HC Deb 11 May 1944 vol 399 cc2114-5
Mr. John Wilmot (Kennington)

I beg to move, in page 73, line 9, at the end, to insert: (4) Where, in accordance with the provisions of the Education (Institution Children) Act, 1923, a local education authority or a former authority have, before the commencement of this Part of this Act, accepted liability to pay contributions under that Act in respect of a child or young person, that authority, or in the case of a former authority being the council of a county district the local education authority to whom the liabilities of that council are transferred under this Act, shall, notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, remain liable to pay contributions in respect of that child or young person. The object of this Amendment is to avoid the necessity which will otherwise arise of reviewing all the cases which now exist in which liability has already been accepted by an education authority under the present Education (Institution Children) Act, 1923. Under that Act the liability of a local authority was based upon the child's residence immediately before admission to the institution or upon the child's Poor Law settlement. Under the Clause as it now stands the liability will be based upon a different qualification, that of the guardian's present residence. If the Clause is allowed to stand as it is it will be necessary for education authorities to make inquiries as to the residence of the guardians in all these old cases. In the case of large authorities that would be a very formidable task.

I am a member of the London County Council and I have inquired how this Clause would affect them. I am told that there are about 2,400 children in respect of whom the London County Council have accepted liability to other authorities, and in addition another 750 children in London in respect of whom the Council makes claims upon other authorities. Unless this Amendment is accepted it will be necessary in all these 3,000 cases for the London County Council to institute further inquiries as to the children's legal guardians and as to the present residence of those guardians. It is a difficult task where a child has been in an institution for many years and no contact has been made with the guardians during that time. It would be a formidable task in normal times, and it has been rendered immensely more difficult by the circumstances of the war, with evacuation and wholesale changes of address. It would be doubtful, I submit, whether the results would justify the trouble and the expense which would be caused, and it would be very much appreciated by the London County Council, and I am sure by other large education authorities who would have the same difficulties confronting them, if this Amendment could be accepted.

Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)

Undoubtedly there is a difficulty in regard to the working of the Act of 1923, which has always entailed a considerable number of inquiries, and the last thing we would desire would be to do anything which would result in unnecessary inquiries, but I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Kennington (Mr. Wilmot) that the effect of his Amendment would be that even if a child ceased to be a liability under that Act on account of the guardian or other person resuming liability, the paying authority would remain under a liability to continue to pay. This matter was raised on the Committee stage. If my hon. Friend would see me we might find some form of words that would do what he wants without imposing a continuing liability after the real liability has been discharged, and we would try to meet his wishes in another place.

Mr. Wilmot

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend, and in the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.