HC Deb 30 March 1944 vol 398 cc1657-63
Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)

I beg to move, in page 6o, line 3, after "unless," to insert: sanction has been given under the Town Planning Acts or schemes made thereunder and also. Before moving this Amendment may I be permitted to express not only my appreciation, but the appreciation of the whole Committee, that my right hon. Friend has survived all storms, and that he is not only sitting in his place, but looks ready again to face the ordeals of this Bill which he is conducting so efficiently and so brilliantly. I heartily incorporate in these words his Parliamentary Secretary. In moving the Amendment I propose—

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

On a point of Order. Could the hon. Member's remarks upon this Bill about which we are all so keen wait until those who are not interested at all in the Bill have left the Chamber.

The Chairman

The hon. Member might now continue.

Sir F. Sanderson

In moving the Amendment I propose to give a classic example of brevity. The reason why I move it is because I think it is generally accepted throughout the Committee that town planning control is necessary, particularly as in post-war conditions short lived structures must be necessary. It is for that reason, which explains itself, that I move the Amendment.

Mr. Ede

In the first place I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) for the very kind words he used about my right hon. Friend and myself. May I say that we duly appreciate them, and after a day with no food they come as rare and refreshing fruit. This Amendment appears to be in a somewhat peculiar place if it is to have any really great effect, because although I imagine the hon. Member would have wished to include all new schools in his proposal, it would in fact, in the place where he has inserted it, apply only to new auxiliary schools. Quite clearly the principle, if it is to apply to any type of school, must apply to all. We cannot therefore accept this Amendment in its present place. With regard to the general issue which it raises, in the past there has undoubtedly been a failure, on occasion, of planning authorities and education authorities to consult together in arranging the layouts of their districts and making provision for the school places that are required. Fortunately, as a result of the conversations between my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Town and Country Planning we are arranging that there shall be a better liaison than hitherto between these two authorities where they are not the same authority for a district. In these circumstances we do not think that either the principle or the words are necessary for inclusion in this Clause, and in any event it would not really carry out the hon. Member's wishes if we inserted the words in the place where he asks us to.

Sir F. Sanderson

I very much appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, and in view of the explanation he has given I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Sir Joseph Nall (Manchester, Hulme)

Before that is done I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, regarding his statement that arrangements are being made for better liaison between the authorities concerned, what machinery is available for ensuring that it is carried out all over the country. It is one thing to have it laid down in the appropriate place. This may not be an appropriate place: a which to put it, but surely when he accepts the principle that the planning authorities must be brought into this matter, and that it should not be left to the local education authority to put schools wherever they like, there ought to be some statutory provision about who has to be consulted.

Mr. Ede

Where a planning authority is the county borough it is, of course, both the planning authority and the education authority and there should be no difficulty about complete liaison, though sometimes in the past it has been lacking. Steps must be taken to put that right. With regard to the county council areas, the county council is now a planning authority, and the schemes that are being prepared for the county will be within the knowledge of the county council, but apart from that, I understand that instructions are being sent out to the town planning authorities to make quite sure that in the layout of their districts they shall take the local education committee into their confidence.

Sir J. Nall

I am sorry to persist this, but what will happen where a county borough wishes to provide a special school in a county council area? It might not be appropriate to put some special schools within the area of the borough concerned. Therefore, they have to erect a property outside their borough area and within the county planning area. Is the county planning authority to have any jurisdiction in the matter, or is the county borough to be able to do what it likes outside its own borders?

Mr. Ede

In any event the authority proposing to build the school will have to give three months' notice of its intention to erect the school. That has to be duly advertised, in accordance with methods prescribed by the Bill. In addition it is usually the case that where the local authority is attempting to buy land outside its own area, it ascertains what are the town-planning restrictions on that land. In that way, it will get into touch with the town-planning authority. If it found that the land which it wanted was in an area so zoned as not to be available for school purposes without some amending planning order, it would act accordingly.

Amendment negatived.

Colonel Sir John Shute (Liverpool, Exchange)

I beg to move, in page 60, line 29, at the end, to add: (4) If with the approval of the Minister the persons proposing to establish in any area any such school or college as is referred to in Sub-section (1) of this Section or to effect alterations to any such school or college existing in any area so request, the local education authority for that area shall exercise the powers conferred upon them by this Section for the purchase of any land required for the purpose of such establishment or of effecting such alterations and shall (at the option of the said persons) either convey to them the land so purchased for a consideration not exceeding the amount of the cost incurred by the local education authority in effecting such purchase or execute a lease of the said land to them at a yearly rent of an amount not less than one nor more than two per centum of the cost so incurred by the local education authority. I do not think there will be any necessity to elaborate the case for this Amendment, because what we desire is so evident. I will merely point out that what we desire to have in the new Act is a Clause somewhat similar to that which was in the Education Act, 1936. This Amendment is designed simply to enable those who wish to set up what we call non-provided schools, and to acquire land for the purpose, to have the right, if they come across a rather recalcitrant owner, to call upon the local education authority to use the compulsory powers which the authority possess. I cordially associate myself and those with whom I work with the comments which have fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson), and I wish to say how glad we are that we still have to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education and his most able Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

Under the Clause it is open to the education authority to apply for compulsory purchase; there is nothing to oblige them to do so. Suppose the education authority insist on an extension; we take it that there is an obligation to acquire the necessary site. With regard to the 1936 Act schools, the whole thing is governed, now that the provisions of the 1936 Act are repealed, by the Third Schedule, which, so far as land is concerned, deals only with what is known as the Liverpool Act. Where there is already agreement for a school, we take it that this Clause means also that the 1936 Act Schools will have the land which is necessary for their building provided. Finally, as a matter of information, we should like to know if it is the intention and the meaning of the Government to apply this Clause to brand-new schools, which at present do not come under the Act.

Mr. Ede

The 1936 Act for the first time gave local education authorities powers to exercise compulsory purchase on behalf of the promoters of voluntary schools. I do not think it was obligatory on the education authority to exercise these powers; they could do so if they so desired. We have repeated that power in this Bill, and the proviso in the first Sub-section of this Clause is the place where we do it. Voluntary promoters who desire to acquire land, and who find the price unreasonable or the owner unwilling to sell, can go to the local education authority and ask them to promote a compulsory purchase order, to place the voluntary promoters in exactly the same position that the local education authority would itself be in. As for the special agreement schools—that is, the 1936 Act schools—it is clearly to the advantage of the local education authority to do that; they may have to find three-quarters of the cost, and it would, therefore, be even more to their interest than to that of the voluntary promoters to get the site as cheaply as possible. Therefore, I do not think that in that case there would be any difficulty in getting a compulsory purchase order.

While the cost of the brand-new school and its site will, of course, fall on the promoters, the scheme will have been approved after notice. The proposals will have to have been examined by the local education authority, and I should have thought that it would be better to rely upon the good offices of the local education authority than to insert compulsion in the Bill. These negotiations go on for some time. I do not think that there was any case under the 1936 Act of the particular promoters, with whom my hon. Friends are most closely associated, being refused a compulsory order by a local education authority, and I believe that that spirit will continue to prevail. I would suggest that this is one of the things that we should leave to the operation of good relationships between the local education authority and the promoters

There is of course, a more serious reason for objecting to this Amendment than those reasons that I have advanced. Both my hon. Friends were peculiarly silent about the financial implications and arrangements. I have no doubt that they did not desire to associate filthy lucre with the establishment of this particular type of school. But we, unfortunately, must have regard to the last suggestion in the Amendment. That really would be importing into this law the arrangement that was made in the Liverpool Act, which implemented, for the peculiar political and religious circumstances of Liverpool, the 1936 Act. What they are asking is that the local education authority should virtually agree, when land is leased to the managers, to pay a grant that really varies from 50 to 75 per cent, at the current market rates of interest.

Clearly that is not an issue that we can deal with just as a side wind on the compulsory purchase order. After all the trouble that we have had to-day, because some people thought a particular Clause of this Bill was used unjustifiably, I venture to suggest that the financial part of this Amendment alone would make it necessary for us to resist it. We are anxious, and I think this is indicated by the terms of the Bill, that these auxiliary schools shall survive and shall get as good a chance of amenities as the other schools inside the State system. I think that my hon. Friends can rely quite safely on the co-operation of the local education authority in getting the sites that they require, and I hope they will feel that it is not necessary to press this Amendment.

Sir P. Hannon

If we had a recalcitrant local authority, and, in a particular instance, the circumstances affecting Liverpool were repeated, what action would the Minister then take to enable the acquisition of land for the sites of schools to be effected?

Mr. Ede

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) was responsible at that time, and effective steps were taken that _brought Liverpool into line, and, while they were somewhat slow, I suggest to the hon. Member who represents one of the very great corporations of this country, that we do not want to assume on all these issues that the local authority will not act reasonably unless there is compulsion in the Bill. In fact, sometimes compulsion rather induces the local authority to see if there is not some other way round. The general relationships of my hon. Friends and the local education authorities are such that they will have no difficulty in this matter. I do not want to labour the point unduly, but my own local authority, which has not a single member of their faith on it, promoted, under the 1936 Act, two compulsory Orders for their schools, and I think that is an indication that local authorities recognise the position of my hon. Friends and will desire to see that their schools not merely survive but get the facilities to which they are entitled for a sound and full life.

Sir P. Hannon

I should like to say that the last thought in my mind was to suggest that any difficulty could arise with the local education authority of Birmingham. Every authority, however, is not animated by the toleration of Binning-ham, and we may have an authority that takes a point of view that may revive some of the difficulties dealt with in the Liver- pool case. Would it not be well for the Minister to have compulsory powers to deal with cases of that kind?

Mr. Ede

We are now dealing with compulsory powers of local authorities. The Board has compulsory powers of a very different kind, which, in fact, they did apply to Liverpool.

Mr. C. Davies

I rise only to call attention to, and make a record of, this fact. We seem to have got back, at long last, to the Education Bill. I do not know what will be the record that the last Division has shown, but it seems that, looking round this Committee, there are very few of us who are greatly interested in education. On this Amendment, I think it is only right that we should have been in attendance, but I wish to call attention to that fact.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 84 and 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.