HC Deb 21 March 1944 vol 398 cc686-7
Mr. Walter Edwards (Whitechapel)

I beg to move, in page 24, line 16, at the end, to add: Provided also that no such direction shall be given as respects an auxiliary school unless there is available in the area of the local education authority sufficient accommodation of the appropriate denomination and grade for the education of the pupils who would cease to be accommodated at that school in consequence of the direction. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to what we consider a rather important matter connected with the Clause. It is true that the Clause deals only with the transitional period, but the effect of it may be that what was stated by the Minister to be the Government's intention with regard to the wishes of the parents may not be allowed, if our Amendment is not accepted. The Clause would make it possible for children now receiving secondary education, in a non-provided school which also provides primary education, to be transferred from that school to one where they cannot continue to have their religious education. Hon. Members will know that Catholics are very concerned about the position of religious education. We desire the insertion of these words to make it certain that, should the Minister or the local education authority desire to bring about a change of tune, or a direction of children from one school to another, that direction shall not take effect unless there is sufficient accommodation in the school in the area, with regard to this particular Clause.

Mr. Ede

I suggest to my hon. Friend that the words are not necessary in this Clause. We are dealing with a transitional period. I understand his fear to be that a local education authority may pull what is called "a quick one" on the denomination, by descending on them rapidly and saying: "Now you must"—as we say in the educational world—"decapitate this school," and perhaps send the senior children off to a secondary school. The hon. Member may rest assured that any such proposal by a local education authority during the transitional period would not receive the assent of the Board, whose consent to such an arrangement would be necessary. We are anxious that the denominations should have every opportunity of putting into the development plan the secondary schools which they propose to establish, and we shall take great care that nothing is done to impair their rights in the matter during the transitional period, which we hope, will be short.

Just as we do not desire that the local education authority should "pull a fast one" on the denominations, so we do not desire that the denominations should put a slow one across on the local education authority, and it may be necessary, after the transitional period, that the local education authority or the Minister should be in a position to say, that in certain cases, decapitation should take place. We should not like to establish a precedent here, which might secure immunity for slow-moving managers or governors, after the transitional period has expired. I suggest that the words are not necessary for the transitional period, and that my hon. Friend can rest assured that no local education authority would be allowed to do what he fears.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

I fully sympathise with the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend with regard to not permitting any denominational governor to "pull a slow one" on the authorities. What we are seeking to do in the Clause is to deal with rather a different type of school from that to which he has referred. I understand that my hon. Friend was talking of a school in an area where a special agreement school is contemplated.

Mr. Ede

While it is true that the Amendment might help the small schools, I do not think this is the right place to do it; nor is the Amendment properly designed to secure it.

Mr. W. Edwards

In view of the assurance given by the Parliamentary Secretary that the fears which I expressed are unfounded, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.