HC Deb 12 May 1944 vol 399 cc2193-267

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [11th May], "That the Bill be now read the Third time."— [Mr. Ede.]

Question again proposed.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)

Like other hon. Members, I welcome the opportunity of adding my modest spray to the large bouquet which the Minister has now collected—and deservedly so—from all sides of the House. If I may say so, ever since 1921, when I became associated with this House, I have never seen a Bill that was so full of controversy, or potential controversy, more skilfully piloted through its various stages. Anyone who has been in charge of a Bill of this magnitude—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) will bear me out—knows the mental and physical strain involved in putting a Bill like this on the Statute Book.

Many hon. Members have rightly described this Bill as a Charter of Education. It gathers up all the dreams of the reformers, and it does much more. Two things in particular to which I would like to refer, are quite novel in our educational methods. The first is the conception of the controlled school, and the second the excepted authority—a new form of school and a new form of authority. Much has been said about the new form of authority and I will not waste the time of the House on that. I should like, however, to refer to the controlled school. During the Second Reading Debate I likened the President of the Board of Education to a sapper carefully picking his way through the minefields of religious controversy, and I expressed the hope that he would not blow himself up. He has picked his way with great skill, and he has got through. The only mine that has exploded was the mine of Equal Pay, which shows what material days we live in.

I was born into the educational controversy, and I know how extremely bitter such controversy can be. I remember, as a small boy, hearing my mother say that my father was going to prison. We were all very excited and asked what he had done. Apparently he had refused to pay the education rate. The local authority, instead of sending him to prison and making a martyr of him, finally came down on the side of sending a man, an unknown stranger, to take a very nice silver trowel from the sideboard. The trowel was put up for public auction, and if my father wanted it, he had to buy it back every year. The issues to-day, if not properly handled, could have caused just as much embarrassment to the Government as they did in those days of passive resistance. Therefore, even at the risk of wearying the House I wish to emphasise the extreme diplomacy, finesse and skill with which the Minister and his very able Parliamentary Secretary have handled these issues.

The Minister was attacked the other day by a distinguished Free Church critic for having handed out everything to the Anglicans and the Catholics and done nothing for the Free Churches. If the House will allow me, I would like to show in two or three sentences how ill-founded is that charge. There are four major concessions in the Bill which go a very long way towards satisfying the grievances of the Free Churches. The first is the whole conception of the controlled school, which is a movement away from the rigours of the dual system in the direction of public control. The controlled school has been so devised as to confer, I think, a great benefit on the Anglicans, but in doing so it also confers a benefit on the Free Churches, because it moves towards a form of qualified public control, without impairing the historical continuity of the denominational foundations—a very skilful arrangement. I hope that that form of experiment will be largely adopted by the Anglican community. In this connection, I should like to say how extremely co-operative the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. H. Brooke) has been. He has appreciated all the difficulties from which, I believe, I suffer. On many occasions we have had unofficial conferences together and with the Minister, and I believe that that is the reason for this happy issue. So, the controlled school is the first great concession, a concession which benefits Anglicans and Free Churchmen alike.

The second concession is contained in a proviso to Clause 27 to which no reference has yet been made. It is true that it is only a repetition of Section 12 I think of the 1936 Act whereby, in an aided or special agreement school, Free Church parents can claim the right of agreed syllabus teaching for their children. Although it is a repetition of a concession in an earlier Act, I, personally, believe that that proviso alone in Clause 27 would do much to mitigate the bitterness in Free Church circles, and if the Free Church parents do not want to use it, that is their own fault. There is the concession. They can go to the local authority and ask for an agreed syllabus teaching in that school. That should remove the grievance in the case of areas—and there are some—where there is a certain religious bitterness.

The third concession is in Clause 53 whereby, again, Free Church parents, whose children attend a single-area school, have the right to ask the local authority for transport to send their children to the nearest council or controlled school. This concession applies equally to the Catholics. There are six or seven concessions to the Catholics which have made a considerable difference and I welcome them. None of us have got what we want exactly, but every one has got something. It is a great mistake to remove the grievances of people. If I may say so by way of an obiter dictum, the removal of grievances nearly killed the Welsh party. Once they had got Welsh disestablishment, they ceased to show their old fire. It is the same with the Irish. Remove a man's grievance and you destroy him. I am not sure I have not been destroyed. My grievance is substantially removed.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

May I ask my hon. Friend what particular Irish grievance was removed?

Sir G. Shakespeare

My hon. Friend, like the phoenix, rises from the ashes, but I will not be distracted. I was making the point that, under Clause 53, the parents of Catholics, or Free Church, children can ask the local authority for transport facilities to send their children to another school, and if the local authority refuses, the Minister may make such order as he thinks necessary. That is a very considerable concession. I thought at one time, during the discussions with the Minister, that this was the solution of the single-school area problem, but it was pointed out that we were considering a scheme of education whereby the whole road would be blocked with transport, in a manner resembling a "second front" operation.

Lastly, there is a very substantial concession made under Clause 98, whereby, if an application is made for a loan by an aided or special-agreement school, new machinery comes into operation. In that Clause, for the first time, the substantial grievance of the Free Churches is recognised. Not only that, but, for the first time, as the President pointed out, the single-school area is defined. There is to be a constitutional right, enshrined in an Act of Parliament, for the Free Churches to be consulted in the case of a single-school area, and provision is made for the removal of grievances. When an application for a loan is made, and the Minister is satisfied that the expense of carrying out repairs can be borne by the applicant aided school, his duty is to consult the diocesan committee and the equivalent body of the Free Church Council. Here is machinery for cooperation which has never been established before.

I do not think it will often be necessary to hold an inquiry. It may well be that, when the conference is held, it will be discovered that, in a particular school for which an application is made, there will be no grievance at all. On the other hand it may be possible to deal with a particular grievance under the provisions of Clause 53, or it may be possible to deal with it under the proviso in Clause 27. If it is not possible to deal with the problem in these ways, the Minister will hold an inquiry, and take such action as he thinks right. It may be that in many cases he will say "No, this aided school should be a controlled school." Those four concessions—the controlled school, the right to syllabus teaching in the aided school, the transport provision, and the form of local supervision and co-operation in single school areas under Clause 98—in my humble judgment, substantially re- move the grievances from which Free Churchmen have long suffered. Those are not only my views but the views of many of the Free Church leaders with whom I have been in contact. Therefore, I sincerely thank the President for having done what so many of his distinguished predecessors have failed to do.

The Report of the McNair Committee came out too recently for many of us to have studied it. I have only had a glimpse of it. I believe that the President and myself, when we were nurtured on the self-same hill, in the words of a Cambridge colleague of the Parliamentary Secretary, both sat under Mr. McNair—Sir Arnold McNair, as he now is. I was delighted when he was appointed, and I think that the report is on the right lines. I believe that the question of status and remuneration, and, above all, the training of teachers, is at the heart of the whole educational problem. One would be very foolish, at this stage, to press the Government for an answer, but I hope that the President will not follow precedent by delaying for a year or a year and a half before making up his mind. I hope he will be able, in the not far distant future, to declare the attitude of the Government on this subject.

I am full of gratitude and admiration. The President now will be like one of the saints "who from his labours rests." I hope that his rest will be continually disturbed by the fact that he has to administer the very large reform in our educational system on which he has embarked.

Mr. Parker (Romford)

I would like to add to the congratulations already given to both my right hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. It seems a very long time since they appeared to this House, at an earlier period, one as the champion stone-wailer at the Foreign Office and the other as a rather cheeky backbencher on this side, checking the Government on that side. Not only for the difficult work of carrying through the Bill, but perhaps even more for their work in the difficult negotiations leading up to the introduction of the Bill, they have earned golden opinions from every section in the House, and they have also proved themselves really good House of Commons men. I think that is the highest compliment one can pay to Members in this House. The Bill can be welcomed not only for the work which has been put into it by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, but also because it is the first of the major measures of reconstruction to be brought forward by the Government. It is no exaggeration to say that this Bill is one of the best fruits of a national Government. It would be very difficult to get through a controversial Measure of this kind, which runs across the wishes of substantial sections of opinion in the country, which are not necessarily all in one party, under a single-party Government, in normal times. Therefore, one must welcome this as being peculiarly a Bill coming from a national Government, and one of the special fruits which a national Government has been able to give us. Many of us look forward to other measures of reconstruction, and hope that some, as good as this, will follow from other Departments.

Two important points were raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood), on which I would like to say something further. He dwelt at some length upon the raising of the school-leaving age to 16. There are large sections of opinion in the House, and in the country, which very much regret that the Government are giving priority in building to young people's colleges, rather than providing the necessary accommodation for raising the school-leaving age to 16. Many of us, important as we think the young people's colleges are, feel that it would have been wiser to have gone ahead first with the raising of the age to 16. I take the view that, although a larger amount of accommodation would have been required, it might have been easier to find it, because it would have been a question of extending many large schools already built, whereas, in opening your young people's colleges, you will have to provide new buildings everywhere. It would have been easier to make more accommodation by extending schools, or by building complete secondary schools, allowing accommodation for those up to 16, than by not only constructing secondary schools to provide accommodation for children up to 15, but also providing the young people's colleges. Many of us feel that it would have been better to have gone ahead with raising the age to 16 because we believe that you cannot really have a national system of education—which we really want—without having proper secondary education for all, and we do not think that you can provide secondary education for all, unless that education covers all age groups fully up to the age of 16.

I would like to rub in this point, because we hope that, in carrying through this Bill, strong pressure will be brought by the Minister upon local education authorities to see that the promises given to us, that buildings, equipment and staff are provided equally for all types of secondary education, are carried out, so that the work can be got on with speedily and so that the Bill will really mean something. If we just make all education equal in name, without providing the equipment and staff to enable a boy or girl to get proper individual attention in different types of secondary schools, and equality of treatment, then what has been said in the Debates on this Bill about providing secondary education for all, will not mean anything. We, therefore, regret that the school-leaving age of 16 is not to come as early as we would like, but we make the point that we think it important that pressure should be brought on local authorities to see that this idea of secondary education for all really means something and is effectively carried out in administration. Regarding secondary education, we take the view that, if this country is to play a worth-while part in the world in future, it must be on a basis, not only of educating people to earn a living, but of educating them so that they can understand the society in which they live, and make their contribution to it. We hope and trust that the young people's colleges will help forward this job of educating the people, but we take the view that the all-important thing is the building of a secondary educational system, which will cover the mass of the population, and they are no substitute for this.

Another point, made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, was on the question of fees. Here again, I would like to say that we regret very much that we have not got the full abolition of fees in secondary schools. I think my right hon. Friend the Presi- dent of the Board of Education underestimates the strength of the feeling there is on this matter in the country. I think there are large sections of the people who feel that, without the abolition of fees, many of the promises given about secondary education will not be carried out in practice. My right hon. Friend has said on a number of occasions that he intended to see that no worth-while child was kept out of a place it ought to have in the school, because its parents had not the means of paying for the education to which it was entitled. I hope that principle will be carried out in practice, but I think it will be very difficult to reconcile the attempt to do that, with the right of certain parents to obtain places for their children in these schools, by the very fact that they can pay for them. It seems to me that, if you have fee-payers, that fact is, automatically, bound to give certain advantages to the children of those fee-payers, because they will obtain places in the schools, and, if there is limited accommodation in certain types of schools, it may mean that some other child, equally good or, it may be, slightly better, will be kept out. I find it very difficult to reconcile the attempt to see that all children will get education of good quality, if worthy of it, with the retention of this fee-paying system.

Many of us on this side of the House feel that, on this important issue, not sufficient account has been taken of the feeling which exists on this matter, because there has not been a small organised group, of a pressure character, trying to get something out of the Government. Many people feel that other sections of opinion, religious, for example, are being more favourably treated in comparison, and many of us hold the view that those who feel strongly on religious questions have done very well out of the discussions and out of the Bill. I do not wish to be too controversial, but I say that there is a danger in this House that while one strong pressure group, of the character of that which has put forward its views frequently in these Debates, receives attention, other sections of opinion tend to be overlooked. I think we must make it clear that there are other opinions, such as the moderate Church of England and Nonconformist views and secular views, which far outweigh in number and influ- ence those holding the narrower sectarian view on this question.

This country has one very strong tradition—a Christian tradition—but it has also an anti-clerical tradition, and I think this should not be ignored. That anticlerical tradition goes right away through our history, back to long before the Reformation. A compromise has in this case been reached, and sacrifices have been made, not only by representatives of the Roman Catholic and High Church Anglicans, but by other sections of opinion. These sacrifices have been made in order that some general agreement may he reached and we should go forward with the Bill. I hope, now that the Bill is going through and that the compromise has been generally accepted, it will be carried out by every section of opinion in the country. Those of us who disagree strongly with the Roman Catholics accept, now that agreement has been reached, what has been agreed to in the House, and we accept the fact that the Government should carry out this Bill fully and completely. But we would also make it clear that, in our view, sacrifices have been made on all sides, and that there are grievances not only on one side.

My last point is that I hope and trust that the President of the Board will be able to bring plenty of pressure on the Treasury to see that the necessary money is found to enable this Bill to work in practice. Unless local authorities are assisted, the Bill will be a dead letter. If the money is found—and I am certain that there will be a drive, centrally from the Minister and through local initiative in the provinces—it will build up a very fine and workable education system which will have variety and will be comprehensive. If we have this money and go ahead with the job, we shall be creating a system which will enable this people to play that worthy and great part which it should play in the world in future. We wish the Bill well and we are glad that it has gone so far towards reaching the Statute Book.

Mr. Colegatc (The Wrekin)

I do not think any hon. Member will take part in this Debate without joining in the chorus of congratulations to my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary. The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) said the Bill was an honest attempt, but I should say that it was an honest and imaginative attempt on a scale that we have not hitherto seen in our educational system. I should like to pay a special tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary has often proved a very great help to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House with his wide and deep knowledge of local education authorities and local government. On point after point, I myself have had the advantage, as we all have had, of hearing him explain difficulties and problems that present themselves and he has been able to do so because of his extraordinarily intimate and long experience of local education authorities and local government work. I will say one personal work on that if I may. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary has had considerable domestic anxiety recently, and I am sure that the warm wishes of the House go out to him with the hope that those anxieties may be quickly relieved.

I would like to make one or two comments on the contents of the Bill, and to refer particularly to the controlled school which, in my opinion, is one of the best devices so far suggested in regard to these denominational schools. I re-echo in that matter the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare). In this matter, as in certain others, a great deal will be achieved by time. Many people who at present are not prepared to see these schools become controlled schools may find in the course of time that the controlled school is a very reasonable solution in a great many areas. I myself, as a member of the Church of England, say without regret that I shall be glad to see a number of the Church of England schools becoming controlled schools. I believe that, in that way, what is felt in many areas to be a substantial grievance will disappear.

Turning to the subject of the fee-paying school—both on this and on the question of fixing a date for the raising of the school age—I feel that my right hon. Friend has avoided two very serious mistakes which he might have made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) and the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) hold a very different view about it, but I am convinced, from the discussions to which I have listened in this House and which have been going on in the country since, that abolition of fees at this stage would be a very great mistake. Later on, it may be different, and here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield. Some years hence, it may be very different; we may have so good a general secondary school education system that the question of the fee-paying schools may become a matter of indifference. But it could not be done at the present time, and it is a great mistake to say—and I was very sorry to hear it said—that these schools are "snob" schools. That is a very unfair reflection on a number, of schools and headmasters and devoted personnel who are doing a magnificent job—some of the best work in education that is being done at the present time. It should not go out that the majority of the House think that these are "snob" schools. They are nothing of the kind. On the contrary, if we abolished these schools, it would immediately create, if the hypothesis of those hon. Members opposite be correct, a new group of private "snob" schools which would really be "snob" schools, but would not be of the grammar school type.

I want to say a word or two about technical education. As an obscure back bencher I do not often get much correspondence about my speeches [Interruption.] Well, it has not been necessary for me, like an hon. and weighty Member opposite, to try to obtain 30,000 reprints of a speech. It may come to that but it has not done so yet. That being the case, I was surprised to see the very heavy "fan mail" I received because of the remarks I had to make on technical education. Perhaps I ought not to call it "fan mail" because a large part of it was "anti-fan" mail. There were a number of criticisms to the effect that I had underestimated the work that the technical schools were doing at the present time. It was far from my wish to give that impression. The technical schools are doing, and have done, very good work, but I want to re-affirm, as strongly as I can, that we have to go a great deal further, as far as technical and vocational education is concerned.

The equipment of the technical schools of this country and the people they turn out at the present time are not, speaking by and large, up to the standard we must have, if everybody is to have an equal opportunity in the industrial and technological spheres. One of the difficulties about technical schools is that they require not only considerable capital equipment, but large current expenditure in laboratories. All technical schools require a relatively larger income than other educational institutions because of the expense of the materials which they use. If experiments are to be conducted and carried out and students are to be given an opportunity of handling material and experiments themselves, we must be prepared to spend generously on the current materials required, apart from capital equipment. One other point I want to emphasise. A well-equipped technical school, or a school that was well equipped in 1900, is not well equipped to-day.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

That is the reason for this Bill.

Mr. Colegate

Exactly: a great many people are not aware of that fact, as my correspondence showed. In the development of modern technology, the capital equipment of schools and colleges requires repeatedly to be renewed.

Another point I want to make is on the question of the raising of the school age. I am extremely glad that no false hopes have been held out, as would undoubtedly have been the case had a date been put into the Bill. Those who wish for the insertion of a date say that it could be postponed by Order in Council, but frankly, in the present state of the supply of teachers and buildings, it would haw lent itself to the disillusionment of the public to have put a date in the Bill. We had better concentrate our efforts on the very large amount of work that is to be done in reducing the size of classes and improving our existing organisation before we start extending the scheme to cover all young people up to the age of 16. I say that, being just as keen and enthusiastic as any other Member of this House that we should raise the school-leaving age to 16 as soon as it is practicable to do so.

This Bill is rather like an architect's plan of a building. It is not a building; it is only a plan, and to erect a building according to that plan, will be a very heavy task indeed, far heavier than many people realise. I do not mean only the work that has to be done by my right hon. Friend and his Department. It is a great deal more than that. The public and local education authorities have to play their part, and it is up to every one who is keen on seeing this Bill carried out to the best advantage, to urge everybody who can give the time, and who has the enthusiasm for it, to try to make this Bill a success. We require very large numbers of people willing to serve on local authorities, local education committees, people to act as school managers, and to assist in a large number of ancillary services connected with the Bill, if we are, within a reasonable time, to make the Measure a success. I believe you can prevent people becoming cynical, as they tended to do after the last war, if you can present to them different avenues for advancing an education scheme such as this Bill offers. There will be great opportunities for a very large number of people who are willing to undertake the work, and who will feel they are giving a hand advancing a scheme which has been wanted for many years. If we achieve that, we shall be able to create a people worthy of the leading place which we occupy in the world, and we shall, at the same time, harness to this scheme the enthusiasm and devotion of a very large body of people. We shall, I am sure, get results much greater than many of us dared to hope for only a few years ago.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

Well deserved tributes have been paid to the Minister and to his very able Parliamentary Secretary, both of whom have piloted the Measure through with skill. They have shown political wisdom in finding accommodation for various claims. This Measure has, fortunately, been free from the religious rancour from which so many Education Bills have suffered in the past. This is, undoubtedly, due to the wise decision of the Minister to meet religious bodies and thoroughly discuss their points of view. The general aim of sound education, as outlined in the Bill, will, I believe, meet with general acceptance from the people as a whole. Gone is the time when some people viewed education as a luxury; now it is viewed as a necessity, and the best possible education is not too good for the children of the poorest parents. I welcome the provision made for secondary education, though I want it to be free to all without fee or penalty of any kind. When I was on an education committee, I always contended that an oral examination to secure a place in a secondary school was an unfair test of a child's ability. I have seen many bright children, with excellent school records, failing to pass the oral examination. Often the cleverest child is of a highly nervous temperament, and an examination by strangers is too severe a test. Therefore, my contention has always been that the school record is a truer criterion of a child's ability.

I hope that the Minister may find it possible at an early period to raise the school-leaving age to 16. In pre-war days it was nothing short of a tragedy that thousands of children were thrown on to the labour market each year at the age of 14 without any possible prospect of continuous employment. What was the result? Thousands drifted into blind-alley jobs; they drifted out again; they felt they were not wanted and, unfortunately, as our reports too often showed, many drifted into a life of crime, The provision for continued education after the school-leaving age is, certainly, highly important.

The extension of school feeding should be welcomed because tests in certain schools, particularly across the Border, have shown wonderful physical results, not only in height but in weight, from proper feeding. It is good to know that England and Wales are to be brought into line with Scotland in providing boots and clothing. In educational matters, Scotland has long held a proud position. The main concern was educational facilities for the children so that they could be better fitted to fight the battle of life than their parents had been. This accounted for the way the Catholic schools were dealt with in Scotland. Had it been possible for the Government to have adopted the Scottish system, then we could have been assured that peace and good will would have been the outcome. However, "all's well that ends well," and once the Bill is on the Statute Book, I believe it will probably mean the greatest reform of our educational system which the country has seen for half a century.

Mr. G. A. Morrison (Scottish Universities)

I count it a privilege to be allowed to congratulate the Ministers who have reached a triumphant conclusion to their important work. I speak as one who has been connected with the work of education for over half a century. Through these discussions, which I have followed very closely, I have seldom lost the consciousness—borne in upon me many times in the course of my work as a teacher—that while the administrators and the legislators do invaluable, indispensable work, yet the real work of education is done by the personalities of the teachers and their influence on the pupils at a very impressionable age. This only shows how all-important is the question of the supply and recruitment of the right kind of teacher. The legislator's work, indeed, comes only occasionally, perhaps once in a generation, and then he effaces himself. I have often thought that administrators, both local and national, after doing their best to secure the best conditions for the real work of teaching, might well speedily efface themselves and leave that work to go on in quietness. One sometimes has the feeling that one hears and reads too much of the doings of administrators—as if that were the real work of education.

Other speakers have drawn attention to the remarkable exhibition of good will in this House which has enabled settlements of long standing problems to be reached with the minimum of controversy, and, most astonishing of all, without any residue of bad feeling. That is due to several things. In the first instance it is due to the vast amount of skilled labour which went to the preparation of this Bill. No doubt the framers of the Measure received plenty of advice, asked and unasked. I used to say when I was a headmaster that if I had acted on all the advice I had received as to the running of my school, it would have been a queer place. Great skill has been shown in selecting from all varieties of advice. The architects of this Measure, and the Ministers who have had the piloting of it through the House, have certainly been successful in finding solutions which have commended themselves to the House and to the great body of people we represent and to whom we are responsible.

There are many things on which one would like to comment, but I am not going to try to speak on more than one of the main parts of the Measure. I will say only a few words on the new provision for a hitherto neglected class of pupils, those between the ages of 15 and 18. As is well-known, that reform is long overdue. Even yet the work in that department is of a pioneer nature. May I repeat what I said, I think, in the Debate on the White Paper, that it is very important that in the young people's colleges there should be serious solid educational work? Since I said that Dr. Kitchin, head of the Rugby Continuation School, has borne out what I then tried to emphasise. He has told us in his book "From Learning to Earning" that they tried at first to make things attractive for young people, providing what he called a diet of sweets; that they soon discovered they were on the wrong tack, and came down to serious, honest educational work. The President of the Board has kindly offered to issue a circular for the guidance of local authorities and others interested in the potentialities of these new institutions and what is to be expected from authorities in regard to them. May I offer the suggestion that the wisdom and experience of Dr. Kitchin and his staff at Rugby may be further utilised in that direction?

Without attempting to embarrass anybody I wish to reinforce what the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) said about the supply of teachers. Unless an adequate supply of the right kind of persons is assured we may not be able to make a start with some of these major reforms for many years to come; what would be even worse, we may be obliged to make the wrong kind of start. One other point. Many people still feel that the financial provision in the Bill is not sufficient, that the operation of the Measure will impose a discouraging and depressing burden on local authorities. I would like to have a word of reassurance about that. The hon. Baronet spoke about the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary having a well-earned rest from their labours. It has been a great pleasure for me, to watch their work ex propinquo, from close at hand, throughout the discussions we have had on this Bill. I have never tired of admiring the understanding and sympathy they have shown, their untiring attention to detail, the patience with which they have heard diverse and conflicting views and the persuasiveness with which they have pointed out the more excellent way. I should not like, however, to think that their labours are ending. Indeed, I hope they will be with us to guide us in the putting into operation of these great reforms for some years to come, for there is much to be done. Rather than advise them to rest from their labours I would recommend them to adopt the attitude of the old Roman whom the poet described as "Nil Actum credens dum quid superesset agendum," —"thinking that what was done was nothing so long as anything remained to be done." As the Parliamentary Secretary seems to have stood that quotation wonderfully well, may I give him another? I know that he, as a persevering student of the Latin tongue, will appreciate it and I know that he will pardon me, as one who has been reading Latin for 65 years, for giving it. It contains the motto of the great school with which I am proud to have been associated for three-quarters of my active life: "Nunc viribus usus, Nunc manibus rapidis, omni nunc arte magistra." which means, "Now we need strength, now we need swift hands and every skill that guides." The last four words of the Latin are the motto to which I refer and an inspiring one it has proved.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)

It may be, perhaps, a good omen that we have returned to the old Latin quotations at a time when we are aiming at having secondary education for all; at any rate, I congratulate the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. A. Morrison) on having returned to a former practice of this House. I wish to follow other Members by adding my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary on their completion of the final stage of their long journey and on putting this new Education Bill on the Statute Book. If praise is demoralising, then my right hon. Friend must have been demoralised, but I know that with his calm and cool temperament he will stand up to the flattery to which he has been subjected. Of course, the great test of this Bill will be its operation, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be allowed to stay at his present post and see this Measure, which will shortly become an Act, put into operation.

This is a great day in the history of education. I hope it is the end of the old, bitter controversy about denominational education. The reform of education has, for years, been frustrated by this problem. I remember the days before the Balfour Act, when many people refused to pay their rates for conscientious motives. Education desires a settlement, and, largely through the co-operation and good will of every section of the population I believe we have now found a solution of this problem. I want to pay a sincere tribute to my right hon. Friend for his patience, tact and power of conciliation which, no doubt, he learned during his long apprenticeship at the Foreign Office. But what we are concerned with is to provide a full, generous system of education; our concern must be with the child, and not the parent. We must see that denominational history does not stand in the way of any child, wherever it lives, and whatever the income or religion of its parents. We must see that the child is not denied the full opportunity that is available to the community.

This day is also interesting for the fact that it marks the obsequies of the Board of Education. We are burying the Board of Education, but we are celebrating the birthday of the Ministry of Education. I do not attach much importance to names, but I hope that the new title will create a new spirit, a new enthusiasm and a wider outlook of responsibilities in my right hon. Friend's Department. I, as my right hon. Friend knows, would have liked to have retained the title "Board of Education," and to have made it a real Board, responsible for education in the same way as the Board of Admiralty is responsible for the policy of our Navy and the Army Council is responsible for the Army. I would have liked to see a Board jointly responsible for thinking out education as a whole, and not making it dependent on the passing personality of the head of the Department. However, the House decided otherwise and I realise that we have gone a long way towards getting what I desire in the Central Advisory Council.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make this Central Advisory Council a reality. The Clause has been carefully drafted and it has been amended. I want to see on the Council, which is the nearest thing I can get to my Board, men who have real practical experience and knowledge of education, not merely theoretical knowledge, and I hope that every branch of education will be represented. We want a proper, balanced system of education. The weakness of our whole system has been lack of balance. I want to see a proper scope of primary, secondary and—in this I agree with an earlier speaker—technical and adult education and, not least, that university education shall have its proper place in our educational policy. For some reason or other that I have not been able to understand, it has always been treated as a thing apart, as something to be handled not by the Board but by a separate Minister and by Commissioners who are able to co-ordinate educational policy. I want the President to have a large vision of his responsibility and to review continually, in the light of the money available, and in the light of needs and necessities, the whole policy of education so as to have a co-ordinated and properly balanced system.

I am deeply convinced that the right school-leaving age is 16. The right place for children under 16 is the school and they should not go out into commerce, the factory or the workshop before that age. But we have to be realists. The Board, through the local authorities, has a tremendous job to face in providing the necessary buildings and, above all, seeing that there is a large army of highly skilled and trained teachers available to do the work. It is no use keeping children at school crowded together in large classes and not have capable or competent men and women able to instruct them. Nothing is more resented by parent and child than that, in the last year of their school life, they should be marking time, mixed-up with younger children and not getting that variety of syllabus which is only attainable if you have competent teachers.

I have to be a realist. I do not take the line that some of my hon. Friends take in resenting the priority given to the continuation school. On the contrary, I think it should have a very high priority. Do not let us forget that during the war we have had a truncated educational System even up to 14. We have had in many parts of the country, in London in particular, large classes, with an absence of men teachers and, more serious of all, an absence of young teachers owing to men and women being engaged in war industries. So we have a special obligation, that the war generation having missed a full educational opportunity in many parts of the country, because of the war, should be given the opportunities which continua- tion schools will provide. I should, therefore, like to see a very high priority in continuation schools. It is a great thing to get control of young people up to 18, not merely a matter of a few hours spent in a school building but control over their character and their personality, which competent teachers will provide if we get the right kind of men and women to run these continuation schools. I was an active participant in the unfortunate experiment made under the Fisher Education Act in London. I saw its failure. I think it will want a lot of foresight and skill and careful provision in advance, if these continuation schools are to be a success. But they will provide an important hold over the children and will give us an opportunity to direct their leisure to which I cannot attach too much importance.

Another thing I want to insist on follows very naturally on the continuation school—the importance of adult education. I have always taken an active interest in adult education. I have seen the immense good that a school for adults can do. A very remarkable experiment was started in 1920 at Bethnal Green, a purely working-class area. We started a part-time system in an ordinary elementary school, catering for the ordinary workingclass—what we used to describe as the non-white collar class, men who left school at 14 and had never since been in any kind of educational establishment. It was a time of great trade depression and unemployment. That little school started with some dozen adults, ranging from 18 or 19, up to 60, and developed into an institute of over 3,000 men of the working-class, through every variety of course and syllabus, and it did more than anything else to improve the morale of the neighbourhood. It encouraged those men, many of whom through that opportunity were able to get back into useful industry and trade and to recover the moral respect which is so important when you are going through a time of trade depression and unemployment.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go on with the continuation schools, give them an immense amount of support and link up with them, a vast system of adult education. It is important to emphasise that at this stage above all others, because we have to bear in mind that large army of men and women who will be coming back after the dreary dull discipline of the three Services and will want rehabilitation. They will have the right to demand the opportunities for education which the adult school will provide. We have a special obligation towards them because of the war. There is a special need. I press the right hon. Gentleman not to be mean in the expenditure of money, even if it is at the expense of other branches of education, because of our special obligation to those who have lost precious years of their lives, leaving their ordinary occupations and going to serve their country.

I agree with the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) in stressing the importance of technical education. We are miles behind, not in the quality but in the quantity of technical education. Somehow or other, most educationists have looked on it with suspicion. They have regarded it, for some reason, as merely education for trade, and they feel that local authorities and the Board should rather stand aside and leave it to industrialists to take the initiative. Unfortunately, our industrialists have been very much behind the industrialists of the United States of America, who have been generous in their contributions in the way of buildings and endowments for technical education. It is up to the Board to give a lead in the matter. We must be realists. We shall have a great struggle after this war to recapture our markets, and we have to make our people feel that, technically and scientifically, they have equal opportunities with other nations and that if we fail, it will not be due to lack of training on their part.

I wish the Government well and I wish the Minister well. The testing time will come when the Bill is put into operation, and its success will depend upon enthusiasm at the Board and in the local authorities. The ship has been launched successfully, and it is now up to the captain, the right hon. Gentleman, to navigate it and steer it through the difficult administrative waters of the voyage ahead.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I agree with what the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said in his concluding observations about the placid atmosphere of this House during the progress of this Bill as compared with the atmosphere which surrounded the proceedings on the Bill of 1902. In those days I had the privilege of staying in London as the guest of the late Rt. Hon. Charles Master-man, a well-known figure in our public life and one of the most charming personalities whom I have ever known. It was my privilege in those days to sit in the Gallery of the old Chamber and to meet, at certain conferences, Liberal representatives. At that time, as regards their views on that Education Bill, there was not what one would call unanimity or even a friendly feeling among different sections of the Liberal Party. I would like at this stage, if I may do so without appearing to violate the canons of good taste, to add my tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister-designate and in particular to the Parliamentary Secretary. I feel that those Members who were in the House yesterday when the Parliamentary Secretary spoke, must have been profoundly impressed and touched by the character and quality of his speech. It was one of the finest contributions made to these Debates. He touched a personal note, and gave us an indication, if I may say so with all respect, of his own personal high character. We who are interested in education and particularly in the great work—which will stand to the credit of my right hon. Friend for all time—of creating a spiritual background to our educational life, will always recall the admirable speech made yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister-designate did not allow us to recommit one Sub-section of the Clause dealing with new schools. I am bound to say however that the concessions made in this Bill from the point of view of the denominational schools are, on the whole, satisfactory to me. While we have not got everything we should have liked we have obtained, after a gentle and quiet exchange of views, certain concessions which, I believe, will give qualified satisfaction, at all events, to a large section of the community to which I belong. Difficulties will arise with regard to denominational schools in the areas where new building is necessary. Here I am speaking not merely for Catholic schools but for schools of other denominations, and I think it a pity that we were not allowed, at all events to debate the Clause in order to place before the House our reasons for asking further concessions in respect of building what my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) would say, in his picturesque way, were "brand-new" schools. We feel very strongly on this point about new schools. It has been said by various hon. Members, and is well-known from our population statistics, that the Catholic population of this country is increasing in a greater degree than any other section of our people, and, with that in mind, I think it was vital for educational efficiency to have a more generous concession towards the establishment of new schools in those areas where there is a sufficiently large Catholic population to justify a school coming into existence.

Where schools have been damaged, and where transfers have to be made my right hon. Friend has, I think, been particularly good to us, and we gratefully acknowledge the concession which has been made. I think that even my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich would acknowledge that the concession is of value from the point of view of denominational education. The concession regarding the transport of children will be, as was so well said by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare), of immense advantage in many districts, especially rural areas, in facilitating the access of children to schools where they can receive religious education in accordance with the wishes of their parents.

This is a great Bill and I believe that the Catholic community will give wholehearted co-operation in its practical working. There may be a little feeling of disappointment here and there that the concessions will not meet all the claims that were submitted for consideration by the Minister, but nevertheless I am confident that there will be every possible co-operation in the working of the Measure.

I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin Division (Mr. Colegate) said with regard to technical education. I represent in this House a division of a city in which technical education has been raised to a very high level indeed. The equipment of our technical schools in Birmingham may leave something to be desired, but within the limits of local enterprise we have created a system of technical education which is probably as good as can be found in any other similar community in the world. In speaking on the Third Reading of a Bill designed to provide wider education facilities for our people, I must pay a tribute to my own education committee in Birmingham. It has been a model committee. For several years, almost for a generation, we have had as chairman of the education committee one who has been not a mere figure head but who has made himself familiar day by day, almost from hour to hour, with every change which would improve the educational opportunities of the people in that great community. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that if the education committees of the great authorities being devised under this Bill have chairmen of that quality and character the success of the Bill will be assured.

With regard to what has been said about the Bill providing opportunities for all, the Parliamentary Secretary in his speech yesterday drew a contrast between his own education and that of the Minister. Under the operation of the Bill, I am sure that all the children of the nation will have wider access to education facilities than have been possible before. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin talked about "snob" schools. I should like to say a word about public schools. When I was secretary of the Navy League, a position I occupied for seven years, and was fighting for a supreme Navy—a matter on which some of my hon. Friends opposite took a different view—I had a branch of the Navy League in almost every public school. Through the courtesy and hospitality of headmasters and their staffs I had the opportunity of seeing something of the life and outlook of those schools, and I believe that in this land of ours the English public school is still—as I hope it will continue to be—one of the greatest assets in raising, maintaining and expanding the high character of our people in every walk of life.

I am glad that provision is to be made for securing smaller classes. A few weeks ago I visited one of the schools in my constituency. At the moment, there is, of course, a shortage of man power and woman power, because teachers have been called up—as I think, in too great numbers having regard to the importance of keeping our schools in operation. I found in that school one class with 59 pupils, another with 49, and 37 in each of two others. How in the name of common sense can a teacher effectively instruct 49 or 59 pupils at a time? One of the biggest difficulties of the future will be to provide the larger teaching staffs necessary to ensure smaller classes in our schools.

An hon. Member yesterday mentioned the Danish high schools. It happens that nearly 40 years ago I made a report on the Danish high school system. I spent some time at one of the most prominent of the Danish high schools. It was a very good school, in which certain practical subjects were taught, but the main teaching was the teaching of patriotism, love of one's own country, a high outlook on life, friendship with others and the idea of snaking Danish culture, Danish outlook, Danish progress, both social and economic, the best that could be achieved. I cannot believe that a system of that kind could be successfully introduced into this country. I served with a very distinguished Irishman, a Member of this House, the late Sir Horace Plunkett, and we tried to do something of the kind for Ireland, but I am sorry to say in that country, where lost causes have been abundant for many years, we failed to bring the system into operation. But it has done immense service in Denmark. All Danish boys and girls are taught the history of their country, the place their country occupies in the world, and the idea of personal sacrifice in order to achieve the ideals which have come down to them is a standing feature of that system of education.

My last word is this. I have said that I can recall the days when the Education Bill of 1902 was going through the House of Commons. I remember the late Lord Balfour standing at the Table on 24th March, 1902, when he introduced that Bill. In his speech he made this observation: I do not stand here to plead for any particular form of denominational religion. I do stand here to say that we ought, as far as we can, to see that every parent gets the kind of religious training for his child that he desires. It has taken 42 years to put into the form of a Bill and carry to the Third Reading stage, the principle enunciated by Lord Balfour. I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has done in that respect. This is a great step in post-war reconstruction which will stand to his credit and to the credit of His Majesty's Government. It is a tremendous success in careful preparation for a great legislative project. The projet de loi which takes so long to prepare in Continental countries has been prepared with great skill and in a much shorter time here by my right hon. Friend and his coadjutor the Parliamentary Secretary. I only hope that His Majesty's Treasury will play its part when it comes to the finding of money to put these schemes into operation. I ventured, on Second Reading, to suggest that the question of finance was worthy of some consideration in relation to post-war reconstruction. I got a bad wigging from outside. It was said that I was drawing red herrings across trails. One hon. Member to-day did mention something about money, and I am afraid the question of money will frequently arise. I think, however, the quality of this Bill will rise far above the purely material conception of financing its operations. I add my word of congratulation and praise to my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary. I have rarely experienced in this House, of which I have been a Member now for 24 years, an atmosphere of such abundant good will.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

So much has been said in praise of the President of the Board of Education—a title soon to disappear—and of the Parliamentary Secretary that it is difficult to find words to express just what one feels without repeating what has already been said. When, in 1939, the clouds of war broke over this country, concerned as we were for the welfare of the rising generation, arrangements were made for the children to be evacuated from the populous districts into the country. At that time I found myself in the very rare position of being on the same platform with a member of the Tory Party. It was at a meeting of parents. If I had been asked what had been the chief factor in the school life of that member of the Tory Party, my answer would have been that he had been an excellent cricketer, for his position in the House of Commons at that time was that of champion stone-wailer for the Government and Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office. I was speaking in the constituency he represented and in his company. I little dreamed then, that I should be given the opportunity at any time of expressing to him deep and heartfelt thanks for any great work which he and his colleagues had been able to accomplish.

I doubt whether the country realises the immense potentialities of this Bill. I am rather inclined to think that, because of the stress through which we are passing, we do not fully appreciate that we have in this Bill a foundation historic in its significance, providing, as it does, the possibility of a broad highway from the elementary school to the university. I am not sure that even Members in this House realise that of all the social services which are difficult to improve, education is the most difficult. When we are dealing with other social services we can see issues which are clear cut, but a service like that of education is so complex in its problems that a Minister who undertakes its improvement has a hard task in steering his way through many difficulties. There is no other social service in which you are so likely to meet objections by the very people who will benefit.

Raising the school leaving age is not popular among members of the working class. Economic circumstances affect them and that is a difficulty that has to be met. Then we have difficulties arising from religion which were so prominent in the hectic days of 1930, when the Trevelyan Bill was introduced. It is a testimony to the President and his colleague that we have been able to get this Bill through without even an appearance 'of crisis on this subject at any time. The members of the Catholic community hold so fiercely to their faith, that it is difficult for those who are not of that faith to appreciate their position. You do not meet their point of view when you say you are prepared to take children out of school for a few hours for religious training. They say there is no education for their children apart from education with the atmosphere of their religion, with the background of their religion, with the Catholic religion permeating every item in the curriculum. To be confronted with a faith like that, and yet to have been able to get this Bill through without crisis is a testimony to the ability of the right hon. Gentleman. In this Bill education is recognised for the first time as a continuous process, starting from the nursery school. I think the nursery school can do with a little advertisement. Many people think of the nursery school simply as an institution which enables parents to be relieved of their obligations for a few hours in the day. They look on it just as a rival to the day nursery. They say it is not possible to begin education at the age of two years. To that, I reply that it is possible to begin training at that age. Every mother knows, indeed, that training begins earlier than that. Education does not mean only pumping knowledge into the heads of children. It includes the development of qualities that will get the best out of them. The nursery school is concerned not so much with imparting knowledge as with developing habits. The value of the nursery school is that you are able to get a strong grip on habits and so prepare the way for education to follow. I am a supporter of nursery schools because I realise the advantage of the development of habits which lead to the formation of character. Good habits can be as strong as bad habits.

Another point to which I want to refer is that of the technical schools. If a child shows that he or she is not likely to benefit by specialising in languages and in other things that go towards the formation of the type of mind that will do honour to the professions, then it is important that that child should have a sound chance in technical colleges of developing craftsmanship and ability in handiwork. If people are to use technical colleges as a means of getting their children in front of those of their next-door neighbour, they do not understand the value of these colleges. The value of the technical college is that it will enable people to discover their aptitudes. Its value is that it will get some measure of happiness into working-class life by enabling people to take the jobs they are fit for. It will have value in enabling the craftsman to understand the scientific principles underlying the operations which he learns. If we are to be governed by democracy we would be wise to see that it is an intelligent democracy. It is conceivable that in the days that lie ahead a benevolent autocracy may be in some circumstances preferred to an unreasoning democracy. If ever there were a claim for education it is in the fact that we shall depend upon the intelligence of the mass of our people in the future.

Therefore, technical education is important because we want intelligent craftsmen, we want people who will be able to take joy in the jobs they are doing. But it should not close the door to other forms of education. In the scheme for further education, which does not go quite so far as I would like, there will be an opportunity for a fresh orientation, for discovering a person's fitness for something in addition to the work he is doing. I am now referring to cultural life. I have seen work performed by young people which to my untutored eye would be a credit to more advanced students. They take great joy in their sculpturing, their painting and their dramatics, things which give a zest to life. Life does not really consist in working to earn one's living. Life consists in living.

The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary are now seeing the fruits of their labours. In offering my congratulations to them, may I say that it is not merely by brilliance of mind that they have accomplished what they have done; it is not only what they have done that matters; it is the way in which they have done it. I found myself in difficulties 'sometimes, when it seemed to be almost a pleasure to agree not to press a thing after it had been pointed out to me that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary had been doing their best to meet my point of view. For that measure of charm, for that toleration and understanding, I want to express my thanks to them.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

I am very pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). He has played an active and constructive part throughout the consideration of this Bill. I was afraid yesterday that I might not be able to take part in the concluding stages. Yesterday was the first day since I was made available from other duties when I have not been present throughout a sitting when this Bill was under consideration. In case my hon. Friend might think that my patience had expired or that my interest in education was flagging, I would assure him that I was sitting at a meeting listening to speeches on education, so that, in taking a holiday from here, I was taking a busman's holiday.

I should like to offer my congratulations to the President in a somewhat new form. I am happy still to be able to call him "President," although I regret that the time when I shall not be able to do so is drawing so near. I would like to remind him of a speech he made on this subject some months ago, when he likened our education system to an old coat and reminded us that the coat had been patched and patched again. It was worn out and had long since become too small for the growing adolescent. British youth had outgrown the coat, and what the Education Bill sought to do was no longer to patch up the old system but to provide an entirely new coat for the young adolescent. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to choose the analogy of a tailor, I should like to congratulate him on being the best tailor in London. He has succeeded not only in the designing, but in the cutting and fitting of the new garment to perfection. The President practises what he preaches. He preaches education and by his conduct of this Bill he has practised it. For one like myself, who is a comparatively new Member of the House, for whom this Bill has been the first opportunity of following a big Measure throughout its courses in the House, it has been a practical education. The way in which the right hon. Gentleman has successfully piloted a Bill containing many potentially controversial issues and many points of difficulty and diversity of opinion, has certainly been a lesson to me.

There are two things I should like to say about the Parliamentary Secretary. I am grateful to him, not for the reasons which have generally been advanced in his praise, but because he came to my constituency. I do not know what he said because, unfortunately, I was unable to be present, but he must have spoken on the technical side of the subject with good effect because I have never heard anything about it since. Whether he convinced people in my constituency that they knew all about it and that there was nothing else to be said, or whether he convinced them that it was such a technical subject that their Member was not capable of explaining it to them, I do not know. Whatever the means he adopted, I am sure that his motives were admirable and that the results were undoubtedly successful. The Parliamentary Secretary has been referred to in this Debate as the right hon. Gentleman's lieutenant. That is rather unkind. I feel that an hon. Member of his experience and one who is the chief of staff to the right hon. Gentleman should be promoted, and I should like to offer him my congratulations on being at least the commodore of education. I should like to say how much I, and, I think, other Members have appreciated the liberal way in which he has placed at the disposal of hon. Members and the House generally his vast experience on the practical side of education. He has been of the greatest assistance to us in the course of our deliberations and has saved us from many pitfalls.

The hon. Member for South Tottenham particularly mentioned nursery schools. It is difficult to select any one portion of this Bill or any one sphere of education which one can claim has a greater importance than another. I sympathise with the hon. Member's point of view that nursery schools are important, but, in view of his having dealt with that side of the subject, I would like to turn to another and say a word about further education. While not claiming that it is more important than other sides of education, I feel that it is very important indeed. The question of further education is wrapped up with a good many difficulties, not the least of which is material and personnel. Various suggestions have been made concerning them. One or two have been made by me. I should have said in offering my congratulations to my right hon. Friend that there I have no ulterior motive, because no suggestion of mine concerning this Bill has been adopted, whereas I can safely say that I have adopted every suggestion that he has made. Therefore, it can be said that our accounts are square.

Young people's colleges are referred to in Clause 41. I look forward to the time when we may be able to enjoy having these colleges in my constituency, in which we have a lot of space. I believe that they will serve a great purpose, not only to the constituency itself, but, having regard to the natural surroundings in which it is possible to have such colleges, to those who attend from urban areas. I hope that it may be possible for the President to inspire the creation of these colleges, particularly in localities where it might not seem so easy or so natural for a local education authority to provide them owing to the fact that the immediate locality does not provide the necessary personnel in the form of students. I believe that it will need inspiration from the President to get these colleges going in just the places where they are most wanted. I hope that the President will take into account that we are all very keen to see these things come into being and that we are anxious to get further education started at the earliest possible date. I agree with what the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said about the urgency of further education owing to the difficulties which have been experienced in completing the education of the current population of the schools.

If this matter, which so largely depends on the provision of material and personnel, is rushed too much, greater harm will be done than if it is delayed a little longer until suitable personnel can be provided. The people who will benefit from attendance at these colleges will be at the most difficult and impressionable age. They will be of an age when, if they are not guided in life, as distinct from stricter educational matters, they may go off the rails. The responsibility for the selection of teachers and persons to run these colleges is so great that I urge upon my right hon. Friend not to set them up until he is satisfied that he has found the right people.

There is one other very small point, on the same subject, to which I should like to refer. I have previously asked the right hon. Gentleman—he knows my views—to reconsider the appellation of these places. I hope that he or the Parliamentary Secretary may have a brain-wave and think of some new name, because the present one may lend itself to misconception, particularly when it is referred to in the dialects of certain parts of our country. Although the name may no longer be officially changed, I trust that these places may come to be known by some different, more suitable and convenient designation.

May I say one more word upon an aspect of the matter that has been referred to? At present, there is only one question which could arouse greater depth of feeling among hon. Members of this House than the question of religion, and that is the question of war. Private Members have, unhappily, all too little opportunity of direct participation in matters which affect the conduct of the war, but with regard to matters which affect the lives of those in the Fighting Services we have a great deal to do. The utmost that we can do for them is to try to ensure that their future lives after the war will be all that they, as well as we, could wish. So far as the Bill is concerned, we have endeavoured to base the greatest educational reform system upon what has been referred to as the only right basis, and that is the religious basis. I know that the right bon. Gentleman has, very rightly and properly, been congratulated from all quarters of the House; I should like to join in those congratulations because of the way he has piloted the Bill through these particularly dangerous controversial waters.

I should like also to add to what has been said by speakers who represent Roman Catholics. I think my own position in these matters is not unknown. I have the honour to represent a constituency which is at least unique in that I believe there is no matter of political controversy of which it could not provide examples, if it wished to, with the one exception of coal mines. I have the honour to have within my constituency a diocesan centre of the Anglican persuasion, and a large, and, I am glad to say, very happy and sincere, Roman Catholic population. I think I can claim to have several homes and centres of Nonconformity and the Free Churches. I therefore have been able to take a singularly objective view of the religious issues in this matter. I should like to pay a particular tribute to the moderation with which hon. Members have set forth their points of view from all sides of the House. It would be invidious to refer to any of them in particular, but I cannot refrain from mentioning the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who has taken such a leading part in the question. The moderation of his language has been marked and yet the depth as well as the breadth of his outlook has been so reasonably and sincerely expressed.

In conclusion, I should like to think that the way in which this issue has been dealt with is a good omen for the future in an even wider sphere. I should like to believe that the spirit of moderation and religious toleration which we have expressed throughout these long Debates may be carried forward into the even wider and more difficult spheres of discussion after the war, throughout all the occupied and other territories where passions are likely and liable to be heightened. It will be the duty as well as the privilege of our country to give a lead at that time in the settlement of other countries' affairs, and I hope that we may then be guided by the same spirit of religious toleration and of moderation in these matters of conscience as we have been guided by in this House in our discussion of the Bill.

Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)

I think it will be agreed that there was complete justification for taking this day for further discussion of the Third Reading of the Bill, particularly among those of us who have listened to the speeches made to-day. The hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) and the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) have expressed my point of view about the Bill, and on the advantages that are likely to come from it. I would like to join with other Members in congratulating the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary on the work they have done in the preparation of the Bill and the piloting of it through the House of Commons. The subject was a thorny one. We all knew that it was difficult. Most of us expected that there might be stormy days. We remembered 1931 and the earlier Debates, when there was fierce fighting on the religious issues. That has, to a large extent, been overcome. In my Division is a pretty strong Catholic population. They are devoted Christians, and hold their religious views most intensely. I have met them on five or six occasions. The first meetings were somewhat difficult. Long letters have passed between us, a good deal of correspondence. The skill with which this Measure has been handled has taken away the opposition, and everybody feels that a fair deal has been made. This measure of success is largely due to the care and diligence and understanding with which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have piloted the Bill through the House. The President was appointed to his post about three years ago. I remember talking to him at the time and expressing the hope that he would succeed in staying at the Board long enough to get a Bill of this kind placed on the Statute Book. I have appre- ciated the diligence with which he has applied himself to the subject. I know that he has met deputation after deputation. It would be true to say that he has worked hard over this long period in order to bring about this result. The same thing can be said of his Parliamentary Secretary. I have had the pleasure of being with him at two conferences at which were representatives of all the Christian faiths. There was detailed examination point by point; they were very prolonged conferences. Here is the result, and it is magnificent.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham said the Bill has taken away the ladder, but has provided a great highway. That is a big thing in education. Education is a great leveller. We sometimes speak of death as being the leveller, but that is a little late for my purposes. Education is a great leveller. If people are educated, and if they understand, they can be good democrats, good scientists, or good workmen. Education takes away suspicion and doubts and enables people to understand. It gives us a much more efficient people. If the Bill is fully operated it must mean for the people of this country considerable benefits. We must have a higher standard of education for our people, including a higher standard of technical education. We need careful and skilled direction of people into certain walks of life and into the channels for which they are best adapted. Both they and the State will derive considerable advantages from that process. There is a view taken in some quarters that "work" is an objectionable thing, but if a person gets into the right kind of work it ceases to be objectionable to him and becomes a pleasure, and he does it with enthusiasm. For this kind of development, the opportunities provided by the Bill are very considerable.

There is one thing I should like to mention. Perhaps it is more in the nature of a warning. Many of the provisions of the Bill were in the Fisher Act, but we missed putting them into operation. We failed. Let us not make that mistake on this Bill. I hope the Bill will be operated with as much enthusiasm as we feel for it in this House, which is a point of very great importance. If we are to get our people educated we must have a high standard of administration. This Bill will depend to a large extent on effective administration. Unless it is administered well, it may, indeed, turn out far less beneficial that we expect. This is a responsibility which will devolve on the President, or the Minister as he will then be. I hope that a high standard of efficiency in administration will be reached.

I wish again to enter my caveat with regard to the finance of the Bill. The financial side is one to which I have paid attention during its passage through the House. The President and his Parliamentary Secretary have done something in that respect. They have tried to "even out" the peaks of cost between the different authorities to some extent. In the Bill, originally, £900,000 was to be devoted to that purpose. That has been increased to £1,900,000. Even with that, there will be considerable disparities between the costs of education among the various authorities. The disparities will vary as much as, from a 2s. 6d. rate, to a 12s. or a 14s. rate. That will leave pretty high peaks to be overcome. I never expected that the President would, in this Bill, be able to bring about a reform of the finances of local government, or a change in the methods of making grants to local authorities, in order to make it possible for all to obtain this high standard of education at a figure equal to the rates in different areas. That is a much wider matter, I admit, and will have to be dealt with in other Bills. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having gone as far as he has done in this Bill, but I thought it wise that I should pay attention to that point for one moment.

I most heartily congratulate the President and the Parliamentary Secretary, and I join with other hon. Members in expressing the hope that the Bill will be put fully into effect, and that after some years have passed, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the standard of education is as high in this country as in any country in the world.

Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)

Enough has been said to make it clear that we are passing to-day a Measure of the very highest importance, and I think we are justified in giving some consideration to, and in expressing hopes and fears on, the question of how some of the major provisions of it will work out. I have two remarks to make. One concerns the secondary schools and how they are to be affected. I have had some contacts with secondary schools, and particularly secondary schoolmasters, for whom I have developed a great admiration. I know that some of them, not only in my own constituency but elsewhere, are rather nervous about the creation of new types of schools and the new adjustments between various schools and the effect of the relevant provisions in the Bill. These secondary schools, I need hardly remind the House, have very proud pupils, proud records, and proud headmasters. One of the special fears in their minds is that the local authorities may select, and send to boarding schools or public schools, some of their special pupils, and thereby break the hearts and even the character of the secondary schools and of the schoolmasters. I merely mention that because I know the records of some of the schoolmasters and I know the records—I have some in my hands—of some of the admirable boys, now doing great work in the Services, who have come from secondary schools.

The other point I have to make is this. I realised from the beginning that there were, as it seemed to me, two major issues at the back of the proposals for an Education Bill, which must, if they had been considered collectively, have presented great difficulties in the passing of such a Bill. One of these is the denominational question. There is no doubt about it that denominational discussion, and even bitter controversy, might have cropped up. It has not cropped up, to the great credit, I think, of everybody concerned. I say this because it leads me to my final point. We have shown quite clearly in these discussions on the Bill that denominational discussions, and even rancours, can be dissolved, as they have been in this case dissolved, into a spirit of comparative amity. That is a very pleasant thought to me.

I now come to what I have always looked upon as the great stumbling block, that is the question of the further education included in Clause 39 and other Clauses. This to me is a subject of the very utmost national importance. I feel, and I have always supposed, watching the Bill's progress, that if that question of further education had been complicated by asking for more than we have already put into the Bill, it might have had the effect of wrecking the Bill. I am anxious to be strictly in Order and therefore will not discuss what is not in the Bill. What is already in the Bill in Clause 39 is, in its way, quite admirable. The foundation is there of everything I want and foresee. There can be no doubt about that. It is a magnificent foundation if utilised as I personally hope it will be utilised. I think other hon. Members who are listening probably share my hope in that respect, though perhaps not with quite the same enthusiasm. I have felt myself, looking at these Clauses, as though we in this House had been "trembling on the brink," afraid to take the plunge into the bracing waters of reality.

I say, finally, that if the spirit of those Clauses is carried into effect we shall build up in this country moral, mental and physical virtues in the pupils, and make them realise that they have a moral and physical duty to their country, a duty to be prepared—without going to the extreme lengths advocating of which some people are so fond of trying to cram down one's throat—to protect their country against aggression. I know there have been great difficulties in the background in this matter. I repeat that the foundadation is there. I can say most sincerely that I trust it will be properly utilised, in the spirit in which it is meant, to be utilised. We have to look to the future, and I maintain, and shall maintain with my last breath, that if we do not make use of the foundation of which I speak we shall run the gravest possible risk in the future. We are at this moment facing the inevitability of strife, and as far as it is humanly possible to look ahead, we shall always have to face it.

Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)

I have only one short point to make. I will lead up to it by mentioning two others. While I am very glad that this Bill is now nearing the end of its passage to the Statute Book, I will confine my congratulations to saying that I think the Minister-designate and the Parliamentary Secretary have done a good Parliamentary job. I reserve further congratulations for a year's time, until we see what they do with the great powers and the great opportunities which this Bill will give them.

The two points I wanted to mention before getting to my main point are: How soon are we to get the large number of buildings which are required, and how soon will we get the teachers who are required? Those are the two essential things. We have not tackled either problem. I find it most regrettable that the McNair Report, dealing with the teachers' side of the problem, has been produced at a time which has made it quite impossible for hon. Members fully to acquaint themselves with it, and has made it impossible for the Report to influence this Debate as it ought to have done. I draw attention to one other thing in the McNair Report—the statement that we must not try to get our education on the cheap. It was worth having the McNair Report for the assertion of that fact alone. As I say, I shall reserve my real and sugary congratulations for the time when some definite achievement has been made, because obviously it is going to take a long time to put up buildings, and to get teachers trained and appointed. These are things, therefore, in which there will have to be a programme extending over a period of years. You can no more train teachers in six months than you can train doctors in six months. They are both, and should be, highly skilled professions. I am sure that teachers realise that, and wish to have an extremely good training and to pull their weight, as fully equipped men and women in this service.

There is one thing we can do immediately, that is to raise the standard of nutrition of all children in our schools, and to raise the standard of medical attention given to children in our schools. During the war we have come to accept, as though we had always known it—though such is not the fact—the possibility of the raising of the standard of nutrition of the population as a whole to a very high level. The Hot Springs Conference laid down a principle of world application—the raising of the standard of nutrition of all peoples of the world. I want the President of the Board—the Minister, as he will become—and the Parliamentary Secretary to pay the greatest attention to applying modern knowledge of nutrition to the nutrition of all children in the schools, with the object of raising the standard of their nutrition at once. The nutrition of children in the schools has been maintained at a reason- able level up to the present—not at a high level but at a reasonable level. That level is now—I say this deliberately, with knowledge of the facts—going down. The nutrition of schoolchildren in the towns is now going down, and will require more careful attention in the immediate future than it has had in the past. It is quite possible, by carrying out what is the Ministry's declared policy of the provision of school meals, to improve nutrition much more than it has been done at the present time. There are some authorities which are advanced and progressive with respect to supplying school meals. There are some, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows quite well, which are not progressive, which are very backward, and we must see that the standard in every area of the country is raised. It is bad in the rural areas.

The standards of education and the standards of buildings are very bad in the constituency of the President of the Board of Education. I do not know about the constituency of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I think the standards are higher in his area. The standards in the country generally are very low indeed. I speak of this with painful knowledge, having inspected in detail many schools, in many areas. We should raise the standard of the nutrition of the children, and the standard e their health. I should like to see it laid down definitely by the Minister that it is the obligation of the head authority of any school, of whatever kind it may be, to ascertain, by inquiry, that every child has a good standard of nutrition in its own home and a good mid-day meal, and, if the child does not have that good midday meal, to make arrangements to provide a good mid-day meal for it. That would make a great change in the standards of nutrition. If the standards of nutrition in the elementary schools were raised to the standards of nutrition in the secondary schools, there would be a revolutionary change in the physique of the schoolchildren of this country. That can be done. It would not be particularly expensive. The machinery exists. The question is: is the Minister, is the country, and is the House of Commons willing that that should be done?

With regard to the medical services—the matter arises on Clause 46—I feel a certain doubt as to what the precise arrangements for the medical inspection and treatment of children are to be under this Bill. Is the medical treatment and medical inspection service to become part of a unified and comprehensive service when that is established, as proposed recently in the White Paper? It is very important that all parts of the medical service, if a comprehensive service is to be established, as no doubt it will be in some form, should be integrated with the very important public health function of the school medical officer, and that school medical treatment, which is really prevention of disease, rather than treatment of disease as known among adults, should be integrated with the service as a whole. I would very much like the Minister to make a statement, if he would be so good, on his intentions with regard to the school medical service. We cannot improve the mental education, let alone the spiritual education, of children by any measures which are within our power at present. It will take years to build the schools. It will take years to get the teachers. But it need not take more than months to get all the children in the country adequately fed, and to get the medical service improved, so that the troubles from which they suffer are corrected at an early stage, and their health level improved.

If the physical health of the children of this country can be improved by only 10 per cent. it will make an immense difference in their standard of education. An underfed child, an ailing child, mopes about, does not make contacts with the outer world, does not move about quickly, is not happy, does not know what is going on around it, is indifferent. A well-fed child may be a mischievous child but is an active child, constantly making contacts with the outside world, constantly picking up information, constantly learning. A well-fed child will, either in town or in country, educate itself to a large extent. I am sure my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with that. We can, if we will, and if the Minister will—the Parliamentary Secretary I am sure has his heart in this, and will back the Minister up—see that, as a result of this Bill, we shall get a really well-fed and physically well-cared-for child population in this country. Then this Bill will have done a great deal, even if it does not do all the things that some of those who have praised it so highly expect.

Finally, I cannot help being rather sceptical about the possibilities of this Bill, because of the unfortunate experience I had as a member of the London County Council and of the education committee of that council at the time when the attempt was made to put the magnificent promises of the 1918 Act into operation. Is there going to be a real onward move in education in the near future, or is there going to be a repetition of the delusion of the 1918 Act? We do not know; but there is, at any rate, this thing that the Minister, under the powers he is now getting, can do. He can secure that the level of nutrition of the children of this country is raised to a high level, that their physical health is made better than it has ever been before, that there are no longer children handicapped by lack of food and the existence of remediable defects. That alone would be a tremendous achievement. But, as I have said, I shall reserve my congratulations until a year's time, until I see the actual effects of the Bill, and not only the intentions, which, of course, we all agree are admirable.

Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)

In the first place I would like, in the name of my colleagues who have been doing their best to present the Roman Catholic case during the passage of this Bill through the House of Commons, to thank my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) for the very gracious remarks he made about our efforts. We have endeavoured to be realists, and not to do anything to raise those questions of controversy and deep religious feeling which, unfortunately, have distinguished Debates on this subject in the past. I would like to join in congratulating my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary for the part they have played in presenting this Measure to the House. I do not do so because it is the fashion to do so, but because I have, I think, some modest appreciation of the great task which they have had to perform. It is not only the manner in which they have presented their proposals to the House which has excited our admiration, but one realises, of course, the immense amount of work which had to be done before the Measure ever reached the Floor of this House. I think all of us feel that, in spite of the fact that we may have had, in our opinion, at least. grave cause to differ from some of their proposals, they have handled their responsibilty in a way which will bring further distinction to their Parliamentary careers. They have had their difficulties, as the House well knows. They have overcome their difficulties. The Roman Catholic interests have also had their difficulties. The difference unfortunately is that, while the Government have been successful in overcoming theirs, we have not been quite so successful in overcoming ours. We are grateful for the manner in which my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary have met us on a variety of points, some of a minor character, some substantial; but, when it is all boiled down in the Bill, the fact remains that the Roman Catholic community of this country will have to face an annual burden of £430,000 for the next 35 or 40 years. In these days of Budgets which soar into realms of £5,000,000,000, a sum of £430,000 does not seem very impressive. It is not very impressive in relation to the national finances, but it is an intolerable burden when it is related to moneys raised by voluntary contributions from an already overburdened—

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

And under-paid.

Colonel Evans

—and in some cases an under-paid community. That fact remains, and that is what the Bill means to the Roman Catholic community. The Government, as part of a measure of compromise, are going to loan them money at 4½ per cent. per annum, being 3 per cent. interest and 1½ per cent. for sinking fund. But that is not the end of their uncertainty. On this basis their liability of £430,000 a year is dependent upon the condition that, when the actual building takes place, building costs do not exceed 35 per cent. of their 1939 figures. That figure of 35 per cent, is not one which was suggested by us: it is not one which was suggested by a private Member in any quarter of the House; it is the suggestion of His Majesty's Government via the Treasury. I cannot understand the Treasury's point of view on this matter. If that is their considered estimate of what building costs will be when the building actually takes place, why have they not the courage to support their own estimate, and say, "If we have made a mistake, if our estimates are wrong, for reasons outside our own control, we shall be prepared to examine this matter afresh"? We tried to press that point of view on the Government during the Committee stage. One realises that my right hon. Friend, sympathetic as he is, has been unsuccessful in persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his officials to adopt that point of view. I hope, however, that, when building actually takes place and this Bill has become an Act, my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary, being realists, anxious to see the Act work, will not hesitate to reopen the question if necessity demands. Believe me, when that times comes, if that estimate is wrong, there will be a strong and determined voice raised in this House and in the country, drawing attention to a burden which no community should be called upon to undertake.

I also feel that I must express regret that the Government did not find themselves able to agree to the recommittal of the Clause which would have enabled us to present out point of view in relation to the financing of new schools. I am not going to argue the case now, because it is not in the Bill as at present before the House. I will only content myself by saying that, whatever the intention of the Government may have been at the time, in opposition to our proposals, it seems to me rather unfortunate that, when a matter of this importance, affecting all denominations, came under review in this Bill, we were prohibited from having an opportunity of stating a case and of putting that case on record.

May I say, in conclusion, that it is obvious that not only the Government and the House, but the whole country, wants this Measure to be a success and work well. Believe me, as far as I am permitted to express a view on behalf of my Roman Catholic friends, we wish it to work well. So far as we are concerned, and I do not think that anybody can accuse us of not being realists in this matter, having made our protests, we must accept the facts as they exist to-day, because we know that the Bill is substantially in the same form now as it will be when it becomes an Act of Parliament. That being the case, I want to assure my right hon. Friend that, as far as we are concerned, we will do our utmost to make it a workable Measure. We will not be content to sit back and criticise its shortcomings but we will attack our problems, as they are affected by the passage of this Bill, with vigour and a determination to make it a success which will benefit not only our community but everybody who is affected by it. I am confident that the House, the country and all those denominations who are affected will co-operate in a sincere effort to make this Measure work in a manner worthy of those responsible for its introduction, worthy of this Parliament and worthy of all those children who are to benefit by it.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)

I suppose I ought to join in the chorus of praise which has been poured, nay, heaped upon, the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, but why should I? I stand here as the hon. Member who has had more Amendments rejected than anybody else. True, it has been nicely done. It has been done by the jocund rejection of the Parliamentary Secretary and the suave refusal of the Minister. I shall miss, with regret, this Bill, just as I shall miss the picture of the Minister scratching the back of his head, and the picture of the Parliamentary Secretary weaving his elbows round that Box. With it all, I am bound to say, we have had a Bill which, as I said on Second Reading, is a good Bill, but, since it has gone through its stages in this House, it is, I venture to claim, an even better Bill than it was when it started. It has stood the test of very searching examination, and I would like to add to the tribute paid to the Ministers a tribute to the "boys in the back room." The test of a Bill of this comprehensive kind, to someone like myself who has spent a good part of his life in trying to understand the Statute and Common Law of this country, is—How does it read? It is obvious that it has been properly framed and designed as a document. Its language is clear and its intention is lucid; and it is well that it should be so. Perhaps I ought not to say that, as a member of the legal profession, because the more confused a Statute is the better it is for trade, but I see in this Bill very little prospect of remuneration for those who practise my profession.

It has been described again and again as a Bill of great possibilities, but some Members have gone so far as to emphasise that it does not mean anything unless the Minister and the local authorities strive to work it. It is not really so. It does not matter whether the right hon. Gentleman goes to higher spheres, whether he is re- placed by one or other of his colleagues who are renowned for their ability to mark time; it does not matter whether there is a Government which is somewhat reluctant to press forward; there is a great deal in this Bill which is bound to go on. It contains a great many "mays"; but it also contains plenty of "musts"

One of the problems which has been settled by this Bill is the religious controversy. I do not like the settlement. I do not like to quarrel, or to appear to be fanning the embers. I do not like the settlement, but I like a settlement, and this Bill does contain a settlement. It has taken religion out of the Board of Education and put religion into every school in the country. That is a positive fact, and it does not depend upon the Minister or the desire of the local authorities; it is a fact which stands.

There are three vast changes which are inevitable under the Bill and I welcome them. Still, there remain in the Bill a number of "mays"—things that may happen. I refer only to one, and that is the power which the Minister has in due time to raise the school-leaving age to 16. That depends upon the Minister. The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) reminded the House yesterday that one of the findings of the McNair Committee—and the evidence is accumulating that the need for raising the age to 16 becomes more and more urgent—places the Minister in this dilemma. The Minister says: "Raising the age to 15, means more teachers. If I want to raise it to 16, I shall want more teachers still. Where am I to get them? I cannot raise it to 16 unitl I get the teachers." But the McNair Report says that we shall not get the teachers unless we raise the age to 15, and that is the only way in which the Minister will resolve this dilemma. I hope that the Minister will bear these facts in mind when exercising his powers to extend the age limit of children in school.

Taking the Bill by and large it is a big edifice. It is a massive reconstruction of the main block—the fives to fifteens. There is a useful little annexe on the nursery side, and adult education has been given what I may describe in modern terms as a temporary prefabricated dwelling, but quite useful for a time. The Bill, indeed, lays a very delicate, hesitant finger even upon the sacred struc- ture of Cite public schools. It goes round education in a very comprehensive way, but, looking at this edifice, the question that agitates my mind, and must agitate the minds of other hon. Members, is this —When do we come into occupation? When do we occupy this Bill?

We are living in these days in a sense of unreality. We are waiting upon great events, and there is a feeling in the air that we do not know what is to happen next. Let us look beyond. I myself have confidence that these impending events will prove to be successful, and successful in a shorter time than anybody sitting on that Bench will dare to say. I want to look beyond them to a date, to something real, something tangible, and there is in the Bill a date. I am sure that that date was not inserted lightly. I am sure that it was not inserted without regard to the circumstances which the Government know about. It was not put in in order to deceive the country. It was put in because there is reasonable confidence that it will mean something, and the date to which I am looking forward is 1st April, 1945. That is going to be something to look forward to and it is going to be the testing date.

The question arising in my mind is this —Is 1st April, 1945, going to be the date when the school-leaving age goes up to 15, or is it going to be just another All Fools' Day? I have confidence that it is going to be the date on which the school-leaving age will go up, and when all this machinery will get into operation, and if those who work it are inspired with the same sense of co-operation as the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, and as has been shown in this House during the passage of the Bill, I have every confidence that we are leaving the Bill to face a better future for the children of this country.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

I shall not endeavour to follow the subtle eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), who found himself thoroughly in his element from the outset, both from the legal point of view as well as from the Parliamentary. I rejoice with him that he sees no prospect for his profession in this Bill—the less the better. When I was speaking earlier this week on the Committee stage my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary twitted me on starting by saying grace and then throwing up the meal afterwards. I propose to reverse the process to-day, and to deal with the points of the Bill in which there has been particular interest on the part of the denomination that I represent. Everybody else has started his speech by giving praise for what the Minister has done. I agree with all of them. The conduct of the Bill has shown a surprising degree of tolerance and good will, and, thank goodness, it has been free from those bitternesses of which we had experience in the past.

With great respect for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, however, I want, as I say, to call attention to the points in which we have been particularly interested and on which he has gone a very long way to meet us. We have always recognised that we, as a denomination, get a great deal out of the Bill. People who say that we do not recognise that, just do not understand our point of view. Our complaint has been that the remainder is probably more than that for which we can provide, and that perhaps may be discussed a little later. The first and most important point came under Clause 8, when the Minister accepted an Amendment re-establishing, more firmly than was the case in the Bill as originally drafted, the rights of the parents. That is a thing to which we attach the greatest importance. I am glad the Minister has taken the line all through the various stages of the passage of the Bill, that the wishes of the parents are the main concern, that this Clause is the governing Clause, and the fact that parents are not mentioned in other Clauses later, does not mean that they are not to be considered. The opinion of the parents is to be considered. What he is saying in effect is, that it is not the job of the State to teach but it is the job of the State to find the opportunity, just as it is the job of teachers to represent the parents and not the State.

The second point to which I wish to refer is the one which the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) mentioned on the Committee stage, and that is, the running costs. Under the Bill we get, not Rio per cent. of the running costs, but, as the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) worked it out, about 97 per cent., and we recognise that and are grateful for it. Another vital point to us is the question of dealing with children who have, for reasons of education, to be lodged out. In Clause 48 the Minister has met us, as indeed, he has met all other denominations, by stipulating that, wherever possible, children shall be lodged in houses of the same denomination. It is as unattractive to a person who is not a Catholic to be put into a Catholic home, as it is to a Catholic child to be put into a home which is not Catholic.

The third vital point was one of transport, which was not adequately dealt with in the original draft. I received one of the surprises of my life, and I nearly went to the Clerk at the Table to find out what had happened, when I saw the name of the Minister at the head of an Amendment I had put down! We are glad, as a previous speaker said, that Clause 53, as amended, will insist that adequate transport facilities shall be provided to take children, within a reasonable distance, to schools of the right denomination. As I understand it—and, if I am wrong, the Minister will no doubt correct me—it is intended also to apply to the payment of expenses on existing public transport facilities in towns equally with country districts.

I come now to the calculation of capital cost under the Bill. I do not want to deal with this at length, but I understand that it is the intention of the Minister to say something later to-day about the ceiling, or the total cost to denominations. I must repeat what I have already said, that we recognise that the provision of 75 per cent. on the 1936 Act schools and the 50 per cent. cost on certain new schools, including the "hived-off" schools, has met us to a considerable extent. As the hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birming-ham (Sir P. Hannon) and the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans) said, the balance is still, in our view, too heavy for us. I would point out to the House precisely what these figures are. As the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff said, the departmental calculations in the Bill have been based on the fact that building costs should not be more than 35 per cent. above pre-war figures. On that calculation, the total capital cost, over a period of years, will be of the order of £ro,000,000. Representations were made to the Minister, and he came to the conclusion that the annual burden of £630,000, approximately, was too much to ask, and he provided a new Clause which gives us the facility of getting loans from the Government, so that the annual cost can be reduced to £400,000. But the trouble here is that the whole of that calculation is based on a fallacy. Lord Portal, in another place, has already stated that building costs are up by 105 per cent. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was the intention of the Government not to let prices drop at the end of the war.

I think I know what the Minister is going to say. He will say—having discussed the matter with the Chancellor—that everything goes up together, that prices rise, wages rise and, therefore, margins rise. I defy any of my hon. Friends on this side of the House to admit that when prices rise, wages rise as quickly. They do not. And when wages have risen, does the workman find himself with an increased amount of money, as a margin, in his pocket with which to pay extra? That is not the history of the working people of this country. But that is only one side of it. Another side is this. It is true that the Catholic hierarchy are determined to do what they can to make the Bill workable. It is true that they said that the provision now made would make it easier for them. But what the Minister has not yet realised is that their calculations are based, first, on his anticipation of 35 per cent. increase in costs, and then on existing incomes, with prices up by 105 per cent. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff that what the Minister ought to say is, "Right, after 105 per cent., you have to nurse the baby. As we have based costs on 35 per cent., the Government will provide everything above 35 per cent., up to 105 per cent."

I want to give the figures so that the House can understand my point. The calculations of the Minister mean a capital cost, over a period of years, of £10,000,000, and on the basis of 105, which it is to-day, the capital cost will be £14,000,000. As to the financing of that, we shall be able to borrow money at 4 per cent.—probably it will be 4½ per cent.—and on the 4 per cent. £14,000,000 basis, it means that, over a period of 47 years, the interest charges will alone amount to £8,000,000, so that the total cost to the community will be £22,000,000. These figures ought to be on record. It would be quite different— and this is not a subject for discussion at the moment—if, instead of leaving it to the bankers to do the financing, we took over our own system of financing and issued interest-free money in our own credit, but that is a subject for discussion on another occasion. The next point to which I wish to refer is the assurance, which makes it certain that our schools of mixed ages are not to be decapitated, and that there will be no unreasonable closing of other small schools. Finally, I come to the loans Clause, which is a great help, and I pay great tribute to the Minister for having achieved that arrangement. It is a very remarkable arrangement. It is, naturally, a great advantage to the governors and managers of denominational schools to be able to come to the Government and get money comparatively cheaply. It is great help to feel that such a provision has been made in the Bill.

I want to discuss for a moment the "hiving-off" Clause—the new Clause 97 —which the Minister introduced on the Report stage. That is a splendid arrangement but it would be more splendid still, if the right hon. Gentleman could see fit to adopt the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), in his speech yesterday. As I understood the proposal, it was that if, say, 200 children are taken out of a centre and dumped somewhere else, owing to slum clearance or other cause, and find themselves in a community of 300 children of the Catholic denomination, instead of providing only a new school sufficient to house 200, provided the additional people do not come to more than 50 per cent. of the total, that 50 per cent. should be provided for by the State. I call the attention of the Minister to the inevitability of this point having to be met at some time. What has been the history of events? In 1902 we had 1,042 schools with 253,000 children, and in 1939, 1,240 schools with 377,000 children, an increase of 50 per cent. It is no use pretending that that is not going to go on, because it is, and the situation will have to be faced sooner or later.

I hope that the Minister will find it possible, in his winding-up speech, to say that, in another place if necessary, he will introduce some modification of the scheme to enable growing denominational popula- tions to be met in that way. The hon. Member for Moseley said that it was unfortunate that we had not had an opportunity of discussing the question of new schools during an earlier stage of the Bill. The fault probably was mine because I was responsible for putting down Amendments and new Clauses in the right place, and I got them wrong. It was ray fault for not appreciating the procedure. I understood we would get a chance of discussing brand new schools. It is a matter of vital importance to us. In the whole of this business, the question of new schools and of the cost of the standard which the Government require, we find ourselves in this dilemma: either we are to find enough money with which to finance it, or we have to raise the funds with which to pay. One of two things has to happen. One is that we do not carry out the developments—in which case most local education authorities will not want to quarrel, with a substantial minority. But who suffers? The children all the time. The other possible and more disagreeable alternative is that if we find ourselves up against an unpleasant local authority, which has insisted on a standard we cannot afford, they will attempt to get the schools away from us because we cannot do what is asked.

I have tried to recite some of the improvements in the Bill and to recall one or two substantial disadvantages which the Bill still has from our point of view. I do not understand people who say that we are asking for more than is our right. All we are saying is that we pay our rates and taxes and the Government then ought to provide the kind of education we want but, in spite of being a substantial and organised minority, we find the Government have not, and we have to pay again. At the same time, I accept the spirit in which the Minister has met us on many of these points. I would even go so far as to say that it is not his fault if we have not got what we ask, but I will not embarrass him by saying that he wanted to give us more. I would apply the analogy of water dripping on a stone —though it is on something much less hard than a stone—which wears the stone away sooner or later. I hope that this continued atmosphere of good will and collaboration will have the effect of bringing about what we want. In the spirit of "Live and let live" which, as the Parliamentary Secretary said in his Third Reading speech, has been predominant throughout the Bill, and if the Bill is administered in the way in which the Minister intends and in which I am sure we all mean to co-operate in order to achieve that end—then I do not see that there are any difficulties which we cannot overcome. I repeat that we have not got as much as we want, but we agree that substantially all but the main obstacles have been overcome by the improvements which have been made in the Bill.

I should like to end by joining with everybody who has paid tribute to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. We can only describe the combination as a very happy if perhaps somewhat unusual one. Probably this Bill could never have been put through except under a Coalition Government. Whether that is a good point in favour of a Coalition Government or not, I am not quite sure. However, it is very likely that there would have been much more difficulty in putting it through with an organised opposition. I think that if the Bill is properly worked in the spirit which is intended, it will be a tremendous advantage to the country and the beginning of a really sound and lasting system of education.

Sir Edward Campbell (Bromley)

How often when I was at the Treasury did I long to follow the hon. Member for Ipswich {Mr. Stokes) and tell him exactly what I thought about his financial views. To-day, however, I find that I am in a good deal of agreement with the views he has expressed on education. I think this is a wonderful Bill. Many difficulties have been surmounted, many points which one thought would be practically impossible to get through have been accepted by the House as a whole; others have been discussed and criticised and yet, in the end, the House has approved all the original suggestions of the President.

While the Bill has been going through the House I have been trying to think of any previous occasion on which two Ministers have worked in such close collaboration. As a general rule, either the Minister takes the whole thing into his own hands, or he leaves a portion to his Parliamentary Secretary. On this occasion—and I think this is a credit to the ' Minister—hon. Members were willing to take the views of whichever Minister hap- pened to be present at the particular moment. That, I think, is very creditable to the President in the first place and to the Parliamentary Secretary in the second place. The only similar occasion was when our late lamented friends Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Sir Kingsley Wood were together at the Ministry of Health and piloted a Bill through the House.

In addition to the development of education for the 14's to 16's, I am particularly keen on the part of the Bill dealing with adult education. I am one of those unfortunate people who were exceedingly lazy at school. I refused to work there but, when I went into business, I found from experience that, if I wanted to get on at the work on which I was employed, I would need to know a great deal more than I knew when I left school. Therefore I had to take what opportunities offered for extra education outside business hours. I sincerely hope that heads of firms and organisations throughout the country will do their utmost to assist their employees to improve themselves. If I may give a personal example, I happened to find myself in a place where first a knowledge of Malay, then some Chinese, then a little Dutch, then some Javanese was necessary if I were to improve my position. Somehow or other I managed to tackle these things—I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board is laughing—

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

It was friendly laughter.

Sir E. Campbell

After all is said and done, we have not all had the advantage of public-school or university education Some of us had to begin, as I did, at 15 years of age to earn a living, and we have made good somehow or other, through this extra education which we inflicted upon ourselves. I am not boasting. I am only saying that I hope the other fellow will have better opportunities. Often it is only when one gets into a job that one feels that a certain thing is worth learning. I think that is the reason why those who have gone into the Air Force have learned so much—they realised that if they learned a particular thing, it was going to be advantageous to them, whereas at school they did not know why they were learning a particular subject. At work, however, they realise that if they improve on what they know, they may perhaps get promotion. Therefore I sincerely hope that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary will do all that they possibly can, not only to regulate the educational system but to induce people who have factories and businesses to allow their young men or women as much time off as possible to improve their education. This will redound not only to the benefit of the youngsters but of the firms themselves.

In conclusion, I would like to say how much I deplore the name, "young people's colleges." I think it is a perfectly absurd title. What is a young person's college? Who is a young person? Are the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite young people? I suggest these colleges should be called "Butler Colleges." We called the old Act the Fisher Act. How are we going to remember this Bill? Shall we not call it the Butler Act? Why should they not be called Butler Colleges? In any case, I hope they will have greater success than the colleges put forward by Mr. Fisher—the day continuation schools. I want to congratulate both the Ministers, and I am perfectly sure that this Bill, which is now receiving its Third Reading, will be very successful and very useful to the country.

Mr. Henry Brooke (Lewisham, West)

I think I can perhaps best follow the hon. Baronet by reverting to the cricketing metaphor introduced a little time ago by the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). We are the last batsmen now on the final day of this long drawn-out but friendly test match, in which the greatest joy of all has been to watch the Minister scoring off all kinds of bowling all round the wicket, and the Parliamentary Secretary, if a ball ever did whizz near his stumps, smashing the next one to the boundary with that broad smile of his.

I am inclined to think, however, that we have come to the point where what is said now matters much less than what is done. The Parliamentary Secretary will probably support me when I say that, though we talk a great deal about what should be taught in schools, what is taught matters much less than what is learnt. We may change the name of the Board of Education, but what the Board is called matters a great deal less than what it is going to do. In Clause 1 of the Bill we have given vastly increased powers to the new Ministry. People ask whether the Ministry is going to use its new opportunities; whether it is going to adjust itself to these new powers; whether it is going to recognise that it has a modern car in the stables now instead of the old four-wheeler. Well, the Minister said that he hoped that the rose by another name would smell as sweet. Both he and the Parliamentary Secretary must surely realise by now that they are in pretty good odour. What makes people anxious is that in years gone by there have been these stories current that, whenever a local education authority or a teachers' organisation approached this rose, the petals all started to tremble. We do not want a rose like that. We want a rose which is really going to exercise its power of "control and direction." We look to the Minister to make sure that there will be, coming back from the war, a stream of recruits for this Ministry, filled with a practical enthusiasm for the cause of education.

Parliament has almost finished its job now, and we shall be passing the Bill on to the local education authorities, who are going to have a greater pioneering opportunity in the next 10 years than they have had in the last 40. I was pleased to hear the reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Harmon) to the responsibilities resting on chairmen of local education authorities. I would couple with them the chief education officers of those authorities. The implementation of this Bill is going to depend very largely on a few hundreds of those men at the centre of things in each authority. The elected members have to remain the core of education committees, but public opinion ought to make certain that the elected members will strengthen the power of the committees by exercising wisely the rights of co-option which they have. I set great store by that right of co-option; it would be a useful job for one of those bodies that do research into public administration to make a study of the manner in which different authorities have exercised that right in the past. Public opinion ought to kill the evil system which, fortunately, operates in comparatively few places, where, apparently, the principle adopted for co-option is for the majority party to make a list of those of its members who have been unsuccessful in getting on to the council at the municipal elections, and co-opt them all on to the education committee as a kind of compensation. I would like to see every local authority that is within reach of a university doing what many do now, that is, co-opt at least one person whom the university nominates.

The same applies to managers and governors of schools, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) referred earlier to-day. I want to see parents and all other people who are genuinely interested in education sending their names forward, offering to come in and do their share of the work as managers and governors, instead of what is happening too frequently now—local authorities being in a position of inability to fill vacancies, inability therefore to secure the removal of managers who ought by now to have been superannuated. What I am saying applies just as much to Church schools as to county schools. I hope no special tenderness will be shown by local education authorities to Church school managers, if any show themselves slack, just as much as I demand that there shall be no prejudice against Church schools and managers, where they are able to prove themselves efficient. How large a proportion of the existing schools will claim aided status under this Bill?

No one can tell; no figure has ever been authoritatively mentioned, and I am glad that that should be so because we cannot judge yet. The Bill lays down conditions, and it is to be for the schools to see whether they can fulfil those conditions. This Bill provides the Church of England with a crucial opportunity; if it is determined to make its aided schools among the best in the country, then I hope the proportion of such schools will be a high one. But if it were to be at all halfhearted about that intention, then I should hope that the proportion would be relatively low. If the Church were to waste the opportunity that this Bill grants, it would not deserve a second chance.

I was grateful for what was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich {Sir G. Shakespeare) at the beginning of to-day's Debate, in his excellent speech. He and I, and others who have been concerned with this Bill, have done our best to see that no words were spoken which might do anything to revive again the unhappy sectarian acrimonies of the past. They were a poor advertisement for religion. All hon. Members who listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) and the reply of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) on that Amendment to Clause 98, which we took the other day, will, I am sure, share the hope that at that moment we were ringing down the curtain on an old tragedy, and starting upon a new and more co-operative drama. I am grateful that the Minister has allowed us the scheme of Treasury loans. I think he has been right to put in that safeguarding Amendment, and I am thankful for the way that those adjustments have been received in all quarters of the House.

I do not wish at this stage of our proceedings to revert at any length to the question of large classes, although we all know that this is near the heart of educational progress. If the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) follows me, no doubt we shall have the pleasure of hearing him on that subject. But if the Minister has any end-of-term feeling to-day, as he might well have, let us remind him that he has a holiday task to take away with him—the McNair Report, to which we want to hear his reactions at some fairly early date. It is quite possible that the greatest job of all that the Churches have to do in the years which lie ahead is to play their full part in the training of the teachers that these education reforms will require.

In this country we have a great home tradition to build on, a strong family sense. We also have, in many places, a great school tradition. What we now need is to bring the home tradition and the school tradition more closely together. We have, too, a great teaching tradition, and there is none who can do more than the teaching profession to help cure what I believe to be the most weakening fault of this modern world of ours—the failure to recognise what is really good, the failure to distinguish gems from paste, the temptation to slide through life with no real standards of thought or conduct. People are cherishing great ideas for the future of the world. We should be poor creatures if we did not. The real reason why I welcome this Bill, and why I want to thank the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary and all those who have helped them to fashion it, is because the hardest task is not to formulate these great ideas, but to make sure that we, as a nation, are fit to uphold them.

Mr. Cove (Aberavon)

I find myself today in a somewhat embarrassing, if not difficult, situation. I am a humble back bencher but I understand that, on this auspicious occasion, I have to try, as best I can, to express the final attitude of appreciation of my Party to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for their conduct of the Bill in the House up to the moment. I might not be able, literally, to express faithfully all that my Party might feel about the Bill, but I can say that we are deeply appreciative of the courtesy and efficiency of the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend. I have been in this House for a fairly long time, and I have seen many Bills go through various stages, and I would like to point out that it is not true that this Bill has taken a very long time. If the history of past Bills of this magnitude is examined I think it will be found that this Bill has had a record passage to the Statute Book. Parliament is to be congratulated on the speed with which it has dealt with the proposals put forward by the Minister.

My hon. Friend. the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday that he was of a different tradition from his right hon. Friend. Well, they have mingled very well and I think the Minister has shown his bigness by the way in which he has allowed—I hope my hon. Friend will understand this—the Parliamentary Secretary to come in on every occasion, with equal dignity and status to himself, throughout the Committee and Report stages of the Bill. Theirs has been a most effective partnership. From the wider political point of view, I might regard it as a most dangerous combination, because here is the effective and efficient justification for a coalition, working together. At any rate, the Minister and my hon. Friend have met every situation that has confronted them throughout the proceedings on this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman himself—and I am amazed at this—has not only shown academic knowledge of our educational system; he has given the distinct impression of having a real and intimate knowledge of our educational system. He has been in touch with realities, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has helped him in that respect.

This is, in some respects, a revolutionary Bill. I doubt sometimes whether we have realised its deep and historic significance, because it is, in one respect, the answer—and I do not want to be controversial about it—to what has been called the secularism of the century. Here is the answer to the summing up by T. S. Eliot of the religious feelings and opinions of this country. Eliot says, in his pamphlet: Religious opinion in Britain has become largely neutral. As I see this Bill, in its main effect and purpose it provides the answer to the secularism of the century and, if you like it in a milder form, in the words of T. S. Eliot, to the largely neutral feeling in Britain as far as religion is concerned. For the first time in British history the State comes in and decrees that there shall be in every elementary school throughout the length and breadth of the land a collective act of worship. It says that there shall be an agreed religious syllabus and, of course, outside that, that there shall be a denominational syllabus. The State comes in and accepts the responsibility of examining that religious instruction. The amazing thing is that that has been accepted in all quarters and by all parties. Twenty or thirty years ago it would have been a first-class political issue. There would, indeed, have been a terrific struggle about it. But it has been accepted and I am sure the Bill will be regarded as one which will have effected, as far as religious teaching is concerned, a completely revolutionary change.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) may say that he is not satisfied, but the truth is that the Bill ensures the continuance of the denominational school. No Member on any side, belonging to any denomination, can refute that. Of course, everyone wants more. There may be grumblings about this and the other detail, but let us mark it now on the Third Reading that not only does the Bill ensure religious teaching throughout the whole system of education but it certainly guarantees the continuance of what has hitherto been known as the dual system. Under this Bill the denominational Church schools will survive. The charge made that it means their death is entirely unfounded. It is certain that they will survive and I believe they will flourish under the Bill.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever may follow him, will be ruthless in demanding efficiency in the denominational schools and the physical amenities that ought to be there. How long in our villages have we had the Church school standing in the way of those physical amenities that ought to exist? The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do the dreadful physical conditions that exist in many of our Church schools. I agree with him that reorganisation is absolutely essential. It is the first job that has to be done. It has been prevented in the past over large tracts because of the existence of the denominational school. Under the Bill, as I see it, there is no more excuse for these schools standing in the way of complete and effective reorganisation. If there is opposition standing in the way, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be ruthless about it. I am sick and tired of any of the religious denominations standing in the way of what the child ought to get and, if the State accepts the continuance of Church denominational schools, if the money is not enough, I, for one, am prepared to provide the money. No longer must they stand in the way of a real advance in equality of opportunity for the children. Therefore, I hope the Minister will be Strong in seeing that throughout the areas where Church schools prevail reorganisation takes place. He can take it that those representing the Church of England, the Catholics and the Nonconformists have all agreed in accepting the scheme adumbrated in the Bill and, if that is so, there is no need whatever for any further delay as far as advance in that direction is concerned.

As I see it, the Bill has as its main trend, as compared with what exists now, the trend of centralisation. There is in its machinery a move towards more power being given to the Minister at the centre. That, of course, can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. I believe that it will be found in practice, as the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday, that the Bill is a happy combination of the British way of authoritarianism and libertarianism. It is essential that under modern conditions more power should be directed into the hands of the central Ministry and the Minister. It is equally important that that centralisation should not stifle local life and local interest. I hope the Bill will effectively provide that combination. One of the great things about British education compared with many other countries is the relative freedom of the individual school within the State system. I was once in New York and met some of the administrators of education there. I was surprised to find that the whole machinery was controlled from the centre—the same text books, the same time of teaching the same subjects, all laid out in a meticulous plan, guided, controlled, and even dominated, from the centre. We have up to now avoided that domination and control. We have had a good deal of freedom in the individual school and I hope that will continue. We have to find, as it were, the happy medium. I would again quote from the pamphlet: No one proposes to return to the position of thinkers, like Herbert Spencer, who would exclude the State wholly from the field of education, but observing, as one cannot now fail to do, how completely and exclusively the State may occupy that field, turning the schools and the teachers into a mere instrument of its policies, a vehicle for the dissemination of ideals of which they approve and means for excluding from the minds of the young all ideas of which it disapproves, then we feel bound to assert our faith in the English compromise between State regulation and freedom of teaching and to express the hope that circumstances will never arise to endanger its continuance, for where schools lose their freedom the freedom of the individual citizen is imperilled. I hope and trust and I believe that that will remain so under the Bill and under the administration which will follow it.

I did not expect provision for smaller classes to be mentioned in the Bill but I hope the Minister and the Department will see to it that classes are consistently reduced. I taught a class of 65 in what was called the Black Hole of Calcutta—a room without any windows. You cannot teach 65, Toil can only drill 65. The great thing in education is to get the action and interaction between the teacher and the individual child. It cannot be done. This Bill has still to be implemented. The real substance of it can only come into life if behind it there is a real, virile public opinion for the cause of education. When it is on the Statute Book— I am not decrying its virtues by saying this—I hope we shall provide the machinery for advance. Steam will have to be got up, and that will take some doing. I wonder then whether we shall have a happy Coalition. I wonder whether, when the time comes for the implementation of the Bill, the drive will have to come from a single political party or from a Coalition. We shall wait and see. Anyway, the drive has to come, because in the priority of social services education cannot be put second.

Probably some of my hon. Friends will disagree with me in what I am about to say, and therefore I cannot speak for them on this point, but I think you cannot have four and a half or five years at war without some impoverishment remaining. We shall have a difficult period in the post-war world. I do not know what part we shall play in the economics of the world, but I feel strongly that in that difficult post-war world the technical skill of our people will be of first-class importance. I cannot see Britain living prosperously and increasing the standard of life or the welfare of her people if she continues to rely upon the great extracting industries. She must have an infinite variety of products and output. That variety will depend on the dissemination of technical skill and aptitude in our people. Providing that technical skill is the job of the schools, it is the job of our educational system, and the right hon. Gentleman—I say this in spite of the criticisms I have made—has provided the machinery for carrying out that job. If I may end on what I would call a humanitarian note, I would say that all our views are subject to the pressure of great impersonal and mortal forces. In work, you have automatic processes more and more taking the place of individual skill. The machine negates the skill of great masses of our people. Yet at the same time we have to increase the skill which is at the disposal of the nation. I believe myself that our education system can make a terrific contribution to that. Out of work, we have destruction in all sorts of ways. We shall have to salvage the individual from these great impersonal forces.

From the point of view of the development of the individual, of the culture and independence of the individual, from the angle of the dignity and work of men and women, the education services are of supreme importance. For the economic necessities of this nation in the hard world that we shall have to face, for the equipment of the nation to meet that hard world, we shall have to depend largely upon the efficiency of our education service. Therefore, now that the machinery is almost on the Statute Book, I say that I for my part will join in making it a complete success, because upon that success will depend the welfare of the individual citizens of the country and also the welfare of the nation.

The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)

May I say that I am glad that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was able to conclude the Debate from the other side of the House? He took a most constructive part when the 1936 Act was passed and in 1944 he has again shown his constructive abilities and that faith which is so necessary to the implementation of educational legislation. I think there has been, on all sides of the House, a feeling that this is a great moment. I can assure the House that my hon. Friend and myself are only human, and that we feel very gratified by the many tributes paid to us and our colleagues for the work we have been able to do. But I want to say firmly at the beginning of my speech that this is no personal or individual matter. This Bill is a national achievement, a national achievement which shows to our own people, to our Empire and to foreign countries the intensity and vitality of the greatness of our people.

When I first went to the Board of Education I found the faith which has made this work possible. I found intense activity at the Board. Of course my hon. Friend was already there and had been working on these matters for some little time, under my predecessor, whose part, and the part played by his predecessors, should not be forgotten. I found that local authorities, teachers' organisations, the great unions of the country, the cooperative societies, and political societies of all sorts, had a single mind on what appeared to be needed to reform the education system of the country. Therefore, when I went to the Board, I first looked round for a day or two to see what I thought ought to be done. On one of my first days there I had a visit from my hon. Friend, who asked me, "Do you realise what a difficult task you have? Are you ready to discuss before lunch the abrogation of Cowper Temple-ism in secondary schools as defined in the Spens Report?"

My next visitor was one of my senior officials, who asked what I was going to do. I said, "Well, perhaps I might go up and down the country making a few speeches and encouraging administration." He said, "Do you realise there is only one speech to make on education? Once you have made that there will be nothing more for you to do." I am sure that speech was made many times in this House, and I am afraid I shall have to make that speech again. But that official did put it into my head that perhaps there was more constructive work to do than simply making speeches. When the speeches are over, there will be the greatest work of educational administration to be undertaken by those of us who have the good fortune to be entrusted with it. It gradually stole upon me, after my dose reading of English history and the history of Education Bills, that there was still need in the words of the Short Title of this Bill, to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales. With my hon. Friend I set about that task.

May I say, in passing, that whatever we have been able to achieve has been achieved because my hon. Friend and I have worked together? When he has answered points on different parts of the Bill, he has done it a great deal better than I could have done it myself.

Therefore, as we had to reform the law relating to education, I decided to make a solemn study of the fate of those who had undertaken this task before. As Fitzgerald says in his "Omar Khayyam," I saw: How Sultan after Sultan, with his pomp Abode his hour and went his destined way. I saw their skeletons and their bones on the long desert route, and then thought again of the poet Fitzgerald: Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh, for the Prophet's Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum I It was the rumble of that distant drum which woke me to my senses, for those of us who have been compelled perhaps by our destiny to work upon the home front, must feel that on that home front we should exert ourselves in no less degree than those who are fighting for the liberties that we are seeking to ensure for our children. I, therefore, decided that we who were responsible for education in war-time, should seize on the very how which might Seem, at first sight, the most unsuitable, but which, in practice, proved the most suitable, to bring to an end some of those old differences which had always been so great a feature of the world of education Therefore we decided to scorn delights and live laborious days. Perhaps for a moment, in describing the structure of the Bill as we see it now on Third Reading, it may be of interest to the House to hear to what reasons I attribute the success of my team and myself. I think one reason has been that we have had ample opportunity to try out this reform on the bench and on the road, before we brought it here to be properly examined. When I say that I want to confess that we have made a great many mistakes together, which hon. Members have not been able to see because we have made them in other places. When we came here, we were really proficient at our art, and we have been very much aided by hon. Members in the Committee stage, in the Report stage, and now during the Third Reading. I can honestly say, when I glance through this copy of the Bill, scored in red wherever there is a contribution, even from the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes), that I think there has been a distinct improvement made in the Bill in the course of its passage. Among all those who have taken part I count as the most important my hon. Friends who have given so much help to the Government in framing this Measure with us. Another reason why I think this reform has worked out rather better than we perhaps anticipated at the start, is that we decided at the very outset to make the reform as comprehensive as possible, and if there were any nettles, to get a good bunch of them in our arms and not be stung just by a little one. That policy has proved extremely successful. It has proved successful because the more nettles you collect, the more they sting each other and the less they sting you. That policy appears to be a valuable one, which I shall always bear in mind if I have to tackle similar problems in the future.

The hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), who has played so large a part in our deliberations, and has rendered so gat a service to the cause of education, referred to Bill's immense potentialities. That phrase, I think, is true. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen said that the Bill was so well drafted that he would not be able to make a living out of it afterwards. That, I hope, will be true, though I have doubts whether with his pertinacity he will not catch out the draftsman on certain points. The manner in which I can best elucidate the magnitude and the scope of the Bill, is by showing how we intended to tackle the religious question. It was put to me by my hon. Friend in one of his interviews with me in the early days, with reference to the imposing deputation, led by the Archbishops and the leaders of the Free Churches, that came to see me three weeks after I was appointed three years ago, that if the Government attempted to deal with the Archbishops "Five Points," as they were called, in isolation, such a course would lead only to disaster. It became obvious early that everybody had some kind of interest in the religious question; some were interested in those points, and others were interested in the grievances which had descended to us from 1902 and which affected chiefly the Free Churches.

In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare), in which he drew particular attention to the controlled schools. The secret of the success of the religious settlement, in so far as it has been generally accepted —and I do not want to bind any hon. Member to go further than he wants—has been that it is based on an option and that the option is given to all alike, whatever their denomination, whatever their creed. On the basis of this option it has been possible for those who feel deeply on this question to chose, now or later, the type of school which suits them best. I most emphatically agree with the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. H. Brooke) and the hon. Member for Aberavon, who on Third Reading have come together miraculously on this one point, that those who opt for aided status must be quite certain that the standards of their schools will be worthy of the children who go to them. It should be the object of every Government and every administrator to see that any who opt for that status are satisfied that they can really carry it out. The hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich is quite right in saying that the controlled school is a great invention in this Bill. I believe that it will do away with many of the grievances which have been handed down to us since 1902, and combined with those other devices, including the new Clause 98, should do much to bring about an easement of the ancient single-school area problem.

One of my predecessors, who is now the Secretary of State for the Colonies, bequeathed to me the Act of 1936, which was not properly implemented owing to the outbreak of the war. I must confess that the opportunity to re-enact that Act, which was given me by this circumstance, made it much easier for me to deal with the difficulties of certain denominations. For example, the senior children of the Roman Catholic community are able to be dealt with very largely simply by the re-opening of that Act and the implementation of the schemes which can be put into force. As an administrator it would have been difficult for me without that Act to meet the point to which members of that community drew my attention, that on decapitation their senior children should go to schools of their own denomination. By decapitation I mean the re-organisation of the schools in junior and senior schools. I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last that more powers are given to the centre. Re-organisation under the provisions of this Bill is compulsory and without re-organisation of the schools into junior and senior schools educational progress is impossible. To talk of raising the school age to 16 before re-organisation is completed is illusory. Therefore, I consider that these powers will be sensibly used in the best possible manner.

Another big problem which faced my predecessors and which led to the collapse of the Bill of 1896, and caused even the astute Mr. Balfour to give concessions, which even I to-day regard as rather regrettable, was the problem of local educational administration. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) for his observations on the subject of the excepted districts and the delegated powers given to educational executives under the First Schedule.

The one man in England who understands thoroughly the First Schedule is my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I sometimes understand it—and then a cloud passes over my understanding. I understand it now. I believe most definitely that the powers delegated under this Schedule give local initiative wider opportunities than were given to Part III authorities. As we have invented, in the world of schools, a new school, the controlled school, so, I believe, those who try to follow me in attempting to reform local government, will find that the system of delegation included in the First Schedule has in it, at least one new invention, which is a good invention, and I was very glad to hear the tributes paid to it by my right hon. Friend opposite.

This general atmosphere of good will and agreement must, for the moment, be slightly shaded by myself in referring to the question of the programme. It is on the urgency of the programme that we have had the criticism of the Bill. That is a great tribute to it. There is a feeling opposite that we should have advanced rather more quickly in certain directions than we have done. I have a very definite answer to that criticism which I have kept for this speech. It is my view that, in educational advance, it is essential that the army of advance should occupy the whole line and advance the whole line together. What do I find? I find delay. Parliament decided, nearly IO years ago, to raise the age to 15. That has not yet been accomplished. I trust that the date that we have put into the Bill and the indication we have given, will mean, at least, that that reform will be effected.

If I am to push that one sector of the line to 16, it means that I must push all my troops and resources into that sector, and leave other sectors of the line unoccupied—and not merely unoccupied but not even advanced—and not merely unadvanced but not even occupied, completely bare in fact. That is not good strategy either in education or in war. The Government has decided that the next priority shall be given to the young people's colleges. We believe that is the best method of ensuring that people between 15 and 16 shall have some super- vision, and that education shall occupy the territory which is hers up to the age of 18. The only method of occupying that large sector of the front, which the country has left neglected for 25 years and more, is to occupy it as soon as possible. Therefore, I was very glad to accept an amendment in the course of the passage of the Bill under which we accelerate the date by which young people's colleges have to be established.

As the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has frequently said, there has been very little occupation of the great field of adult education. Heaven knows, most of us have a great deal to learn after we leave school, even the Minister of Education himself. On the question of adult education, the time has not yet come for the Government to be able to describe to the country the full extent of their intended operations, but I can say this, that we are profiting greatly by the experience of adult education in the Forces. We are learning that it is impossible, if we are to take the initiative in adult education, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, to start colleges "out of the blue," or do things of that sort. It is essential that the House should realise that direction by the State from the top is not the right way to administer this vast matter. What is wanted is to encourage the desires, appetites and feelings of those who wish for different forms of adult education and then to try to meet them as far as possible. As long as we follow that line, I can tell the House that it is our desire to reform and bring up to date the adult education system and to make a great stride forward in this regard.

The Bill makes reference to the need for extending our sphere over the territory of nursery schools. The House knows of the arrangements for extension in the realm of agricultural education. I am glad that the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) and others have raised the question of technical education. I do not think any more moving words can be used on this subject than were used by the last speaker who said that it was upon our skill and upon our industrial, technical and artistic aptitude that the future of this country will depend. That is why the Government have given such a high priority to education. Unless we can draw out the best talent in the country, and make the best use of it, we shall not retain our place as one of the major nations of the world.

The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) who has taken so dramatic a part in our Debates has, as usual, put her finger upon a rather difficult point. I congratulate her on finding in the McNair Committee's Report the one sentence which refers to raising the age to i6 and contributing the argument that, unless you raise the age to 16, you will not get the teachers. I reply that unless you get the teachers, you will not raise the age to 16. I do not want to conclude this part of my speech by leaving the hon. Lady with any less achievement than stands to her credit in the course of our Debates. The House will remember Clause 60, to which I think, we have given perhaps insufficient attention. It deals in a new manner with the training of teachers. It gives the Minister powers he never had before and will result in a much better life for teachers in the future. Coincident with the passing of that Clause, we received the McNair Report, to which reference has been made by many Members. I propose to give the House a surprise, and to say that the Government have already decided to take action on one of the McNair recommendations, and hot to wait. This unprecedented course will be illustrated by a circular which I have already issued to local authorities, and which hon. Members will be able to read, if they have any time over the week-end.

This circular implements one of the matters which lie at the root of the Bill and implements also one of the findings of the McNair Report. One of the matters which is at the root of the Bill and was one of the great features of the White Paper is that there should be a transfer of pupils at the age of 13, so that, if it is found that they have gone to a school which does not suit them, they can go on to a school which will suit them. It has struck me and my advisers that there is no reason why, even prior to the passage of the Bill, and as an indication of the importance we attach to the historic McNair Report, we should not put into motion machinery enabling suitable public elementary school pupils to transfer from the senior to the present type of secondary school. I have asked the local authorities, despite the administrative difficulties—which I find are not insuperable—to take steps to achieve that end.

The House will realise that the value of this step is that it achieves two things. It gives a chance of higher education to young pupils who would otherwise miss it by continuing their education to the age of 16 and if possible to 18, and it increases the "catchment area" from which we can draw our prospective teachers. By this process I think we may help to meet the desire of the hon. Lady because, by the mere fact that we are increasing the potential number of teachers at about the date when the question of raising the school age will come up for consideration, we shall be making it pro tanto, easier to raise the age when the time comes. Therefore, even the hon. Lady's riddle has found some answer in my speech. I hope that hon. Members will study the circular when it comes out and give me their help in carrying it into effect. The other matter which I tried to accelerate before the Third Reading was the issue of the report on the construction of new schools. Hon. Members who have had time to read this Report, will see that it deals with the question of building on sound, practical, sensible lines. If we follow some of the recommendations in this Report it may well be possible for us to accelerate the building of schools to a degree of which we have not yet dreamed.

That leads me to that fascinating subject of costs, which is so much the arena and the perquisite of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). During the Committee stage I made it clear that the Government, in dealing with the costs of building or any other matter, could not give any undertaking that the financial basis of the scheme could be altered by the Government in the event of a general rise in costs. The reason I gave was, to repeat the expression I then used, that there is a moving platform. If costs go up, so do wages, and the other sources from which those costs are paid. We have been examining the wisdom of my remarks, and they are, as the hon. Gentleman foresaw, supported warmly by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Another consideration why any departure in face of rising costs could not be acceded to, apart from the reasons I have given, is because it is arguable that a similar standard should in fairness be applicable to local authorities and others who have to face large financial responsi- bilities. Indeed, if the House will think about the financial side of this scheme, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins), and which is included in the grant Clauses of the Bill, they will see that the range covered by the developments with which the local authorities will be concerned is wide and not susceptible of easy definition.

In the case of the denominations, particularly that to which my hon. Friend belongs, the liability has been closely defined and forms part of a definite settlement which, with its financial provisions, is embodied in the Clauses of the Bill. As to the new loan proposal to which reference has been made, it has been possible to work out with the members of that community, and generally, an appropriate annual liability in terms of loan charges, with the result that we are narrowing the liability which that denomination has to face. But in considering that I must just remind the House of the many other benefits which are being conferred on the denominations by this Bill. Among these I must name the definite provision for equipment and dining rooms, sites, playing fields, new senior schools, and transport, to which the hon. Member referred—his interpretation of the transport Clause I can confirm—as well as many other matters. On the question of new schools I do not think the House will expect the Government to go any further than we have gone in dealing with displaced pupils as they arise under Clause 97 of the Bill.

The position as I now see it is that we have attempted to define a liability on certain terms, and we cannot make any alteration in it because of the rise in costs, because the costs and sources from which the costs are paid go up together. It therefore seems to me that we should agree to work the scheme together as partners, with the denominations, the authorities and the Board. The more we work together the more we shall get to understand the difficulties arising, and if we see difficulties which would falsify our hopes and impede proper progress we could consider those difficulties together. That I think will make the hon. Gentleman realise that these difficulties are common to those who wish to administer the scheme together. These would not have to be attributed solely to the relation of the costs level, but to miscalculation per- haps in estimating the ultimate commitments to which a particular section of the community was committed. That will indicate that the Government desires to enter this partnership in working out the scheme with all those interested, not in the spirit of wishing to deprive children of denominational or community benefits, but of working out with all interests the best manner of making the scheme work.

It only remains for me to say that it is the desire of the Government that this education plan shall form part of the general reconstruction programme of the Government. Since I have had the honour of being in charge of the Department of Education I have always taken the view that education itself should not be a selfish subject, that we should not live in a compartment, but that we should play our part and be recognised as being as unselfish as any who wish to serve their country. I should wish our part of the programme to fit in completely with the other parts which have still to come.

Let me give one example which was raised by the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). We trust eventually that there will be one treatment service in health for the whole population. There may be an interim period in which we should work together adapting the present situation to the one which will come, but meanwhile the hon. Gentleman who raised this matter and those interested in the medical work can feel satisfied that the Minister has the power under Clause 74 to give direction to local authorities in the discharge of their functions. In this way it is my intention that the Minister should control the development of the school medical service, and make sure that nothing which is there is inconsistent with, or which duplicates, the provisions made by the national health authorities in the future. I have been asked to give that assurance and I give it with the greatest good will It illustrates my ideal that the education service must have a life of its own in certain respects but must fit into the general social reconstruction schemes of the future.

It is necessary also to fit into the social security scheme in which the Minister without Portfolio, who has helped me so much in the education scheme, is personally so interested. The principle of that scheme is the blessed word "universality." We wish to have the same principle of everybody coming in and sharing, and to be part of our plan. That is why I believe the country has given so good a reception to the education plan. When I mention the word "universality" I do not want it to be taken for the word "uniformity." I wish to see a variety of educational provision. There is great importance in diversity. I hope we may be able to achieve what was sought by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who has played so great a part in helping us through the difficult times we have had—and I would mention the spirit he has shown—that it should be a pleasure to go to school. If we can achieve in this Bill that simple desire, that it should be a pleasure to go to school, what a revolution we shall have achieved. We shall have achieved it simply by providing variety of opportunity suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the ordinary pupil.

Mr. Balfour, in the concluding stages of the discussions on the Act of 1902, warned the House that the controversies among grown-ups, which they so much enjoyed in educational matters, were not understood in the school. I hope that that will be a feature of this Bill. I hope that those who, as the hon. Member for Norwich said, are so desirous of holding their grievances to their bosom in order that they may retain their individuality and particularity will feel that future hopes are better than past grievances. The advantage of any settlement there may be in this Bill is that it is not binding in the sense of being written in a formal document; it is understood. We understand that there is a spirit in which we can all work together. We understand that there are many issues for the country still to decide, spiritual issues, social issues and economic issues. But the great thing we can feel in passing this Bill is that the structure we have here does violence to no one's conscience, it gives opportunity to everyone's individuality, and upon that structure there can be built a system of education which will make the world a better place, and life a worthier thing.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.