§ Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section fifty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1933, shall not operate so as to disqualify any person for being elected or being a member of the council of any county district which is an excepted district (whether it becomes an excepted district as a result of a scheme made under Part III of the First Schedule to the Education Act, 1944, or as a result of a direction of the Minister under section fifty of this Act) by reason of his being a teacher in or being otherwise employed in any school, college or other educational institution maintained or assisted by a local education authority for the said district.—[Mr. Ede.]
§ Brought up, and read the First tune.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I do this partly as an act of contrition for having, on the advice tendered to me, misled the House when it was considering on the Report stage the Education Act, 1944. It will be necessary for me to recount the various ways in which teachers have been associated with the local administration of education in recent years, but I will do it as briefly as I can.
We start with the Education Act, 1902, when an innovation was made in administration. It was laid down in that Act that a teacher employed by a local education authority could be a co-opted member of the education committee. The education authority I served, the Surrey County Council, decided that this ought not to be done and refused to appoint any teacher to be a member of the education committee. I would not be in this House today but for that Act, because my colleagues in the teaching profession, desiring to be represented on the administrative body, ran me as a candidate at a county council election and I got on to the education committee not as a co-opted member but as a member of the county council, appointed by the council.
The Act of 1944 made a considerable difference in the constitution of the educational administrative service. Prior to that there were 317 local education authorities. Every county council and every county borough council were authorities for education, but there were added, as authorities for elementary education only, every non-county borough which had a population of over 1276 10,000 and every urban district which had a population of over 20,000 at the census of 1901.
One of the great reforms that was carried out in the Education Act of 1944 was that the local education authority should be the authority for all stages of education, and the non-county boroughs and the urban district councils, which had been elementary education authorities prior to 1944, were deprived of those powers, the authority being handed over to the county council. The antagonism to the new proposals of those authorities which were to be deprived was so great that the Minister of Education of the day, the present Home Secretary, felt that something ought to be done to meet the situation, and the First Schedule to the Act was drafted and came before the House for discussion. The present Home Secretary was generous enough to say:The one man in England who understands thoroughly the First Schedule is my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I sometimes understand it—and then a cloud passes over my understanding. I understand it now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1944; Vol. 339, c. 2261.]The right hon. Gentleman had just had a conversation with me.
In the First Schedule an arrangement was made for the creation of two new forms of education administration. The first was the divisional executive. Divisional executives are committees which are set up within a county on which various district councils—noncounty borough councils as well as the county council—are represented, on which teachers serve, and which carry through the divisional administration. For county districts which had a population of 60,000, or had 7,000 children on the elementary school roll, a special arrangement was made and they became excepted districts.
An excepted district is not a local education authority, it was not intended to be, it never has been, and I do not think has ever made a claim that it should be. The position of teachers in excepted districts gave rise to considerable concern. As during the greater part of the Education Bill discussions I was engaged in controversies with theologians, I found it necessary to keep a daily diary of what was said. I also became involved in this difficulty about the position of teachers. I hope the House will allow me to read 1277 some extracts which will show the course those discussions took.
On Tuesday, 14th March, 1944, I record a conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) who then, as now, took a considerable interest in this matter.
This is what I put:Cove beckoned me out. He told me that Floyd …That was the solicitor to the National Union of Teachers—… and Henshall …That was the education secretary to the National Union of Teachers…… were very nervous over the teachers' tenure especially in view of the President's speeches on Friday.On 21st April I entered this note about a discussion that we had with the deputy clerk of the Surrey County Council, a representative of N.A.L.G.O., and Mr. Floyd:Floyd was very sticky about our failure to define more closely the future bearing of Sections 59 and 94 of the Local Government Act, 1933, on the municipal activities of teachers. I held out no hopes to Simonds that I could deal with his point but I am more impressd with Floyd's than I allowed myself to show.On Monday, 24th April, I submitted a memorandum on Section 59 to the President of the Board, and he gave instructions a few days later that this should be sent to the draftsman who was drafting the Bill.
We then come to 11th May, when the matter was again raised in the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon. By this time we had taken counsel's opinion. I know that sometimes the lawyers in this House are very annoyed with me because I express grave doubts as to the validity and strength of the advice that they tender to us. However, we took counsel's opinion on the words that we put into the Bill as a result of the negotiations that I have described.
It all arises over the question of the "excepted district". An excepted district makes its own scheme for administration. It cannot raise a penny for education. The only authorities in England and Wales which can raise money out of the rates for education are county councils and county borough councils. An excepted district gets its money from the 1278 county council and has to account to the county council for it. If it overspends, the theory of the law is that the members of the excepted district council should find the deficit out of their own pockets. What actually happens is that the county council, being a forgiving body, generally raises the money in the next year's rate and hands it over to the excepted district council.
I hope the House will allow me just to read what I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon when he and the late Mr. Moelwyn Hughes raised the matter on the final day of the Report stage, which was, in fact, the day on which we commenced the Third Reading stage—11th May, 1944. I said:Now that the county district council, as an excepted district is not an education authority—let us be quite clear on that point, because after all that was the main bone of contention when we were discussing the First Schedule and Clause 6 of the Bill in the Committee stage—we are advised in that case he is not a servant of the county district council concerned. He is the servant of the county council. We are also advised that a teacher is not eligible for election to the county council if the power of appointment and possible dismissal has been delegated to the divisional executive. In that case we still apply the same rule. The county council are the employer, and the mere fact that they have delegated some of their functions does not render a man eligible for election to the body which employs him.We contended that we had left the teachers who were serving on the council which became an excepted district council free for election to that body.
I said in continuation of the argument which I have just read to the House:
We do not want legalistically-minded clerks of councils discovering reasons why doubts should be imported into the Measure. I am quite sure that the sense of the House is that teachers should be reasonably free to serve on any authority, except the authority that actually employs them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1944; Vol. 399, c. 2131–3.]From that there was no dissent in the House. It was generally accepted that that was the wish that the House had in the matter.
Unfortunately, since then there has been a case in Lowestoft where an assistant master in a school was elected to the town council and was then prosecuted in the courts for sitting on the council. His name was Mr. Lamb. I appear to have been the person who led him to the slaughter, for he was fined £5 for acting as a town councillor when he was disqualified. The astounding thing is—it 1279 just shows what peculiar hierarchies there are in this matter—that a headmaster in the same borough, serving in a school in exactly the same relationship to the Lowestoft Town Council as the one in which Mr. Lamb served, was elected and no action was taken in his case.
I hope I have established that there is no doubt what the House meant to do in 1944. The negotiations were prolonged, they were conducted responsibly on both sides, and we have had the advantage of being legally advised that we had succeeded in establishing the position that a teacher in an excepted district would be eligible to serve on the non-county borough or urban district council which was given excepted district powers.
I am told that there is some feeling that it might be better to make him eligible for the county council. I do not see that at all, because the county council settles the rates of pay and is the supreme authority over the whole area. In addition, most county councils meet in the day-time and, therefore, a serving teacher could hardly find the time to attend the county council's meetings and carry out his professional duties, whereas the majority of the excepted district councils meet in the evenings and the teacher is perfectly able, from the point of view of time, to serve on such a body.
The McNair Report, which was quoted in the discussion on 11th May, laid it down that it was desirable that teachers should be able to fill public positions outside their schools. I would add that I thoroughly agree with that proposition, for it is desirable that teachers, having to spend most of their time with persons junior to them in age, should have the opportunity of engaging in public affairs where they have to meet people who are contemporary with them and sometimes senior in age to themselves.
I have tried to be as frank as I can with the House about the way in which the position arose, which I believe surprised everyone who had been associated with the negotiations. I hope the House will feel that it would be wise now to make the law what the House meant it to be when it passed the 1944 Act.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Will my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) make it clear 1280 that the same position prevails with regard to a teacher in a divisional executive serving on a borough council within the divisional executive? The same incongruity exists there.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
I am very pleased to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) on this subject, as I did in the Standing Committee. This is a matter of very great importance to a great many teachers. I believe that in every democratic community all the citizens should have the right to offer themselves as candidates and to serve on the councils of the areas in which they live.
Teachers, in common with most other public servants, accept a limitation on that general right. The limitation is in respect of the employing authority. The limitation in the case of teachers and other local authority employees is laid down in Section 59 (1, a) of the Local Government Act, 1933, which says that a person shall be disqualified from being elected or being a member of a local authority if he holds any paid office or other place of profit in the gift or disposal of the local authority or of any committee thereof.
Thus, the question of which is the employing authority is the question of the authority in the hands of which the teacher's appointment lies, which body has the gift or disposal of his appointment. The question is not which authority pays him, but which authority has the gift or disposal of his appointment. Therefore, in the case of teachers, the employing authority is defined not as the local education authority but as the authority which possesses the gift or disposal of the teacher's appointment.
As my right hon. Friend has said—he was very much concerned with the matter—it is obvious that the intention of Parliament was to exclude teachers and others from serving on the employing authority only. The 1944 Act has unwittingly created a complication in this rather simple principle of excluding employees from their employing authority.
The Act set up excepted districts under Part III of the First Schedule. Every 1281 excepted district has delegated to it certain powers of the county local education authority of which it is part. The delegated powers usually include a share in the appointment of teachers. I have already pointed out that the difficulty hinges on the question of appointment and not which authority pays the teacher. The powers delegated to the excepted district usually include a share in the appointment, that is, the gift or disposal of the teacher's employment.
This delegation of power—and this is where the difficulty arises—is to the council of the excepted district, that is, the council of the non-county borough. Therefore, it follows that in some cases both the county council and the non-county borough, which is a constituent in the county, have a share in the appointment of the teacher, both the employing county council and the non-county borough council under its delegated power. A combination of the Local Government Act, 1933, and the Education Act, 1944, therefore probably disqualifies a teacher from serving on either the county council or the non-county borough council.
This is a quite ridiculous situation and, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, it was never intended by Parliament that this should be so. All that Parliament intended was that the teacher should be excluded from the county council, the employing authority. It was never intended that the teacher should be excluded from both bodies.
The doubt has arisen in the case of Lamb v. Jeffries, in which the Lowestoft Town Council had certain powers delegated to it, and where a scheme for divisional administration and articles for government for a secondary school within the borough were drawn up. Both the scheme for administration and the articles of government for the secondary school laid down that appointments of assistant teachers—not head teachers—were to be made by the governors of the secondary school in consultation with the headmaster; but were then to be confirmed by the council as the excepted district.
The case was tried and Mr. Lamb was fined £5, and ordered to pay 10 guineas cost. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. The Lord Chief Justice, however, pointed out that the case could be 1282 tried again in a different action, but until that is done the decision is binding on any judge of the first instance. That is where the difficulty arises.
That is the first problem, the case of teachers who were serving and who were affected by the decision in the case of Lamb v. Jeffries, but there is another problem which may arise. Many teachers are employed by county councils and are quite legally serving on the councils of non-county boroughs within the counties and those non-county boroughs which are not excepted districts. The Bill will enable a good many of those non-county boroughs to become excepted districts and when that happens the position of teachers who are serving on those councils will be in doubt.
The new Clause would satisfy both categories, the category of teachers whose position is in doubt at the moment, and teachers whose position would be put in doubt if their non-county borough councils became excepted districts. The effect of the new Clause would be to treat the county council alone as the employing authority and the teacher would be excluded from membership only of the county council.
I have very carefully read the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, dealing with a similar matter in Standing Committee. He did not give any reason at all for turning down the Amendment which was then moved. He said:As to what ought to be done about this, I think the principle is well established that an employee of a local authority should not become a member of that authority.The teachers agree with that wholeheartedly; it is not in dispute. He went on:It is certainly relaxed in particular cases to enable teachers with specialised knowledge to be co-opted on committees, and that is obviously absolutely right and is a thing with which no one wants to interfere.We agree with that whole-heartedly, but, again, that is not the point. The hon. Gentleman continued:I think there are dangers about relaxation to allow membership of the council itself, however—the county council or the council of a county borough or the council of an excepted district. For those reasons"—he gave no reasons; all he said was that there were doubts—I ask the Committee to reject this AmendIllent."—[OFFICAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th March, 1958; c. 1079.]1283 I hope that we shall have a more reasoned speech from the Parliamentary Secretary tonight.
As I have said, teachers willingly accept this limitation on their democratic rights in the case of an employing authority, but it was never intended by Parliament or by anybody else that they should also be excluded from serving on those other authorities. The new Clause would satisfy teachers and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to hold out some hope.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
It is a good thing that this matter should he debated, if only to get clarification on the future of the civic rights of teachers. Much of what I want to say has already been said by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short). It is evident that there is universal acceptance of the general principle that a teacher should not be a member of a council which is his employer, and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central defined that position as where the authority has the gift or disposal of the teacher's employment.
A dangerous situation seems likely to arise in the next few years because of the wider implications of the Bill. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to increase devolution and/or delegation. Here we come up against the pith of the problem. Stripped of all its legal and technical jargon, this revolves around the simple question of who is the ultimate employer. A teacher is eligible to sit on a council which has within its area a divisional executive, because a divisional executive is not a local education authority. It is merely an ad hoc body and there is, therefore, no legal bar to a teacher becoming a member of the council in that area
In the excepted districts, there is another point of view. An excepted district is only a divisional executive writ large and I can find no difference in principle. When one asks the legal experts who the ultimate employer is, there is a woeful shaking of heads. In my simple lay mind, I define the ultimate employer as, in the one case, the county council, and, in the other, the county borough, and I say that the teacher in the employ of either is not eligible to sit on the council.
1284 The tendency will now be for excepted districts, with delegated powers to appoint or dismiss teachers within the excepted district, to be regarded as the employing authorities. The tendency will, therefore, be for teachers to be barred from serving on a council of an excepted district. That is a danger.
Another danger can arise in a county area in which there are two or three rural district councils which amalgamate and become a district of, say, 60,000 people, a district large enough to be given delegated powers and thus to become an excepted district. Teachers serving on that authority will then tend to become ineligible to serve. Their position has to be safeguarded. I understand that we will have at least seven new districts of that type.
No mention has yet been made of the wider implications of the new Clause. I recognise the difficulties which can result from public servants from other Ministries possibly becoming involved. While there is a very strong case for the safeguarding of the civic rights of teachers, one must consider the wider implications. I should be satisfied if I could be given an assurance that the Government will study this matter carefully with a view to safeguarding the rights of public servants.
§ Dr. King
I assure the Minister that on this side of the House we seek something more than the mere clarification for which his hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) asked. In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary was very sympathetic to points put by the Opposition and he undertook to look into the matter. I hope that not only will he give us clarification of the position, since the position in law seems clear enough, but that he will accept the new Clause, or draft another form of it giving us what we are seeking.
I may be alone in this, but have always been opposed to the severity of the restrictions which the Local Government Act, 1933, placed on teachers and all local government employees. I admit at once that it would be a bad thing for a local government employee to be given the opportunity of being elected to a body and then be able to vote his own salary or conditions of work, or to vote himself promotion. However, we can easily debar him, as we do other councillors, from doing that kind of thing. I have never 1285 understood why a municipal busman should be ineligible to sit on the education committee, if the electors think that he is fit to be there.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Does my hon. Friend agree that he should serve on the transport committee? That is the important point.
§ Dr. King
I am coming to that. I cannot see why a municipal busman should not be eligible, having won an election, to serve on the education committee, nor, conversely, why a schoolmaster should not be eligible to sit on a transport committee, or roads committee.
I agree that it might seem wrong for a municipal busman to be on the transport committee where he would have an opportunity to advocate conditions which might be favourable to himself. However, we have by law created that very position for the teaching profession. By law, a teacher is eligible to be co-opted on to the very committee from which one might think there was some reason for excluding him, the education committee. In my own county, teachers serve with distinction on the Hampshire County Council Education Committee, but they are debarred by law from serving on the Roads and Bridges Committee, the Fire Service Committee, or the Planning Committee, for they are ineligible to stand for election to the county council. That is quite crazy. In the whole of my professional life I have always pressed for mitigation of the severity of the restrictions which the 1933 Local Government Act places upon local government workers.
The proposed new Clause, however, does not seek to make a great change. It merely seeks to preserve certain rights which some teachers have, and which are in jeopardy once the Bill is passed; and to remove a slight anomaly which crept into the 1944 Act almost by accident but by which some teachers lost the civic rights they possessed up to 1944. County education committees devolve certain duties upon divisional executives, in a limited number of cases. The executives are usually made up not from a single local authority but from a group of local authorities. They are exceedingly limited in their powers. They cannot levy a single penny rate.
1286 In such areas, the law allows teachers to be like any other citizens, eligible to stand for election for minor local authorities and to become district or borough councillors. Many teachers do serve, I believe with benefit to the community, in that capacity. I think at once of a former mayor of Andover, a schoolmaster, and the present chairman of the New Forest Rural District Council, also a schoolmaster. The argument which justifies their holding full civic rights for minor authorities is that their appointment and salary are within the gift of the county council and not of the minor local authority. They cannot become county councillors but they can become town or district councillors, even if the minor authority supplies some of the personnel of the local divisional executives.
The 1944 Act also created, or rather preserved, another minor local education authority, the so-called "excepted district". In this case, because of its size—because the borough had 60,000 population or more, or had 7,000 elementary school children or more—this minor authority was allowed to go on looking after part of the education service. This excepted district, like the divisional executive, has no financial powers. It cannot levy a single penny of public money. The major difference between the divisional executive and the excepted district lies in the fact that several minor local authorities contribute to the constitution of the divisional executive while the excepted district is a single council functioning as a minor education authority.
As the law stands, the excepted district is regarded as a local authority under the Local Government Act, 1933, provided that the scheme under which it is working empowers the excepted district, either separately or in co-operation with the county council, to take part in the appointment of teachers. Therefore, a teacher in an excepted district not only cannot stand for the county council but he cannot stand for his own minor authority unless—this is extremely unlikely—it can be shown without doubt that the excepted district takes no part whatever in the appointment of teachers.
This anomaly reached classic proportions when the Lowestoft case established that, as the headmaster of a 1287 Lowestoft school was presumably appointed directly by the county council, he was eligible to stand as a town councillor for Lowestoft. On the other hand, an assistant master, presumably although appointed by a governing body on which were members of the Lowestoft Council and the county council, was ineligible because the minute making his appointment had to be ratified by the Lowestoft Council. Certain teachers in Lowestoft can stand as fully fledged citizens for the Lowestoft Council and certain others cannot. Yet the ratification by the Lowestoft Council of appointments made by the Education Committee must be a mere formality.
I do not intend to go into the history of this matter, but anybody who has studied the statement made in Committee by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will know that the anomaly that has been created was never intended. In 1944, the Government clearly wished to preserve whatever civic rights teachers had and they did preserve them, and indeed in some cases they established them, for teachers serving under divisional executives, but they failed to safeguard them for the excepted districts and even for any divisional executive consisting of a single local authority.
Not only did the Government wish to safeguard these civic rights; they thought they had done so. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) who, in his long Parliamentary history, has moved more good educational resolutions than anybody, was assured in 1944 that what the Government were seeking to preserve was preserved.
The proposed new Clause seeks to give back to a small group of teachers a privilege which they once had and have lost and which many of their colleagues still possess. It would put back the right of teachers to stand for election and to be councillors in excepted districts, but it does much more than that. Under Clause 48 there are to be some new excepted districts. The Bill gives local authorities who have now moved up to 60,000 population something like the privileges which the 1944 Act gave to minor local authorities which then had 60,000 population. I understand that the number of such authorities will be quite small. Without the proposed new Clause 1288 it certainly will mean that teachers now constitutionally and legally exercising the full rights of citizenship on certain minor authorities, will lose them. In my own county——
§ Dr. King
I am sorry. I was wrong. Let me illustrate my point from my own county. We have a divisional executive for Gosport and Fareham made out of two minor authorities. Under the Bill, one of two things will happen. Either Gosport will use this Clause and make itself a new excepted authority, in which case certain teachers living in Gosport will lose certain civic rights which they now possess of sitting on Gosport Town Council, or Gosport and Fareham will combine and become a new authority of sufficient size to warrant creating again for themselves excepted district functions. Teachers of both Fareham and Gosport will in that case lose the civic rights which they now have and which they should not lose.
Successive Ministers of Education have always been sympathetic to the claims of teachers for civic rights. The 1933 Local Government Act excludes local government employees not only from standing for election but even from being co-opted to a committee. Ministers and Governments have exempted teachers from that provision under the 1933 Act. The 1946 Act lays down that a teacher employed by a local education authority shall not be barred from being co-opted on to an education committee, a library committee, or a committee dealing with mental defectives. Teachers can serve on those committees, even though they are committees belonging to their employers. More than that, Section 2 of the 1946 Act says:Subsection (2) of section fifty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1933, shall not operate so as to disqualify any person for being elected or being a member of the council of a county district toy reason of his being a teacher in, or being otherwise employed in, any school, college or other educational institution maintained or assisted by a local education authority.This declares quite clearly what has been established in practice, the minimum civic rights of a teacher, with the qualifications that the law lays down. The late Ellen Wilkinson, when she was introducing this 1289 Measure, said he had those right only if the council for which the teacher stood was not the one that employed him. Hence the Section which I have just quoted about district councils. He could stand for a district or town council if it was not a county borough, or a borough which is an excepted district.
The teaching profession accepts the view that a teacher should not be a member of a body which employed him, but it argues that the teacher cannot have two employers. He is employed either by a county or by an excepted district and he should not be debarred from civic rights twice for the same offence. The logical thing is to deprive him of his civic rights in respect of the county council, which employs him, and leave him a free citizen to serve on the minor authority. Let him remain ineligible in the county, which has full educational powers. Let him have, on the other hand, complete freedom in regard to the minor authority, even if the minor authority happens to be one of the handful of survivors from the old pre-1944 educational set-up or one of the new excepted districts which the Bill will create.
Let us be clear what we are pleading for. Nobody wishes to make the teacher a councillor. Most teachers would not be interested. We seek to give some teachers the civic rights possessed by 44 million other citizens. In the teaching profession, as in other professions, there are men and women who wish to give voluntary service to this great political democracy to which we belong. They manage to do it in a variety of ways, some by living under one authority and being employed by another, and some by working for a major authority and giving civic service to a minor authority.
In an age when democracy needs every bit of voluntary help that citizens are prepared to give we should not leave an anomaly still in existence which deprives a local authority of valuable and voluntary public-spirited service.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
We have it on very wise authority, Biblical authority, thatNo man can serve two masters.In the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, recently, an earlier example 1290 of the Minister of Education has been followed in forming an organisation and methods branch. There, too, will be found acceptance of the principle that power resides only in one place. In the Civil Service every civil servant is a servant of the Crown. It is always the highest authority that has the power and is, therefore, the employer. It does not matter whether the Civil Service Commissioners appointed him originally, or one Department or another. The important thing is that he is employed where the power to employ or dismiss resides.
In the same way, in I.C.I. it does not matter if a man is employed in the paints division, the acids division or the soaps division, the board of directors can say to the paints division, "You have got to employ this man; we have appointed him." They can say, "We are going to sack this man. It does not matter what you say. "Where the power resides, there the employment resides. I am not a lawyer and I do not know how the law has got into a situation in which it says that a man can have two employers: and that it is the lower and not the higher one which is the main employer. It seems to me that it is for the Minister and this House to put right the law where it goes so palpably wrong in relation to the true facts of life.
The second point I wish to emphasise is that this is a disfranchisement of good citizens. No one likes to disfranchise people. This procedure disfranchises not only the committee wishing to co-opt, by forcing upon it a disability in its co-options, but forces a disability on the person who would be co-opted. I should like the change to go beyond teachers. I cannot see, for instance, why gardeners should not be allowed to take part. In Bath, among the parks attendants and gardeners, we have some real philosophers. Someone was saying to me the other day that a man there was a real philosopher, with an experience of and an attitude to life which clearly fits him for public and voluntary service of the type we are talking about.
Why limit it to men? What about women? There may be parks attendants taking care of children's playgrounds. If the local education committee wishes to co-opt to such a committee such a person, because of her experience of children 1291 and her merits, why should it be denied and so debar her because she is employed by a council? For all these reasons, I join most heartily in urging the Minister to take the opportunity of the Bill—by agreeing to this new Clause or, in another place, bringing in a suitable Amendment—to put right something which is so palpably and obviously wrong.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I find myself in some difficulty on this new Clause. I could follow the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), but I think there was some special pleading by my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Dr. King) which went beyond the general facts of the case. I can understand the position over the election of a teacher to a non-county borough council which is an excepted district and that teacher serving on a non-county borough council, but I cannot understand the suggestion that he should take part in that part of the council work which deals with education.
In just the same way as it would be incongruous for a local transport driver to be a member of a transport committee of a county borough council, I think it would be incongruous for a teacher to be a member of an education committee within an excepted district. I use that argument on the general basis of equity. I am not using it on the basis of special pleading or for the special place which teachers have won for themselves.
§ Mr. Pannell
No, I have listened to the hon. Member's case and I must be allowed to develop an argument before I have another one shoved down my throat.
Everyone who has spoken in this debate so far has been a teacher, or associated with education. Before I came to this House I was for eleven years chairman of a divisional executive for education. I looked upon myself as a trustee for the children rather than for those with a vested interest in education. I want to look at these things from the point of view of equity, the point of view of parents, taxpayers and ratepayers. I want to say something for all municipal employees in local government service.
1292 It seems to me that we have got into this position by the creation of excepted districts and the powers of excepted districts. In many excepted districts there is generous delegation. For instance, in Kent excepted districts have the right of nomination for posts of special responsibility. I should have thought that was a very valuable gift——
§ Mr. Pitman rose——
§ Mr. Pannell
I do not want to hear another teacher. I want to develop an argument of my own. The trouble with teachers is that they want to talk to the class and never to listen. If the argument is that the teacher has always been the man among the boys, it is better for him occasionally to listen to men. [Interruption.] I am not objecting to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, who listen to me with interest, if not sympathy. I am merely referring to hon. Members opposite.
We cannot simplify the issue by saying that there is only one employing authority. There are two employing authorities and I believe that that can be duplicated up and down the country where a great variety of people work for agencies of parent firms. Perhaps that is beyond the comprehension of teachers, but it should be easy to understand. If a case could be made by which a new Clause provided that a teacher had a right to be a member of a council which is in an excepted district, but was debarred from being a member of an education committee in that excepted district, I should feel very much happier about it, in the same way as my hon. Friend who wants so much for teachers agrees that it would be right to keep the bus driver off the transport committee.
We are discussing the general question of civil rights of all municipal employees. I do not think that the question of firemen has been decided in the courts. Often a county council has a scheme by which, on rotation, it allows county district councils to send members on to the county fire brigade committee. I have seen a legal opinion which says that because a member can be sent from an urban district council to the county fire brigade committee, a fireman is ineligible to become a member of that urban district council. I am pointing out the difficulties of the situation. We ought to consider all municipal employees in 1293 aggregate. I do not think the new Clause faces that problem.
Teachers enjoy a rather favoured position in certain counties. In the County of Kent, which I know best in this regard, there are three teachers on the county education committee. It has created places for three teachers in every divisional executive in the county. So they cannot say that they are underrepresented in that way. I do not know that these facilities or privileges have been given to any other body of municipal employees. No members of the teaching profession would suggest that there is any special consideration which gives it this privileged position, but yet it has it. The Lowestoft decision, I have always considered, illustrated the sort of absurd position into which we get simply because of the way in which different individual schemes of education and the excepted district schemes are drawn.
We have taken civil rights entirely from the police, and, after all, all their services are covered by grant, one way or another, but now, even a policeman cannot go into public life, even in an authority outside the district in which he lives. There is the other point that, under the Local Government Act, we do not allow municipal tenants to vote on a question affecting their rents, unless the Minister gives a dispensation. There would be so many tenants in the case of some local authorities that no one would vote at all. The Minister gives his dispensation, for instance, where discrimination against municipal tenants would upset the political balance of that council; and Ministers of all political persuasions have seen that the will of the electors prevails.
These are the difficulties of trying to reconcile our interest as consumers with the interests of producers. In another vocation, I was an engineer. I was then a producer. There are certain people who are teachers who want to be local government representatives. The largest common denominator of all is the consumer. All of us here are representing the consumer in a way. We have to reconcile these difficulties which my hon. Friend has put by this special pleading on behalf of only some people who are employed in local government service, but my hon. Friends always burke the final question. If we are to say that 1294 municipal employees have no right to serve on their county council, on their local council and on their parish council —[Interruption]. It was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen that he would broaden the basis, by which he would not make it a bar because they were employed by a local authority.
The difficulty as I see it is that if we say that the dustman, the teacher and the bus driver have that right. we eventually get to the stage in which the town clerk has a right, and the borough treasurer, and the borough surveyor also have a right—and there is nothing to stop them—not only to run the council, but to have votes on it as well. That is where we get into difficulty. As one who has served on four local authorities, I would say that the greatest difficulty of any new member of a local authority is the terrific inferiority complex which he feels when he meets the permanent officials. If, in the first three years of office, he has lived that down and can talk on terms with them and keep them in their places, he will have proved himself a good public representative, whatever his politics. If we add to that situation and provide that the man whom he is trying to keep in his place also has a vote, which is the logical consequence of what my hon. Friends have been saying, we shall then have local authorities run by functionaries for functionaries.
I believe that all sorts of top people in local government, particularly with regard to the joint negotiating machinery, have too much power already, and I always think that these things are better damped down at the beginning. If the Parliamentary Secretary can protect the traditional rights of the teachers, I shall be glad, and that is why I have explained the position of trying to reconcile these difficulties. It seems to me that we have got to face this in regard to the powers of excepted districts and to the division and revision of the functions of these districts as between the council of a borough or non-county borough and the education committee of that district.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Sir E. Boyle
We have had a most interesting debate on the new Clause, and I particularly enjoyed the robust, entertaining and very wise speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). I am sure that when he was at school he 1295 never took it lying down, and certainly we have all enjoyed hearing what he had to say today.
I am well aware indeed that this is a subject on which the teaching profession feels strongly. This point was raised by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) upstairs in Committee when we were discussing Clause 48, and I then undertook to look at the matter again before Report stage. In the intervening time, I have received a small deputation from the National Union of Teachers, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), and I have had a frank discussion with them, which I found very valuable.
I do not think there is very much doubt as to the facts of the law as it stands at present. The council of an excepted district, acting as a divisional executive, normally has some concern with appointments, and that was the basis of the Lowestoft judgment in 1955. It was held in the case of Lamb v. Jeffries that the mere fact that the council of an excepted district had to confirm the appointment of an assistant master at a county secondary school in itself made the post one which was in the gift or disposal of the borough council.
I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) had to say. Despite the high authority he quoted, I am not quite sure that I follow his point that no man can serve two masters. It seems to me that there are occasions on which he obviously can. Anyone sitting on this Front Bench obviously serves two masters, because in sitting here he is a Member for a constituency and is serving the electorate in that way. I think that the hon. Member for Leeds, West, spoke perfectly fairly, and I cannot see anything strange or wrong about the legal judgment in the case of Lamb v. Jeffries in 1955.
Secondly, I go on to the effect of this Bill on the subject we are now discussing. At the present time, it is quite true that teachers and other employees in the education service appear to be the only people who suffer the dual disqualification under Section 59 (1, a) of the 1933 Act. I do not think that teachers will be affected very greatly by this Bill in this respect, for the reason that it is not very likely 1296 that many more excepted districts will be formed during the years ahead. I think that one of my hon. Friends mentioned that it is likely that no more than about seven will be created.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I agree, but the point I am making is that I do not think the position will be widely different as a result of the Measure we are now discussing. On the other hand, a similar disqualification will presumably apply to a wide range of employees in the health and welfare services where these are delegated to a district council under this Bill. This leads me to the point which the hon. Member for Leeds, West rightly italicised, which is that we cannot consider the position of teachers in isolation from the position of other local government employees.
I fully recognise that teachers are considerably the largest group of local government employees, and it is natural enough that they should feel specially concerned about this matter. On the other hand, if they were freed from disqualification for membership of a district council under Section 59 (1, a) of the 1933 Act, I think it would be extremely difficult to confine the relaxation to teachers.
That is one of the difficulties about the new Clause. It deals with the special relation of teachers, whereas the matter concerns local government employees as a whole. Teachers are not unique in suffering a dual disqualification, and in a sense they come off a little better than other people today in that they can be co-opted to local education committees under special circumstances. Indeed, I think that point has been recognised in our discussions, because the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who made on this, as on many occasions, a most useful contribution to our proceedings upstairs, used these words:I have never been able to see why if a teacher is able to sit on the education committee a bus conductor is not able to sit on the transport committee"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th March, 1958: c 1084.]1297 I think that it was recognised in those words that this is a matter which concerns other employees besides teachers. We must think hard before departing from the principle, which has always been accepted up to now, that the employee of a local authority should not become a member of the authority. As I have tried to explain to the House, I do not think that the definition of an employee of a local authority has been unduly strained in the definition of the law as it stands today.
I entirely understand the feelings of hon. Members opposite, which I think were fairly represented by the right hon. Member for South Shields, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) and the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). I know that this is a matter on which there are strong feelings in the teaching profession, and I think that it is one which the Government might very well like to consider further and at more leisure. I have consulted my right hon. Friend about this matter and he has asked me to tell the House that that is what he would like to do.
This is a complicated question, and we should have to consider the position of other local government employees as well as that of teachers. I can give the House an undertaking that the Government will consider the position of all local government employees and if, as a result of further review, it seems that a change in the law ought to be made, no doubt a suitable occasion could he found when further miscellaneous local government provisions are being brought before Parliament.
We are now passing an extremely long and complex local government Measure. It seems to me in the highest degree unlikely that following from this Measure a new Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will not have to be passed within the course of the next few years. I do not say that in any way as reflecting discredit upon the Measure or the Government, but simply because when we are making a big change in the law it is nearly always necessary within a few years to tidy up certain miscellaneous matters which have not been altogether foreseen and catered for. If it seems that the law could be changed in a way which was reasonable for all other 1298 local government employees, no doubt such a Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would be a suitable occasion to make the change.
Having said that, I am afraid that must ask the House to reject the new Clause for the reasons which I have stated, while at the same time recognising that this is a matter which merits further study and on which I fully realise that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel strongly.
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I ask the hon. Member two questions? I do not want to make a speech. In this case the Lowestoft Council had a right of veto on the appointment and no more. Are there any cases in the Health Service where that position is likely to exist? Secondly, looking at the report of the case, it seems that from the point of view of the ordinary use of the word "employment", Mr. Lamb was paid and could have been dismissed or transferred by the county council and that the Lowestoft Council had no power to do anything about him, would not have signed his cheque or whatever form of payment was paid to him, and would not have paid him out of the borough council funds.
§ Sir E. Boyle
On the second point, the hon. and learned Member is asking me to comment on the Lord Chief Justice's judgment, and I feel diffident about doing that. I will give the fairest answer that I can. The point on which the Lord Chief Justice seized was that because the appointment of the assistant master had to be confirmed, therefore the post was in the gift or disposal of the borough council.
§ Sir E. Boyle
And payment. I think there is no doubt that it was the county council which was responsible for dismissal and payment, but the mere fact that the district council had to confirm the appointment was thought of itself to justify the judgment which was given.
1299 The hon. and learned Gentleman also asked me about the position of Health Service employees. It appears that teachers and employees in the education services are the only people who suffer this dual disqualification under Section 59 (1, a), but presumably a similar disqualification could well apply in the future to a wide range of employees in the health and welfare services when these are delegated to district councils under provisions which may be made as a result of the Bill.
§ Mr. Pitman
Is it at all possible for county councils to re-phrase their appointments and the powers given to excepted districts in order that these will not come within the mischief of the 1933 Act?
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Before the hon. Member answers that question, will he also consider this point: we are faced here, on the one hand, with the claim of the teachers, and on the other hand with the claim of the county districts for increased powers under the Education Act. That is where a conflict arises.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Leeds, West. As a result of this Measure we must surely expect a wider degree of delegation than has taken place up to now, and I think it would be very unwise of me to give an affirmative answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The Parliamentary Secretary has evidently fulfilled the undertaking which he gave in Committee to give further consideration to this matter. What some of my hon. Friends will now be trying to weigh up is whether he has carried that consideration far enough.
If we look at the position merely from a layman's commonsense point of view, think what most people would say is that the general proposition—that a man ought not to be elected a member of the body which employs him—ought not to work out so that a man is debarred from two councils. That is the point we are discussing. The reason we have been talking about it in the context of teachers is that it is teachers in excepted districts who have particularly found themselves in this position. We raised the matter 1300 as a new Clause to this Bill partly because the number of excepted districts is being increased. To that the Parliamentary Secretary has added another reason—that this problem may now extend from people in the education service to people in the health and welfare services, too.
I think we should bear in mind that when this case was before the courts it was quite plain from the Lord Chief Justice's comments that he was not at all pleased at having to give the judgment he gave. Indeed, he said so. He said:I have come to this conclusion after considerable hesitation and with some regret…He described the relevant provision of the Local Government Act, and then went on to say:Whether it was considered that this section"—of the Local Government Act—should reach out so far as to affect the schoolmaster who is appointed in consequence of these various and very elaborate provisions which depend upon an education Act passed 11 years after the Local Government Act, may at least, be open to question.He went on further to comment adversely on the action of the magistrates in imposing a fine on Mr. Lamb.
I mention those facts because, although, of course, it is the business of the judicature to declare the law rather than to say whether they think the Acts they are applying are good Acts or not, it is impossible to read that judgment of the Lord Chief Justice without realising that he felt that this was not at all a happy position. We should notice, too, that of the three learned judges who heard the case, Mr. Justice Stable dissented from the Lord Chief Justice's judgment, while the third agreed fully with it; that is to say, agreed not only with the judgment on the point of law, but with the surprise and regret that the Lord Chief Justice had expressed that the law should be what, in fact, it is.
We also learn from the Lord Chief Justice's judgment that it is not, of course, a final one. If another similar case should arise, the matter could go to the Court of Appeal and, possibly, be decided in a contrary sense. About that, none of us can pronounce at the moment, and in view of something that we were told earlier one would hesitate to suggest that 1301 the Government might get the opinion of the Attorney-General as to the law on the matter.
What we have here is a position generally considered to be unsatisfactory, and on which even the law is not certain at present; a remedy proposed that it should be made clear that a teacher cannot be debarred from membership of the excepted district; that is to say, the undesirable provision whereby he is prevented from being a member of two councils is brought to an end.
It is pointed out, and I think that this is really the only valid criticism made of the new Clause by the Parliamentary Secretary, that, in view of the other parts of the Bill, one would have to consider the position of workers in the health and welfare services. That really would not be impossible. I cannot help feeling some regret that the Parliamentary Secretary did not pursue that train of thought a little earlier and that the Government did not simply ask themselves, "Could we not take this new Clause and extend its provisions to include other workers to whom this problem of excepted districts applies?" They could have looked at that. They could have considered whether there was anything unworkable in it. I find it difficult to believe that there is.
We are left with the undertaking that as soon as it becomes necessary to tidy up some of the confusion that may be created by this piece of legislation the Government will take the opportunity to put the matter right——
§ Sir E. Boyle
The hon. Gentleman must not take my undertaking quite as far as that. I said that when such a Bill was brought forward, the Government would certainly consider whether such a new Clause to cover all local government employees could, in fact, be satisfactorily drafted and brought in.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman gets more periphrastic on each occasion.
We are now being left to pass a large local government Bill. We are assured, and we do not dispute it for a moment, that it will be necessary in a few years' time to bring in a quite considerable Measure to tidy up a number of problems that this Bill will create. We are assured that when that necessity arises the Government will at least consider whether 1302 to take an opportunity to put this matter right——
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, assuming that this Government are still there.
All this is a bit disappointing, and it is a matter which, no doubt, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will wish to consider. He may feel that, disappointing as it is, perhaps it will be in the best interests of everyone concerned—and we do not want merely to score points against the Government but to get a just and workable solution of what is admittedly a difficult problem—to accept the assurance.
I must, however, record my own regret that the Government could not have carried their thought on this a little further and, possibly, proposed such alterations in the wording of the Clause as their reflection had shown to be necessary, and so have enabled us to handle the matter now. Since the Parliamentary Secretary does not offer us that but only offers us this future and rather conditional suggestion that it may be possible to put it right at some time, perhaps that is as far as we shall be able to get on this issue with the present Government.
§ Mr. Ede
I listened with close attention to what the Parliamentary Secretary said. I welcome the proposal that this matter should be considered on the broadest possible basis in relation to the local government service. While thanking the House for the patience with which it has listened to the arguments on this subject—and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)—in view of what the hon. Gentleman said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion and the Clause.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.