along the tines he desires.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
With reference to my hon. Friend's question, may I ask on what basis the original figures for cost of buildings are taken, and can he say a word on 76 (c), as to whether a maintenance allowance can be paid in secondary schools?
§ Mr. Ede
I have already told my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham that we are considering whether we can make some statement with regard to capital costs and the way we have arrived at them, and I hope that covers the first point. With regard to 76 (c), it is clear that that covers the case of a child remaining at a secondary school beyond the compulsory school age. Let me read the Sub-section:Local education authorities shall have power (c) to grant scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries and other allowances in respect of pupils over compulsory school age.The limitation is not on the school that the child attends but on the age of the child. Once the child is beyond the compulsory school age he becomes eligible for a maintenance grant, of course under 1090 regulations which the local authority will make, irrespective of the school he may happen to be attending.
The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) suggested that if I were asked to place Holland in order of merit with local education authorities I should not put it in the first two in the country. I will accept that. I hope he will not ask me to say how few local education authorities there would have to be in competition before I could assure him that his authority would have a place, because we have been told earlier that it is out of Order to compare local authorities as between rich and poor, and in that I include rich and poor in character as well as rich and poor in wealth. We have had a very pleasant and helpful discussion. I thank the Committee for the manner in which the Resolution has been received, and we sincerely hope that the good spirit that has prevailed both on Second Reading and in the discussion to-day will remain with us through the remaining days on which we have to discuss the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred—
§ Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.