HC Deb 23 March 1944 vol 398 cc1094-108
Mr. Butler

I beg to move, in page 33, line 10, after "determine," to insert: not later than three years after the date of the commencement of this Part of this Act. This is the Amendment to which I referred in my speech on the question of raising the age to 16 by a certain date. I then said that the Government would move an Amendment to Clause 41 which would enable young people's colleges to be brought in with rather more certainty and at a rather earlier date than was provided for by the rather general provisions of the Bill. It is necessary in explaining the significance of this Amendment to read it in conjunction with an Amendment which is down in my name to Clause 99 which, in exceedingly technical language, has this significance. The Amendment I am moving does not mean that the instructions to the local authorities to establish young people's colleges are related to Part II of the Act, but that the colleges have to be established not later than three years after the school age has been raised to 15. The Amendment to Clause 99 refers to the Order which may postpone the raising of the age to 15 for not more than two years. In the event of the Government being obliged to introduce such an Order this provision would follow three years after that. I only raise these legal points so that hon. Members will not be confused when we come to Clause 99, which I sincerely hope we shall reach to-day, although it is very unlikely at our present rate of progress. That is the legal significance of the Amendment. The importance of it otherwise arises from this: The Committee will remember that provision was made in the Fisher Act for the introduction of this very form of continuation education, and except in one instance, and one or two other instances under the aegis of industry, that Act has been a dead letter in this respect. This Amendment is, therefore, an improvement on that Act. It takes into consideration the point of view of the next three Amendments on the Paper—

In line 10, after "determine," insert: not being a date later than one year after that at which the school-leaving age is raised to fifteen years of age. In line after "determine," insert: not being later than one year after the date of the commencement of this Part of this Act. In line 10, after "determine," insert: not being later than two years after that at which the school-leaving age is raised to fifteen years of age. It does not do the thing quite so fast as hon. Members submitting these Amend- ments would like. Two of the Amendments ask for one year and one for two years. I say three years, and if the Government can come as near to hon. Members as that, I hope they will think we are generous. It would be possible under our Amendment for the Minister to give instructions before the end of three years. We want to place a limit so that the Minister cannot be dilatory in giving this instruction to local authorities to establish their colleges. The Amendment tightens up the Bill and advances this vital reform. In the event of circumstances not making it possible to raise the age to 16 for some time ahead, the Amendment means that children of 15 will be more easily able to be catered for in the young people's colleges, or whatever we decide eventually to call them. Therefore, there will not be a gap, and by the Amendment the education service will range from nursery schools right up to the age of 18. We are thus doing our best to introduce the reforms as quickly as possible. On the last occasion when I referred to this Amendment, I said that the matter was not mentioned by those who did not do me the honour of following my advice in the recent Debate, but I hope that 'to-day hon. Members will appreciate that the Government intend to press forward with these reforms and that the only reason why we are not able to accept every piece of advice given us by the Committee is that so many responsibilities are placed on our shoulders. Only to-day we have had pressed upon us the need for developing education over the vast range of the adult sphere. We have so many priorities, but we are keen to give a distinct and definite place to the young people's colleges.

The Deputy-Chairman

This Amendment can be taken to cover 'the points raised in certain other Amendments mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman which are not being selected.

Mr. Gallaeher

I want to ask the Minister whether he would add the further words after his Amendment, "or if an Order in Council postpones it to one year after this Part comes into operation." That would mean that whatever happens it will come into operation in 1948. As it stands now, if an Order in Council under a later Clause postpones the raising of the school-leavng age to 15, it can be held up to 1950.

Mr. Butler

I should like to meet the hon. Gentleman, but the reason I cannot do so is that we do not want to take every one of our educational steps in one year, owing to the burden it would place on local authorities. If I thought that local authorities could do everything at once, I would accept the suggestion.

Mr. Cove (Aberavon)

I wish the Government had been as consistent about raising the school-leaving age to 16 as they are about further education. There is the touch of the Ministry of Labour about this more than the touch of the Ministry of Education. I want to make this observation to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. The more deeply impressed the system of further education becomes on the basis of a low leaving age, the more difficult it will be to raise the leaving age. If there is to be continuation or further education; it is clear that vested interests will grow up, and it will make it much more difficult to raise the leaving age to 16. In other words, if further education is to be built on a leaving age of 14 plus, or 15, then, when the system has been erected on that basis, it will be infinitely more difficult to raise the age to i6. Further education does not provide equality of opportunity. It is spare time education, and the more it is developed the further will recede the real equalitarian educational system I want to see. I want my hon. Friends on this side to realise that in urging this they are in danger of causing a real equalitarian system of education to recede.

Mr. Lindsay

I took a rather strong line earlier in the week on this matter, but now I want to add only a few words. The moment to discuss what we want in secondary education will come on Clause 59, when we shall be considering the abolition of fees. I want to urge my right hon. Friend to begin now with the preparations. It is no good our putting in "two" or "three" years or anything else, unless the personnel for these colleges, or whatever they are going to be called, are beginning to be earmarked now. I cannot lay too much stress on this point. I am certain that every day we are losing potential teachers and leaders for these colleges. I understand that those who are pursuing courses at Durham, Newcastle and Bristol are given very little encouragement that the courses will count to their advantage when these young people's colleges come into being. Why cannot we begin now to build up a cadre of people?

As for the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) I hope there will be a place in this Bill on which he and I can come together. I beg him to believe that there can grow up a most fruitful relationship, which has hardly yet started in this country, between industry and education. We ought to begin to develop it very soon, and if we postpone raising the school leaving age to 16, we shall have to do it. I welcome what the Minister is doing in having these discussions. At Question time there were three Questions on mining, cotton, and pre-service units. Every time I saw the Minister of Labour answering I wished almost that it was the President of the Board of Education who was doing so, because those Questions dealt fundamentally with pre-service for industry, see the Minister of Agriculture sitting on the Front. Bench. Precisely the same thing is going to happen in agriculture. Thank Heaven the Luxmoore Report has been turned down as far as children under 18 are concerned. The Minister of Agriculture is going to build up a fruitful relationship between farmers and the young farmers' clubs. I beg him to get on with that job. He has got a very large body of opinion behind him among educationists. Then we can build up a proper system of secondary education which the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) and I equally want.

Amendment agreed to.

Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)

I beg to move, in page 33, line 45, at the end, to add: (5) On and after such date as His Majesty may by Order in Council determine, but not later than twelve months after the date specified in Subsection (1) of Section forty-one, the local education authority in whose area the Houses of Parliament are situated shall establish and maintain an additional young people's college reasonably adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. This College to be known as 'Parliament College.' (6) The Minister shall make such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that delegated young people chosen by ballot from all young peoples colleges shall attend the Parliament College for courses of instruction of not less than one week in the working of democracy as exemplified by the day to day activities of Parliament. The Amendment embodies an idea which, I hope, will engage the sympathy of the President of the Board of Education, and of the Committee. It is designed to introduce some fun into education, despite the slightly grim Clauses of the Bill. I think that the only education that is worth while is education that is fun, is exciting and thrilling; but there is nothing very joyous in the Bill. If the Government will accept the idea expressed in the Amendment we shall take a step in the direction of brightening up education to some extent. To the Committee, I would observe that my proposals are to link up educational joy in the Bill with interest in the proceedings of Parliament. I hope to make good this rather bold and startling claim, and I trust that the Committee will give me five minutes in which to do so. This is a new idea which I am trying to embody in the Bill.

I assume that part of the time at the young people's colleges will be devoted to what is rather grimly called education for citizenship. One of the most important aspects of education for citizenship is what I have referred to before as the question of the public relations of Parliament. I mean by this, arousing the interest of the people of this country in the proceedings of Parliament. If they are to take a personal interest in our proceedings, obviously they must know something about how Parliament works and about the electoral system. I take it for granted that some part of the instruction at the colleges will be devoted to these kinds of subjects.

The purpose of my Amendment is to try to make that instruction interesting, imaginative, alive, and practicable. If hon. Members turn to the Amendment, they will see that I propose that there should be established a special youth college close to the Houses of Parliament and that that youth college should be called "The Parliament College." I have not specified that it should be in Westminster, for the reasons that I think, first of all, that it would be out of Order for me to suggest to the Minister that he should give specific direction to a local authority, and secondly, because I wanted to cover the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) who, if he formed a Government, would move Parliament out to the suburbs. I believe that is one of the planks of his programme. I suggest that in each youth college throughout the country there should be held from time to time—, obviously the Committee will not want me to go into details—an election among the young people, broadly on the lines of a by-election. Candidates shall issue short addresses, and make speehces. They are to be candidates for two vacancies for a week's course down here at the Parliamentary College adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. There would be a week in London during which the successful candidates would come down for a course in Parliamentary methods and the House of Commons. No doubt there would be other attractions. Perhaps they would be able to get a cup of tea, if nothing stronger, with their Member.

In the Parliamentary College they would have lectures on the procedure of Parliament, and they could come here and listen to Debates. I hope one day would be devoted to showing them round the notable sights of London. I am sure there would be plenty of candidates in youth colleges for those two places in the Parliament College at Westminster. When the successful candidates returned to their own places, they would be able to tell their fellow members at the youth colleges what they had seen. By degrees we should have an increasing number of young people all over the country who had seen Parliament at work, and they would be missionaries spreading abroad the right ideas about this great institution.

Mr. Gallagher (Fife, West)

I would be in favour of this proposal on one condition only. The condition is that the young men who came to Westminster—[HON. MEMBERS: "And young women"]—were capable of influencing feeling among the young people whom they had left behind, and that they would come to the sensible decision that the House of Commons should go to the college and that the college should come to the House of Commons. If that were agreed to, I would accept this Amendment.

Mr. Butler

I am sure that we all feel very flattered at the suggestion made in the Amendment. I feel certain that if young people were to come here and listen to our Debates, they would be signally edified, particularly by the speeches that have been made on the Education Bill. If we were to accept the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment it would be necessary in the proposed rebuilding of the House of Commons, to construct special and spacious galleries to which these young people could come. I feel sure that the hon. Member will put that idea forward in the proper quarter, because now is the time to do so, when the contemplated plans are in preparation. Now is the time for the young people to come and profit by our Debates.

Seriously, I would say that the hon. and gallant Member has done a great service to Parliament in spreading a knowledge of our Debates and activities, particularly in connection with HANSARD. There is nothing that can better enable people to understand Parliament and appreciate the duties and wonder of our institution than to realise that in our procedure we have the greatest opportunity for preserving the liberties of the citizens and the liberties of democracy. That is the experience of every new Member who comes from a by-election to this House. We gradually see him assimilating himself to the wisdom, dignity and atmosphere of this Assembly. Even the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) himself, who is so great a master of Parliamentary technique, is no exception. Therefore, it is a most desirable idea that young people in these colleges should become acquainted with the life and practice of Parliament. Unfortunately, Ministers have to apply themselves to the practical considerations that are present in an Amendment. What are the practical considerations in this case? These young people will be released for only one day a week from industry, by their employers, to-attend these colleges. I really cannot, in the first place, encourage by-elections to be held in colleges for the very short periods within which these young people will attend these colleges. The very word "by-election" causes a nausea in the hearts of most of us. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only on the Government benches."] The results of by-elections are divided among the different parties; sometimes one side wins and sometimes another. Surely the short release that these young people will have from industry must be devoted to physical or mental recreation and improvement. I do not think any of us would include a by-election as either physical or mental recreation and improvement. The very basis of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment falls to the ground. The machinery which he suggests for sending young people here would not be work- able. It would, indeed, be difficult to choose them.

The latter part of the Amendment would cause the authority, in whose area these noble Houses exist, to erect this college and I must ask the hon. Member whether he has approached the authority in question and whether they view with equanimity the proposal which he has put forward. I am not a dictator in education and I must work with local education authorities. I am not at all clear, from such researches as I have been able to make, that the local authority in question would be desirous of establishing a college of this kind. On the purely practical side I find difficulty in accepting the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. I feel sure that the Committee would wish the education system of the country to be so framed that young people may profit by it. Therefore, in order that these young people's colleges may be set up, I think it is necessary for me to draw to an end. Unless I finish speaking, we cannot get the Clause and, in the interests of the young people, I suggest that the best service the hon. and gallant Member can render is to withdraw his Amendment to enable us to get the Clause. By enabling us to get the Clause, he enables us to set up young people's colleges. Once they are set up, they can decide whether they want to come to London and see us. I hope they will do so, and the more of them who come, the better.

Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I intervene here only because I have been twice dragged into the discussion. With reference to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) I can only say that if the necessary amenities of Parliament are to be developed so that young people can have an opportunity of seeing our proceedings it cannot be done on the basis of the House being rebuilt on its present site. It is absolutely necessary to build it in some part of the country where greater opportunity can be afforded. As to the remarks of the Minister, and whether being a Member of Parliament has entirely broken me on the wheel, I know perfectly well that the House of Commons has a reputation, expressed by the old-fashioned sergeant-major, who used to say: "We can tame lions here."

I know it is said that the House of Commons can, in the course of time, slowly and surely destroy the fighting spirit of any rebel who comes into its precincts and remains a sufficiently long time. May I say in reply to that, using another aphorism of the sergeant-major—who seems to me to have acquired a great deal of worldly wisdom in the course of his historic experience—when he said to the recruit, "You broke your mother's heart but you will not break mine."

Commander King-Hall

I would like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I have already put the necessary evidence before the appropriate quarter as to an increase of the size of the Gallery. I want to make this one point. I am sometimes, sincerely, rather disturbed by the attitude taken by some hon. Members of almost shameful embarrasment that the public should really take a sincere interest in Parliament. I feel very strongly about this. It is absolutely essential for the welfare of democracy and the future of the great institution of Parliament that with due regard to dignity Parliament should pay an increasing degree of attention to the question of its public relations. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Mr. Henry Brooke (Lewisham, West)

I will certainly respond to the Minister's appeal that we should not delay the passing of this Clause or the setting up of the young people's colleges, for I have never concealed that in my opinion they are one of the most important elements in this great measure of reform. There is only one point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee. I know that many people outside this House are concerned about it, and I hope that the Minister will relieve their anxiety. There is, it appears to them, a contrast between the very wide words "moral, mental and physical" in Clause 7 of the Bill and the narrower "physical, practical and vocational" in this Clause 41. That might convey the idea that possibly morality is something which Parliament expects boys and girls to put behind them at the age of 15 and i6 when they leave school. I am quite sure that that is not what the Minister himself did, or what he wishes the boys and girls of the future to do. It would be, in fact, permissible under this Clause that at a young people's college education should be given about purely material things in a purely materialistic spirit. I am certain that that is not the Minister's intention. May I express to him the hope that in the Regulations, which this Clause empowers him to make as regards the form of education to be given in these young people's colleges, he will allay any such fears as have been raised?

Mr. G. A. Morrison (Scottish Universities)

I rise merely to ask the President if he will be good enough to bear in mind the suggestion made in the Second Reading Debate by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare). He feels that there is some confusion in people's minds as to the objects and the possibilities of these new young people's colleges, and I should like to ask the Minister that before he issues definite Regulations for the conduct of the colleges he should quite early in the day issue to local authorities some kind of guiding circular making dear what these objects and possibilities are.

Mr. Butler

I can respond as far as the last request is concerned by saying that I have been encouraging the production of some guidance to all concerned in the initiation of this great scheme of young people's colleges. When I am in a position to satisfy my hon. Friend I will tell him, and communicate the results to the House. What would be desirable would be for the Board, as it has done in many other branches of education, to give some lead by way of suggestion on how this scheme might be initiated. With reference to what was said by the hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) he will be the first to realise that the time these young people will have at these colleges will be very limited indeed. We must remember that when we consider the curriculum or any subject, however important it may be. He has raised a subject which always arouses the maximum of interest, and we trust it will not, in this sphere, arouse the maximum of controversy. What I suggest to him and his friends, and I know he will accept this in the spirit in which I mention it, is that any approach to the question of giving instruction of the type to which he attaches so much importance, should be made by an inter- denominational approach and should be encouraged outside the normal hours in which these children attend the college. In these directions certain experiments have taken place. There is no reason why others should not take place which would add that spiritual content to the life of these young people to which my hon. Friend attaches so much importance.

Mr. Gallather

I am glad that the Minister has put this Clause in the Bill. I believe that these continuation and vocational colleges will be of value. I believe it is necessary to ensure that the young people are educated, and this includes physical, practical and vocational training. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) is concerned about the lack of moral training being associated with 'the colleges. I would like to say that I get more and more disgusted as I hear such representatives talking about morality and the danger of materialism, when their whole conception regarding this Bill has been to get all the money they possibly can. If it had not been for the hon. Member and his associates and their grabbing after cash in the most grossly materialistic manner, this Bill would have been through long ago. I cannot lose this opportunity of expressing my disgust—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Cyril Entwistle)

The hon. Member's remarks are now out of Order.

Sir P. Harris

I think it well that the Committee should remember, in respect of these colleges being called colleges, that they are only to be attended on one day of the week. If we are to try to put into this short opportunity for education, either a denominational education or a fixed syllabus, then they are doomed to failure. My view is that if they are to be a success there should be as great a freedom in the administration of these colleges by the local authorities as is possible. What is required is variety of syllabus. Above all, what is wanted is the opportunity of keeping contact with these young persons when they leave school. The idea that some people would seem to suggest that in one day a week's attendance a general adult education is to be given is a myth.

My enthusiasm for these colleges arises from the very fact that the educational authorities are to continue personal contact and will be able to encourage these young people to attend evening classes and take advantage of other opportunities. By all means let the churches and chapels make arrangements for the religious education of these young persons. That will not be possible in the meagre syllabus which is possible under the one day a week attendance provided for. Therefore, I suggest that my hon. Friend, whose intentions are perfectly honourable and good, should not use these young people's colleges, with their very small opportunity, to do something which it is impossible for them to do. We bless this Clause in the Bill. I went through the tragedy of the old continuation schools, that great experiment that broke down after a few months. We want this to be a success. If hon. Members think they are going to use them for either a fixed syllabus or denominational education, these schools are foredoomed to failure, and I think that would be most unfortunate.

Mr. Piekthorn (Cambridge University)

With respect, I do not think that the Committee aught to part with this Clause without expressing its thanks to the last two speakers for having explained what has hitherto I been a mystery to the Committee. I did not previously understand, and I had not found anybody who understood, why these continuation schools were not to be called continuation schools. Now the two gentlemen opposite have explained that the reason is, of course, that they are continuation schools. I should like to express my disagreement—which I am sure is that of a very small minority but which I hope will be taken into some consideration—with the notion that everything which is good ought to be directly educated for. We have had speeches in favour of using these colleges for moral education and for political education. I invite the President and the Board not to make the assumption too easily that these are good things at which to aim directly in this way. There are many things in human life, many of the most important and valuable things, which cannot be got by aiming at them directly—which are, in their essence, byproducts. I suggest that once you start educating for citizenship, or morality, you have got very near to giving up education entirely in favour of a mere propaganda, and that it would be the worst possible result of this administrative elaboration we are now entering to do anything of that kind.

Major Gates (Middleton and Prestwich)

As I think the Committee realises, I have a sense of urgency over this Bill. I am anxious to get on with it. I have not intervened to-day despite the fact that I have an Amendment on the Paper. I would like to ask whether the President of the Board can give us some sort of assurance that this point has not been lost sight of under the Clause, that although we may have to wait three years, as under the Amendment he has just moved, the attendance at these young people's colleges will not necessarily be limited forever to one day a week, and that we may hope for greater progress as soon as he sees the possibility?

The Temporary Chairman

I think that question arises on the next Clause.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

The question has been raised whether it is advisable to introduce either spiritual matters or citizenship in the curriculum. Whether the question came from this side or that side of the House, does not matter. I would not like to lay down what the curriculum should be, but I would say, very definitely, that it is not a matter of politics for a young citizen to learn how his town is governed. That would make for social progress, and it would effect what we have tried to do in the elementary schools. I believe that if we can only get every young person to spend three or four days a year in discussing local government—not how committees are run, but just how Acts of Parliament can be applied and used by the local authority—we shall get a very intelligent democracy. Then we shall get changes on the local and county councils which will be good for Britain.

Mr. Gallacher

It will be bad for the Tories.

Mr. Walkden

It will be bad for the Tories, it is true, but it will be good for the country, if our young folk understand how Parliament has given us this great inheritance of which we speak; and I believe that these continuation colleges will give our young folks an opportunity of understanding that.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.