HC Deb 09 May 1944 vol 399 cc1782-90

(1) Where the Minister has approved proposals submitted to him under Subsection (2) of Section twelve of this Act that any school proposed to be established should be maintained by a local education authority as an auxiliary school and has directed that the proposed school shall be an aided school or a special agreement school, then, if the Minister is satisfied that although the proposed school will not be in substitution for one or mare discontinued schools, yet the establishment thereof is wholly or partially due to the need of providing education for a substantial number of displaced pupils, he may by order certify as expenses attributable to the provision of education for displaced pupils so much of the amount expended in the construction of the school as is in his opinion so attributable, and may pay to the managers or governors of the school a grant not exceeding one half of the expenses so certified: Provided that no grant shall be payable under this Section to the managers or governors of a special agreement school in respect of any sums expended by them in the execution of proposals to which the special agreement for the school relates.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

  1. (a) the expression "displaced pupils" means, in relation to any such proposed school as aforesaid, pupils for whom education would, in the opinion of the Minister, have been provided in some other aided school or special agreement school if that school had not ceased to be available for them in consequence of their parents having ceased to reside in the area served by it, or in consequence of its having ceased to be used for providing both primary and secondary education; and
  2. (b) any sum expended for the purpose of providing a site for a school shall be deemed to be expended in the construction of the school.—[Mr. Ede.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

There is an Amendment on the Report stage of the Bill to omit the second Subsection of Clause 97. This new Clause is the substitute for that, and deals with the comparatively difficult problem of enabling the auxiliary schools to get help, when they are dealing with children who have moved from one part of the country lo another. Where a whole school is transferred, we have been able to deal with the subject satisfactorily. There is the difficulty that confronts us of blocks of children being moved from different schools to some other part of the country, the old school remaining in use for the reduced number of pupils. The denomination cannot dispose of the school, and the denomination is then faced with the problem of providing for the children who have been moved, in the place to which they have gone. My right hon. Friend in this Clause enables such. substantial blocks of children to be recognised for help in the building of the school in which they will, in future, be educated. It is a subject which has given us some difficulty in drafting, but I believe we have met the desires of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic communities with regard to this matter, as far as it is possible, and we have also taken care to ensure that the grants shall apply to children who were, before being moved, taught in denominational schools.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)

This is a most interesting and valuable concession and I would like those concerned with Church schools especially to be able to understand what is happening. It is with that view in mind that I would like to obtain an explicit statement from the Minister. I take it that, where people have gone out from a blitzed or congested area of a city, where a school had been situated, and have been away perhaps two years or more, you cannot build a new school for them in those places?

The Chairman (Major Milner)

The hon. Member is making a speech in the midst of the speech of the Minister.

Mr. Logan

I was being carried away and was dealing with the whole subject I had forgotten about asking a question. I want to ask the Minister, Does this mean that you can have a school built in areas where you find a sufficient number of pupils?

Mr. Ede

This is dealing with small blocks of displaced pupils. I think that what my hon. Friend has really in mind is the transferred school or the substituted school, which has been dealt with in the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Logan


Mr. Ede

It would be more helpful to my hon. Friend and to me, if I were allowed to finish my statement and then, if I have not satisfied my hon. Friend he will be at liberty to raise his point. Some of these people will have come, I imagine, from devastated areas; some will be brought out under slum clearance schemes, and others may even be brought out under a private enterprise building scheme. But where you find a group of children—we have used the words "substantial number" because they must have some relationship to the use of the original school and the future school—who come from a denominational school, and have moved out to a place where the denomination desires to provide accommodation, we shall be able to make that accommodation. When the new school is being considered, let us suppose there are children from three schools who number 150. That would certainly be a substantial number, and I am sure that hon. Members would not expect me to-day to go into the question of what is the minimum of a substantial number. They desire to build a school for 250 or 300 children. It is clear that in respect of these 150 children, they are only to get the same rate of grant as if they were dealing with a school on the original site. What may happen with regard to the other Too or 150 children will have to be determined by what relationship they previously had to denominational schools.

This is a genuine effort to deal with a point which was raised very strongly by the Catholic Hierarchy, who had in mind the kind of place of which my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) was thinking, and we believe this will be a very considerable help to them in dealing with children who were formerly in their care and who have gone out to places where no Catholic school is available to them. [Interruption.] I am aware that my hon. Friend was a very helpful participant in a good many of the negotiations, and I hope that the Committee will feel that this is a genuine effort to deal with a grievance that was not quite covered by the Bill as originally drafted, but which, I think, is now met.

Mr. Logan

I am very thankful that the Minister has introduced this Clause. It was through no desire to be provocative that I intervened but because I wished the position to be explained, so that people outside could understand the pledge now being given. We have been told that our point is being met and I am fully aware that we are being met. One of the difficulties in blitzed areas all over the country is that of being able to make provision for these needs. People in blitzed areas will not be able to obtain houses for four, five or six years, and if temporary dwellings are to last 10 years, I cannot see town planning being able to give us our residential populations again, in those areas where the schools were situated. Therefore, the difficulty of the child population in getting education and school life, seems to me to be a great problem. The Minister quite rightly—because this problem was brought to his attention—said he would give it consideration. We believe he has done that, but I should like a little more elucidation. We are told that, in the definition of 150—

Mr. Ede

No, I was very careful to say that was not a definition. The words are "substantial number." I chose 150, because I did not think anybody would challenge that.

Mr. Logan

I am accepting then that the basis of 150 would be considered a substantial number. Suppose 50 per cent, of the population in a given area in the city is outside the city entirely. That calls for a new school for a body of people who because of their transfer from another site are justly entitled to it since they will not be able for five or six years to get any housing facilities in the blitzed areas from which they have come. Therefore, I want it to be made quite patent to the Committee that, in making this concession for the Church schools of a denomination, the Minister will not place a liability upon these people who, no matter how much they would like it, cannot return to the blitzed areas from which they were transferred. I do not want to make a speech about it. I would prefer to say a lot more about this Bill but I want to keep within the ambit of the discussion. If it means what I think it does, I shall be pleased to hear from the Minister. If it does not mean what I say, I would like the Minister to let me know, at this stage. This is of great value to us, but it would be a great injustice to us, if it were not included in the Bill. It would be most useful to every area in this country which has been bombed. I raise this point only so that the Minister will state explicitly what he really does mean without any ambiguity.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)

I also require to have removed some ambiguity about this provision. Apparently, it contemplates that the Minister will approve proposals in respect of the Church school when, in fact, the number of pupils to go to the Church school will only be a proportion of the total school population. In other words, it contemplates that the Minister will allow a Church school for. a school population of, let me say, 300—to use the Parliamentary Secretary's own figure—when there are only 150 of that particular denomination. The provision we are considering provides, in clear terms, that the denominational section of the school population may be only partial, and that the establishment is wholly or partly due to the need of providing education for a sub-stantial number of displaced pupils. It then goes on to provide that the amount which the denomination has to find for the capital cost of the school shall be proportionate to the number of what are called in the Clause "displaced pupils." In other words, it enables a denomination, not for half the capital cost but for a quarter of the capital cost, to obtain for themselves an aided school, that is, a completely denominational school for 300 pupils with only 150 of that denomination.

As I have said throughout our discussions, I have no objection at all if 150 displaced Catholics require a school where they may be educated in their own faith. Let them have it. I make no objection to the provisions which have been included to enable such transfers to take place, but, as far as I can read this Clause, and understand the statement of the Minister, it goes far beyond that. To take the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), he is anxious that Catholic children who have been displaced by bombing should be provided for in the places where they have gone. As I say, I am making no objection to that But under the terms of this Clause it is possible to provide a Catholic school for 300, with only 150 Catholic children in it. Do not let us forget that, in this Bill, power is taken to compel children to attend given schools. If, in that area, all that is wanted is a school for 300, and you can establish 150 Catholics—or Church of England, I do not mind which —there is nothing in this new Clause, or the provisions of the Bill as they are now, to prevent the Minister from saying that there shall be an aided school of the Catholic faith, or the Church of England faith, and the other 150 will be compelled to go to that Church school. I think the Minister should consider once more the exact scope of this Clause, and not allow it to go beyond the provision for displaced pupils of the denomination. I see grave danger in this expression, "partially due," and the proportionate cost according to the number of denominational children.

Mr. Stokes

I want to say other things in addition to answering the speech to which we have just listened. To deal with that first, as I understand the proposal, it is that where there has been what I will call a substantial "hiving off"—for want of a better expression—then the denomination shall be entitled to build a new school and receive a so per cent. Government grant. If, at the same time, they find in the area into which they hive, more drones who want to come to that school, they shall be entitled to ask for a school of a size to accommodate that number of pupils. I understand it is the intention of the Bill to provide facilities for new schools in new areas to which children have either migrated or been transported, and at the same time, to provide for additional children of that denomination. On that account, I welcome the new Clause, and I hope the Committee will see fit to give it a thoroughly whole-hearted acceptance.

My complaint of the Clause is that it does not deal with one aspect of the situation. My hon. and learned Friend complains that it deals with an aspect which he does not like. I want to warn the Committee, on this question of brand new schools, for my denomination at any rate, that unless it is dealt with somehow, it will be a running sore and will come up at every election and by-election wherever there are bodies of Catholics in the constituencies. I welcome the Clause as it stands, because it goes a long way to overcome some of the difficulties, and will help us to take advantage of the new conditions which we all hope will prevail after the war when new cities are built and proper housing accommodation is made for us, as for other people, in the different areas. I would remind the Committee, however, that the main burden of our complaint is that we are still precluded from being part of the national scheme.

Earlier to-day I referred to this problem of increasing population. It is a fact which must be faced that the population does increase and, if you examine the family life of this country as, indeed, of any other, you will find that the Catholics on the whole have the largest families. So far as I can judge, and I am no prophet, it is likely that that incidence will prevail. It is no use this Committee shutting its eyes to the actual facts in the future. My complaint about the Clause is that whilst it deals with the "hiving off" situation, it fails to deal with the brand new school situation. I know the Minister says he cannot deal with it at present. But will the Committee consider this one point? Is it not perfectly ridiculous, in this island of ours, to be able to live in Carlisle and not have reasonable provision, and yet to be able to go across the border into Scotland and find brand new schools provided by the authority for a denomination where there are sufficient pupils? It seems fantastic nonsense for this Committee to say there is no reason to provide it. My argument is that if this single-school area were out of the way, we would get what we want; as it is we cannot.

Mr. Ede

I understood from his observations that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) was thanking me for the new Clause, but his thanks appeared rather to peter out towards the end of his remarks, and as he progressed North of the Tweed. But there are many things that happen North of the Tweed which would have to be taken into account if I were to attempt to answer him, and I do not intend to be drawn into that question. My right hon. Friend dealt with the problem of the brand new school earlier to-day. May I thank my hon. Friend, therefore, for such thanks as he offered to us? It was very much grace before meat rather than after meat. As the meal progressed, he rather forgot to say it.

May I deal with the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes)? I think the major part of the anxieties of my hon. Friend are met by Sub-section (1) of Clause 97 now in the Bill which definitely deals with transferred schools and substituted schools. That has always been in the Bill and I think there was never any doubt about that. We are dealing here with a very small remnant of the problem, and I think my hon. and learned Friend has not quite appreciated the exact machinery which will have to be operated before any of these schools can be built. Notices will have to be issued and the notices will, of course, state the number of children in respect of whom the school is required. It will be open to the proper people—the local education authority or any ten local government electors—to object to the new school on the ground that a denominational school is not required, or is not required for so large a number.

Let us assume that at the inquiry it is established that this school is required for a number of pupils larger than the number of substituted or displaced pupils. The denomination will then get the grant in respect of that proportion of the cost which is due to the displaced pupils. They will have to find—and this is the grievance of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich—the whole cost for erecting this school, in respect of the children who are not displaced. They get no grant in respect of them, and they will have to find the whole of that part of the cost so that, in the case my hon. Friend put forward, where you had a school for 300, 150 being displaced, the Minister can make, by a grant up to half the cost, provision for the 150. He can, under another provision of the Bill, grant a loan for the remaining half of the cost, but the cost of the second 150 has to be defrayed entirely by the denomination. That is where my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich joins issue with us and thinks he would be a happier man if he lived in Scotland. I very much doubt it. After all, he made one effort to become a Scotsman by becoming a Scotch Member of this House, and I am quite sure he is happier as an English Member than he would have been as a Scotch Member. I suggest to the Committee that this is a very reasonable effort, within the limits we have prescribed in this Bill with regard to brand new schools, to deal with a difficult situa- tion, and I hope the Committee will now agree to the Clause being read a Second time.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask one question? Do I understand that Clause 97 (1), as printed in the Bill, stands and that, what is called the new Clause, really becomes (2) and (3)?

Mr. Ede

We shall move at a later stage to take Clause 97 (2) out of the Bill. I said that, but no doubt my hon. Friend did not hear it. This new Clause is in substitution of Clause 97 (2), but will be a separate Clause, in the Bill when we reach the end of this stage.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.