HC Deb 10 March 1944 vol 397 cc2457-60
Mr. R. Morģan

I beg to move, in page 23, line 3, at the end, to insert: Provided that the managers or governors shall, on giving notice of such dismissal, immediately inform the authority in writing of the grounds upon which such dismissal is based, and in the event of the authority not being satisfied that the grounds stated are in fact connected with the giving of religious instruction as aforesaid in the school, the matter shall, unless the parties otherwise agree, be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule () to this Act, and those provisions shall have effect accordingly.

Mr. Butler

The position is that local education authorities have certain duties imposed upon them. If there is a difference between them and the managers the matter can be referred to the Minister. I do not think in the circumstances the Amendment need be pressed. On the next Clause we shall have to consider the question of getting complete security for teachers.

Mr. Bevan

May I point out that some Amendments have been passed over which are of great importance? The progress of the Bill will not be expedited by missing out those Amendments. We shall have to discuss the matters with which they deal on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. R. Morģan

In view of the explanation by the Minister, and as there will be a further opportunity for discussion I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes (Carmarthen)

This Clause raises a very important matter. It is designed to secure the rights of the managers and governors of aided schools to dismiss teachers of their own initiative without any reference whatsoever to the local education authority. That is a very grave and serious power. The local education authority finds all the money, and pays every penny of their salaries. They are appointed to work in a profession in which they should be qualified. If they are professionally qualified, one would think they ought to continue in their jobs as long as they show themselves competent. But look at the position which this Clause contemplates. Here is a denominational aided school. An aided school, let me remind the Committee, is a school in which those who appoint teachers can insist that every single teacher must conform to the denomination which runs that aided school.

Be it Catholic or Anglican, I do not mind; for the moment it is a matter of principle. They can insist—Catholic or Anglican—that every single teacher in this school must be a Catholic or an Anglican. That is the power of the aided school. It does not apply only to the elementary and private school; it applies to the secondary school as well, an extension specifically given to them by this Bill. In a secondary school the denomination can insist that the teacher of geometry shall be of that denomination.

Mr. Stokes

May I interrupt? Surely the hon. and learned Member is saying that that is the price we must pay for insisting on continuing the dual system.

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

That may well be, but what I am concerned with now is the Clause before us, and I believe we have to pay too much. I repeat that under this Clause a denominational school can insist that every teacher there must be of that denomination. Whether he is teaching history, literature, geometry or physics, the managers of an aided school can insist that he is of that denomination—Trinitarian trigonometry, Catholic calculus, Anglican algebra—they can insist on it.

Commander Bower (Cleveland)

Do not forget the Unitarian.

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

I am not quite clear what subject the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) has in mind.

Mr. Cove

But there are no Unitarian schools.

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

But the aided school has power to insist upon having a particular denominational qualification for the teaching of any subject whatsoever. Having given them that right, there is the inevitable result that there may not be enough Trinitarian trigonometrists, or there are not enough Catholics with a knowledge of calculus, and therefore, inevitably the governors of the aided school have to go outside the denomination, and accept, instead of a Catholic to teach calculus, an Anglican, and they put him on the staff. Now, under the terms of this Clause it is within the power of the governors to turn round and say, "We have now discovered a Catholic who knows calculus"—or an Anglican who knows algebra, or a Trinitarian—

Mr. Stokes

Who knows trigonometry.

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

I am glad to know the hon. Member has a knowledge of the different mathematical sciences.

Mr. Stokes

The application of science.

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

Now look at the words of the Clause: The managers or governors of an aided school may dismiss a teacher from the school without the consent of the local education authority for reasons relating to the religious instruction … in the school. I pledge my reputation as a lawyer, that if the governors of an aided school, having appointed a non-denominationalist to a post in that school, then dispense with him because he is not of that denomination, he will be unsuccessful in the Courts in claiming damages for wrongful dismissal, as the Clause now stands.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask the hon. and learned Member a realist question on this matter? Has he lots of practical examples where this dreadful persecution has taken place?

Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes

I am not concerned with the awful results. We are passing a Bill. What we should be concerned with, is not with what is happening under other Acts of Parliament, but what is likely to happen, what can happen, under the legislation that we are now considering. There is no check on it. The governors may have appointed a non-Catholic or a non-Anglican, and then they may turn round and say, "We have reasons relating to the religious instruction in the school. You are not a Catholic, you are not an Anglican"—whatever the denomination may be—"and for reasons referring to the religious instruction in the school, out you go." In the Clause as it stands, I repeat that the teacher would have no remedy. I very much regret that the Chair, in its discretion, did not call an Amendment which was designed to deal with this point. I regard it as one of the fundamental rights.

I am not quarrelling now with the right of a denomination, which has an aided school, to insist upon getting all its teachers members of that denomination. I am concerned with the position of the teacher who has been brought in because the denomination is satisfied that its denominational feeling are not affected by the subject which the teacher has to instruct. It may be that he is there to teach woodwork, and that will not offend any denominational susceptibilities. What I do say is, that if they had taken him on, having complete control, having the right to impose a denominational test on everybody they appoint, and having appointed somebody who does not comply with that test, he should have the right to remain there as long as he continues to be an efficient teacher in the subject which he was appointed. As the Clause now stands, I venture to assert, and I ask the Committee to agree with me, that he has no such guarantee whatsoever, and the Clause ought not to be accepted as part of this Bill without an assurance that there is protection for such a teacher.

Mr. Messer

It was expected by many hon. Members that some Amendment would be called which would have given an opportunity of debating this main part of the Clause. I have attended a large number of conferences called to examine the Bill, and in each one it has been pointed out what a great injustice it is to give the right to a body of people to determine that somebody can be dismissed on purely religious grounds without any right of appeal. It has been said, for instance, that an applicant for a post may pass the test and be appointed and then the governors can find religious reasons for the dismissal of that teacher. Because of that aspect of it, I hope that we are going to have reconsideration of this very important point, because it is believed that the teachers at least should have a right to appeal above the heads of those who, under that Clause, have the right to dismiss them.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)

I wanted to strike a less controversial note and thank the Minister for having inserted—

It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, The CHAIFMAN left the Chair to snake his Report to the House:

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.