§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
I beg to move, in page 34, line 9, after "college," to insert:within the area or within the area of an adjoining local education authority with whom arrangements have been made by the authority which served the notice.I desire to expedite the progress of the Measure. I am anxious that this Amendment should be accepted, but I am also terrified lest it should be, for, judging from the attitude of the Committee to-day, the acceptance of an Amendment is merely an invitation to many hon. Members to contribute further, and still further, to the discussion of the Bill. This is a very simple matter. We realise that these young people's colleges are going to be centres fixed in the places where they will draw the young persons of the right ages. Speaking for my own part of the world, and trying to envisage the centre where a young people's college would be set up, I can see that their recruitment will transcend county boundaries, and that population is not centred upon places which can be sectioned out according to the ancient line of the county boundary. I am anxious that it shall be possible for young people to be sent to these colleges without regard to the exact geographical areas of the local education authorities. The President of the Board may be satisfied that that could be done. I have looked very carefully at the Bill, and, as I see it, it will not be possible for any arrangement to he made between adjoining authorities to direct young people to go to young people's colleges outside their own areas. I want to see these colleges successful, not only from the point of view of the young people but as budding centres of communal activity; and Where that communal activity transcends existing boundaries, there should be provision in the Bill for young people to be sent to the appropriate centres without regard to geographical boundaries. I ask that provision should be made, not necessarily in the terms of my Amendment, for young people's colleges to be fed from the areas from which the young people would normally come, without regard to existing boundaries.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
The point which my hon. and learned Friend has raised is of very great practical importance. Failure to deal with it was undoubtedly one of the causes of the failure of the last attempt to found continuation schools. While my hon. and learned Friend's wording would, no doubt, have the desired result in his own part of the country, it would not be adequate to help us if we needed to apply the principle to the Greater London area. Take the case of a young person working in London and residing at East Ham, who desired to be directed to the young people's college where his fellows, with whom he associated at work, were under-going instruction. Such technical and vocational instruction as he would require for his industry might not be available in the county borough where he resided. It so happens that East Ham and London are not adjoining, although a substantial part of the population of East Ham gets its employment in the County of London.
We have made arrangements, under Clause 97, by which, if a young person attends a young people's college in another area than that which is responsible for financing his education—a point to which I will come in a minute—the local education authority shall afford the education, and secure repayment by agreement; or, failing agreement, the point goes to the Minister. I think that that will meet what my hon. and learned Friend has in mind. We desire that the directing authority should be able to take into account the circumstances of the young person and, to a very considerable extent, his wishes; and that where he desired, for good reasons, to attend a young people's college in an area other than that responsible for his education, he should be entitled to do so and the cost should be recoverable from that authority which is responsible for financing his education. There may be a further complication. It may be neither the authority in whose area the young person resides nor the authority providing the education, which has the financial responsibility, but the area in which the guardian of the young person resides. In view of the complicated system of liabilities, we have come to the conclusion that it should be met under Clause 97; and, on the Order Paper to-day, there are Amendments, in the name of my right hon. Friend, to that 1110 Clause. We have had the point thoroughly in mind, and we believe that it is covered in the Bill.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
On that assurance, and with reservations which are subject to further consideration of the Amendments to Clause 97, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Parker (Romford)
I beg to move, in page 34, line 18, to leave out "one whole day, or two," and to insert "two whole days, or four."
§ The Temporary Chairman
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we had a general discussion on all Amendments dealing with the period.
§ Mr. Parker
I would like to raise the whole question of the amount of time which young people will spend weekly at the young people's colleges. Most of us are agreed that the idea of the young people's college is definitely good, but many of us are very sceptical as to whether one day or two half-days in a week can provide any education which is really worth while. There is a very strong case for saying that if a young person spends only the equivalent of one day a week in attendance at the young people's college, it will not be the young people's college which is really the dominating factor on the life of the young person, but, far more, the place where he or she works. I think that the Committee take the view that, in the formative years at the age of 16 or 17, it is important that the college or school influence should continue to be the main influence that the children are under.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the home environment has no effect on the life of the child?
§ Mr. Parker
No, I do not take that view; but, comparing the effect of the college with that of the place of work, I think it is indeed the fact that the influence of the place of work would be very much the more dominant in the building of character and the training of the young person than that of the college. Many 1111 of us hope that, sooner or later, it will be possible for the time spent at the colleges to be half-time—to get up to a period of three days in the week—but I am suggesting two days for a start. That would give an opportunity for experimenting with curricula to a far greater extent than could be done on one day a week. With one day, it would not be possible to give much more than an outline, in the nature of technical education, and many of us take the view that these colleges should offer not only opportunities of technical education, but opportunities for training young persons generally in their duties and in the things which would make them good citizens.
With regard to my second Amendment, anyone who had anything to do with youth movements in the years between the two wars will realise the enormously bad effect that a long period of unemployment had on young persons in the depressed areas, particularly in areas like the North-East Coast and South Wales. Many of us take the view that, whatever happens after this war, we should not allow our young persons again to go through that period of disillusionment, in which they had nothing better to do than to hang about and hope for a job. That sort of thing should be banished for good and all. In the period between the wars, many bodies, like the Council for Social Service, were started, for training and educating young people who were out of work. Many were well worth while; some were not so good. Much experimental work was done in that period. I think we should build on that experience, and the young people's colleges might be used as places where young people out of work might be trained. I do not think it would be possible to use a young people's college for that purpose while the regular education was being carried on there. If you had just one or two unemployed young persons in an area, they could easily be worked in, but if you had a particularly bad period, with a lot of young people out of work, you would have to set up special courses to deal with the situation. But you could use the colleges, to have classes available for those young persons. Many of us take the view that this opportunity should not be allowed to go by, without consideration by the Committee of the whole question of continued education for unemployed young persons. It is 1112 most important that during the formative years of life they should not be left on the scrap-heap, with nothing to do. It is important to give them training during that period. Therefore, I am putting forward the idea that the young people's colleges should be used for training young persons out of work, if they are of the age groups which would normally be attending young people's colleges. I am not going into the question of whether it would be necessary to have special courses for those young persons, or whether they should be worked into the normal classes. That would depend on the actual numbers concerned.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I want to add only one word to what the hon. Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Parker) has said. Obviously, he cannot expect his Amendment to be carried straight away, but I would like an assurance that the Minister will encourage more than one day a week. We are pressing to get the colleges set up, and if we are to have two days a week, it will probably make it more difficult to get them set up quickly. I also want to see the greatest flexibility because what we are trying to do here, as I understand it, is to build up a system of earning and learning on a flexible basis. There are two types of boys concerned—those in engineering, building or printing, and others where this will be really compensation for routine work. As long as there is the greatest flexibility, I personally, think that this is as far as we can go, but I do hope the Minister will encourage extension to more than one day a week.
§ Mr. Brooke
I should like to endorse what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) said about flexibility. Looking some years ahead, I sympathise with the purpose of the Amendment. But it strikes me as completely out of the question that we should plan in this Bill to provide, before 1950, the teachers and accommodation for young peoples' colleges which the Amendment would require—double what the Bill envisages. That will only lead to what we all want to avoid—a further postponement of the reforms which this Bill contains. I rather wish that the Government, instead of making the wording so definite in the Bill, had used a more general form of words which would have enabled the Minister, by order, at a later stage—say five years or eight years on, whatever the 1113 date might be—to extend the period of compulsory attendance from one day a week to one and a half or two days, or whatever might then be appropriate. I think that would be a practical way of doing it. As it is, I hope that future Parliaments will in fact look upon this as a measure which can be extended, and which should have that degree of flexibility to which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock has referred. If I might make some reference to the second Amendment of the hon. Member for Romford, which he mentioned in the latter part of his speech, it is, of course, highly desirable that we should evolve for any young people out of work something better than the ordinary junior instruction centres with which we were all familiar before the war. We do not want the young person out of work to be set on one side and marked as a kind of outcast who goes to a special place for unemployed boys or girls, and I am very much in favour of helping these young people's colleges to evolve so that they will make proper provision for unemployed boys and girls. Whether it would be desirable to include anything in the Bill like an instruction that it shall be compulsory for unemployed boys or girls to attend young people's colleges full-time—considering, for instance, that there might not be adequate accommodation ready—is a matter on which I should not like to pronounce, and I should be glad to hear what the Government has to say. I support the ultimate purposes of the Amendments, but I cannot imagine that either can be accepted.
Mr. Harvey: I take the opportunity of expressing the hope that we may have the largest measure of flexibility possible in the development of this very important scheme. I have on the Order Paper an Amendment based on the assumption that the Government were only willing to go as far as one day a week at present, and which actually limits the hours laid down in the Bill. Under the present arrangements, the hours of attendance for one day a week will be excessive, from the point of view of education. This one day in the young people's college will involve seven and a half hours, in contrast with the six hours of a normal secondary school day. It is too great a strain on the young people, and also too great a strain on the staff. The number of weeks in the year which are proposed will involve only 1114 eight weeks' holiday for the teachers of these new people's colleges, which is an insufficient number for the preparation of their work and for a vacation. It is not enough to provide for refreshment. The teachers in the one school of this kind which is already working under the Fisher Act have found the strain of the long hours very considerable. One week's holiday at Easter involves too great a strain and insufficient refreshment, and does not provide a sufficient break. An Amendment on the Order Paper in my name suggests that, along with a smaller number of hours and shorter terms, there should be combined facilities for a period in camp or in educational travel. Of course, there are similar proposals that might be considered and approved by the Government.
I feel sure that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary are sympathetic to ideas of that kind of development of educational occupation in the country, and of training in the environment of country life, for young people in these colleges. I hope we may have an assurance that this may be authorised as part of the course, that is, work in approved training camps, and by that I do not merely mean pre-Service training, but that all kinds of educational camps, including in this scope farm and forestry work and work of that kind, as well as educational travel, may be recognised as being part of the scheme. Most valuable opportunities are being taken already in the elementary schools by making use of school journeys and of holiday camps. We ought to have a great extension of that kind of thing in connection with young people's colleges. It would afford refreshment and variety of occupation for the teachers who would volunteer to be in charge of parties of that kind. It would be far less strain for them than continuing their class work right through the summer, as they may have to do otherwise. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary may give us an assurance that there will be this flexibility, and that he will consider, if necessary, any alteration in the wording of the Clause which may make possible this wider use of the opportunities which I have ventured to outline to the Committee.
§ Mr. Messer
I am not clear what Clause 40 means, and I may be wrong in interpreting it as having relation to the accommodation required to provide this further 1115 education, and the principle upon which the further education in young people's colleges is to be carried out. I think that, for the first time on this Bill, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke). These young people's colleges cannot be the same throughout the country. They are bound to be different in different places, and much of the education that the young people will get will have a character closely related to the occupations they have taken up. There may be, however, something in the nature of cultural education in these colleges which will not have any relation to the vocation of the young people, and, because of that, it may be that, if you lay down in an Act of Parliament a legal period, you will not be acting in the best interests of the young persons. It may be that what we want is a degree of elasticity to enable the local education authority to meet the needs of the student and see that he gets what he requires. It may be necessary for us to have an assurance on what will be the powers of the local education authorities in that respect. If Clause 40 does give an opportunity for local authorities to have their plans submitted to the Minister, then the point is covered. You are not here dealing with the fundamentals of education. You are not dealing with the primary stage, and you are not dealing with ordinary secondary education either in the technical sense or in the academic sense. But you are dealing with something else in addition to both these things. We assume that the student is already well grounded and has intelligence, and is going to acquire something, in addition, for a specific purpose. It may be practical or technical, but, whatever it is, you cannot lay down hard-and-fast rules on what is the best period for a young person to spend in these colleges.
§ Mrs. Cazalet Keir (Islington, East)
I would like to say how much I welcome the Government's plans for deciding on an actual date for part-time education to start. I hope that, in reply, the Parliamentary Secretary will emphasise what was said in the White Paper on Clause 69—that the Government clearly consider that this one day is only a minimum. I think it significant that all people who are keenest on education and all social workers in the county feel that half-time 1116 is the right objective and one day the absolute minimum. I fully appreciate that more cannot be done at the present time, but I hope that my hon. Friend will emphasise and endorse what the Government have said on this subject in the White Paper. In paragraph 70 in the White Paper they say that in rural areas there will be continuous residential courses instead of the one day. Is it the intention of the Government that these are to be brought into being at the same time as the one day per week colleges in urban areas?
§ Mr. Ede
The Committee has given very careful and sympathetic consideration to the Amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) and others, and the Government welcome the concern of the Committee. We have to realise that we are legislating in this matter in the face of a great tragedy—the failure of the Sections of the Act of 1918 that were framed for a similar purpose. Therefore, I ask hon. and right hon. Friends not to overweight this at the moment, nor to give it too close and well-defined a form. We are in a realm where much good is capable of being done, if we only keep the instruments flexible and realise that we may have to unlearn a good many of the doctrines that some of us now hold with regard to this matter. If there ever was a field where we should proceed experimentally, this, surely, is it. This does not mean to say that we should not proceed in the belief that we can do a very great deal. But let us keep our minds as wide open as possible, with regard to both curriculum and time, and the other aspects touched upon by hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate. Therefore, as far as the number of days are concerned, let us realise that every time we add an extra day to this first day we require an additional number of teachers to those we want to start the scheme on the basis of one day a week. Here we are at the stage when we need to recruit teachers with a far wider range of experience than is possessed by most of the teachers whom we have recruited into the ordinary education service hitherto. It would be a great mistake if we overloaded the matter at the start so that we had to rely too much on the people who bring to the task of teaching the fixed ideas gained under the old full-time system.
1117 By starting on the programme which my right hon. Friend announced on Tuesday, and which has now been put into the Bill by the Amendment he moved on the previous Clause, we shall start with the ages 15 to 18, and when the school-leaving age is raised to 16, we shall then have only two years instead of three with which to deal in these colleges. It will mean that we shall be able, with the accommodation and staff that we have then, to increase the time, if the House so decides at that time, by 50 per cent. I was very tempted by the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. H. Brooke) that we should put something into the Bill to enable us to do that by Order. I am surprised that a member of the Conservative Party should tempt Ministers to proceed by Orders rather than by amending Acts, but even when tempted by so strong a supporter of moral principles as the hon. Member, I must decline to fall into the trap. But we hope that, as with all ordinary education, the legal minimum will not be regarded as the maximum. We all know of numbers of people who, when their children are free from the compulsion of the existing law, keep them on for a term or two, or a year or two, in order that they may benefit by further education. I hope that local education authorities, in conjunction with firms who are willing to allow voluntary release for a longer period than the compulsory release, will embark upon experiments in the way of what can be done with longer periods than those that we prescribe in the Bill. A number of enlightened firms are doing it. I had the privilege of visiting a school conducted by Messrs. Mather and Platt, in Manchester, where they have a considerably longer number of hours in the week than we prescribe here.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Do not the boys go to school more or less at the place at which they work? Does my hon. Friend say that they should then have another day at the place where they live? That is a very important point. Do I understand that they are prepared to give two days?
§ Mr. Ede
That is what always happens when a Minister tries to be helpful. When one gives an illustration he is always asked if he is tied to it. What has been said is an illustration of the need for flexibility, and the desire that local education authorities should work in consultation with those enlightened firms, should try to fit 1118 in local education authority arrangements with the best that the firms are willing to make, and then approach other firms, who may not be so enlightened, with the suggestion that they should allow their employees also to participate.
§ Mr. Ede
I have declined to be tempted by lion. Members on one side of the Committee, and I must decline to be tempted by my hon. Friend. Most of the points raised by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) are not covered by the compulsory provision. As a teacher, I should rather look forward with fear to taking away to camps, youths from 15 to 18, who were attending the camp not because they wanted to do so but because the local education authority said they were to go. I can imagine nothing worse than a compulsory camp of that kind or even compulsory educational travel.
§ Mr. Ede
There, again, there are ample facilities in the Bill, if local education authorities want to encourage that form of education, for that to be done. I hope it will be done on a voluntary basis, in consultation with the principal of the young people's college, who would say to the kind of people who can effectively run camps and educational journeys, Here are young people attending my college whom you might approach with advantage, to persuade them to join the camp or journey which you are contemplating." The association of young people, through the young people's colleges, with all sorts of educational and beneficial activities, will he among the most valuable results of this system, if we can once get it started.
§ Mr. Ede
May I deal with the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) raised with regard to unemployed youths. Frankly, I do not think that that ought to be introduced into this Clause so as to make it appear that this is a Bill to deal with that particular phase of the problem of youth. They represent a considerable difficulty. The people concerned not with the juvenile 1119 instruction centres, but with the evening institutes, where unemployed youths were compelled by the Minister of Labour to attend, if they wanted to draw unemployment benefit, know the effect it had there. I hope that we do not have this instrument interfered with in the same way. That does not mean that the Government do not feel a responsibility for unemployed youth. I suggest that they are not the responsibility of the Board of Education as the law stands at the moment.
§ Mr. Lindsay
This is very important, and the whole thing is very much weakened, if it is true. I understood that we are to abolish what we call unemployment between 15 and 18. Do I understand that when a boy leaves his job he is not under an obligation to go to a young people's college?
§ Mr. Ede
If a youth is between 15 and 18 and is not in full-time attendance at school, he will be obliged under the Bill to attend the young people's college for one day a week—or two half-days a week—whether employed or not. I was dealing with what is to happen to him when he is unemployed on the other days of the week. He will still be under the obligation to attend the young people's college for one day a week, not because he is employed or unemployed, but because he is of that age. If there is to be any compulsion with regard to education for the remaining days of the week, during periods of unemployment, that is not a matter for this Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
That will be determined when the necessary legislation is introduced. One cannot get into an Education Bill a complete cure for all the ills of our social system. As we move from Clause to Clause we are continually being asked to deal, inside this Education Bill, with matters which are not primarily educational, although they may very well be brought, in conjunction with other Departments, within the educational sphere, and personally I hope they will be. But we cannot at this stage put them into this Bill.
I will give my hon. Friend the Member for Romford an example of the kind of difficulty which will be presented at once. There are thousands of girls who leave school, whether at 15 or 16, who remain 1120 at home. They are not employed. Is it desired that these girls, when this scheme comes into effect, should be compelled to attend full-time at young people's colleges? That problem would arise immediately. That kind of thing is not to be dealt with within the corners of this Clause. Nobody representing a constituency such as mine, can ever look back on the years between 1922 and 1939 with feelings of other than horror at what the young people in those districts went through then. This is not the Clause in which to deal with that particular problem. It is a problem which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has constantly before him, and I hope that, in consultation with him, we shall be able to evolve something which will be infinitely better for these young people than a recrudescence of those conditions.
§ Mr. Parker
Is it intended that young people who are unemployed should not have some form of occupation or education during the time they are unemployed?
§ Mr. Ede
As far as this Clause is concerned, their age will be the determining factor. The fact that they are unemployed, and no longer have an employer, does not release them from attending a young people's college. To that extent they will remain inside the education sphere under the local education authority and the Board of Education. What will happen to them on the other days of the week is clearly not a matter to be dealt with on this particular Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) asked about the application of this Clause to the rural areas. It is our intention that there shall be a nation-wide application of the Clause. That is one of the essential differences between this Bill and the Act of 1918, where the obligation was local, and where that local obligation led to so much heart-burning that authorities, after they had started the reform, were compelled to drop it. Therefore, it will be the duty of local education authorities for rural areas, to establish the residential colleges, where the young people are to have eight consecutive weeks, at the same time as other areas are establishing the colleges where education will only be for one day a week.
I am sorry it is not possible to accept the Amendment which is the main subject of our discussion. To lay the duty on 1121 the local authorities and the Government of preparing for two days a week, would lead to a considerable postponement of the effective date for introducing the reform, or to introducing it in so sketchy a form, in improvised and unsatisfactory buildings, as not to give this form of education the start that we desire. We do not desire to see this education carried on in old, worn-out buildings which have been rejected by every other phase of the education service, or in other buildings badly adapted for the purpose. We desire that, when it starts, this scheme shall have the benefit of starting under auspices that will enable the young people to feel that proper thought has been given to the provisions required.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I would rather put what I have to say in the form of a question than make another speech to the Committee. Would the hon. Gentleman clear up this matter? The Minister of Education has education schemes for youngsters between 16 and 18 known as junior instruction centres. I do not wish to decry those, for I have seen them at work, and I am satisfied that a great deal of very good work has been done in them. What is going to happen under this Bill to the youngsters who attend those junior instruction centres compulsorily five days a week, morning and afternoon? Under this Clause they will be compelled to attend either one day or two half-days a week under another form of education. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the local education authority does the organisation at present. Will the local education authority or the Minister of Education be responsible for this one day, or two half-days a week? We are left in a muddle over that. What is to happen to these two different schemes, not only running parallel but cutting across one another? Are those youngsters to be taken out of their junior instruction centres one day or two half-days a week and handed over to the Board of Education, or what are we going to do? Is not the logical situation this: that the whole of the education of these youngsters should be taken over under the Board of Education, and be made part and parcel of the great scheme which is implied in this Bill? Would the hon. Gentleman explain what is going to happen?
§ Mr. Davies
Amongst whom may be many thousands of unemployed. I do not wish to be discourteous, but surely the hon. Gentleman must not run away from it but face up to what may be the actual situation after this war.
§ Mr. Ede
I merely sat down because I gathered the hon. Gentleman 'wished to interrupt me, and I gave way in what I understood to be the courteous way, of allowing him to make his interruption in a form helpful to the Committee as a whole. When he finished I intended to rise to reply, and I am sorry he should think there was any other motive in what I did. We are dealing in this Clause with normal educational provisions. If there should have to be provision through the Minister of Labour or any other Government Department on this matter in the light of future events, I hope that the Board of Education will be so much in the picture that they will be able to arrange the matter. It is suggested to me that I should refer the hon. Gentleman to Part II of the 8th Schedule which is found oh page 93 of the Bill, which substitutes in the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, the words "President of the Board of Education" for the word "Minister," and then goes on to set out what is to happen in conjunction with Section 78 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935. I do not know whether hon. Members will be satisfied with that when they read it, but may I say that if they are not, quite clearly that will provide a fresh opportunity for them to raise this matter when we reach that stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I was going to raise it on Clause 43 but we must raise it now, because if it remains at the end of this Bill, and we cannot, in consultation with the Minister of Labour, evolve a better system than what the Parliamentary Secretary has told us to-day, it is going to defeat some of the objects of the Bill.
§ Mr. Parker
In order to help the Committee, I will ask leave to withdraw my amendment, but I am not satisfied with the answers given. On the first point, I admit that the Amendment was put down in order to have the matter raised, but I hope the Government will look at the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) and see whether the idea that the system should be flexible cannot be put into the Bill in one way or another—with regard to the one day business—so that perhaps on the Report stage we might have that altered. With regard to the other point, I would like to make a protest about the way in which various Government Departments interested in youth, when youth comes to be affected by the Education Bill, seem to put in a right to keep them under their control for some reason or other. I would have thought that in this particular matter it was highly desirable that young persons to be entered for young people's colleges should, if unemployed, be under the charge of the Board of Education for that period rather than under some other Ministry.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 35, line 3, to leave out from "that" to "the," in line 5.
The object of this Amendment is to enable the Minister to prescribe for pupils employed under casual circumstances, for instance, on nightshift work, continuous attendance which need not be for a continuous period of at least four weeks. It may very well be that such a young person should be encouraged to attend consecutively for a number of days rather than to attempt to bring him into the provision, whereby he must attend one day a week. The Clause, as drafted, does not allow this to take place unless he is in a position to attend for four weeks. This Amendment would enable him to have a continuous attendance of less than four weeks and so discharge his liability under the Act.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 35, line, 12, leave out from "required" to the end of line 13.—[Mr. Ede.]1124
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
I beg to move, in page 36, line 31, to leave out "fifteen," and to insert "seventeen."
The Amendment is designed to close the gap between the school-leaving age and the young people's colleges, and I do not want to expatiate upon it in view of the assurance given by the Minister in the Debate last Tuesday on the question of raising the school-leaving age. One of his contentions against the raising of the age to 16 in a specific period, was that he desired to close the gap and to make provision for boys and girls who had attained the age of 15, and were, therefore, only subject to compulsory attendance at school to come within the scheme of young people's colleges. I confess I do not know how that is going to work out and how far the gap is going to be closed. Therefore I prefer, at this stage, to do nothing except formally move the Amendment and ask the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to explain exactly how the gap is to be closed.
§ Mr. Ede
Or months. The view of the Government is that it will be impossible to apply this Amendment in actual practice. The young person who has once gone into industry untrammelled by any of these requirements to attend a young people's college, is a very different young person from the one who leaves school and goes into industry knowing that, from the day he leaves school, he is under a liability to attend a young people's college. Therefore, when the Measure comes into operation, we do not propose that those who have been released from school without obligation to attend a young people's college should have that obligation imposed on them, because in law it is an obligation. Nothing will prevent any young person who wants to do so, attending a young people's college, although he is exempted under the Clause, as drafted, from any obligation to attend. Nor will it prevent the employer from giving a young person leave to attend if he so desires, but, for certain 1125 well-known disciplinary reasons at which I hinted in reply to the previous Amendment, it might be very difficult indeed to try to start some of these young people's colleges with young people over 16 or 17 years of age who have for two or three years been free from any obligation.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am completely dissatisfied with that answer. After listening to the Minister's speech on Tuesday I had hoped that one of his major arguments against raising the age to 16 was that they were going to close the gap by extending young people's colleges to cover the children from 15 years of age. I hoped, on this Amendment, to get some positive proposal from the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary as to how the gap was going to be closed. I want the Committee to realise what this rejection means. Suppose you have a boy aged 15 leaving school in July. Young people's colleges come into operation in October. On the first occasion on which they come into operation—which we hope will be as near the end of this war as possible—we are dealing with the very type of boy who has suffered most from educational deficiencies. According to what the Parliamentary Secretary has just said, the mere fact that this boy has had work from July to September is going to prevent him from getting the advantages of a young people's college. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to say, "Well, of course, he can apply, or the employer can apply." The only way to make this effective is for it to be compulsory. Is one boy or one girl out of a factory going to apply, or are two or three of them? Is one employer going to apply to have these boys and girls sent to the young people's colleges when the other employers are not going to do it? We know perfectly well that that kind of thing does not count for anything at all. We must not have a gap in this Bill.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider the matter, because there might be a gap of three complete years, which would mean that boys and girls would be excluded, immediately after the war, from the advantages of young people's colleges. If the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary believe in young people's colleges they ought to be anxious to get as many young people as they can into them, and not have this kind of exemption, which will leave them out. I hope I shall get some support from the Committee in 1126 order to persuade the Government of the urgent necessity of closing the gap.
§ Mr. Butler
As I am alleged to have said something about closing the gap perhaps I can accept responsibility. The position put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) is that so far as possible he wishes young people to be covered by the education service, although when I made this observation the other day no reaction came from the other side.
§ Mr. Butler
I would like to make provision to cover all young people but I can give no undertaking that every young person will be covered, owing to the difficulty of age. Often a child's birthday falls on a certain date, which means that he misses a scholarship, and that is often thought to be unfair. I have deliberately tightened up the Clause in order to introduce earlier than was intended the scheme covering young people's colleges. I had in mind that instead of waiting for the time when schools are ready with teachers and buildings to take children up to the age of 16, particularly in country districts, we should advance the young people's colleges. That was the assurance I tried to give, and to be fair to the Committee now I cannot guarantee that every child would be covered. All I can do is to give the undertaking to try to cover more children more quickly.
§ Mr. Lipson
If my right hon. Friend cannot close the gap as regards instruction can he close it in regard to medical inspection and care, because we attach great importance to the fact that when children have left school they will get this inspection and care in the young people's colleges? The objections which my right hon. Friend raised will not apply to the provision of medical services, and if he could reassure us on that point we would feel that he had made more of an effort to meet a difficulty.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) in this demand for providing opportunities for all young people to go into these colleges. What will be the position of boys and girls, after they have passed their I7th birthday, just before the Bill comes into operation? You may get an employer in a locality 1127 who will encourage lads to go to continuation classes but another employer may discourage them. We have often heard in this House, particularly from the other side, that there are good employers. It should be understood that there are no good employers. There are employers who make good profits and there are employers who make poor profits. Those with the good profits will allow their lads to go to the continuation classes while those with the low profits will not. After a time the employer with, the high profits may get only law profits while the employer with the low profits may get high profits. So the situation will be reversed, which will be farcical.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the future when he speaks of this matter as being something which a boy regards as a burden. Possibly a boy, going on to a college, may feel some desire to emulate someone who has had the chance to go one year earlier.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said there were no good employers and I was sorry to hear that, because I understand that even the Communist Party are good employers. As he said, there may be two employers close to each other in an industrial area. One may be anxious to give every opportunity to young people and the other may not. Could the Government put in the Bill words to make it compulsory on employers to give to boys and girls who desire to attend college the opportunity to do so?
§ Mr. Ede
The point with which we are engaged is concerned with the first three years after the Clause comes into operation. If the Clause stands as it is drafted, in the first year after that date, the young people who attain the age of 15 at school will leave school with the obligation to attend young people's colleges. In the second year, all the young people between 15 and i7 who have left school will be under that obligation, and in the third year it will apply to every young person under the age of i8 who has left school. This is a purely transitional point and will be satisfactorily met, in any event, at the end of the three years. May I point out to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) that by doing it in this way we shall be able to 1128 make a start for some of the children far sooner than if we—not the children—were placed under an obligation to provide this scheme for the full three years as from the appointed day? If we have to make arrangements for one year, instead of three, we, and the local authorities, ought to be able to bring the scheme into operation at an earlier date than would be otherwise the case.
With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), he will see that we are only dealing with a transitional period. I suggest that we do not want to make the machinery of the Bill too complicated for what is purely a transitional period. Much as I regret seeing any child lose any benefit under this Clause, I suggest that the arrangement we have made is one that is workable, both having regard to the internal administration of the schools, which is by no means a point to be neglected, and with a view to getting on with the job as quickly as we possibly can.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.