HC Deb 29 October 1956 vol 558 cc1114-34
Miss Herbison

I beg to move, in page 3, line 37, at the beginning, to insert : After paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of section forty-three of the principal Act (which empowers education authorities to enable persons to take advantage of educational facilities) there shall be inserted the following paragraph :—

  1. "(d) to grant allowances to persons between fifteen and sixteen years of age who are pupils in special schools."
This was a matter which I raised on Second Reading, and I put down the Amendment because I want to have clear information upon it. According to the principal Act, the local authorities are empowered to make grants to children over school-leaving age. The normal school-leaving age is 15, but for a child who is in attendance at a special school the compulsory school-leaving age is not 15 but 16. I am not sure whether there is power for the local authorities to give a grant to the parents of children who, because of either a mental disability or a physical disability, are in special schools. I do not know whether a maintenance grant can be given during the period from 15 years of age until they reach 16 years of age, when they may leave school.

6.0 p.m.

If there is not provision for such a grant under the 1946 Act or any other Act, it seems to me that such a provision ought to be inserted into the Bill. When a child which is handicapped physically or mentally so that it cannot work reaches the age of 16, a weekly allowance is paid by the National Assistance Board, and that weekly allowance is not dependent in any way on the parents' income. In other words, a weekly allowance is paid for the child when it reaches the age of 16, and it is paid without any family means test or parental means test; but there is a gap between 15 years of age and 16 years of age, which, as far as I can find out, is not covered, although normal children who stay at secondary schools after 15 years of age are given a maintenance grant if the parents' financial circumstances warrant it. It seems to me that sometimes it is much more difficult and costly to maintain children in the special schools than it is to maintain children in secondary schools. For those reasons I have tabled the Amendment.

Mr. Hannan

May I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State to consider this matter very seriously? It covers a very human point. I think that the problem of age is already covered in Section 32 of the principal Act, which provides for attendance at school. Subsection (4) reads: Where an education authority have decided under Section fifty-five of this Act that a child requires special educational treatment, that child shall, unless the said decision is rescinded, be deemed to be of school age until he attains the age of sixteen although the upper limit of school age in relation to other children is less than sixteen. A child who is handicapped stays at school, compulsorily, until 16 years of age, whereas a normal child can leave school at 15 and can take a job, thus making no extra call upon the parents' resources. A normal child who leaves a primary school and goes to the secondary school can be paid a grant if the parents' resources are insufficient to maintain the child at school. Similarly, a grant can be paid in respect of a child who leaves school at 15 and, for example, takes up a pre-apprenticeship course.

It seems to us that some extra consideration should be given to the parents of handicapped children who are kept compulsorily at school until they are 16. Those parents do not seem to qualify for the same assistance as that which is given to the parents of a normal child. Moreover, a handicapped child finds it more difficult to fit into normal employment. In passing, I would suggest to the Joint Under-Secretary of State that it might be worth while looking into the need for immediate vocational training for such a handicapped child when it leaves school at the age of 16.

For those added reasons we hope that the Government will feel that these considerations are worthy of examination and that we may have a favourable reply from the Minister.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) said, this is a human problem. I confess frankly to the Committee that if I had only my own thoughts to consider, I should be disposed to accept the Amendment, but there are difficulties which I am sure the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), who has held my office, will understand. It is quite true that Parliament provided in the 1945 Act that power should be given to local authorities to give bursaries to children, but under the Act that power was limited to children over school age. That has been the position ever since, and the position is also the same under the English Measures; that is to say, it applies to pupils whose parents are free to withdraw them from school, or to keep them there longer.

We are concerned here only with the handicapped children attending a special school. Thousands of partly handicapped children attend ordinary schools, and we are concerned only with the thousand—I think that is the number—between the ages of 15 and 16 who attend special schools or classes. In their case, the parents are obliged to keep the children at school until they are 16. For them, that is the official leaving age.

I quite understand that it might seem anomalous that some children get an allowance between the ages of 15 and 16 while others do not, but, of course, if we accepted the Amendment we should remove one anomaly and replace it with another. The new anomaly would be that for handicapped children an allowance was paid before the school leaving age whereas the same benefit was not extended to other children.

For that reason, those who framed the 1945 Act—and hon. Members opposite were concerned in it as much as we were—thought it right, on due reflection, to make this distinction, and I do not think there are any grounds for changing our minds and changing the law now, much as I sympathise with the spirit underlying the Amendment. It may be that other means should be provided for meeting the point ; I do not know. I have the warmest sympathy for those children and their parents, but I do not think that this is the proper place to put right this anomaly, if hon. Members so regard it.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

With all possible respect, I simply cannot follow the Minister's argument. He made a speech in favour of the Amendment and ended by saying that he came down against it. I should have thought that of all the Amendments on the Order Paper this was perhaps most peculiarly fitted to this kind of Bill. The Government's purpose in the Bill, although not that of the Opposition, is to put right certain anomalies which have been shown to arise in the course of the working of the 1946 Act. Here, above all, is a most glaring anomaly ; it is not merely the kind of bureaucratic difficulty with which we dealt on the previous Amendment, because here we have, as the Minister admitted, a most human difficulty. It is an anomaly which is quite indefensible on human grounds.

In the light of the speech which the Joint Under-Secretary of State has made, I plead with him to consider the matter a little further. I understand that he cannot, having made that speech, say he will accept the Amendment now, but I do ask him to say he will think about it overnight and say something more about it tomorrow on Report. I beg him to give further consideration to the matter in the light of the arguments he has adduced.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I should have said before, in support of the view which I have had to take, that it is significant that in the ten years since the passing of the Act until the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) raised the matter a month or two ago in a Question, we have not had one single representatation on this matter. That seems to me to strengthen our view that this Bill is not the right place in which to make a change of this kind. It is not suitable in this Bill. I am sorry, I am not able to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Hannan

There are two or three things which the Joint Under-Secretary of State said that I must ask him to reconsider. The first is this. He himself admitted that there were only a thousand children affected. A child of 15 attending a secondary school, and attending under the law, qualifies, or its parents qualify, provided that they show need, and that child can receive a grant. It seems quite mistaken, therefore, that another child, also under the law and compulsorily, should be kept at school until he is 16, and not be permitted to receive the grant. It seems especially mistaken if the child is otherwise handicapped.

The Government say now, ten or eleven years after the passing of the Act, that they can do nothing about this anomaly. The Joint Under-Secretary said that my hon. and right hon. Friends had some responsibility in the matter when they were in office, but he knows that there are many questions, some of them quite small, which arise during experience of the working of a Measure and that it is the purpose of Bills of this sort, as it is the purpose of this Bill, to put right such anomalies. That is the reason he himself adduced in favour of the Bill. Some of the things he proposes to do under the Bill seem to us of very small importance indeed, of much smaller importance than this question.

Hon. Members from Scotland would take great pride in thinking they were helping a thousand handicapped children and their parents at what is one of the most difficult stages of the children's education. I plead with all the earnestness I have that this is not a matter of politics. It is not a matter about which the Government should say they can do better than we can. We have had that sort of argument far too often. Here is a proven case, and it is our plain duty, if there is hardship, to try to overcome it. Here is a proven case to bring a thousand children into the same right as other children have to receive grant. To reject this case is to carry orthodoxy far too far. At least the Joint Under-Secretary should say that he will reconsider the matter. Tomorrow he should give a more favourable reply, to give a fillip to people in this category.

Miss Herbison

I wonder if the Joint Under-Secretary of State can give the guarantee for which my hon. Friends have asked, that tomorrow on Report, having considered the matter further, he will make another pronouncement?

Mr. Henderson Stewart

If the hon. Lady asks me to consider it, of course I will, but I can give no hope that this can be done. I cannot, for the reasons I have stated, much as I should have liked to have been able to have done so on human grounds.

6.15 p.m.

Miss Herbison

The Joint Under-Secretary has shown by his speech that what we are asking for is not outrageous. He has given various reasons why he cannot make this provision in the Bill, but I do not think any of them will stand up to examination.

He mentioned the 1945 Act. It was rushed through by the Caretaker Government. I was not a Member at the time, but I understand there were discussions through the usual channels, and that we on this side were informed that, provided we dropped all the Amendments we had down to that Measure, it could go on the Statute Book, and that consequently that thick Bill was put through the Scottish Grand Committee in one morning, so that there was then no chance at all for these matters to be discussed.

I moved the Amendment in the way I did in the hope of finding out if there was any other way in which these children could be helped. There is no other way at all. We want these children to stay at

school until they are 16 years of age. That is all the more reason why we as legislators should make this simple Amendment.

The Joint Under-Secretary said that one reason why he could not accept the Amendment was that there had been no representations made about this matter at any time. However, the parents of these thousand children are not organised in a way to make representations about this to Members of this Committee or to Ministers. That does not mean we have no knowledge of their views. I raised this matter on Second Reading because of constituents of mine whose children are at special schools and who are finding the greatest difficulty in clothing and feeding their children. As I said then, many of these children are abnormal in quite a number of ways, and need far more spent on them when they are between 15 and 16 years of age than other children of that age who have all their faculties, and who are given grants by the local authorities.

It seems to me that as the hon. Gentleman himself thinks this Amendment a good idea and yet cannot give us any hope of its being accepted, and as he has given us no valid reason why the Amendment cannot be accepted, we shall have to carry it to a Division.

Question put, That those words be there inserted :—

The Committee divided : Ayes 111, Noes 157.

Division No. 292.] AYES [6.18 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Gibson, C. W. Lawson, G. M.
Anderson, Frank Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Bacon, Miss Alice Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Lindgren, G. S.
Benson, G. Grey, C. F. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Beswick, F. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Logan, D. G.
Blenkinsop, A. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Hamilton, W. W. McGhee, H. G.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Harman, W. McInnes, J.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hastings, S. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Callaghan, L. J. Hayman, F. H. Mason, Roy
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Herbison, Miss M. Mikardo, Ian
Chapman, W. D. Holman, P. Mitchison, G. R.
Coldrick, W. Holmes, Horace Monslow, W.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Holt, A. F. Mulley, F. W.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Orbach, M.
Cove, W. G. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, W. J.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Palmer, A. M. F.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Delargy, H. J. Hunter, A. E. Pargiter, G. A.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Irving, S. (Dartford) Parker, J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Peart, T. F.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pentland, N.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs. S.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Johnson, James (Rugby) Probert, A. R.
Proctor, W. T. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Wilkins, W. A.
Randall, H. E. Stones, W. (Consett) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Rankin, John Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Redhead, E. C. Sylvester, G. O. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, John (West Lothian) Winterbottom, Richard
Ross, William Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Royle, C. Wade, D. W. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Warbey, W. N. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Wells, William (Walsall, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Wheeldon, W. E. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Deer.
Aitken, W. T. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Oakshott, H. D.
Alport, C. J. M. Green, A. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Page, R. G.
Arbuthnot, John Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Partridge, E.
Armstrong, C. W. Gurden, Harold Paton, John
Atkins, H. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Barter, John Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Pott, H. P.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Powell, J. Enoch
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Hay, John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Raikes, Sir victor
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Ramsden, J. E.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hirst, Geoffrey Redmayne, M.
Bishop, F. P. Hornby, R. P. Renton, D. L. M.
Black, C. W. Horobin, Sir Ian Ridsdale, J. E.
Body, R. F. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Rippon, A. G. F.
Boothby, Sir Robert Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Robertson, Sir David
Boyle, Sir Edward Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Braine, B. R. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Russell, R. S.
Bryan, P. Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Iremonger, T. L. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Campbell, Sir David Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Carr, Robert Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Channon, H. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Chichester-Clark, R. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Cole, Norman Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Studholme, Sir Henry
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Summers, Sir Spencer
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Keegan, D. Teeling, W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kershaw, J. A. Thomas, Leslle (Canterbury)
Crouch, R. F. Kirk, P. M. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Leather, E. H. C. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Cunningham, Knox Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Dance, J. C. G. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Touche, Sir Gordon
Deedes, W. F. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Vosper, D, F.
Doughty, C. J. A. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Drayson, G. B. Macdonald, Sir Peter Wall, Major Patrick
du Cann, E. D. L. McKibbin, A. J. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Errington, Sir Eric Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)
Erroll, F. J. Maddan, Martin Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Fell, A. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Fisher, Nigel Marlowe, A. A. H. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Marshall, Douglas Wood, Hon. R.
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. Woollam, John Victor
Freeth, D. K. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Gibson-Watt, D. Nabarro, G. D. N. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Gower, H. R. Nairn, D. L. S. Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Grant, W. (Woodside) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Mr. Barber.
Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 3, line 41, to leave out "may" and insert "shall".

Clause 4, by which the Government propose to amend Section 43 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, is a subject on which I find myself in the strange position of being able to congratulate the Government. I am a man of boundless generosity, but for a long time I have

seldom found myself in the happy position of being able to congratulate the Government on doing anything. I am glad to see something here which we applaud, but that is no reason why something good should not be made better. We feel that "may" should be deleted and "shall" inserted.

The Clause makes possible the provision of regulations by which the Secre- tary of State will determine what allowances, bursaries, grants, scholarships and the like shall be paid to persons, including those over age, who are carrying on their education. It has certainly been a snag hitherto that in the calculation of these allowances it has not been possible to make some arrangements whereby maintenance of dependants shall be part of the consideration. In so far as the Clause says that in future the maintenance of parents or dependants may be included, that is an improvement, but if we have found it a snag in the past and it is desirable that it should be included now, surely we should not tie ourselves to "may" but should insist upon" shall".

Ever since I have been a Member of the House of Commons, I have heard arguments about the desirability or otherwise of turning "may" into "shall", and it has been said that "may" more or less means "shall". I have heard Secretaries of State, including my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) say this, but I have always been rather doctrinaire and have held the view that if one inserts "may" it implies the possibility of "may not". I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate—because I am sure that this is a learned, legal matter—will be able to reassure me today and that, knowing that in the past I have not been reassured by legal argument that "may" means "shall", the Government will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

It is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that power conferred by the Clause shall be exercised, and we therefore accept the Amendment.

Mr. Ross

I beg to thank the Joint Under-Secretary and the Government for that.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 46, at the end to add : (3B) The said regulations may include a provision requiring an education authority to make awards to a person training in a recognised professional course at a university or college or other institution of higher education who receives a small salary or emolument paid in respect of part-time services given by a person to an employer as a recognised part of his professional training. The Amendment arises from some comments which I made on Second Reading concerning the position of various students who are, technically speaking, part-time students because they are in employment, in practice, in their profession.

6.30 p.m.

The Amendment is framed in restrained and deliberative terms. The reason for the word "may" is the difficult position which arises in deciding between the different kinds of part-time students. When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) first raised this matter in 1953, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in referring to the anomaly of this position said : Hon. Members may say that it is absurd, but the difficulty is that if one was to make special provision for professional students one would have to make an equivalent provision for industrial students. To that end the Amendment is phrased "may" in order to allow, within the detailed regulations, a chance to distinguish between one category and another. Not, I would add, that my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee wish any discrimination to take place in the wider context of training, but in the context of training for professions we think that at this juncture it is fair to leave that provision in the hands of the Department.

In my remarks during the Second Reading debate, I tried to make out the case for the fact that we were experiencing a falling off in recruitment to various professions, in particular to the law profession. I tried to submit some figures to that end, and I tried to illustrate the fact that it could not be unconnected with the rather adverse economic position in which students training for these professions find themselves.

For example, at the present time a law student receives as his grant a maximum of £47 if he is earning £50 in an office and if, as well, his parents are not earning more than £400 a year. I have here a document provided by several students who carried out a survey under the auspices of the Department of Social and Economic Research at Glasgow University on the income and expenditure of various students there. Those referred to in the document are law students, and I would point out that within the £47 grant a law student receives £21 for his fees, £4 for his books, £2 for membership of societies, £5 travelling expenses and £15 for meals. Various anomalies arise. For example, the average amount spent on books is £5, whereas the university calendar suggests £12 and a professor in the Faculty of Law at Glasgow University, Professor David Walker, has stated that a worthwhile law student should spend £15 a year on such books.

In other words, this submission is to the effect that it is difficult for a law student who is conscientiously and seriously trying to do so to carry out his obligations within the £47 grant. That applies with equal force to accountants and to various other young professional people. The hon. and learned Member for Paisley, it is worth while mentioning, stated in his speech on the same date : While going over the papers I discovered that a young man from one of the Highland counties had written a series of extremely good papers which were marred by one or two extraordinary errors. The papers showed that he had a thorough knowledge of academic law, but very little knowledge of its practical application. After the examinations I ascertained that, contrary to the usual practice, he was not doing, at one and the same time an apprenticeship and studying for the degree of bachelor of laws."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1953; Vol. 511, c. 556–564.] There are three points on which there is considerable dissatisfaction. The first is that the obvious undesirability of a young man taking an academic training without having at the same time the practical aspects of that training shows itself on such occasions and also later in life. A kind of professional training which calls for practical experience with academic development is just the kind of training that can go awry if the two do not run together at the time of the training.

Secondly, it tends to encourage students who find it financially difficult to take this course to take a full-time course instead and thus, I suggest, to incur a little more expense to the State than would be desirable. My main argument, however, is that it works substantially against the financial interests of those who try to take the two together for the sake of a better course.

I understand that the Law Society of Scotland, anxious about the position, contacted the Scottish Office some time ago and represented to it that these students might well be classified as full-time students. I respect the arguments used by the Joint Under-Secretary of State in correspondence with various bodies, which I have seen, that it is undesirable to make them full-time students. I am not too happy about that, but for the moment I accept the arguments, so I am prepared that they should be judged as part-time students, and that is why the Amendment is framed in these terms.

Before, however, we give these students a tremendous advantage over others, let us look at the position of the full-time student in Scotland who is studying medicine. He has three, four or five summers in which to earn money and, as the Joint Under-Secretary of State has so often reminded students, it is an obligation on them to earn some money during that time, and I would not gainsay it. It is important to realise that, without reference to their grant, such students in the summer months earn anything from £60 to £100, particularly if they are employed by public enterprise in Scotland which pays reasonably good wages. But a student in law or accountancy has only a fortnight's holiday in the year in which to earn money if he does not want to go on holiday. So he can earn very little, and all he shows on the income side is £50 and £70 a year. So the full-time student is better off financially because he can make more in wages than can the part-time student all the year round.

It is an undesirable and an onerous position and I hope that this is the juncture at which we can alter it. The Joint Under-Secretary of State promised in the House on 11th February, 1953, to look into the matter and to try to find a way of meeting it. This is now October, 1956. I do not think we have rushed into suggesting that an agreement should be reached now. I have tried to suggest a way. If the hon. Gentleman does not like the wording of the Amendment I am prepared to withdraw it, if he is prepared on Report stage to submit an acceptable Amendment to meet this position.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will give a sympathetic reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) ; indeed, I hope he will accept this Amendment, and I trust that the words are appropriate for inclusion in a Statute. If not, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept them in principle and suggest appropriate words tomorrow.

My hon. Friend has called attention to the fact that the word "may" is included in the Amendment and not the word "shall". So, if this Amendment is accepted, the hon. Gentleman is under no obligation to make regulations forthwith. He can have consultations with the professional organisations concerned and in due course, I hope, bring forward appropriate regulations.

The Joint Under-Secretary will recall that two of my hon. Friends and myself went to see him some time ago, some time subsequent to the debate to which reference has been made, in order to discuss this matter. Then, as on the occasion of the earlier debate in 1952, the Joint Under-Secretary found himself in some difficulty. He did not want to appear to be doing something for the professional apprentices which he was unable to do for the industrial apprentices. I wish the Committee to appreciate that there is all the difference in the world between the two. The industrial apprentices normally start their apprenticeship at 15 or 16 years of age with an emolument greatly in excess of the professional apprentice, at 17, 18, 19 or 20 years of age.

There are some other considerations which have to be taken into account. As my hon. Friend made clear, we have young men who go to the university or school institutions and take a full-time course. But the educational advice they would get would be in favour of their taking a part-time course. But they cannot afford to take a part-time course and, as the law stands, they are obliged to take a full-time course. I have had this experience myself. I know this is considered to apply generally or most extensively to law students, law apprentices and accountancy apprentices.

I had cause to consult the professor of architecture of the Royal Technical College about whether it was better for a young man intending to go in for architecture to take a full-time course at the Royal Technical College and the School of Art, or to take an apprenticeship and do evening classes and the like. The professor of architecture had no doubt at all that it was far better for the young man to start an apprenticeship and to go into an office straight away ; and to do evening classes and later have some full-time studies at the Royal Technical College or the School of Art. He said that he had within the building young men who were doing it both ways. The young men who were doing a full-time course included some very smart and clever young men and he was producing some wonderful artists from among them. But among the part-time students he was producing better architects.

In order to get this thing into proper perspective, I consulted the Director of Education as to which was the better course. He too had no hesitation in giving me advice. He said that the full-time course was best, because the young man's father would never be able to afford a part-time course. It is wrong that we should waste the taxpayer's money. That is what we are doing if we give a full students' maintenance grant to attract young men into a full-time course when the advice from the professor in charge of the subject is that the student should take a part-time course and do useful work in an office.

I think it possible—I want to put this on record—that the employers of some of these professional apprentices are not paying them enough. I think it possible that in some cases they should be paid more than they are now getting. Then they would be less in need of a maintenance grant. I put this to the Joint Under-Secretary, who agrees with what I have said. If he thinks that is so and appreciates that there is a gross, or at least a serious, waste of public money under the present system, and that it would be better for some full-time students to take part-time courses, could he not undertake to consult those responsible societies and professional associations to get agreement among them about what would be an appropriate salary or award for the professional apprentice? What should the professional apprentice get from his employer?

6.45 p.m.

Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)

May I remind the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that, until quite recently, it was the other way round? Because of the excellent professional training he was receiving, the apprentice who indentured himself to the architect or accountant, or whoever it might be, actually paid a fee. The hon. Gentleman should realise that not only is the apprentice rendering service to the professional firm by whom he is employed, but that he is also getting valuable training.

Mr. Fraser

I appreciate that. I believe that in England a number of apprentices have to pay for the first two years of their apprenticeship and so do not receive any salary at all, although I believe that that is not so in Scotland.

But I take the view, on fairly good advice, that some employers, particularly in the counties, should pay more money to their apprentices. I have been told that law apprentices do not earn anything at all and are a positive drain upon their employer's resources for the first two years of their apprenticeship. That may or may not be the case. What I am arguing is that the apprentice might start at £50 a year and get, say, £65 or £70 in his second year. The Government should consult with the responsible professional associations, and if they found that was a sum which was fixed and generally applicable and accepted as being adequate, they should, by means of the regulations they make under this Amendment, make up that sum to the maintenance grant which they would give to the same person were he a full-time student at a university or central institution. That is all I am saying, and it seems a reasonable proposition.

In many cases, it would mean paying in grant to the student less than half the amount the Government are now paying to him. At present the student is full-time, but under the new arrangement he would be a part-time student and would be taking the training that his educational adviser thinks he should take to become a good professional man at the end of the day. Obviously, there is much to be said for this Amendment, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will not push it aside as something which must wait until some future date.

There is no comparison between the apprentices dealt with in this Amendment and industrial apprentices who go into an apprenticeship in the building industry, bricklaying, joinery or as an electrician or plumber or what we will. They start an apprenticeship at a wage above the amount which they would get from an educational grant were they to go to any college or any institution under the direction of the education authorities.

This is a problem. We are having our young professionals trained in the wrong way. That is not my view only ; it is the view of the professors. It is up to us to modify our grant arrangements and to see that these people are trained in the best way—and, since we can see that by training them in the best way we can also save a little money, I should have thought that that would appeal to the Government. I am sure that the Chancellor would thank the Joint Under-Secretary if he accepted the Amendment.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I shall not stand long between the Minister and the Committee, but before my hon. Friend replies I want to say that I hope he will not reject the Amendment out of hand. It seems to me that the case put forward is a reasonable one and, as those who have moved and seconded the Amendment have sought to show, it might well save us money in the long run. I am quite certain from my own professional experience that the man who has practical experience of working as he is learning is likely to be a better professional man in the end than if he had absorbed all his learning in a school.

Time and again I have seen it demonstrated in professional work that the man who is articled to a good firm is learning the whole time. He has his feet on the ground, if I may so put it, in a way which the purely theoretical student has not. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) pointed out, the theoretical student may be a very good artist, and he may know all the rules, but he is found out time and again on little practical points, and it is those practical points which so often count for so much in professional work.

I think it would be a good thing to push the young a little bit in that way, and from the point of view of saving the Exchequer money there would seem to be a strong case to be made out for the Amendment. We have had a good deal to talk of things which are mandatory and things which are permissive. I understand that this is a permissive Amendment, and I hope that my hon. Friend will not reject it out of hand without serious thought; indeed, I hope that he may feel it possible to accept it.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) moved the Amendment very fairly and persuasively and introduced one or two ingenious thoughts. The Amendment uses the word "may" instead of "shall", which is attractive, and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) made an ingenious suggestion that the Amendment would save money. All that adds to the attraction of the proposition. But I would invite the Committee to look at the facts. It is not quite so easy as it would appear.

Section 43 of the 1946 Act empowers education authorities to award bursaries to enable persons to take advantage of educational facilities. The Amendment refers to apprentices. Apprenticeship, being a form of employment, cannot by itself be regarded as an educational facility, under the terms of the Act. It is only when apprentices attend classes concurrently with their apprenticeships that they become eligible, like any other employed persons in a similar position, for a bursary. The bursary covers fees, books, meals, etc., for those part-time persons attending classes, but not the cost of maintenance, since only full-time students are eligible for an allowance in respect of maintenance, and it has been decided that the apprentice, being employed in an office for the greater part of the day, can be regarded only as a part-time student.

The hon. Member did not disagree with that. I should like to take up his point concerning books. If he represents to me later that the grant received by a law student for books it inadequate, I shall be very ready to look at the matter, because we do not want our law students to be out of pocket over books. But that is a sideline.

To treat apprentices as full-time students flies in the face of the facts. They are not full-time students and. despite what the hon. Member for Hamilton has said so persuasively, to treat them as such would open the door to similar claims—which I think would be well-founded—from large numbers of industrial apprentices, who also take classes concurrently with their apprenticeships but who, unlike many of the professional apprentices, are unable to maintain themselves on their wages.

If the Committee will allow me to do so, I should like to point to the real trouble underlying this problem. Speaking with great respect, I would say that it lies in the outmoded conditions of employment and training which have survived in certain professions. I say that with great respect because I find myself surrounded by professional men, but I am afraid that it is the fact.

I should like to put three considerations to the Committee. First, professional apprentices have hitherto been paid by their employers at such comparatively low rates that they have had difficulty in maintaining themselves, even when living at home. We all know cases like that. This is a matter to be remedied by the professions concerned and not by the expenditure of public funds. I really think that that is a doctrine which the Committee must accept.

Secondly—although I listened with great respect to what was said about part-time courses and work in offices and so on—this arrangement, by which apprentices, besides working in an office during the day also attend classes at night, is now becoming regarded in many quarters as a little out of date. It is certainly regarded as out of date in many industries. As the Committee knows very well, many industries in Scotland—and I wish there were more—have adopted what they call the sandwich course, whereby the apprentice is released from work for a period, during which he is allowed to pursue full-time study. For such a period he becomes a full-time student, eligible for the grant and all the rest of it.

Thirdly—and I draw this to the Committee's special attention—it is significant that, even in the professional field, arrangements of a kind equivalent to the sandwich course have already been adopted in the case of architecture, surveying and pharmacy. As hon. Members know, a very interesting thing has happened recently. The same idea has also been recommended for adoption in accountancy.

A report of a special committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, dealing with the examination and training of apprentices—which I commend to the attention of hon. Members—recommends that the present system, whereby accountancy apprentices are expected to serve in an office and at the same time to fit in university classes and the attendant studies, should be abandoned, in view of its obviously unsatisfactory character from the point of view both of the apprentice and of his employer. As an alternative arrangement the report recommends that chartered accountant apprentices should be released in the third year of their apprenticeship for a period of full-time study over an academic session, during which they would take the requisite university classes.

If the Institute of Chartered Accountants adopts this recommendation it will automatically solve the problem for the largest number of professional apprentices mentioned in Amendment. In fact, it will affect 1,800, by far the largest number.

7.0 p.m.

The Government consider that these developments in the professional field justify them in the view they have taken against treating apprentices who are part-time students as if they were whole-time students. The solution of a similar problem raised tonight in respect to law apprentices, of whom there are only about 300, should be sought, I suggest, on lines similar to those suggested by the accountants and not by regarding these apprentices, despite the clear facts of the situation, as full-time students, or, alternatively, by treating apprenticeship as an educational facility.

The hon. Member for Greenock told us that to his knowledge the overall number of apprentices to the legal profession is falling off. That may well be for this very reason, and it may also well be that the legal profession is considering this problem quite seriously in rather the same way as is the accountancy profession. At any rate, I really do not think that it is proper for the Committee to adopt a solution of this kind.

I was invited to say whether we would have consultations. The hon. Member for Hamilton reminded me of the meeting that he and the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and others had with me. I well remember that meeting at which I undertook to take action, to make inquiries, and so on. We made immediate contact with two or three of these professional bodies and had consultations with them. We were not able to persuade them altogether to our way of thinking, but, as I have said, the accountants seem to be moving in that direction. I can only suggest with great respect, in the company of such distinguished legal experts, that the lawyers might move along similar lines.

Mr. Willis

Which were the professional bodies consulted?

Mr. Stewart

We had consultations with the legal and accountancy professions and another professional body which I have forgotten. For these reasons, I am afraid that I cannot recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment. Indeed, I ask the Committee to reject it.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.