§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Mr. John Grimston (St. Albans)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying him to withhold his Consent from such parts of the Scheme in the Matter of certain Educational Foundations in the County of Hertford, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th June, as relate to the Foundations described in the Schedule thereto as the Aspenden Educational Foundation, the Esdras Bland Foundation, Buckland, the Cathcart and Yarborough Educational Foundation, Tewin, the Francis Combe's Foundation, Watford, the Elizabeth Ann Lucas's Educational Foundation, Hitchin, the Henry Soames Foundation, Cottered, the Thompson and Crossland Educational Foundation, Watton-at-Stone, the David White's Foundation, Abbot's Langley, the Cross Street Prize Fund, St. Albans, the Merriton Educational Foundation, Sacombe, and the Fawbert and Barnard's Educational Foundation, Saw-bridgeworth, and to the Funds specified in paragraph 14 thereof.This Prayer is against a scheme which has a special importance because it is the first of a number of schemes which are to be presented by the Minister of Education. It is inevitable that the pattern which is established by this scheme will be followed in others, and consequently it is right that Parliament should examine the first one somewhat more carefully than normally.
The history of the scheme is roughly this. Under a number of Education Acts, from 1869 to 1948, the duty of educating the children of the country has progressively been taken over by the State or the public at large and consequently a number of trusts established on the deaths of certain people over a number of years have lost the original purpose 181 for which the money was left. Consequently, schemes have been made to apply this money for the general purposes of education.
Under the most recent Act of 1948, the idea is to make two kinds of foundation or scheme, namely, ecclesiastical in respect of church money, and secular in respect of all money which is not ecclesiastical. The scheme against which we are praying is a secular scheme. I believe that an ecclesiastical one is to follow. Consequently, the point at issue this evening is whether or not these schemes are properly made and whether certain of these foundations are in fact secular or ecclesiastical. We are not against the principle of the scheme at all, and that is why the Prayer is framed to pray against only part of the scheme and leave the major part intact.
Hertford is a county which many of us feel has gone further than most in taking advantage of the opportunities since the war, and consequently we do not object—in fact, we are almost proud—that we should have been selected as the "guinea pig" on this occasion. We must be absolutely clear that the trusts which are put into the secular foundation are in fact not church money. There are two particular points in the Prayer. The first one relates to the treatment given to grammar schools, about which I will say no more, leaving that to be dealt with by my hon. Friends. The second relates to a number of small educational foundations which are all mentioned in the Prayer.
Two of these small foundations have already been prayed against in another place and the argument advanced there by the Government is roughly summed up in these words: in none of the clauses of the scheme is there any mention of the Church of England, and secondly, the Minister is bound to take the view that educational foundations have not in any way a denominational flavour. Let us examine the details of some of these schemes and see whether they have or have not a denominational flavour.
Starting in alphabetical order, there is the Aspenden Educational Foundation. It was originally provided from money given by Bishop Seth Wood, so that the principal money was church money. The scheme is administered by seven trustees, three of whom are ex officio. One of 182 them is the rector of Aspenden and the two others are his church wardens. Lastly, the money may only be expended in the parish of Aspenden. In that case it certainly has an ecclesiastical flavour, and should be continued, we say, as a church foundation.
The second scheme is the Esdras Bland Foundation, which was originally provided under the will of the rector of Buckland, and is clearly church money. The Cathcart and Yarborough Educational Foundation is money left by the rector of Tewin and administered only by the rectors of Tewin and Dixwall, with no other trustees, and is expended only in the parish of Tewin. These are three reasons why this is church money and the foundations certainly have a denominational flavour. The Cross Street Prize Fund was provided out of money obtained by selling a church school in St. Albans. Clearly this again is church money. The Merriton Educational Foundation is again money left by the rector. It has eight trustees, four of them being ex officio—the rector, church wardens and overseer of the poor in the parish. There are four non-official trustees, all whom must live in the parish. The rector is chairman of every meeting he attends and has the casting vote. Clearly the church has control of that scheme.
I will not weary the House with all the details of the other foundations, but the House may be assured that the cases we have put down have been chosen for these reasons: the money originated with the church, is clearly administered principally by the church and should therefore not be included in a secular foundation such as this one but in the church foundation which is to follow.
There is a further point to be made in this connection. The original scheme, when put forward in draft, contained four more foundations, which the Minister had already agreed to exclude. I have studied these four, and they do not fulfil the Minister's own rules any better than the nine or 10 against which we are praying tonight. For instance, there is the Baker Foundation at Bayford, with precisely the same terms as those I have already described; the Robert Curling Foundation at Hitchin, where the only connection with the Church is that it could be used for giving gifts at Christmas to children for good behaviour, and lastly 183 Peacocke's foundation at Ayot St. Peter, providing slippers for children in school and with apparatus for drying their boots. The only connection with the Church that I can find is that cleanliness is Godliness, not next to it.
The second point is that the Minister, on the Second Reading of the 1948 Bill, said that he wanted powers under the Act to say that endowments which had ceased to serve any effective purpose by reason of the 1944 Act might be put to good use. He was at that time challenged by, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) as to whether he really intended by those words to exclude trusts which are still spendable in useful functions. Again, I want to see whether the money is spendable on useful objects outside the scope of any of the current Education Acts. Again, in alphabetical order, the Aspenden Educational Foundation provides clothing, apprenticeship and maintenance; the Esdras Bland Foundation provides for apprenticeships—apprenticeships follow through many of the schemes—the Cathcart and Yarborough Educational Foundation in otherwise promoting education, including social and physical training of boys and girls; the Cross Street Prize Fund provides prizes. Others are spent on providing tools for young men setting up in trade, and so on.
I therefore ask the Minister, on these two grounds, to exclude these small foundations and to accept our Prayer. Under Section 23 of the Act he has power to accept further endowments as they become available, and at the same time he can fulfil the undertaking he gave to the House on the Second Reading of the 1948 Act not to take money which is spendable. He would thus leave in the hands of the vicar and the local committee small sums of money which have a great effect locally, and which will not lose their identity as they will under the scheme once they get into the hands of the local education authority. I ask him to accept our Prayer on these friendly terms.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Hitchin)
I beg to second the Motion.
As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston) has said, there are two distinct categories of 184 schools concerned in this scheme. First, there are the church schools to which my hon. Friend has referred, and which were also the subject of Debate in another place, and, secondly, the grammar schools, in which quite different issues are involved. The majority of the church schools happen to be in my constituency, but, after what my hon. Friend has said, I need only make a passing reference to them, particularly as I believe the principle that where money is left for church purposes it should be used for church purposes is one with which I think the Minister agrees.
Therefore, his argument for the inclusion of these endowments is likely to be that the charities in question are not Church of England endowments at all. But that the schools are certainly Church of England schools there is no doubt and they have been the sole beneficiaries under the various endowments conferred. The hon. Gentleman has a very special responsibility in this matter because he is, so to speak, the judge in his own court and should be scrupulously fair to give every consideration to these schools. I believe his decision is contrary to the spirit of the trusts, and these charities should not be included in the scheme but released to the Church.
I turn to the case of the grammar schools, which is quite different, and in particular to the endowment of the grammar school at Stevenage and the grammar school at Hitchin, both of which are in my constituency. No one objects to the winding up of obsolete, ancient, redundant and unworkable trusts which should quite properly be included in the Minister's scheme, but there is very serious objection to be taken to funds of endowments being taken over which have been left for specific purposes and which can still be employed for those purposes and in fact are still being employed usefully for those purposes at the present time. Indeed, the Minister referred to it in 1948, when he said that he wanted to extend his powers in this matter so that endowments which ceased to serve any effective purpose might be put to good use.
That is really the whole case on which these grammar schools stand. They claim that the endowments are serving a most useful purpose at present. Their case is overwhelming. I would like to 185 substantiate the argument by taking the case of Stevenage grammar school, where out of the foundation income in the past 10 years they have paid £550 in scholarships and a further £1,400 approximately on items such as library books, musical instruments, a war memorial, upkeep of grounds, sports equipment and a film projector. All those are perfectly reasonable things upon which to spend endowment money.
Hitchin grammar school in the past 10 years disbursed from their endowment the large sum of £4,850 on scholarships as well as £420 for re-equipping their libraries, £100 for tennis courts and £100 for a memorial fund and many other useful items of expenditure of a similar character. I have carefully examined the accounts of these schools over the past 10 years, and I am satisfied, having looked through them, that the money was spent and usefully spent in each case. It seems perfectly proper that money of this sort should be used to provide, first, scholarships to the university and, secondly, that any balance should be devoted to improving the amenities and equipment of the schools concerned. After all, the Hitchin endowment is not an ancient or obsolete charity. The bulk of the money was subscribed as recently as 1889, and it is used for the purposes which the donors had in mind. It was entirely Hitchin money and is of the greatest benefit to the children. There is strong feeling in my constituency about this matter, and I think rightly. We regard it as one of principle; but even apart from principle, there has also been, in the case of Hitchin grammar school, a quite inaccurate assessment by the Minister of the endowment income concerned.
I understand the Minister's proposals in regard to grammar schools are really in the nature of a compromise. What I think the right hon. Gentleman has said, in effect, is, "You have made out a very good case, a virtually unanswerable case, against inclusion in the scheme; therefore, I will not take your whole income, but only a part of it; only 20 per cent., provided you stop kicking up a row locally and working up popular feeling against my scheme." I do not want to use a rude word, but that is a little like blackmail. That is fair comment. The Minister is relying upon no principle in this matter. He is taking money to which 186 he has no moral right and is trying to avoid a row by taking only part of the income. Hon. Members may call it whatever they like.
In the case of Hitchin Grammar School, he is trying to take more than 20 per cent., whereas with the Stevenage school, out of an endowment income of £250, he is taking £50 a year, from the Hitchin school he is taking £300 out of a yearly income which has often been less than, and at most is, £1,000 a year. Its main income derives from three sources: from real estate which has provided an average of £230 for the last 10 years; from personal estate, which has provided an average of £250 for the last 10 years; and from a charity known as Rand's, the payments from which vary from year to year. If 20 per cent. is to be taken, which I understand is the proportion elsewhere, this is on a basis of Rand's paying at least £700 a year to the grammar school. But the charity is not obliged to pay more than £100 a year. In the years 1941, 1942, and 1943, that was all that it did pay. Information which I have from one of the governors of Rand's Charity is that it will never again pay more than a total of £400 a year, at the very most.
In those circumstances, I submit that it is manifestly unfair to assess the Hitchin grammar school's income on a figure upon which it cannot count, on a figure to which it has no legal claim, and which in future it will not receive. I submit that the Minister's terms work out at best at 30 per cent. for Hitchin, and as far as legal income is concerned, at 50 per cent. Certainly, on any computation it works out at more than 20 per cent. The governors of the school therefore object to the principle involved, and to the unfair proportion which in practice it is proposed to impose in their particular case.
Lastly, I would remind the House, as has been mentioned by my hon. Friend, of this important fact, that Hertford is only a beginning in this matter. The Minister's scheme is a try-out for the whole country. If he succeeds now, there will be similar actions throughout the country. Educational endowments throughout the country will be raided as they are being raided in Hertfordshire today. Therefore, I ask that this scheme should be reconsidered, and that Church 187 charities, and other charities to which I have alluded, which are actively and usefully carrying out the wishes of their original donors should be exempted from this scheme.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Hardman)
As stated by the mover of this Prayer, a Motion with a similar object was discussed in another place a week ago. On that occasion the legal position was described in some detail. It will also be remembered that on that occasion the Government urged rejection of the Motion, which was by leave withdrawn, the noble Lord intimating that the subject was to be discussed in this House at a future date.
I must inform the mover of this Prayer and his supporter, and those hon. Members who have put their names to it, that the Government ask the House to reject their Motion for reasons which I will try to make as clear and as simple as possible. I cannot emulate the legal arguments expressed in another place—my only legal training resulted in rather a spurious Cambridge degree—but what I will attempt to do is to put into as simple English as I can command, the point of view of my right hon. Friend.
Personally, I have some interest in some of the clauses which have been mentioned in the speech by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher), and I can appreciate in some measure the doubts raised locally among members of the local governing bodies. But the position, briefly, is that the great majority of educational charities under the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend—and there are some 30,000 of them—produce only £10 or £20 a year, or even less; and that is something which, under presentday conditions, serves practically no useful purpose, if any at all.
Generally speaking, the fact that these charities have not been put into schemes under the Endowed Schools Act has not been because of lack of power on the part of the Minister—I would emphasise that—it could have been done at any time from 1869 onwards—but because in the past it was possible to alter the Trusts under the narrower jurisdiction of the Charitable Trusts Acts. The changes made by the 1944 Act made this earlier 188 procedure impracticable, and for that reason, the Minister sought wider powers for making schemes under the Endowed Schools Act, so that useful outlets might be found for the income of a very large number of educational endowments concerned. These powers are to be found in Section 2 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1948. It is recognised by hon. Members on both sides of the House that these trusts which left money, in their original form, for all kinds of very worthy objects, are awards which, in most instances, were revised at a later date.
For instance, the Aspenden Educational Foundation was to "teach children of both sexes of the most indigent parents of the parish; putting forth poor children as apprentices, and clothing the children of Aspenden school," but under the existing trust, as the result of an instrument dated 5th April, 1910, as varied by a scheme dated 15th July, 1930, of the Board of Education, the conditions were changed to assist poor children of the parish to receive higher education. The income from the trust is £56 a year. Then, another trust, known as the Esdras Bland Foundation, which has been called in question by virtue of this Prayer, was founded by will dated 12th October, 1663, for the bringing up and educating of two poor children at Buntingford, the income in this case being £2 a year.
I suggest to the House that already, in most instances, the original reasons for the founding of the trusts have been altered to meet modern conditions; and now, once again, arising from the Act of 1944, we are proposing a series of schemes, of which, as has rightly been said by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston), this is the first. I deny emphatically that this first scheme, for this particular trust, or for any other of the trusts—there are more than this one—indicates that Hertfordshire is being used as a "guinea pig" or as a pilot project or as an experimental laboratory. I think I shall show in what I have to say that my right hon. Friend has been extremely fair and just in trying to meet objections that come from the Hertfordshire area. There is nothing new or revolutionary in this scheme and to bandy about words like "blackmail" is, I think, to discount a great deal of very sincere work and co-operative effort 189 which has been made by my right hon. Friend and by those locally concerned.
The scheme which is the subject of this Prayer applies entirely to the County of Hertford. Since the publication of the scheme—and we have had the word "blackmail" added to the two I am now going to mention—such words as "expropriation" and "confiscation" have been bandied about in the locality, and the word "blackmail" has been added in this House tonight. I suggest there is no foundation whatever for the use of these terms. If the situation is understood aright, I hope the word "blackmail," in particular, would be withdrawn.
What the scheme does is to combine a number of educational charities into one charity and to set up a new body of trustees to administer it. The scheme further provides new outlets for the charity income to meet these modern conditions to which I have referred, conditions, I venture to suggest, which are in conformity with trends of thought in the contemporary educational world. Moreover, none of the existing beneficial areas of the charities is necessarily deprived of the benefits in the new foundation. In paragraph 15, "the governors shall in particular have regard to any applications for awards or assistance from persons or educational establishments in the beneficial areas previously served by the Educational Foundations specified in the Schedule hereto." All that is done by the present scheme is to spread the benefits of the foundations included throughout the whole County of Hertford. This means that the parishes and towns which hitherto did not benefit would now have the pleasant experience of sharing—another example of "fair shares." I should have thought from the list of signatures to this Prayer, representing the various areas of the administrative area of Hertford, that they would very much have welcomed fair shares in the area.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
Were the closing words of paragraph 15 in the scheme as originally provided or were they inserted in answer to local objections?
§ Mr. Hardman
I cannot answer that question accurately at the moment but at least they are to be found in the scheme, 190 as it has been agreed by both sides. There is no reason at all why there should not be representations, as there have been all along, from the local personalities concerned. It is an example of the justice of the treatment given to these charities by my right hon. Friend that representations from the local trustees and the governing bodies concerned have all along been taken into account.
§ Mr. J. Grimston
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. He has just said that the scheme has the agreement of the governors of these foundations. Would he make it quite clear that the governors are most aggrieved at this scheme?
§ Mr. Hardman
Certainly not under duress. I am going to answer the point which my hon. Friend has just made, and I would not attempt to mislead the House. I have tried to study this as a person without any legal training, and to study it fairly and honestly. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend has dealt with these cases with his usual commonsense and fairness, and I will give examples in a moment where, in fact, there has been local agreement.
The point I want to make first concerns the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin under paragraph 14. These grammar schools since 1921 have been wholly maintained by the Hertfordshire local education authority, and the whole of the endowments of these grammar schools might quite properly have gone to the new Hertfordshire Educational Foundation. It has been pointed out that there has been a compromise. It has not been a compromise under duress. I suggest that it is understandable, as has been pointed out by the seconder of this Motion, that the governors should take the view that they should be allowed to treat the endowments as they thought fit, but under paragraph 14 we have arrived at a compromise coming from both sides, and I suggest that it is a fair and generous one. Now I should like to turn to the 11 educational charities specifically mentioned in the Motion.
§ Mr. Fisher
The governors of the grammar schools to which I referred objected most strongly. I talked with them in person.
§ Mr. Hardman
I understand that there has been an agreement to this compromise. There cannot be a compromise under duress.
§ Mr. Maudling (Barnet)
May I make it clear that the governors were only prepared to accept this compromise because they felt that otherwise they would get even less?
§ Mr. Hardman
They did in fact then agree. It may not have been an ideal solution from their point of view, but they decided that it was the right and reasonable course for them to take, and they came to an agreement which was a compromise. It may not have been ideal for both sides but at least it was an agreement.
§ Mr. Hardman
May I please try to answer the Debate. I have given way three or four times. I am trying to develop a line of argument.
May I turn to the 11 educational charities specifically mentioned in the Motion? Having taken 11 which, as far as I can see, are grouped under no comprehensible principle, why did not the movers go the whole hog and suggest that the Hertfordshire scheme should be abandoned altogether? Omit the 11 charities and the income would drop from £1,500 to £500. Would it not have been better to have come right out and condemned the scheme as a whole?
I see included in the Prayer—and I am now trying to meet the point raised by the hon. Member for St. Albans—the Aspenden Educational Foundation and the Cross Street Prize Fund. The trustees of neither of these charities have objected to the scheme at all so far as we know. Take the Fawbert and Barnard's Educational Foundation at Sawbridgeworth. Here there was a compromise, and the secretary wrote as follows:I am instructed by the trustees to inform you that they are now prepared to accept the proposed scheme.—a letter which reached the Department on 28th April this year. The Esdras 192 Bland Foundation has an income of only £2 a year, for the bringing up and educating of two poor children of the parish of Buckland at Buntingford.
§ Mr. Hardman
I have already mentioned it, and I would point out that surely we have very little use now in modern conditions for endowments for apprenticeship purposes.
May I come briefly to the points raised by the hon. Member for St. Albans, and one in particular which was made by Lord Luke in the Debate in another place? It is the crux of the difference of the point of view expressed by the movers, and those of us on this side of the House, namely, the belief that some or all of the 11 named charities have a Church of England denominational flavour. No one has suggested that my right hon. Friend has not got the power to include all 11 of these charities in these schemes, but I must make it plain that he has no intention of including in any such schemes any charities which are at present impressed with Church of England trusts. This scheme is not suitable for any charities whose trusts are legally of a Church of England character.
For instance, there are no Church of England bodies represented on the new governing body of this Hertfordshire trust, and the benefits of the new foundation are not limited to those adhering to the doctrines of the Church of England. We have examined closely the trusts of the charities in question. There is no shred of evidence that the trusts have the slightest Church of England flavour. I do not like that term, but I understand it is the phrase to use. Nearly all the existing trusts of the 11 charities are contained in schemes made by the Board of Education during the past 50 years.
I can appreciate that there may have been some connection in practice between some endowments and a particular Church of England school, but my right hon. Friend, I suggest, has to deal with a question of law, not of sentiment. He is bound by decisions of the High Court, and the High Court has laid down on numerous occasions that mere usage, for howsoever long a period, can in no way alter the trusts legally. For these reasons, I must ask the House to reject the Motion.
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I rise to support the Motion, and I shall not have to detain the House for very long. I want to express my acknowledgment of the concessions granted by the Minister to one of the foundations which happens to be in my constituency, but I want to add my appeal to him to exclude all these educational bodies on whose behalf this appeal is being made, for the two reasons which have been put before the House.
In the first place, it is unthinkable, in my submission, that if any of them are found to be impressed with a Church of England flavour, they could possibly be included in the Hertfordshire scheme because of paragraphs 12 and 19 alone. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that it was not the intention of his right hon. Friend to include any which could be found to be impressed with a Church of England flavour, but I submit that it is not necessary for him to feel bound by, as he put it, the High Court decisions. Surely, he can decide in the spirit of the thing and not by strict law.
In the case of the David White's Foundation at Abbot's Langley, which is the only one of these 11 schools which is in my constituency—and, incidentally, is situated at a place which is renowned as the birthplace of the only English pope—there are five trustees under a scheme made as recently as 1909. Of those five trustees, one must ex officio be the vicar; the other four, on their appointment, must be notified to the vicar. Surely, that is enough to impress this particular foundation with a Church of England flavour, and I ask the Minister to consider that again.
The second reason is that there are still ways in which the original intentions and wishes of the donors can usefully and conscientiously be carried out. In the case of this particular school or foundation, the money—it is only £25 a year—has to be spent on providingpractical or technical instruction, such as handicrafts, gardening, agriculture, dairy work, cooking, laundry work, household management …and also in providingtools, seeds, apparatus and materials …for students. In my submission, all those intentions can more usefully be carried 194 out if that small sum of money is allowed to rest in the place than if it is thrown into a pool from which the whole of Hertfordshire is supposed to be going to benefit. When he was answering my hon. Friends, the Parliamentary Secretary seemed to think that because these sums were small, it did not matter what became of them. We on this side of the House deplore that very strongly. We do not think—
§ Mr. Hardman
The point is that provision is made now by the local authorities for all these things which the hon. Member has mentioned, and that the very small sums to which he has referred can be of very little use indeed to individual schools.
§ Mr. Longden
I believe that they can be more usefully employed in the place in which their original donors intended them to be spent than if they are thrown into the Minister's pool. It is all very well making fair shares for all if one is doing it with other people's money, but this money was bequeathed for a specific purpose. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has changed."] It was changed in 1909, but in my submission the purposes for which it was then changed are still valid. For these reasons, I ask the House to support this Prayer.
§ 12 m.
§ Mr. Maudling (Barnet)
I want to deal particularly with the question of grammar schools that arises under paragraph 14, because there is in my constituency of Barnet a foundation, the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, which I think is typical of these grammar schools. I must say I am disappointed with the attitude the Minister has taken so far on this point.
May I first clear out of the way this question about agreement, because I think that the hon. Gentleman was confusing agreement with acceptance. They are different things. If the hon. Gentleman were in a lonely street and I stopped him, heavily armed, and demanded his clothes, he would refuse to give them to me. But suppose he said, "Let me keep my trousers and I will give the rest of my clothes up without a struggle," we might come to an arrangement, but that would be acceptance rather than agreement. That is a frivolous example, I know, but the truth is that the school governors, who so far as I know have 195 accepted this scheme, accepted it because they thought it was the best they could persuade the Minister to agree. I hope to persuade the Minister tonight to agree to something more.
When the Act under which this scheme is made was given a Second Reading, the Minister dealt with Section 2, which is the relevant section, in words which have been quoted already this evening, and I want to refer to them again because they are most important. He said:Clause 2 … is designed to extend my powers under the Endowed School Acts so that endowments which have ceased to serve any effective purpose, by reason of the passage of the Education Act, 1944, may be put to good use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 2327.]I take that to mean that the Minister only intends to touch endowments which no longer serve an effective purpose and which are not being put to good use at the present moment. I hope the Minister stands by his words on that occasion. I assume that remains the whole purpose of this scheme.
From some remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary, it seems that the Government are now going far beyond the original purpose they set out when the Act was passed and are introducing a new principle of sharing the endowments of particular schools over a whole area. Whether or not that is a good thing, it is going far beyond the principle stated by the Minister himself in putting forward the relevant Clause of the Bill in 1948. If the Minister stands by his argument and is concerned only with endowments which have ceased to serve any effective purpose, and if it can be shown that the endowments of these grammar schools still serve an effective purpose, the Minister should not touch them. It seems to me that if the hon. Gentleman studies carefully the use to which these funds are put at the present moment, he will find that they are effectively used.
May I give as an example the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, of which the greater part—£600 a year—goes to the Queen Elizabeth's Boys' School, Barnet? The school was founded in 1573 and has been a school ever since. It has an outstanding athletic and scholastic record. Of the £600 the school annually obtains 196 from the endowment, £100 must be spent on purposes directly connected with the running of the school and the remainder on other purposes. Last year, every pound of the total income was spent on purposes with which the local education authority agreed but for which they would not, or could not, pay. I should like to give some examples. The greater part of the £100 to be spent on school purposes was spent on equipment for athletics and spraying the school athletic grounds, with the approval of the local education authority, which could pay half of the money but was not prepared to pay the whole sum; so the other half was met out of this endowment. The remainder of the income of the school was spent on grants and scholarships. I will give a few examples of how the money was spent; to enable a boy with a first class degree to do research at Manchester University, the local education authority could not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Apparently they have not the power to do so—
§ Mr. Hardman
May I point out that the local education authority have power to do these things and in the examples given they could have used that power. We must not lose sight of the fact that this school and other schools in Section 14 are entirely maintained and run out of taxpayers' and ratepayers' money.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham)
It is not an unusual thing for the governors to want the local education authority to do something and if it is not done by the local authority then the endowment is used for that purpose.
§ Mr. Maudling
That is exactly what I am arguing. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Messer), who is a constituent of mine, for helping me. In all these cases the local education authority either could not or was not prepared to give assistance. Another example was to assist an old boy, recently demobilised, in starting a course in architecture 197 at London University, with £50. This old boy had some official grants but was dependent on his father for initial expenses; his father died suddenly and could not have gone without the grant. Another example was to assist a boy whose parents' income was small with expenses in being called to the Bar. This payment was £100. I think hon. Members opposite are in favour of calls to the Bar being spread as widely as possible over the community. Is not that an excellent purpose for which the money should be spent? Otherwise he could not have gone to the Bar.
§ Mr. Hardman
The local education authorities have power to do this, and of course they do things of this character in many parts of the country.
§ Mr. Maudling
In this case the authority did not. It may be argued by hon. Members opposite that the only reason the endowments were used for this purpose is that the local education authority is incompetent. If that is the argument, we can argue on that basis. Last year this endowment was spent up to the hilt and more, because there were some reserves, on this type of purpose and in no case was it spent where the local education authority could and would have provided the money themselves. I therefore argue that without any doubt at present this fund is effectively used and put to good use. If it is effectively used and well used, on the Minister's own argument, there is no justification for interfering with it.
§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few moments, partly as I have already taken a little time earlier on another subject but mainly because I do not want to retread any of the ground already traversed.
The Parliamentary Secretary entrenched himself behind the bulwarks of the law. He said he was not obliged to discuss the principle because he was bound by the law. It is fair to say that he acknowledged that his qualifications to speak were not in that particular very high. He referred to himself as having a 198 spurious law degree at Cambridge. While I am not enamoured of the law school at Cambridge, or any other form of learning at that particular university, my regard for his talents makes me believe that his degree was not at all spurious. For myself, I am an Oxford lawyer, a common lawyer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] "Common law" is a term of art. I am not one of those erudite and specialist gentlemen who have their being in Lincoln's Inn. Therefore I tread, like Agag, delicately, on any question of charitable trusts.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he has to some extent mis-stated the position. He said that where these funds are legally for purposes of a Church of England character he will not touch them in a scheme such as this; but when they are not legally of a Church of England character, by which I understand him to mean, when they are not impressed with a charitable trust, he argues that he must include them in a scheme such as this.
Surely that is not the case. Surely the case is rather that where they are impressed with a Church of England trust and, therefore, are, as he says, legally of a Church of England character, then he may not insert them into the scheme. Where, though not impressed with a Church of England trust, in the full sense of that term, they have, nevertheless, what one of my hon. Friends has called a Church of England flavour, then it rests with the Minister, as a matter of principle, to decide whether he will include them in a scheme or will exclude them.
At that point we depart from the arid ground of the law and take ourselves to the more congenial territory of argument on principle. If the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with me thus far, the question of principle, I suggest, is this. Where there is a doubt, as there may be, whether a particular fund is, or is not, impressed with a charitable trust, it clearly should have the benefit of the doubt and be excluded from the scheme. Where it is not impressed with a charitable trust, but has a Church of England flavour, equally, in my view, it should be out of the scheme. Then, where neither of these two things apply, but where, nevertheless, there is still useful work for a fund to do, in its own particular locality, it should still stay outside the scheme, because it would not fall within the requirement of the Parliamentary 199 Secretary's own definition of "purposes changed to suit changing conditions."
In my submission to the House, that question of principle should mainly be decided by this test: whether it is possible to get a reasonable degree of administrative efficiency within the local and traditional framework. That, I suggest, is the test which should be applied in cases where the matter is open for the Minister to decide whether or not to include a particular foundation in the scheme.
Those of us who have put our names to this Motion have shown the sincerity of our purpose, and the practicability of our approach, by not seeking to exclude from the scheme any of those foundations which we consider are no longer serving a useful purpose in changed or changing conditions. So far as the rest are concerned the onus is on the Minister, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that he does not wholly discharge that onus by saying that between the inception of the scheme and the present time some have agreed to a compromise. Had these trustees thought that they might have got their foundation excluded from the scheme, then, presumably, they would not have agreed to the compromise. If they had thought that the question was still open, they might have withheld their consent.
In the last five years there has been a tendency among some people to think that departmental authority is omnipotent and, it will take more than a few months, to change this mental approach. The agreement on compromise by the Fawbert and Barnard's Educational Foundation—which happens to be in my constituency—does not conclusively settle the question as the Parliamentary Secretary would have us believe, because originally, they protested very strongly against this scheme. If they had thought it possible to be excluded, they might have withheld their consent from agreement.
Hon. Members will agree, I am sure, that it is an advantage, if possible, to retain the local working for local purposes of some, at any rate, of these foundations. The centralised administration will take place some distance away from where these funds are at present 200 operated, and after five years there need not be anybody on the governing body who is familiar with the trusts as operated under their previous administration. It is not, in my view, always the case that a thing is better merely because it is bigger, or more efficient merely because it has a more imposing façade and has an obviously more "organised" aspect. The local and traditional framework is part and parcel of the heritage of this nation, and should not be sacrificed unless it is proved beyond all doubt that it is in the public interest. That case has not been made tonight.
§ 12.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)
It is quite evident that the subject with which we are dealing tonight has prompted hon. Members to take an interest in it although they may not be from within the confines of Hertfordshire. I took up with it when it became likely that this example, as applied to Hertfordshire, would spread to other counties.
§ Mr. Summers
I said that, Mr. Speaker, only in making a passing reference, because the very satisfactory reply which I had from the Minister when I previously mentioned this matter made me think that we should have had a much more convincing reply than we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary.
I think that the hon. Gentleman has put a very reasonable case in quoting some "useless" trusts put to better purpose under modern control, but he has certainly done a dis-service by the way in which he has dealt with our grappling of the position in Hertfordshire. From the point of view of whether or not there is a Church of England flavour, or whether the purposes of the trust are out-of-date or not, are other matters, but the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has approached this subject tonight is that we are taking away the rights of the local people in favour of the larger trusts.
The local people are most likely to be those who will do justice to their responsibility, and the Ministry should confine itself to taking up into the centralised position those really useless and obsolete trusts not given to modernisation. If this 201 is to be extended anywhere else, what has been alluded to this evening will be borne in mind, and one can only hope that there will be a less grasping attitude than that which we have heard of tonight.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
I wish that I had not to intervene in this Debate because I am not a Hertfordshire Member. On the other hand, this is the first of all these schemes and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is very important that in the first of a series we should be extremely careful as to how the whole principle is dealt with. I am sure he will agree with that.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman does. I cannot help feeling that his approach to this, with all respect, has not been quite as fair as it might have been.
Some time ago I was, myself, approached by people who were involved directly in this scheme and by persons who might feel that they were interested in the effect of the proposals made under the scheme. Naturally, I referred their views to the hon. Members for Hertfordshire constituencies, whose constituents may be affected by this, and I said, "Of course, I cannot possibly intervene in such a matter." But, in view of the fact that this has been the first of all such schemes, I was, naturally, very interested. I had hoped, when I came to the House tonight, to listen to the arguments put forward by the Minister, that I would have heard something rather more sympathetic and more understanding, something less legalistic and rather more acting in the spirit than in the letter of the law, which, undoubtedly, he has the right to impose but which I hope he will not impose against the general feeling of the House.
I cannot help feeling that some of the remarks he made hold out prospect of future trouble in this House on all future schemes. I cannot help feeling that when he said that, after all, the matter was very small—he mentioned £2 or £20—and that something could be done, but need not seriously be done by some other body, the hon. Gentleman was not approaching this matter in the kindly spirit which we expect from the Minister. It is all very 202 well for the Minister of Education to object to that, but those of us who heard the Parliamentary Secretary's answer heard his hon. Friend's statement that the amount was very small and that it could be supplied by some other charity.
That really is not the main issue we have to judge in this House tonight. The main issue is that as the endowment has been made for a specific purpose, should that endowment be taken away so that an opportunity should be given to some other authority which did not exist when the endowment was made? That is a very different matter which has not been met at all, if I may say so with all respect. It is no use saying that the matter is very small and, therefore, that it does not matter whether it is right or wrong. Korea itself is very small, but does it not matter if it is right or wrong? The same principle arises, and it does not matter if a thing is very small or very big. If the issue of the principle that is involved is a matter of importance then it should be dealt with seriously and I am afraid I must, with great regret, say that it has not been dealt with seriously in this House tonight.
I am very sorry—and I say it most sincerely, because I believe it means that every scheme that comes forward in the future will cause trouble—that the approach in such schemes by the Minister is not a kindly or fair approach, or one which should be governed by the spirit we expect to find in the Minister of Education. In most principles I am sure that we do find that spirit. I am sorry I have had to say that. I am not a Hertfordshire Member, but we have to look to the future. All counties in the country are involved in this, it is no use trying to make it a little local matter, because it is not a local matter at all. We are setting a principle tonight which is to be applied to every county in England.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Exactly, the Minister admits it and agrees that the principle is right. The principle set tonight is one which will have to be applied to every county. We have to treat this matter very seriously. I do not think Hertfordshire is being fairly treated. The issue may be raised in other areas and if it is we shall have to fight it very hard.
§ 12.25 a.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
Unfortunately, I had an engagement outside London this evening, and I apologise for the fact that I did not have the opportunity of hearing the Parliamentary Secretary. But as I gather that we were not altogether satisfied with his reply I feel bound to say a few words in this Debate. I am also a Hertfordshire Member, and although, fortunately for me, I have only one very small place in my constituency coming within this scheme, nevertheless I know the strong feeling this matter has aroused.
I do not think the Minister appreciates how strongly people feel when local matters are taken out of their hands. I do not exaggerate when I say that although it may be true that those who have run these foundations have had to agree, they have not agreed voluntarily but because they felt obliged to do so. I can understand that in the case where a foundation is unable to serve, in these changing times, any useful purpose it is right that the Minister should include them in the scheme, but, so long as they can perform efficiently, I do not see why they should be included.
§ 12.28 a.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimston
It seems to me that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary has given what the whole of this side of the House considers to be a most unsatisfactory reply. He made extremely heavy weather of a number of criticisms which we had never advanced from this side. For example, he said that we had said the scheme was illegal. We never said that it was illegal. We never said that the Minister has no power to make a scheme of this kind. I went so far as to say that we welcome the principle of it, and that our criticism was directed against three clear points, mainly concerned with interpretations of the Government's own words.
The first is whether or not there is a church flavour in a number of these cases. Certainly the Parliamentary Secretary made no attempt whatever to deal with the case advanced. The second point is whether the scheme fulfils the conditions laid down by the Minister himself on the Second Reading of the 1948 Act—whether money was spendable on other useful objects which were not covered. The Minister said that in these enlightened 204 days there were objects which were not covered, but he forgot to recite the objects which can be covered in these very cases, and which are outside the powers of the Act. For example, in one particular case, the Sacombe Foundation, a grant of £5 has been made to a young man, an apprentice carpenter, to help buy his tools. That was not otherwise possible.
Then there is the doubtful deal with the grammar schools. Surely it all belongs to the grammar schools or none of it belongs to them. There can be no argument that 80 per cent. should remain and 20 per cent. should be regarded as danegeld to the Hertfordshire authority. Surely there is no argument in that at all. The Minister has been likened to Henry VIII and all sorts of people. I can assure him that we are not thinking like that, but we say that on these three grounds he has come to a wrong conclusion—or else the conclusion is that because a thing is small it must be useless. That, we can assure him, is not so in these cases. The Government have advanced every argument that can be dragged up to support their view, and the attitude of the Government bodes extremely ill for similar foundations in other parts of the country.
§ 12.31 a.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I am not clear whether this Order is made under Section 1 or Section 2 of the Act of 1948. I do not think anyone could decide that, because if hon. Members look at the Section they will see that it is not clear whether all these trusts are educational trusts in the strict sense of Section 2. My hon. Friend mentioned the grant of tools. That is outside an educational trust, and is therefore clearly outside Section 2, and would come under Section 1. If it comes under Section 1, it has to be done by Order in Council and a draft has to be laid before Parliament. This document we have is not a draft of an Order in Council, and accordingly if it covers any items—and we cannot tell from the titles of the foundations—which are outside strictly educational things, in part this document is ultra vires. We ought to have some explanation of that from the legal point of view.
Paragraph 2 says thatevery Act of Parliament, Letters Patent, instrument or trust affecting the foundations specified in sub-clause (I) of Clause I205 is repealed, and the scheme substituted therefor. That is a bit hard. The intentions of all those who gave this money are wiped out. I hope we are going to have a little information on that subject. The Act of 1948 says in Section 2 (3) that any limitation on these schemes is wiped out; in other words, the trustees really have no power left. They have to do as the Minister tells them. So when my hon. Friend referred to blackmail, I do not think he was too far out. The Minister just weighed in with the "cosh" and said "You have to take it or leave it." If the Minister will read the Section, he will see how brutal it is to those people who left money for these purposes, long before we had social justice, or fair shares, and the rest of it.
We ought to have far more information about the nature of some of these foundations, so that we can find out whether this document is ultra vires. I do not know to what extent a court could challenge this Order. Some of these are educational trusts. There is no indication whether the Elizabeth Hailey's Bequest, for example, is purely educational or not. If it is not purely educational, then this document is in fact in part ultra vires. I hope that before we come to a decision on this matter we shall have some explanation with regard to the legal points I have raised.
§ Question put, and negatived.