HC Deb 27 July 1944 vol 402 cc921-2

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 32, at end, insert "spiritual."

Mr. Butler

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

It has been felt by the Government that the introduction of this word "spiritual" is the best method to adopt of meeting those who feel that the definition in Clause 7 does not include a reference to the various portions of the Bill which deal with religious education. "Spiritual" is the most satisfactory word, and the word which has received the most general support.

Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)

I hope that this House will not agree with the Lords on this matter. The word "spiritual" is either quite innocuous and meaningless or it has a definite meaning. If it is innocuous there is no need to insert it, and if it has a meaning at all it is a meaning that a large part of the community would object to see expressed in an Act of Parliament. We have heard a lot of talk about the balance which the President of the Board of Education has managed to achieve among the different sections of the community, and to insert the word "spiritual," the most numinous word one could possibly find, into an Act of Parliament will entirely upset any understanding dependent on that balance. I would explain what I mean by that.

There are large sections of the religious community in this country who believe that the schools should teach the people religion. They are generally either Catholics or Anglicans. We have made provision for them; they have their own voluntary schools and we have met them very generously in this matter and have provided means by which they can follow the dictates of their own conscience. But there is also a very large section of the religious population of the country, Non-conformists and people not attached to any Church, who object to the very idea that the State, and especially the local education authorities, should be put in charge of the spiritual teaching of the country. I hope that what I regard as an injustice, and even an impertinence, to these people will not be allowed, and I think we should disagree with the Lords in this matter. Before I sit down I should like to say that there is a popular cliché of thought going round among the very same people who at the end of the last war were all for licence and irreligion. Now they are all hot and bothered about religion. They are no more religious now than they were then.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for accepting this Amendment and I am astonished at the speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd). The whole structure and background of this Bill are based upon the deep religious convictions of the people of this country, of whatever denomination they may be. As was said during the earlier proceedings on the Bill the President has conferred a great endowment upon the public life of this country by handling the religious aspect in education in the way he has done, and I hope the House will agree with the Lords Amendment.

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