HC Deb 14 July 1960 vol 626 cc1576-9
13. Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he proposes to withdraw his approval of those approved schools whose managers have declared themselves in favour of the introduction of the cat, the birch, and the stocks, as instruments for the punishment of children.

33. Miss Bacon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the fact that the managers of approved schools are entitled to exercise all the powers of parents in respect of the children in their schools, if he is satisfied that all the schools approved by him in the North-West of England are managed by people fit to exercise such powers; and if he will make it a condition of the continuation of his approval that all managers should show themselves to be so fitted.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The appointment of managers of approved schools is not subject to my approval. I have no reason to suppose, however, that the management of approved schools in the North-West of England is other than in strict accordance with the statutory requirements. No question arises of withdrawing the certificate of approval of any of them because of views expressed by a few anonymous members of their management committees.

Mr. Paget

The right hon. Gentleman says that these are a few anonymous people, but is he aware that thirty-four of these people are in favour of the introduction of the cat for children; that two go so far as to approve giving the cat to children aged seven years; and that others approve the stocks? Indeed, one is surprised that no one has suggested the thumbscrew. Are these really the gentlemen, who are in a position in loco parentis, to deal with these children? Whether it is the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility or not, does he feel that one should approve schools in which gentlemen with this sort of extraordinary view are given parental control of children who are, after all, in the public charge and, I should think, in the right hon. Gentleman's charge?

Mr. Butler

I believe that the hon. and learned Member's statistics are approximately correct. I understand from the north-west branch of the Managers' Association that the report containing this reference was unofficial and was made public before the reference had been considered by the branch. The position is that there is no question of the views of these anonymous persons affecting the conduct of the approved schools, and the aims and methods of the approved schools will remain exactly the same—and the rules affecting corporal punishment. I therefore do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's apprehensions need extend to the fear that the administration of the approved schools will be altered by the views of these anonymous people.

Miss Bacon

Since the managers of approved schools exercise all the powers possessed by parents, does the right hon. Gentleman feel that he could get any parent, no matter whether giving an unofficial or a private view, to express the views of these managers? Since the Home Secretary says that he has no power over the appointment or dismissal of managers of approved schools, and is not called on to approve them, does he not think the time has come to change the law in this respect so that he might have some control over them?

Mr. Butler

Arising out of the Durand Report and in relation to proposed legislation in the autumn, I am completely reviewing the situation of approved schools, some of which are under local authorities, or otherwise controlled, and some of which are virtually completely free. I am investigating the position. I have personally conducted a tour of investigation into many of the schools. I cannot say any more at Question Time, but I would ask hon. Members not to regard the views of these anonymous people as being typical of all the managers.

14. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he takes to ensure, before giving his approval to an approved school, that the managers are suitably qualified.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Where the managers are not a local authority I would, before issuing a certificate of approval, satisfy myself of their suitability and competence by making such inquiry as seemed necessary.

Mr. Lipton

But these inquiries are not being carried out in the case of at least certain schools in the north-west of England. Is not the Home Secretary aware that an undue proportion of these approved schools are run by self-appointed cliques, which seem to include some nasty old men with nasty old ideas? It is time that the Home Secretary carried out the policy that he says he has been carrying out, though with very small effect.

Mr. Butler

This particular Answer, of course, is relevant only in so far as many of these schools were approved a long time ago, and my predecessors' powers to approve the schools arose only before they gave approval to the schools. I think that it is quite possible that we shall need more extended powers in the examination we shall give to the matter in the autumn.

Mr. Kershaw

Is it not the case that the questionnaire referred to by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) was extremely loosely drawn, and that quite a number of different deductions could be drawn from the answers; and that as they were anonymous, my right hon. Friend need not attach very much importance to this loosely-drawn questionnaire?

Mr. Butler

I should attach much importance to it if the intention was to introduce these practices into the schools, but as I have no intention of introducing them into the schools, and as the rules for corporal punishment are set out for all to see and read at the approved schools, I shall adhere to the rules.

Miss Bacon

Is the Home Secretary aware that it is not so much a question of whether or not these practices are to be introduced into the schools as the fact that people who hold these views are managers of approved schools, and are looking after our children? Will he not approach it from that point of view?

Mr. Butler

Oh, yes. I think I said to the hon. Lady that the whole of this matter is under review at the present time.