HC Deb 27 July 1944 vol 402 cc928-31

Lords Amendment: In page 10, line 48, leave out from "him" to end of Subsection, and insert: (6) After proposals for the establishment of a new school have been approved by the Minister under this Section the authority or persons by whom the proposed school is to be established shall submit to him in such form and in such manner as he may direct specifications and plans of the school premises, and the Minister, on being satisfied that the school premises will conform to the prescribed standards may approve the specifications and plans: Provided that before submitting specifications and plans in respect of a school which is to be maintained as a voluntary school the persons by whom the school is to be established shall consult the local education authority. (7) When the proposals specifications and plans for a new school have been approved by the Minister under this Section it shall be the duty of the authority or persons by whom the proposed school is to be established to give effect to the proposals in accordance with the specifications and plans so approved, except that in the case of proposals submitted under Sub-section (2) of this Section the duty of providing playing fields and any buildings required only for affording facilities for medical inspection or treatment or for providing milk, meals, or other refreshment shall be the duty of the local education authority. (8) When proposals for the maintenance of any school have been approved by the Minister under this Section it shall be the duty of the local education authority to maintain it; and an authority shall not be under any duty to maintain a school after proposals that the authority shall cease to maintain it have been approved by the Minister under this Section.

Mr. Butler

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

There is a consequential Amendment to which I shall refer later. Clause 12, as it left the Commons, did not make it clear that there are two distinct stages in the establishment of the school, and the effect of this Amendment, which defines the procedure more clearly than the original Clause 12, is that Sub-sections (1) to (5) relate to the first stage and Subsections (6) to (8) to the second stage. The first stage is the publication of notices of the essential particulars of the proposed school, such as its location, its denominational or educational character, and so forth. It is at this stage of publication that objections by interested persons can be made. The second stage arises when the Minister has approved the proposal, with or without modification, and at that stage plans and specifications of the school are submitted to the Minister by the promoters. Our object, therefore, in submitting this redraft is to make those two stages clearer and, in fact, to clarify the position and make the Bill a better Bill.

Under the new Sub-section (7), which is a long one, when the proposals or specifications and plans are approved it becomes the duty of the authorities to give effect to the proposals. In the case of voluntary schools the plans will normally include particulars of the playing fields, and rooms for medical treatment and the provision of meals and milk. The intention of the Bill, as shown in the Clauses which the House considered before, Clause 51 (1), Clause 46 (5) and Clause 47, is that the playing fields and rooms provided solely for medical inspection and treatment and school meals should be provided by the local education authority. The House, in Committee, considered these other Clauses, and this Clause now brings the Bill into line with them.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment. As I read it, the net effect of the new Sub-section (7) will be this. It will be possible for persons who seek to set up an aided school to submit their plans for the approval of the Minister. These will consist, on the one side, of nothing but a collection of class-rooms and, on the other, of another building containing a large hall which will be labelled "For playing purposes," some rooms upstairs which will be labelled "For purposes of medical inspection," the usual adjuncts for playing field purposes, dressing rooms and so forth and, in fact, a far bigger and more imposing building than the actual collection of classrooms. For the collection of classrooms, the denomination will have to provide 50 per cent. of the capital costs; but, if this provision is accepted, the whole cost of the playing fields and of the far more important building will be borne entirely by public funds.

The Minister has argued that the intention to provide this additional bonus to the denominational schools was manifest in the Bill as it left this House. I have looked at those provisions again. I have well in mind what transpired during the passage of the Bill through this House. If it was the intention, it certainly does not seem to come to light in the provisions of the Bill as they are studied, it does not come to light in any of the provisions referred to by my right hon. Friend, and it certainly was not mentioned during the passage of the Bill through this House. It is true that the Bill contains provision whereby, when the local authority directs the special provision of facilities for meals or for other purposes, the local authority has to pay. That is the position when something additional has to be provided to an existing building.

The House accepted that principle, but it never accepted the principle that, when approving plans for a new school, in which provision is to be made for meals or for doctors' visits, a proportion should be borne out of local funds. If it had been, we should have heard from that Box during the Committee stage, time and again, in emphasis of the generosity with which the denominations were to be treated, that it was not 50 per cent. that they were being asked to pay, as the plans would include these dining rooms and other extra rooms for which they would have to pay nothing. The Minister would have said, "No denomination will ever have to pay 50 per cent., because these facilities are to be paid for out of public funds." Never, during the discussions on the Bill or on the White Paper, was any suggestion made that the assistance to the denominations would exceed 50 per cent. This is not a provision to carry out, as the Minister said, the intention of this House. It is another side method of providing more than 50 per cent. We have gone far enough. Those of us who do not believe in denominational schools accepted the basic principle of the White Paper, the 50 per cent. During the passage of the Bill through this House we went further, and accepted the principle of easy money, at low rates of interest, to enable the denominations to build schools. We never accepted the principle that a large proportion of the buildings necessary for these services should be paid for by public funds. I hope that this House will reject this Amendment from their Lordships' House.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

I find it difficult to understand why my hon. and learned Friend has worked himself into such a passion over this matter. He seemed to be worried because this Amendment had come upon him as a surprise, but he did not appear to argue that we should reject the Amendment on the good ground that it is undesirable. I cannot find anything denominational in dining rooms or playing fields, or rooms where doctors examine the children. What I am concerned with is that these facilities should be as good as possible; and if this Amendment will make them better, I welcome it, as I think, on public grounds, we all would.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Consequential Amendment made to the Bill: In Clause 79, page 59, line 34, leave out "provision of a new county school," and insert: maintenance as a county school of a school which at the time being is not such a school."—[Mr. Butler.] Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 12, line 25, agreed to.