§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
I beg to move,That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 39, page 32, lines 1 and 4, Clause 53, page 44, line 18, Clause 76, page 58, line 32, Clause 98, page 72, lines 18 and 23, Clause 105, page 79, line 22, in respect of the proposed new Clauses, the Amendment to Schedule 1, page 84, line 34, and the proposed new Schedule, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Butler.A glance at the Order Paper will suffice to explain to hon. Members the reasons why the Government desire to recommit certain new Clauses, certain Amendments to Schedule 1, and a new Schedule, this being done in order to meet the points raised by hon. Members on the Committee stage. As these points involve a variation, according to the Rules of Procedure, it is necessary to recommit. It is in respect of these particular matters only that the Government consider recommital to be necessary.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I beg to move, in line 6, at the end, to add:and in respect of the Amendment to Clause 14, page 12, line 12, standing in the name of Mr. Stokes, and the proposed New Clause standing in the name of Commander Bower.I understand that we are not allowed to discuss the merits of the Clause at this stage, but perhaps I might be allowed to refer to what happened at the Committee stage in order to explain the reason for putting down the Amendment in my name and the new Clause in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower). In the Committee stage my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans) gave notice he was not moving his Amendment in view of the fact that arrangements had been made to put down a new Clause dealing with the brand new schools. 1745 I understood it would be more convenient to discuss the matter as a new Clause rather than at that stage of the Bill. The new Clause is down again later on the Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland. I understand the Minister is going to tell the House that he cannot accept the new Clause and I suppose when he does tell us he cannot accept it, he will also be precluded from telling us why he cannot accept it because it cannot be discussed. I am in this difficulty. This matter is of supreme importance to us. No provision is made in the Bill for brand new schools. Those whom we represent are an ever-increasing population and we propose to go on increasing. What I want to emphasise is that no provision is made in the Bill for an increase of the Roman Catholic population as such. If history proves right, we shall increase at the rate of about 25 per cent. every 20 years or thereabouts, and we think it right and proper that we should be given opportunities to discuss this matter before the Bill reaches its concluding stage. The only way to do it is on a new Clause which we hoped to move in the Committee stage, but which we were precluded from moving then. I hope the House will agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I beg to second the Amendment.
We are anxious about further delays on this matter so that the House may understand what we mean. If this Amendment is not accepted, it will prevent that. There will be a general discussion, apart from the specific point we have in mind. We are asking that we should have the same right and privilege as the Front Bench, on which we feel strongly, on a point like this.
§ Mr. Butler
The Government have never been 10th to answer any particular arguments raised by hon. Members and one would, of course, be ready to answer any argument put forward in the Report Stage as we have in the Committee Stage. But I am faced with the situation that this is a proposal to recommit a particular Clause, and if I were to encourage the House to recommit that Clause, I might be giving the impression that the Government would give favourable consideration to the Clause, whereas the reverse is the case. The Government are unable to accept this New Clause. In the circumstances I think 1746 it would be wiser if, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I intimated shortly, and with due regard to the Rules of Order, that the Government are unable to accept the Clause, and therefore cannot advise the House to do other than reject this Amendment that this New Clause and the Amendment to Clause 14 be recommitted. The Government are definitely against recommittal of these matters. The position is, as I see it—
§ Mr. Stokes
On a point of Order. I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but if he is going to give the reasons why the Government cannot accept the proposals in the new Clause, will the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) of myself or any other hon. Member be entitled to speak again to say why the proposals should be accepted?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is a very delicate question. It is out of Order to refer to the merits of the Clause, and the President of the Board of Education must be very careful.
§ Mr. Butler
I am in the fortunate position of not having said anything about the merits of the Clause when the hon. Member rose to his feet. I had been fully warned of the danger of saying anything of that kind at all and, having said nothing, I had now better say very little more. The position, as I see it—I think the hon. Gentleman made some observations about the birth-rate and other general matters, but I do not want to be as general as that—is that this Clause refers to what are described as special agreement schools. But these are not special agreement schools within the terms of the Bill as we know them, for the following succinct reasons. First, that they are applicable to children of all ages and not only to seniors; second, there is no limitation of time on the proposals which should be made; third, there is a new provision for compulsion to be applied to the local authorities to make an agreement and, lastly, there is no procedure for public notices such as there is under Section 12 of the Bill. For these succinct reasons we do not think this a suitable Clause to be recommitted to the House by the Committee. Therefore, I oppose the Amendment.
§ Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, with great respect, whether the Rule against any discussion on the Motion to recommit, applies in the 1747 case of a limited recommittal which I think is this case? I think that the note in the Manual on Procedure is a little ambiguous on this point, and I should be grateful if you would make it quite clear what the position is.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think it is clear that on a limited recommittal one cannot go into the question of the Clause. It is perfectly true that many hon. Members may, talk on a limited recommittal, but on a total recommittal, of course, only the mover and opposer may speak.
§ Sir. J. Mellor
May I ask if it would not be most appropriate in this case that the Government should give facilities for discussion? The President of the Board of Education made it perfectly clear that the Government are not prepared to accept the new Clause, but I think that if the recommital, in respect of the new Clause which stands in the name of a number of Roman Catholic Members and others is not carried, it will create a very unfortunate impression. It will create the impression that the Government do not want the matter discussed. It is an issue of first-class importance on which I am sure all hon. Members in this House would feel embarrassed, even if they most strongly disagreed with the purpose of the Clause, if discussion were not allowed. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend, having made it clear that the Government do not accept the new Clause, will, at least, give facilities for discussion, and will not oppose the recommittal of this Clause.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I should like to support the appeal made, I think it would be a dangerous principle if anything were done to prevent discussion on a matter, simply because the Government are not prepared to agree with it. I hope that the Committee, at least, will have an opportunity of hearing arguments for and against. The Minister has made it perfectly clear that the Government cannot accept the Clause and perhaps he was justified in formally opposing the Motion, but I hope, having made the Government position clear, that he will not deprive us of the right to discuss the matter.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
Quite frankly I feel that the criticism that the Government have not given enough time to discuss the matter is quite unfounded. I 1748 should have thought, if anything, that the Government have given sufficient time to the discussion of matters relating, particularly, to the denominational schools.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask my hon. Friend a question? At any time was the question of the provision of brand new schools discussed as such?
§ Mr. Cove
My hon. Friend may say that a little precipitately, but the truth is that, generally speaking, the whole problem relating to denominational schools and, in particular, to Roman Catholic schools and the Church schools had a real discussion. Therefore, I say quite frankly, that a charge of that sort, in my opinion, does not stand. The other point I want to make is this. It seems to me, now that the Government have definitely stated that they cannot meet the purposes of the Amendment, to be a complete waste of time to continue the discussion. My hon. Friend will remember that we had a discussion on the 75 per cent., and it seems to me, therefore, that, having regard to the fact that there was no Division at that time—I am not criticising anybody because there was no Division—and to the fact that the Minister has stated unequivocally that the Government will not accept the Amendment, it is a complete waste of time to pursue the matter, especially when we remember that we are under the shadow of the Vote of Censure. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment to a Division at the moment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Captain Prescott (Darwen)
I beg to move, in line 6, at the end, to add:and in respect of the Amendment to Clause 90, page 65, line 22, standing in the name of Captain Prescott.The Amendment as originally drafted included a reference to an Amendment in page 65, line 16, but this part of the Amendment I do not now propose to press. With regard to the second, however, upon which the Parliamentary Secretary and myself have had discussions, I am proposing that it should be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House. I should not be in Order now in going into the merits of the case, but I think it will be agreed that there is substance in the Amendment as put down in my name.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I understand that the circumstances were such at the time that the matter could not be adequately discussed, and as it is a point of a rather technical nature I do not think it will take a long time to put right if this Clause was allowed to be included.
§ Mr. Speaker
I was not quite clear what the hon. and gallant Member for Darwen (Captain Prescott) wished to do. Was he moving only the second part of his Amendment?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
This Amendment for recommittal involves doing in a particular way something which, under the Bill, can be done in more than one way. Under Clause 90, Sub-sections (3) and (4) my right hon. Friend has the option of dealing with these matters, with the liabilities of local education authorities on 1st April next and with certain other consequential matters in such a way as he thinks fit. We think it is desirable that that wide discretion should be left, and that we should not be tied to dealing with these matters in a particular way under a somewhat elaborate machinery which the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes. We, therefore, advise the House not to recommit the Bill in respect of this matter, because it would certainly entail restricting the Minister's discretion when he is administering the Measure.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill immediately considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]