HC Deb 27 July 1944 vol 402 cc935-9

Lords Amendment: In page 17, line 42, leave out from the beginning to "school", in line 45, and insert "The managers or governors of a controlled."

Mr. Butler

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

I think it would be convenient if we could, at the same time, consider the following Lords Amendments:

In line 47, leave out "on Sundays and."

In page 18, line 5, at end, insert: and the foundation managers or foundation governors shall be entitled to determine the use to which the school premises or any part thereof shall be put on Sundays, but save as aforesaid the local education authority may give such directions as to the occupation and use of the school premises of a controlled school as they think fit. In line 10, leave out "require" and insert "direct."

In line 15, leave out "required" and insert "directed."

In line 16, at end, insert: (3) Subject to any directions given by a local education authority under the foregoing provisions of this section and to the requirements of any enactment other than this Act or the regulations made thereunder, the occupation and use of the school premises of any voluntary school shall be under the control of the managers or governors thereof. In line 34, leave out "auxiliary" and insert "voluntary."

All the Amendments affect Clause 21, which deals with the powers of the local education authority and the use and care of the premises of auxiliary schools. If I could summarise the effect of these Amendments in one short statement, it would indicate how the new Clause 21 differs from the old Clause. The Amendments do not affect the position of aided and special agreement schools, which are referred to in the Clause in the terms of the original Clause 10. They affect only controlled schools.

What do these Amendments do? The foundation managers or governors are given the right to determine the use of the premises of controlled schools on Sundays. In the first place the foundation managers or governors are closely concerned with the use of the premises on Sundays, and it was thought that they should have a right to determine that use. Secondly, the whole body of managers or governors are given the right to determine the use of the premises on Saturdays when not required by the local education authority for youth welfare purposes. Thirdly, the whole body of managers or governors are given the right to determine the use of the premises from Monday to Friday, subject to any direction as to their use which the local authority may think fit to give. Really, all that this Amendment does is that, instead of the managers or governors feeling that, at any moment, the local authority might reserve the right to use their school, leaving them in uncertainty, the managers or governors now have the certainty that they have the right to use the school when they have no direction from the authority. While leaving the balance the same as before, this introduces more certainty into the picture between Monday and Friday, because the managers or governors of a controlled school can feel that they have certainty that the local authority will give them directions when they want the premises. These Amendments are improvements, and indicate, I think, that we have made the Clause better than it was before.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

Will the Minister say what is in his mind about the period of time during which the direction is to be given? What notice will the local authority have to give to the managers of the school that they require the school for their own purposes? They might say, "Well, we ought to have at least seven days' notice from the local education authority," but the latter might easily think that 48 hours, or even 24 hours, would be sufficient notice. There does not appear to me to be anything in the Clause to indicate the time, and there might easily be dispute between the parties as to the period of time in which notice should be given, regarding the requirements of the local authority in respect of these buildings.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

With the broad lines of what is suggested, the House will be in complete agreement, but the Amendment in regard to Sunday requires closer examination. We are dealing here with the controlled school. It is not an aided school, but a controlled school, and that means that the managers or governors will consist, as to one-third, of the denomination representatives, and, as to two-thirds, of those representing the local education authority. It is right and proper that a denomination which founded the school should have the first claim on the premises of the school on a Sunday. There will be many of these controlled schools, however, which will never be used on Sunday at all, and many more where, judging from one's experience, the use that will be made of them on Sundays will only be for the holding of a Sunday school. It often happens that other denominations may want facilities on a Sunday—educational, perhaps. I have known cases in Wales where, while the chapel was being rebuilt, the services were held in the schools, and, generally, there was no difficulty where it was a county school. Now, if the new school in an area is a controlled school, financed, managed and run by the public under the protection of a trust, the two foundation managers can deny the use of that school to anybody else, though they are not using it for any purpose themselves. Is it not possible for us to have some assurance that the powers now being placed by this Amendment in the hands of foundation managers or governors shall not be abused?

Mr. Ede

With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), I think that, in the first place, difficulties are not likely to arise, because the directions will generally be that the authority wants the school for an evening institute, and the terms during which these institutes run are well-known, but, if the demand is unreasonable, or the length of notice given is unreasonable, the managers have the right of appeal to the Minister against the direction or requirement of the local education authority under Clause D set out on page II of the Paper we are considering to-day, so there will be ample protection against unreasonable decisions. Concerning the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), let us realise that other denominations than that responsible for the foundation of the school have hitherto had no claim on these schools during any period of the week, and if, therefore, in some Welsh village, while the chapel is being repaired, the managers of a voluntary school have allowed the school to be used for church services, it has been as an act of grace and denominational good feeling in which, I am quite sure, we should rejoice.

I recollect once going to Wales and seeing a church school being conducted in a Nonconformist chapel because the building had become unusable, and a Roman Catholic school had been grafted on to it during the evacuation. That seemed to me to be getting as near as possible to what we would desire. Here, and not merely with regard to the use by the Nonconformist denomination of the church school, but with regard to the use of the building for educational purposes on Sunday, if consent is unreasonably withheld, any person who is aggrieved has, under the new Clause D, the right of appeal to the Minister, because he will allege that the power conferred by the Bill is being exercised unreasonably. That is a position that has not existed in the past and it does very considerably protect the position of other people in the village against managers who might try to exclude them from what is very often the only building available for social purposes in the village or hamlet. The new Amendment, coupled with the new Clause D on the Paper, amply safeguards the position mentioned both by my hon. Friend the Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. McEntee) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. M. Hughes).

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

Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 21, line 10, agreed to.