HC Deb 28 January 1954 vol 522 cc1934-6
2. Mr. Morley

asked the Minister of Education when she proposes to put into full operation Part III of the Education Act, 1944.

3. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Education if she will make a statement on her discussions with the deputation that she received on Wednesday, 20th January, representing 145 education authorities in England and Wales, who requested her to operate Part III of the Education Act, 1944; and what decision she has made in connection with this request.

17. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Minister of Education whether she will take steps immediately to put into operation Part III of the 1944 Education Act.

Miss Horsbrugh

I agree with the opinion expressed in the answer given to the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) by my predecessor in November, 1950, namely, that Part III of the Act of 1944 should be brought into operation only when it can be effectively implemented. Though, in many respects, we are better placed than was the case three years ago for improving bad schools or for doing without them, yet I still doubt whether it would be practicable in the immediate future to enforce, as conditions for admission to an official register, standards as high as are in principle desirable.

All this I explained to the deputation, and also the heavy responsibility which would fall to my Department, not only for registration of several thousand schools of very varied scope and size, but also for continuing thereafter to secure regular information about them. Meanwhile, I am consulting my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary about further immediate action for excluding from schools teachers who have been convicted for offences against young persons.

Mr. Morley

Is the right hon. Lady aware that 1950 was over three years ago, and that since then she has had time to get the necessary inspectors and administrative machinery in order to put Part III of the Act into operation? Is she also aware of the rising tide of indignation at the fact that any ex-criminal can start a private school? Is there anything to prevent putting Part III of the Act into operation which could not be overcome by a little more drive and energy on her part?

Miss Horsbrugh

I agree that it is three years and two months since that answer was given. The standard which is in force may have slightly improved, but it could not be a standard that most would regard as that which ought to be enforced for the registration of schools.

Mr. Lewis

The Minister will be aware that on numerous occasions, over a long time, men who run schools have been found guilty of immoral and indecent conduct. They are not fit to be in charge of those schools. As she has known for some years that this has been going on, can she say exactly when action will be taken, because my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House would be only too pleased to give her any assistance she may need?

Miss Horsbrugh

I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that the whole House will. I am consulting the Home Secretary about further and immediate action. I should be glad to discuss this with the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member, because there are certain points in this difficult, complex subject that cannot be suitably dealt with by Question and answer.

Mr. Blackburn

While not wishing to curtail any conversations the right hon. Lady may like to have with the Home Secretary, may I ask whether she agrees that the only effective way of dealing with this problem is by putting into operation Part III of the Act? In spite of all the difficulties will she not have another look at this question, to see what can be done?

Miss Horsbrugh

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the best way of dealing with the subject would be to put into operation Part III. It would involve cumbersome machinery. I am seeing whether we can get some other scheme that is quicker and more efficient.

26. Mr. M. Stewart

asked the Minister of Education what extra staff would be required in her Department to operate Part III of the Education Act, 1944; and what would be the estimated cost.

Miss Horsbrugh

Additional inspectors and office staff would be needed. The exact numbers and the cost would depend on the pace and scale of the operations involved, but I estimate that the initial annual cost would be about £50,000.

Mr. Stewart

Does not the right hon. Lady feel that so far as her Department is concerned there is no great difficulty in bringing Part III of the Act into operation?

Miss Horsbrugh

I cannot say that. I would be willing to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman. It is not only the number of people and the cost; it is the arrangement for standards and how the scheme is to be worked out.