HC Deb 09 May 1960 vol 623 cc38-149

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

When my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) drew our attention recently to the shocking conditions at the Crampton Street Primary School in his constituency, where, through no fault of the London County Council, 274 children are housed in five temporary huts of which two date back to the last century, and where there is feeding accommodation for only 68, I have no doubt that many hon. Members thought that that was an exceptional case. Unfortunately, it is not. It is only one of many hundreds throughout the country.

Our purpose today is to call attention to those many primary schools where there are oversized classes, or inadequate equipment, or which are housed in dilapidated insanitary buildings and are called by some organs of the Press the "slum schools" or, in the more colourful language of the Daily Express, "schools of scandal." Because the time is limited today, I propose to concentrate upon this latter aspect of the problem.

I want to make perfectly clear that we do not belittle the post-war achievements in primary education. New methods of teaching have been introduced. The numbers in classes are falling. The number of all-age schools has been reduced. Many fine new schools have been erected under Governments of both political parties and much new equipment has been brought into use. We willingly accept all this, and I hope that the Minister will not confine himself today to those things because the very magnitude of those achievements highlights, in contrast, our failure to do more in the way of modernising or replacing the slum schools. It would be a great mistake for any of us to underestimate the growing frustration and indignation among teachers and parents, or, indeed, the long-term effects upon our educational system as a whole.

The hopes of local authorities were, of course, raised by the White Paper on secondary education. I quote from paragraph 27: The building programme will also allow for the building of any new primary schools needed to meet local increases in the number of children, or to replace the worst existing schools: and the enlarged programme of minor works should be specially useful for bringing many primary school buildings up to date. That was fine talk but, unfortunately, developments have belied it.

High interest rates, restrictions on capital expenditure, the rise in the cost of local government services, the operation of the block grant, combined with the Minister's rigid control of educational building—which, incidentally, makes nonsense of the Government's claims that the block grant would give local authorities much greater say in managing their own affairs—have prevented a realisation of the hopes aroused by the White Paper.

Let us look at the overall picture. For the year 1960–61, local authorities asked for £117 million for their school-building programmes. This was cut to £55 million by the Minister. For 1961-62, they asked for £97 million, and this was cut to £60 million. When the Research Department of the House of Commons Library, last week, at my request, asked the Ministry for collated details of cuts made by the Minister in local authority programmes for primary schools, it was told that the information was not available.

It is surprising that this should be so. But in consequence I have worked through about 500 newspaper cuttings to try to discover the extent of the need and the paucity of the help that the Government are giving. I did that because I wanted to see whether the picture presented in that interesting publication of the National Union of Teachers, "Fair Play for our Primary Schools ", still holds good.

The survey upon which that publication was based arose out of a questionnaire sent to 2,300 primary schools in eight counties and eight county boroughs. I am assured by the National Union of Teachers that the local education authorities concerned were not selected on the basis that they were known to be bad authorities, but to give a fair cross-section representing industrial boroughs, rural districts, councils with both urban and rural conditions, and so forth.

Out of the 2,300 primary schools written to, 64 per cent., that is to say, 1,488, replied. Of those, 911 were built before 1900 and only 257 were built since 1930. There was no water sanitation in 99, and 485 had no hot water. Six hundred and twenty-two were without a head's room or staff rooms. At 456, children had to take their meals at their desks. I should like to see the occupants of the Treasury Bench eating stew on sloping desk tops.

I will quote from the survey only two examples, one to show that modern planning does not always achieve all that it should, the other to show that the bad old conditions linger on. The first relates to a school built as recently as 1958. There, the report is as follows: For a hundred children (increasing), four teachers, three canteen staff, one supervisor … only three water closets and one urinal are available. All drainage to septic tank. There are only three wash basins ". The other example is as follows: The lavatories are the worst feature—they are of the pit type, pits having to be scraped out and contents buried within boundary wall. Ample supply of water available nearby, but as we are shortly (?) to have a mains supply —perhaps in five years' time—nothing is being done about it". That is a school with 176 children on the roll.

The survey was made in 1958. What do we find today? I shall give the Committee some examples. Beginning with Shropshire, I quote from a report in The Times of 28th March which says: There are still 46 schools in the county with earth closets and 51 with chemical closets. There are 35 without a piped water supply, six with no artificial lighting … and eight lit by oil". I pass now to Norfolk. The North Norfolk News, on 26th February, quoted the County Education Officer for Norfolk as saying that 80 schools in the county could justify the most vigorous criticism. The County of Essex submitted a minor works programme to the Minister for £1,154,000. The Minister cut it to £625,000, in spite of the appalling conditions obtaining in many of the country schools in Essex. In addition to that, he cut a number of new schools from the county's major works programme, including, to give one example, the Roding Central County Primary Schools, which it was intended to build to take the place of three small primary schools all of which have earth closets —all this within 25 or 30 miles of the City of London.

When Croydon submitted a minor works programme of £129,000, the Minister cut it to £65,000. Shortly afterwards, the Norwood News had a heading: Wiring in schools is unsafe. It's 50 per cent. below standard set by Ministry ". The report goes on to say that in 46 schools in the County Borough of Croydon, the electrical work was 50 per cent. below the standard required by the Ministry of Education. In Croydon's schools, there were 20 radios which were not working and 40 pianos which were unusable because they were in need of repair. There was gymnasium apparatus which could not be used until a little money was spent.

I am sorry that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are being so supercilious about the details I am giving. We are told of craft rooms with no sinks, of playgrounds with no seats. We are told that in four of the schools there were worn-out projectors which could not be replaced because there was not the money with which to replace them. This is all in the County Borough of Croydon, where the Minister has cut by 50 per cent. the minor works programme submitted to him by the local education authority.

In Bournemouth, not one of the most irresponsible Left-wing authorities, the minor works programme was cut from £220,000 to £40,000. It is no wonder that authorities as different as Bournemouth and Cardiff have protested to the Minister in the strongest terms, in common with dozens of other education authorities throughout the country.

I turn now to Wiltshire. The Wiltshire News of 26th February said that 56 schools in the county needed sanitation. When the Minister received the county education committee's minor works programme for £227,000, he cut it down to £185,000, which was less than it had had in the previous year.

Perhaps the most ironic case of all is that of Monmouth, where every school child has received a leaflet emphasising the importance of washing the hands after going to the lavatory. According to the South Wales Echo of 9th March, only one school in the town has hot water. Can the Minister really be surprised that the Monmouthshire County Council is pressing for freedom to decide its own priorities?

This sad and squalid story can be repeated throughout the country. I could give examples and figures from Kent, Surrey, London, Derbyshire, Birmingham and a host of other authorities.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

I have listened with great interest to what the hon. Gentleman has said. He has referred to Essex. Lest he has strayed a little beyond his brief, I should remind him that the County of Essex is controlled by his own political friends, and that they quite recently expressed their deep satisfaction at the manner in which the Minister has met their claims for both improvements and new schools. In case it has escaped the hon. Member's attention, I should remind him that Essex has been opening over one new school a month for the past eighteen months.

Mr. Greenwood

I have a document from my friends in the County of Essex which does not entirely support what the hon. Gentleman has said. The point we are making, which has clearly escaped his notice, is that it is not the fault of the local authorities themselves. It is the fault of Government policy. The County Council in Essex, first, had estimates— I am speaking from memory now—of £1,900,000, and cut them down very substantially, to just over £1 million, on its own initiative; but the Minister cut them still further, to just over £600,000.

I said that I could give examples from other authorities, but I want to confine myself to three more examples. First, I want to tell the Committee what I found in the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter of 4th March. I find that in that Lancashire town of Ashton, during a recent outbreak of Sonne dysentery among school children, Dr. Simpson, the Medical Officer of Health, made a survey of 14 Ashton schools. He found that in 13 of them the facilities for maintaining only a reasonable standard of hygiene were sub-standard. In the 14 schools the deficiency with regard to lavatory and washing accommodation amounted to 40 per cent. Dr. Simpson tells us that in one infants' school there is only one lavatory for the use of 60 children, and goes on: The scene at playtime, or at times of emergency, can be imagined. This is in a county where the Minister has cut down the school building programme and has struck out of it five primary schools which the education committee believed to be badly needed to replace primary schools at present housed in bad premises.

The second example comes from Kidderminster, in Worcestershire. Only in January, because there was an outcry on the part of the parents, 30 children were moved to a church hall from a building in which the water came through the roof and had to be collected in buckets, and where the parents maintained there were rats and mice. At almost exactly the same time as this was happening, the Birmingham Weekly Post was complaining that the Minister had cut the Worcestershire allocation—and I quote— because Worcestershire was so well ahead with its building and reorganisation programme. The next example is from the County of Somerset. Here I quote from the News-Chronicle of 1st March the words of the Chief Education Officer, Mr. W. J. Deacon, who said: This year we planned to make an all-out attack and applied to spend £427,000 on our dilapidated schools. But the Ministry of Education has cut that to £180,000. The great majority of our schools need to be remodelled to bring them up to new standards laid down by the Ministry. But at the rate we are now moving it will be another 50 years before the last are brought up to this standard. What does that mean? Let us take the case of the village school of Enmore. It is one of 60 schools which have to share between them the £375 for minor improvements which is all the county is able to afford under the programme the Minister has sanctioned. That village school is lit by oil, although there has been electricity in the village for the last two years. The Daily Herald has referred to the children there as the "children in the twilight". Why cannot the Somerset County Council help a school like that? The answer is given by the County Education Officer himself in the Somerset County Herald of 20th February. He said: The will is there; the anxiety is there. All that is missing is the allocation of funds by the Minister. What a topsy-turvy, crazy world it is, in which the Russians can get a rocket on the moon, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot get electricity into the village school at Enmore, or get rid of 46 earth closets in Shropshire.

Surely the Minister's crowning humiliation must have come when a widow in Lancashire, reading of the plight of the children of Enmore, offered to pay the £80 which was all that was needed to provide electricity in that school. I hope that the widow's mite made the Minister feel small, but the Minister is a resilient and, indeed, a precocious man. He went to the microphone on Saturday night, and after demolishing a number of arguments which I had not heard advanced went on to say: The man in Whitehall is a long way off. It is much better to put your problem to your local councillor. Does not the Minister realise that he is making it impossible for local councillors to give an answer to the people who come to them and complain? He is keeping the local education authorities in a strait-jacket.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give them more freedom in respect at least of minor works? Does he not trust the local authorities not to embark on programmes they cannot complete? I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is busy. There are many things upon which he ought to be busy, but perhaps he could direct his attention to them at some other time. Can the Minister seriously claim that he and his staff are better qualified than the county hall or the town hall to decide whether the lighting in one school is more urgent than the plumbing in another?

What the Minister is really telling us in practice—but not in party political broadcasts—is that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best. That is a proposition which I never found very attractive when it was advanced by certain of my own hon. Friends, and I find it wholly repugnant when it comes from the right hon. Gentleman. Or is the Minister saying that our economy is so perilous and lopsided that we cannot do these things, that a nation which spends £2,000 million a year on drink and tobacco, which can squander money on weapons that cannot be used, and can put on such a wonderful show of majesty at times of national rejoicing, cannot find £10 million or £20 million for these neglected children?

I hope that the Minister today will be able to tell us that he is going to do five things. First, to increase the present allocation of £18 million for minor works; secondly, to raise the present ceiling of £20,000; thirdly, to make it possible for local education authorities to increase their expenditure on books, stationery and equipment; fourthly, to announce the details of his programme to provide another 8,000 places in training colleges; and, fifthly, to give the local education authorities permission to go ahead with replacing the old, obsolete, dilapidated primary school buildings. I hope that he will be able to give us some encouragement along those lines, because otherwise the results will be grave.

There will be frustration and despondency on the part of the local education authorities. This is already making itself felt. There will be indignation and a sense of injustice on the part of the parents. There will be increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers. And, perhaps most important of all, the pupils in many of today's primary schools will not be equipped to take advantage of our greatly improved secondary schools when, finally, they reach them. It is because we demand fair play for our primary schools and the children in them that we have raised this subject today.

4.9 p.m.

Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)

It is very pleasing to hon. Members on this side of the Committee to see that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) has recovered from his recent indisposition, and has come back to treat us to a speech which was quite up to his form. I shall try to follow him as closely as I can on some of his arguments about buildings. In doing so, may I say that it is a very great pleasure for me to open the debate from this side of the Committee?

Primary schools as separate entities are a comparatively recent innovation. This is not generally known, but it has some bearing on this very important subject. It was only in the 'thirties that primary education as we know it today started, after the Hadow Report and the subsequent reorganisation, when primary schools were organised in separate areas as separate schools quite apart from all-age schools. Unfortunately, primary schools took over the old all-age schools. The matter was finally departmentalised by the Education Act, 1944, when primary, secondary and technical schools became separate entities.

It is from the conversion of the old all-age schools into primary schools in the 'thirties that much of the problem adumbrated by the hon. Member for Rossendale stems.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Under a Conservative Government.

Mr. Jennings

I would remind the hon. Lady that in 1929–31 we had a Labour Government. I am not trying to argue politically. In my contributions to education, I have always attempted to argue educationally.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

The hon. Member has emphasised the fact that he is discussing the time after the Hadow Report. Almost all of that time was under his party's administration.

Mr. Jennings

I accept the point. The Hadow Report and reorganisation was a tremendous step forward. If the hon. Lady is prepared to give us credit, I am quite prepared to take it.

The kingpin of this debate—let us not shirk it—lies in the document which the hon. Member for Rossendale quoted extensively. That was issued by my own union, the National Union of Teachers, and was entitled "Fair Play for our Primary Schools". We on this side agree that black-spot schools or slum schools should be replaced, renovated or remodelled as quickly as possible. I say that sincerely. It is right and proper that attention to such schools should be highlighted. The pamphlet issued by the N.U.T. did that, and the hon. Member has done that. But it is just as illogical to consider this booklet separately without fitting it into the whole picture as it is to take one sentence out of the hon. Member's speech and judge the whole policy of the party opposite by that sentence. One must try to put the subject into proper balance and perspective, and I shall try to do that.

I pay tribute to the N.U.T. for what it has done, by its propaganda and general policy during the past few years, for education, and for letting people see what progress has been made in education. With this document we must also consider two other magnificent pieces of educational propaganda of the N.U.T. One was the magnificent exhibition which it staged at Olympia last year, which gave this country a clear picture of the tremendous progress made in post-war years in education, including primary education. During the last few weeks, it has issued a film which was shown twice on B.B.C. television which was so good that it was brought to the House and shown here. This film is called, "I Want To Go To School". It was commissioned by the N.U.T. and it dealt with an ordinary primary school. Anyone who saw that film will realise what magnificent work is being done in our primary schools.

Mrs. Slater

Would not the hon. Member agree that wonderful work has been done often because of the loyalty and service of the teaching staff? Would it not be much better if it could be done in the type of school which the film portrayed rather than in the slum schools to which not only that pamphlet referred, but to which the committee which considered school building referred a long time ago?

Mr. Jennings

I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. All that I am trying to do is to put this booklet in balance and perspective and point out that the N.U.T., in its propaganda, has considered all sides of the question. It has every right to issue a pamphlet like this and concentrate on bad schools and to bring to the notice of the public and of the House the question of bad schools. It has kept a balance, and that is all that I wanted to prove.

We must view primary education against the background of the whole educational picture. That is essential and important. We must consider not only what has not been done, on which the hon. Member for Rossendale concentrated, but what has been done already and what my right hon. Friend the Minister has said that the Government intend to do. It is logical that if Governments are blamed for all that goes wrong, they should be given some credit for all that goes right. A lot has gone right in the educational world during the post-war years, and here I give credit to both sides of the House. We on this side make no apology for our record. We are proud of our work. Our sincerity and will to continue our good work cannot be questioned, and we intend to proceed with it.

Let me deal in more detail with this booklet and then with the question of buildings. As the hon. Member for Rossendale said, a questionnaire was sent out in 1958 to 2,000 primary schools in eight county boroughs and eight counties. This booklet is not entirely condemnatory of the Government. Much of it is commendatory of the Government's policy. On page 6, it is stated: Not all the comments"— that is, from the 64 per cent. of schools which replied to the questionnaire sent out— are unfavourable, but, taken together, they indicate that physical conditions vary". The language of this booklet is not as strong as that of the hon. Member.

Fourteen hundred and eighty-eight schools, that is, 64 per cent. of the schools to which the questionnaire was sent, replied. In 1958, at the time of this questionnaire, there were 21,000 primary schools. It would be easy for my right hon. Friend, or the Parliamentary Secretary, to take another sample—say, the 10 per cent. sample of good schools—and another argument, apart from the argument of the hon. Member, could be given.

Mr. Greenwood

Surely the hon. Member is not suggesting that his own union chose a particularly bad section of schools.

Mr. Jennings

Not a bit.

Mr. Greenwood

The National Union of Teachers claims that it took a fair cross-sample of schools. If the Minister did that, there is no reason to suppose that the result would be different.

Mr. Jennings

I am not suggesting that the union did that; I quite accept what it says, and what the hon. Member says. I am simply saying that it is quite easy to take samples in order to arrive at the requisite conclusions. Hon. Members smile, but I am telling them the truth.

Not all the book is condemnatory of the Government. At the end it comes to certain conclusions and makes recommendations, three of which compliment the Government. On page 17, it says: We hope that as a result of the Government's encouragement a much more generous attitude will be taken in respect of renovation, modernisation and expansion of old buildings… The key words are: as a result of the Government's encouragement". I then turn to page 20.

Mrs. Slater

Read it all.

Mr. Jennings

I will. The hon. Lady can follow me as I read, and anything I miss out or twist she can tell me about. On page 20, the document says: We particularly welcome the Government's intention to complete the reorganisation of all-age schools, a step which will benefit the children of both primary and secondary school age. We also welcome the Government's intention to take steps to reduce the size of classes… That is a commendatory word from the N.U.T. to the Government.

Further the document says: We therefore welcome the Minister's decision to implement the recommendation of the National Advisory Council that it is necessary to provide 16,000 extra places in the training colleges…. The hon. Lady can read on from there. In the rest of the five paragraphs there is hardly anything with which my right hon. Friend could not agree.

Mrs. Slater

Will the hon. Member read the first comment, beginning, "We recognise", under "Conclusions and Recommendations", on page 17?

Mr. Jennings

Certainly. The document says: We recognise that some of the objectives set out below cannot be achieved without considerable expenditure.

Mrs. Slater

Read on.

Mr. Jennings

The hon. Lady must not get impatient. I am going along quite nicely. I learnt to read at a primary school.

The document goes on to say: At present about 3 per cent. of the national income is devoted to education. That statement is completely out of date now. It is 4 per cent., or over.

Mrs. Slater

Read on.

Mr. Jennings

Certainly. The proportion is no greater than before the war…. But it is; that is the whole fallacy of the statement. It is now out of date, and in asking me to read this out the hon. Lady has given me an opportunity to state that the proportion is now over 4 per cent. of the gross national income.

Mr. J. Idwal Jones(Wexham)

Will the hon. Member give his authority for saying that the proportion is 4 per cent. or over 4 per cent. of the national income?

Mr. Jennings

I cannot remember the name of the document, but the author was an economist called Vaizey. I have just been handed it. The book is, The Cost of Education, by John Vaizey. If hon. Members read that they will find that Mr. Vaizey estimates that the proportion is now over 4 per cent. I have another authority which hon. Members opposite will not accept, namely, the authority of the Conservative Research Department.

Mr. Idwal Jones

The Minister's statement is that it is 3.2 per cent. or 3.7 per cent. of the national product.

Mr. Jennings

My statement comes after that of my right hon. Friend's, so I am all right.

We must consider this problem of buildings and primary education against the general educational background. This year we are spending over £800 million. Soon it will be £1,000 million and it is prophesied that by the 1970s it will be £1,500 million a year—equivalent to our present defence bill. It has risen from £217 million a year in 1946–47, to £337 million in 1950–51; £525 million in 1955–56; and £800 million now. This is not a party point; I realise that costs have risen.

We know the picture of training college expansion. On Saturday night, in his broadcast, my right hon. Friend said that we now have in the pipeline provision for an increase from 23,000 to 47,000 places. There is an extension of £95 million in respect of universities, already in the pipeline, and in technical and technological education the figure is £100 million, plus another £60 million, all in the pipeline. We have met the challenge of the bulge, and, in the postwar years—and here I give both sides credit—we have provided a place for every child without using the shift system, as has had to be adopted in many other countries. That is a story of progress of which this country can be proud, and it is against that background that we should look at the question of primary education.

It is a good thing to bring to the notice of the public the fact that much has yet to be done in primary school buildings. It is no less important, however, to draw attention to what has already been done. First, over £700 million has been spent on school buildings since the end of the war. That cannot be denied. One-third of our children are now being educated in new schools—that is, schools built since the end of the war. Dr. Alexander, who has sometimes not been exactly a friend of the Government, writing in Education on 15th April, said: If the present rate of building programme is sustained every school in the country could be replaced completely every 30 years. This is the pace set by the present Government.

What of the future? Over the next five years we plan a building programme worth £300 million—£150 million of new and improved schools in 1960–62, and £61 million each year in the next three years— and half this money is to be spent on improvements. At present, the total educational building programme is running at the rate of over £100 million a year, by far the biggest building programme ever attempted.

Half the new schools built since the end of the war have been primary schools, during which time 1 million new primary places have been provided. On those figures alone it cannot be said that primary schools have been neglected. The building of schools has had to follow the bulge. In 1945–51, it was right for the Labour Government to concentrate on the place where the bulge would first have its effect—in the infant and junior schools. In those years, therefore, the ratio of primary schools to secondary schools was 4 to 1, quite rightly.

As the bulge moved from the primary to the secondary schools we had to plan for the extra children coming into the secondary schools, and the ratio was somewhat altered. From 1951–59, the ratio was three primary schools to every secondary school. It should be noticed that in each case the emphasis was still on primary schools. These figures prove that primary schools have not been starved.

Both Governments have had to face the vexed question of priorities, and if there was a choice between providing a place for a child for whom there was at present no room, or improving an existing school, there is no doubt which the Government or the local authorities would choose. The choice was obvious.

The statisticians went "haywire" in their forecasts of the number of children for which the Education Act, 1944, would have to cater. They were all wrong. Married women produced far more children than the authorities expected, and, therefore, we have now got 2 million more children in school than we expected to have, 2 million over and above the 1944 forecasts, and we have had to look at this question of providing new schools for those extra children. With all this new building and the emphasis on new schools for new areas, it is perfectly obvious that some of the existing primary schools and secondary schools had to take places a little farther back in priorities, but the ceiling for minor works was raised to £20,000. In answer to some of the figures which the hon. Gentleman gave, I would remind him that in 1959 to 1960 the authorities asked for minor works £20 million and got £17 million.

We on this side of the Committee aim to eliminate all-age schools, and here again we have made remarkable progress. In 1951, for instance, there were 5,636 of these schools. There are now—at least, there were in 1959 — 1,685. To put it another way, 13-year-olds in this type of school in 1951 were 16.9 per cent. of the school population, but are now only 5.2 per cent. The N.U.T. booklet deals with this matter and I would answer that these figures have to be taken into account.

I come to the question of the size of classes. Here, also, we are charged with neglecting the primary schools when considered in relation to the secondary schools. Again, I say that much still remains to be done, but, also, I say again that quite a lot has been done. In 1951, in primary schools there were 132,944 teachers full-time; in 1959, that number had gone up to 144,000. In 1951, oversize classes in junior schools numbered 30,000—in round figures—but in 1959 that number had been reduced to 23,000. To put it another way, the difference in the number of oversize classes in junior schools is this, that whereas, in 1951, the proportion was 37.5 per cent. it has now been reduced to 24.2 per cent. This is progress. This fact is important, that oversize junior classes reached their peak in 1954, three years before the junior school population reached its peak.

In other words, we had more than overtaken the growth in school population. They had been reduced by almost half by 1959, and my right hon. Friend has promised on behalf of the Government virtually to eliminate these by the middle 1960s. We also know from our debate on the Crowther Report and from my right hon. Friend's speech at the N.U.T. Conference, at Blackpool, at Easter, that he has placed as priority No. 1 an increase in the supply of teachers and a reduction in the size of classes.

I conclude by quoting from the editorial of the Schoolmaster of 1st April. I think that this puts this question of buildings and primary education in its right perspective: The primary schools are not 'news' except when reports of dilapidated buildings and primitive working conditions find their way into the press. Indeed, they suffer in the matter of publicity from the very fact that they have largely worked out their problems, assimilated the tremendous revolution in teaching methods which has transformed them in the past decade, and are now getting on solidly with their job, with complete confidence in their aims and in the way to go about achieving them. In the middle of the greatest expansionist educational programme that this country has ever seen, primary education must and most certainly will get its full share. This Government's record in the past and their stated plans for the future are something of which any Government can be justifiably proud.

4.35 p.m.

Mr. Alan Fitch (Wigan)

It is with some trepidation that I follow the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), who has had professional experience. I have not that experience. I am a layman. Many of my hon. Friends around me on this side of the Committee have had professional experience, teaching experience. What I shall say in my brief intervention will be said from the point of view of the layman. I certainly would not be so foolish as to try to tell anybody how to do his job, but I have for a long time been interested in the problem of education.

Prior to becoming a Member of the House I had been, like many of my hon. and right hon. Friends on both sides of the Committee, a manager of a primary school and a governor of a secondary modern school. If I am, as I suppose I should, to declare my interest still further, I must say that my wife is a teacher, my sister is a teacher, my father-in-law is a retired headmaster, my mother-in-law was a teacher, my sister-in-law was a teacher, and my brother-in-law is at present a headmaster; but the speech that I am about to deliver is my own. That, no doubt, will be realised as I go on.

It appears to me that the aims of a primary school are to give children the tools whereby they can do a job; that is, to teach them to read and write, to teach them while they are very young to be able to work alone and to be able to work in groups. It seems to me that the main aim of a primary school should be to develop their general abilities rather than any specific or specialist abilities.

I have been very perturbed indeed by the number of my constituents who have been to see me about what they feel is an injustice in our primary schools. I must emphasise that I am speaking only as a layman. There are other hon. Members here who may be more competent to deal with this than I. However, those people seem to be suffering from a sense of injustice about streaming in our junior schools.

It appears that streaming starts, roughtly, at the age of seven or eight, and that the children who are put into the B stream invariably remain there for the rest of their school career. I think that this segregating of children at such an early age—to speak moderately—is not a good thing, because this label sticks to them throughout their school career. It might be better if classes were known to be Mr. Brown's class, or Miss Black's class—terms which do not denote the type of class and do not involve a feeling of superiority. The terms "A and B streams" bring to the minds of most people the feeling that one set of children is more able than the other.

Again, the basis of assessment seems to me at least to be questionable. I must emphasise again that this is merely a layman's observation. I do not know whether it is accurate to say that one can determine the I.Q. of a child at seven. In any case, is I.Q. everything that matters? Surely it is not. It is only part of the personality of an individual and should be treated as such. A child at seven is influenced very strongly by its home environment, by parental interests, and some children at least may appear at the age of seven to be far more able than they actually are. I have great doubts whether it is possible to stream children accurately at such an early age.

There is the parents' point of view. Here again, there seems to be a sense almost of snobbery which has grown up. I blame this partly on the 11-plus examination. The whole aim of many of our primary schools is to get as many children as possible through that examination. That is fair enough; one would expect it. The effect on the parents seems to be that if their children are in the B stream it is some sort of reflection upon the parents. That is completely wrong. The parents seem to take this as if their own prestige or their own intellects were involved. A number of parents complain to me that, although their children seem quite bright, they are only in the B stream, and one feels that the parents themselves feel that they are being judged.

Then there is the teachers' point of view. I hesitate to talk about the teachers' point of view when I am not a teacher. Teachers who are teaching B streams and teachers who are teaching A streams have a very different task. It is easier, I imagine, to teach children in the A stream than those in the B stream. I know that there is the argument, and it is a fairly valid one, that we must have some sort of segregation. We must give the more able or more intelligent children the harder tasks and the ability to go ahead. Therefore, we must do some kind of streaming.

I think that it might be better if the streaming did not start at the age of seven but at a year before the 11-plus examination and took the form not so much of streaming into groups of A and B, but of streaming along the lines of subjects. It is possible that a child may be bright at mathematics and dull at English, and vice versa. If streaming were along the lines of subjects, I agree that we should need far more classes, but I think we should get rid of the dangerous tendency to segregate our children wrongly at an age at which it is not possible to do it accurately.

I pass to the question of accommodation. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) obviously spent a very busy weekend going through all the newspaper cuttings, and he has given us a vivid impression of the state of some of our primary schools. I do not intend to dwell on that, except to say that in my constituency of Wigan six of the primary schools—and I say, incidentally, that I have visited every school in my constituency, primary, secondary, modern, grammar, and technical—were built before 1870 and are, therefore, almost a hundred years old. It stands to reason that schools of such age cannot be suitable for modern educational needs. Nine were built between 1870 and 1902.

On the question of minor capital works, I hope that the Minister will raise the amount. He has done so recently from £10,000 to £20,000. In reply to a Question which I put to him, he said that he considered that that was high enough. I hope that he will reconsider it, because these old schools, many of which are mainly primary schools, would help us to overcome our difficulties if an increased minor capital works allowance were made in respect of them.

The Minister also said, in a statement which he made a few months ago, that he was having discussions with the local education authorities as to the school building programme for 1962–63 and 1963–64. I do not know whether, today, he is prepared to make any statement on the allowances agreed upon. I emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale said, that the local authorities were very disturbed indeed about the amount of £55 million they are allowed to receive in the 1960–61 building programme and the amount of £60 million for 1961–62 which was not enough for them to carry on the job that they must do.

On the question of the size of schools, I would refer again to my own constituency. In some parts of it, where slum clearance has been in operation, the classes are below the maximum of 40, which is a good thing. That has not actually solved the problem. It has solved the problem so far as some schools are concerned. Many of those children have gone to the new housing estates and sometimes to new schools, where the classes are greatly in excess of 40. I know that this is a problem for the local authorities, but it is also one on which the Minister should have something to say.

I want to make reference to those who have not yet been mentioned in the debate—children who are educationally subnormal. In a pamphlet issued by the Ministry of Education, entitled "Special Educational Treatment", reference is made in chapter 3, paragraph 25, to the fact—and this is only a rough estimate, according to the Ministry—that 10 per cent. of all schoolchildren are educationally subnormal. That seems to be a very high percentage. In places like Wigan, with a school population of 14,000, it means that there are 1,400 educationally subnormal children.

Are we doing enough for these children? Obviously, the more able children must be helped; but are we not apt to forget those children who, through no fault of their own, are educationally subnormal? I wonder whether we are doing enough for them. This is a most interesting and absorbing subject on which I should like to speak much longer, but I will refrain, as I know that there are many other hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.

The kind of primary schools which we have sets the pattern for our whole educational system. When a child enters a school the kind of education he receives, the teaching he receives, the discipline he gets and the environment in which he is taught, mould his life and can determine his future career. It has been said that we are spending 4 per cent. of our national income on education. The Minister has said that we must be prepared to spend 6 per cent., and I hope that 6 per cent. will soon become a reality.

As we approach the Summit Conference, we all hope that the deliberations of that conference will be such that we shall be able to spend more money on the constructive job of educating our people, which is the greatest safeguard democracy can have, rather than to spend it on methods of destruction.

4.49 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to intervene very briefly in this interesting debate. I should like to follow the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) along the lines on which he opened his speech, but I disagree with him that no school which is over a hundred years old is capable of fulfilling the modern requirements of education. I have personal experience of a school many hundreds of years older than that, and I can assure the Committee that the results from that school and many others like it are excellent.

Mr. Fitch

I was referring to schools in industrial areas such as Wigan, and not to public schools.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I have personal knowledge of schools in both rural and urban areas which are over a hundred years old, but which have been properly adapted to modern requirements. That is the key to the situation. As long as the school buildings are properly adapted, in many cases they are perfectly suitable to the modern requirements of education and quite often they produce very fine results.

I agree wholeheartedly with what the hon. Member for Wigan said about a certain amount of snobbery being attached to passing the 11-plus examination and getting into the grammar school stream. Perhaps this is outside the purview of this debate, because the answer to the problem lies in secondary school education. As we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), the amount of money which the Government are spending on education is increasing year by year. Secondary education is certainly getting its full share of it.

The answer to the problem of the 11-plus examination, therefore, is to increase the standard of secondary school education so that parents will realise that there is no slur of any kind if their child is found to be suited for that type of education rather than for the grammar school stream, and that the end result can be equally good and equally useful for children going to either of the two streams. Under recent Governments we have increased the standard of secondary school education, and we are still increasing it.

Moreover, I have been assured by headmasters in Cornwall that there are frequent opportunities for children who are late developers, who do not pass the 11-plus examination at the first effort, to be moved into the grammar school stream at the age of 12 or 13 if their qualities show that that is where they ought to be. That provides considerable opportunity for any chlid, if he is a late developer, to get into the proper place in keeping with his ability.

But the true answer, surely, is that secondary education must advance as quickly as possible so that the slur ceases to exist and children are equally happy and equally proud to be in either stream.

Perhaps I may refer to one point which worries me not a little about primary schools. I come from a rural area in which we have a special problem. In Cornwall, there are a great many one-teacher schools and also many all-age schools. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Burton that only 1,685 all-age schools remain in the country, but in the County of Cornwall there are over 170 of those all-age schools. That means that a high proportion remain in Cornwall and that a great deal of expansion must take place if we are to overcome this problem. One of the difficulties is that we are extremely widely scattered and our population is small and thin on the ground. It is, therefore, particularly difficult to justify as large an expenditure as is needed to meet this requirement quickly.

I am gratified that in my constituency a new school is being built which will do away with two of these all-age schools. I believe that it is quite impossible to mix children up to the ages of 14 and 15 with young children starting school between the ages of five and seven. It makes it impossible for discipline and for teaching. The sooner this can be stopped by expanding our school building programme in areas where, although the population is small, they need a higher proportion of this expenditure, the better.

Another problem which worries me is the existence of these one-teacher schools. Here I must declare an interest. I am the father of four children, and one of my children has just left a one-teacher primary school. It is an excellent school, run by a lady who has in her class, according to the number of pupils at that time in the area, between 14 and 20 pupils. She has them all day long, from the time they arrive in the morning until the time they go home about 4 p.m. She alone looks after them. She has to see that they do their lessons and she has to look after them at play-time and during the school meal.

It is almost an intolerable burden. No matter how good the children may be, it imposes a tremendous strain on the one teacher—man or woman—who runs a school permanently on his or her own. I have personal knowledge of this school, and it is excellent in every way. The record of the number of passes to grammar schools shows that the standard is very high. Nevertheless, I think that the burden imposed on the teacher is almost unbearable.

I wonder whether it would be possible in such circumstances to recruit and to use part-time teachers. We might use teachers who have retired and have moved to rural areas such as these for a quieter time. I am fully aware that at present no lists are available to show where teachers go when they leave the profession to retire, but surely it is not beyond the wit of man to compile such a list by writing to teachers who have retired and asking them to state their present location. Would it not be possible for such qualified teachers who have retired to come back to do part-time duty in the one-teacher schools? They might relieve the burden on two or three afternoons a week, or perhaps for an hour or two in the morning.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the time to look into this matter and to see whether it is possible to institute a scheme along those lines to relieve the pressure which is undoubtedly being borne by these very devoted men and women who are running one-teacher schools.

There is one other problem which we must not ignore. In rural areas such as Cornwall we are a shrinking population and, as a result, the number of teachers allotted to us by the Ministry often does not reflect the true position or the number needed for our very small schools. In several cases that is imposing an intolerable burden. For example, there might be a large number of children going to a village school, but because, overall in the county, the number of pupils is low, the allocation of teachers is low, and in that village school we are below the number of teachers required to give even a ration of 1:40 in the primary school classes. My own child was in a school with a ratio of 1:14, because that was the nearest school to where I was living, but that is not always the case.

This situation is not the fault of my right hon. Friend, but is merely a geographical mistake or coincidence. Nevertheless, I suggest that my right hon. Friend should look into it. The local education authority has submitted memoranda on the subject, and I ask my right hon. Friend to consider them very sympathetically when he looks at the matter again, as I hope he will. In several cases the present situation is imposing severe hardship.

The main question, with which I want to conclude, arises from the fact that in our rural areas we face depopulation, for varying reasons with which I will not worry the Committee this afternoon. One of the most important steps would be to instil into the people who live in the countryside the belief that they will be able to give their children the very best possible kind of education which is available. We want the same standard in rural areas as the more fortunate people are now able to receive in urban and industrial areas, where the standard, perhaps, is higher. We want to be quite certain that children who live in rural areas are given the same chance.

There are many factors which are leading to the depopulation of the countryside. Let us make certain that one reason why people leave the countryside is not that they are unable to get proper education for their children. I am glad that in recent years, and particularly in the last eighteen months, my right hon. Friend has found it possible to spend much more money to increase the tempo of building and of the number of teachers being trained. I ask him, finally, to make certain that in rural areas such as Cornwall we receive our fair share.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) with some pleasure in his plea for the rural areas, and also in his tribute to the teachers. It seems to me that during the last ten years the very great progress that has been made in primary school techniques has been almost entirely due to the teachers and very little due to the politicians. I suppose that the progress in nursery and infant schools has far exceeded in success and scale the progress made in the grammar schools.

Even where, under both Labour and Tory controlled authorities, there has been much prestige in the grammar schools and a great deal more money has been spent on them, the progress in the primary schools has been outstanding. The Jeremiahs on the other side of the Committee, who have been associated with pleas for flogging and with similar activities, are apt to run down the public system, to talk about the increasing number of illiterates and to decry the work going on in these schools. These people, however, are not on top in the Conservative Party. I am pleased to say that the more enlightened Members seem to be making the running today.

The pamphlet, "Standards of Reading", issued by the Minister of Education, states that the age group born in 1945 were, in 1956, on average, nine months more advanced in reading ability than those born in 1937 were in 1948. This very considerable progress is due to the teachers. In my own County of Durham I came across the other day, thanks to the Director of Education for Durham, what seems to me a remarkable tribute to teachers of mathematics. Like reading, mathematics is always thought to be a basic skill in the primary schools and one in which there has been particular difficulty in the last few years in making progress.

The figures I have are striking. It is true that they do not refer specifically to primary schools, but they provide a comparison between examination successes in mathematics in Durham County grammar schools and secondary modern schools. In Durham County grammar schools, 62.1 per cent. of the 16-year-olds passed in mathematics and in the modern secondary schools 58.8 per cent. That is quite remarkable. I do not think that the Durham County grammar schools are any worse or any better than other county grammar schools, but I think that many of our secondary modern schools are very good indeed.

The successes in the secondary modern schools must have been based on the work in the primary schools. As Sir Percy Nunn said: The teacher of infant numbers is a teacher of mathematics. These successes are quite remarkable when one considers the disparity between the effort, in terms of money, spent on the grammar schools and on the secondary modern schools.

Credit for this success is also due to the professional inspectorate of the Ministry of Education which has been disseminating the best information on what has been going on in these schools. I should like to commend the Ministry's recent publication, "Primary Education", which supersedes the old handbook of suggestions. It contains the very best educational theory produced from the schools themselves. One of the revolutions has been that primary education today is concerned with children as children, and this publication calls for … a firmer realisation that children's capacities should be exercised to the full. I want to look at the record of how the Tory Party has contributed in nine years or so to assisting teachers, inspectors and training college authorities to make this progress with individual children. But, first, I want to make one or two references, in the matter of primary education, to the constant emphasis on the need for individual attention to young children. The document "Primary Education", on the later stages of the infant school, states: The demands on the teachers are great. … in learning to write, the children need not only the best tools but help from the teacher, and this she can give only if she understands their capacities and difficulties. A teacher's appreciation of the children's efforts … in spoken or written English … requires a nice judgment on her part as to what she might expect from each child. It is essential that every child should enjoy success and equally important that he should not enjoy it without effort. I could multiply those examples by a dozen. The Ministry's experts are constantly coming back to the central fact that the child needs individual attention. This is recognised in the public schools and in the sixth forms of grammar schools, but it is very little recognised in the primary schools. The Minister complacently thinks that a ratio of one teacher to 40 children is good enough for the primary schools.

The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) paid tribute to the Minister for his efforts in securing sufficient teachers to make a higher ratio of teachers to children possible, but I would ask the hon. Member to look at the period 1951 to 1958 and consider what the Ministry was doing then about securing a sufficient number of teachers. I would ask him to turn up the figures of the amount of building activities which the Ministry recognised for the training colleges in 1951–58.

The striking fact is that in 1951 there was approval for teacher-training college building, both major and minor works, amounting to £1½ million. The same figure was not realised again at all in 1952–58. In 1952, immediately after the fall of the Labour Government, the expenditure approved was £850,000. In 1955 approvals amounted to £1¼ million. In 1956 they were £500,000. In 1958 they had crept up to £1 million, and this was at a time when the £ was not worth anything like what it was in 1951 and when the situation in the schools was much more obviously bad and there should have been far greater strides forward.

Mr. Jennings

Would the hon. Member give the figures for 1949–50 and 1950–51?

Mr. Boyden

I can look them up.

Mr. Jennings

The hon. Member has taken a year immediately after the fall of the Labour Government. For comparison it would be as well to take a year immediately before that.

Mr. Boyden

As a general principle there is no doubt that the Labour Government produced the best emergency scheme for recruiting that the country had ever seen. This was an achievement in very difficult circumstances. I took 1951 as the period when the Labour Party had finished and its policies and the resulting figures were there to be seen. One would have expected from the eulogies of the hon. Member for Burton that the Tory Party would have gone forward on that basis, but not at all. It has left the burden to the teachers in the schools and now at the very last stage it has been waiting for the Crowther Report. It has needed letters from Sir Geoffrey Crowther and speeches from the Opposition benches to get the Tory Party to do even the minimum that the Crowther Report recommends.

The Tory Party cannot get away with it. It did practically nothing to build training colleges and to encourage teachers, compared with what the Labour Government did in much more difficult circumstances. Had the Tory Government shown as much energy and willingness from 1952-59 as the Government are showing now, in tackling the problems of training teachers, the position in the schools would have been totally different. There are, for example, 23,000 classes in primary schools which have 41 pupils, the average size of classes being 33, and that means, of course, a far higher figure effectively in front of the teacher.

Mention has been made of all-age schools. I would refer hon. Gentlemen opposite to Circular 283 which envisaged rural reorganisation being completed by 1st January, 1960. In County Durham we shall be lucky if all the children can be in modern schools by 1968, eight years after the Minister hoped that rural reorganisation would be completed. Between the promise and the fulfilment came Circulars 331 and 334.

No one can say that the County of Durham has not been on the Minister's heels, whether he be the present Minister or other right hon. Gentlemen who have occupied his position. In the last nine years, the building programme has been vigorously pursued, and wherever there has been the opportunity for rural reorganisation, for rebuilding antiquated schools and, indeed, grammar schools, the work has gone forward.

At the moment the situation is that there are 105 unreorganised schools in Durham. At the end of the year there will still be 92. If the Minister accepts the county's recently submitted programme for 1965—I hope he will—even then there will still be 10 modern schools to be built before all the children are in reorganised schools. Durham is a county which has spent a considerable amount on education, well above the national average, and which has always been willing since the war to build all the schools which it could possibly build.

There is a very considerable legacy from the past, as the hon. Member for Cornwall, North was saying, and much levelling up is needed not only because of the bad old days but because of the rural problem. Nationally, some 7 per cent. of senior children are still housed in all-age schools—to the detriment of both primary and older children. But the promise was 1st January, 1960.

One of the sad things about primary schools is the many bad primary buildings in the large urban centres to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) made reference. I will quote the Minister's advice to teachers on conditions in schools. He said: Conditions of life in school should be such as to allow order and convenience and make for social and physical well-being. A school is a place specially intended to provide an environment that is good. Ugliness can creep in all too easily. When I think of these phrases I think of the primary schools in the city which I had the honour to represent on the Durham County Council. I have no complaint to make about higher education in Durham City. The university has made great progress in the last few years, and there is a magnificent grammar technical school. The girls' grammar school, too, is being reorganised and rebuilt. We have a very fine technical college and two quite reasonable older secondary modern schools, and a third first-class new one going up.

When we look at primary schools we see a different picture. There is the tin school at Gilesgate Moor. I must say that the teaching in all these schools is excellent. As I said earlier, I am not going to make a comparison of the area which I once represented, but teaching in the primary schools is certainly very good, despite the buildings. In fact, I can think of only one such school where the teaching has been indifferent, and that has now changed.

Then there is the Gilesgate infants school with which I am most closely connected—

Mr. Jennings


Mr. Boyden

Yes, the Gilligate Giants. This school has been put up to the Ministry many times as in need of rebuilding. It should have been rebuilt years ago. It is not a hundred years old, but it is certainly quite out of date. I admit at once that it now has electric lighting and central heating and that much redecoration has been done in what is a miserable old building. It is much better than it was, but it should really have been rebuilt.

Most of the parents and children live in a very pleasant housing estate where the general environment, apart from the east wind, is very good. It would have made all the difference to the whole life of the community, and, indeed, to the general uplift of the community, if it had had a new school in the centre of the estate. But I lost that battle a long time ago, though not because of the Labour Government.

Then there is the St. Hild's model school, the demonstration school for training—an excellent school in extremely poor buildings. Those responsible for this school, too, have been to the county and to the Ministry pressing for a new school. The Bluecoat school, originally intended to be on the new site, is in the middle of the town and is very dangerous from the point of view of traffic. Unfortunately, three children have been killed near here on the busy roads of Durham. That is not the fault of the school, but the general effect of having an old school in a busy, congested part of the town is not to allow of its being developed on the proper lines.

Another school, St. Cuthbert's, which I am glad to say is being rebuilt, though the children are there at the moment, is a school which the health authorities were very likely to have condemned. But the Minister was prepared to put it in a programme and the school is now starting to be rebuilt in a more spacious, convex ient part of the city.

Another infants school, St. Margaret's, is on a very dangerous road and on a most restricted site. The teaching in it is very good. There are other schools, but if I were to disclose which school I considered is in the best building, I suppose that reference would be made to something which I did not propose to mention.

Nationally, bad primary schools buildings can be found in almost every urban centre. The black list of schools has been discontinued, but I would urge the Minister again to make a survey of schools to see if he could not put on the black list those schools which are not so bad that they must be pulled down or abandoned, but which are seriously hindering the teaching of primary children.

There are just two other things to which I wish to refer. If the Minister is sincere in his attempt to help the teachers in the schools and in getting more teachers, could he not consider some kind of assistance on the periphery of teaching, that is to say, could he not provide more assistance in the supervision of the children out of school hours, during play-time and break-time and assistance for school meals and much more assistance in the clerical work?

AH these things would make the life of a teacher more reasonable and encourage more people to come into the teaching profession. It would not be very expensive to do this, and it would constitute a great gesture towards the teaching profession, indicating that the Minister meant business. I hope that the Minister will give very careful attention to what the N.U.T. says in its booklet. I join with the hon. Member for Burton in praising the N.U.T. for what it has been doing for the cause of education.

The booklet is an excellent booklet and the film is an excellent film. The Careers Exhibition, in which the Durham County children performed admirably, was most valuable. I am sure that we all commend the N.U.T. for helping to bring education a little more from the backwoods of politics to the forefront.

It is very good that we in the House of Commons should get heated about education. We are not, perhaps, as heated as we should be about it, but we are making progress. On page 13 of the booklet it says: In many places the capitation allowances for books, stationery, equipment and furniture in the primary schools are entirely inadequate. My own authority certainly does not fail in that direction. Further reference is made to craft teaching in the junior schools in which the real job of the teacher to create basic skills is distorted into producing saleable articles. As a result the teachers feel that they are being restricted and cramped in this field by producing work more appropriate to secondary schools.

I am certain that it is false economy to starve the primary schools and not to do much more for them. To recover from bad teaching in the primary schools is a much more expensive job than doing the thing properly in the first place. A certain amount of juvenile delinquency and some of our backwardness comes from those schools where the teachers are not quite up to the standard of those I have been describing and where the buildings and the support which the Government have been giving are not adequate.

I should like the Minister to put his new research team, which, I understand. he is about to have as a result of the forward look in the Ministry, on to going through the reports of his inspectors over a fairly long period of, say, seven or ten years—I believe that most primary schools are inspected every seven years—and to include in a schedule the kind of things to which the inspectors draw attention, such as buildings, bad sanitation, bad lighting, bad heating, and so on. I should like them in the same way to go through the educational needs to which the inspectors draw attention—for example, shortage of books, out-of-date books or inadequate equipment generally for physical training or crafts—and to produce a statistical picture on that basis which could be published. The public would get rather a shock at the lack of some of the physical things which it is the duty of the Government to provide. On the other hand, there would be a reassuring picture of the actual teaching work that is being done by the teachers.

It is all very well for the Government to say that great things are ahead—I hope very much they are. I am not being cynical when I say that I wish the Minister every success in his struggle with the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman has experience of economic matters, he is a man of considerable argumentative power and I hope that he will convince both his own backwoodsmen and the Treasury.

There is, however, a long record of neglect. In the last nine years, the Tory Government have not helped the teachers in the way they should. It is a credit to the teaching profession that our children have not been neglected more. The politicians have very considerably failed and the teaching profession has got us through.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. R. P. Hornby (Tonbridge)

During the last few months, we have had a great deal of discussion about secondary education, university education, the recruitment of teachers and technical education; a great deal of discussion about the secondary and later stages of education. We should scarcely be surprised if this had given rise to a feeling of anxiety amongst primary schools and those connected with them and to an inclination to say, "In all this educational discussion, how much do we in the primary schools matter?" I am not at all certain that that feeling has not been abroad and was not, perhaps, one of the sponsors of the booklet of the National Union of Teachers and of a great deal of the discussion stemming from it.

As the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has said, it would be false economy to starve the primary schools. Therefore, as an example of the attention that the House of Commons is paying to the primary schools, we should welcome this debate about them.

There is a strong case for saying that the primary stage of education is the most important of all. To quote merely two reasons for that, most of the experts argue that the early years are the most impressionable years of our lives, the years in which we are capable of learning faster than at any other stage. It is true, as other hon. Members have said, that if a person gets a good start in life, it is much easier for him to go on educating himself afterwards. For anybody who gets a bad start, it is much more difficult to catch up. To use a more statistical argument, the majority of children who leave school at the earliest possible age, spend more than half their school life in the primary school. That in itself is a good enough argument for taking primary schools seriously.

As hon. Members, on both sides, have said, a great deal of progress has been made in primary education. I shall not exchange arguments with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland as to whether the greater responsibility for that lies with the teachers, with those who decide whether the schools shall be built, with the administrators, the educational inspectors, or who. The fact is that there has been great progress in primary education. I am glad that the figures concerning reading standards were quoted. The nine-month improvement in reading ability of the child born in 1945 as against the child born in 1937 is an important example of what has been done. In physical education, one sees signs of great improvements; and in buildings wherever one goes. In the use that is made of the curriculum, we see great signs of innovation and experiment in our primary schools. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) commented on segregation in primary schools. My only point on that subject is that I hope that the hon. Member would agree with me, if he were present, that the right thing is to leave the matter to the head teacher in the school. If the head teacher thinks that particular advantages are to be gained in a subject by a certain group, he should be allowed to work out his own experiments with his curriculum and his grouping inside his class. That is the better way rather than to say from the House of Commons or from the Ministry that there should or should not be segregation from the age of 9, 10 or 11 or whatever it might be. The head teacher should be fully empowered to work out his or her own class organisation.

On balance, there has probably been more innovation and experiment in the primary schools than in any other part of our school system in recent years. I am not certain that it is not the work of the primary schools of which we have most cause to be proud. We have made great progress. Even so, a great deal remains to be done.

Nobody who defends what has been done in education by successive Governments wants to underestimate what remains to be done. We must face, and we have had to face all the time, the overall problem of 2 million extra children in the schools. This far more than anything else has accounted for the overcrowding, the over-large classes, the failure to catch up with the renovation of old buildings, and so on. That has been the crisis problem with which the Ministry of Education and every local authority has had to cope since the war. It has been made even more difficult by the deliberate action of the House of Commons in 1944, in passing the Education Act, and thereby setting the educational sights a great deal higher than ever before. Nobody in the House of Commons wants to go back on that decision.

The whole problem is complicated by a great many conflicting claims on national expenditure, which we shall not argue in broad detail now. Those crisis conditions are likely to continue. For one thing, expectations of a substantial fall in the birth rate are being falsified and over the next ten or fifteen years or more the schools look like being fuller than was expected. It is certain, as the Crowther Report, reports on universities and almost every industrial and scientific report indicate, that we shall have to continue to set our sights a great deal higher than they are now, so that here again pressure will continue to make life difficult for the educational administrator, the Treasury and for those who are trying to get as much done as they possibly can. On top of that, even if we were satisfied with all that was being done, we still have not begun to nibble at the problems of educational aid overseas and the contribution which a country such as this should be making overseas. So that the pressure, which has been very great since the war, will be equally great, if not greater, hereafter.

In these conditions, what evidence is there that the primary schools have been neglected, and are likely to be neglected in the future? We should look at this question under three main headings —firstly, building; secondly, the size of classes; and thirdly, the morale and opportunities of the teachers in these schools.

It is no secret to any hon. Member who knows his constituency that there are school buildings which should not exist. Some are bad, some very bad and some a disgrace. We all acknowledge that and are trying to catch up. Why do these buildings still exist? First and foremost is the reason I have given —that we have had an extra 2 million children to put a roof over, and that has been no easy job. Faced with the problem of whether to destroy an old school and replace it by a new school, or whether first to provide a new school and later to replace the old one, every local education authority has had to say that it could not do without anything which it has. That has very nearly been the position—hence the desperately unsatisfactory buildings. There are some in my constituency and I am sure that there are some in every hon. Members'.

If we are to try to put this right, we must ask ourselves if the primary schools have been getting their fair share of new building expenditure. I understand that they have had almost exactly 50 per cent. of this expenditure. Whether that is or is not the right proportion can be argued either way, but it seems to me to be a fair share, bearing in mind that in implementing the Educa- tion Act we had, in many cases, virtually to duplicate secondary school buildings.

It may also be asked whether education authorities and the Ministry have frequently got their priorities wrong, to the detriment of primary schools, when considering development programmes. Whenever my attention has been called to a particular grievance, a particular feeling that a certain primary school was a very bad one, or that a new primary school should be built, after I have seen the building I have frequently answered that I would not like that school to continue in existence for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

I have followed up some such cases and have found that, within the context of the money available, the priorities have not gone hard against the primary schools. By and large, education authorities, in conjunction with the Ministry, seem to take a very great deal of trouble to arrive at what they think is the right order of building or rebuilding of their schools.

Should we be making more use of the minor works programme in addition to the increased building programme? Obviously we could raise the quota of the minor works programme. In many ways I would like to do that, but we should bear in mind one or two things before arriving at this obvious answer.

Firstly, if a local education authority knows that a school building is to be totally replaced sooner or later, it will be reluctant to spend more money than is necessary on temporary accommodation on that site. Secondly, there is very frequently a limit to what can be done by minor works within the context of the existing site. Thirdly—and this is the point about the plumbing tour on which we were taken by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood)—a great many of the lavatories he so sedulously inspected could be dealt with under the existing minor works programme. That should be remembered alongside the strictures which he made. Twenty thousand pounds is quite a large amount of money with which to deal with the plumbing of an individual school. I understand that only the total figure available for minor works is inspected by the Ministry—which he criticised as being on the shoulders of the local authorities—and not each individual item, so long as it is under £20,000. That gives a lot of scope for plumbing.

I now come to the problem of over-large classes. We are aiming at a maximum of 40 per class in primary schools. This does seem, to anyone who has ever taught, a somewhat unambitious figure. It is true that 25 per cent. of the classes contain more than 40 pupils, and we must take those figures extremely seriously. It is equally true that the main reason for that is not Government policy, but the problem of finding the teachers for these schools. It is perfectly reasonable for primary school people to ask why it should be thought that a maximum size of 40 per class should be set for primary schools whereas the figure is 30 for secondary schools.

That is a sensible, logical question for a weary primary school teacher to ask himself at 4 o'clock in the afternoon when he feels that he has just about had enough. Should we, perhaps, reverse the figures? Have we any idea at all as to what is the sensible use of our teaching resources? I suggest that we are giving too little attention to educational research. We have very little idea, other than hunches based, perhaps, on what we have heard of the personal experiences of teachers, as to what a sensible class size is. Is it the same size for different subjects? How much do we know about this? It is difficult to find money for anything, but it might be money well spent if we could find a little more in order to ask the question: what are we doing with our money and could we deploy our resources better?

I also agree with the N.U.T. booklet "Fair Play for Primary Schools" on this point. We should avoid transferring teachers from primary to secondary schools, as the bulge goes through. We should not debase existing standards in primary schools just to meet the admitted crisis in the supply of teachers to the growing secondary schools. We should at least try to hold the existing teaching force in the primary schools.

In worrying about the size of classes in primary schools, have we given too much thought to the school-leaving age and little to the entry age? I am not asking that it should be discussed seriously now, because the movement has gone out of the primary schools, but I ask whether or not the age of five was the absolutely perfect and all-time right age of entry into primary schools.

Had we decided, or had hon. Members opposite when they took over the responsibility for education in 1945 decided, that the right entry age was six, that would have cut substantially the number of children to be catered for in the schools. I am not arguing that it would be the right thing to do now, but one ought to consider some of these problems. Still thinking of the size of classes, we come to the most important point of all, the need to recruit more teachers. In fact, the need to obtain more and better teachers comes a long way in front of the need for more and better buildings. If we can secure the teachers, we shall have made great progress towards the solution of our problems.

That is easy to say but it is a very difficult thing to achieve. I wish to know what is being done by the Ministry, the local education authorities, the National Union of Teachers and all others concerned to try to induce ex-teachers to return to the profession to assist us in our difficulties. The first hope for a larger teacher force in the future may be based on the return to the profession of such people, and the second hope is that, as we become a more educated nation, because of our better system of education, the "catchment area" for teachers will be greatly enlarged.

How much of a national issue have we made of this problem of attracting teachers back to the profession? Have we really brought home to the public how very badly these extra teachers are needed? I can imagine my right hon. Friend in the guise of a 1960 Lord Kitchener, as it were, with his face surmounted by a mortar board, appearing on posters on which is the statement, "Your country needs you in the teaching profession." But perhaps that is stretching matters too far. However, I believe that we have not yet begun to bring home to the public how badly we need more recruits of the right calibre for the teaching profession and I urge that we should do everything we can to that end.

The feeling which seems to be emphasised in the N.U.T. booklet "Fair Play for Primary Schools" is that teachers in the primary schools are getting a poor deal. They have to contend with bad buildings and over-large classes, which seem to be the two things mainly affecting the morale of teachers. A teacher in a new school feels very different from a teacher in an old school and probably is a different person, because it is easier to do the job in a new school where the strain on the nerves of teachers is far less. Therefore, the more we can do towards reducing the size of classes—and that has top priority in the Ministry's policy—and the more we can do towards improving the building programme, the more will be achieved in improving the morale of the teachers in some of our schools.

Some primary school teachers feel that they get less than their fair share of attention. I hope that, as a result of this debate, we shall be able to do something to remedy that. I hope that the teaching profession will not resent my saying that I trust we shall not have too much of a feeling of touchiness on the part of members of the profession about their conditions of work. I am sure that teachers generally do not wish to create that impression and nobody else would desire to do so. Teachers, administrators and Parliament must combine in an operation against these problems. It would be a great pity if in an increasingly affluent society the teachers were to give the impression that some of them were an aggrieved society. I do not think any of us would wish that to happen, because it would be the worst service which could be done to the teaching profession and education generally. What members of the teaching profession have to do, and what so many teachers are doing, is to continue the great work of teaching in the existing schools and, secondly, to do all they can, with the help of Parliament, to mobilise public opinion to maintain and increase educational expenditure in the interest of our country.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)

We had an interesting and valuable as well as a necessary debate on primary education. It is necessary because we have had so many discussions and read so much in the Press about secondary education. I am not suggesting for a moment that we have heard enough about secondary education, because there is much leeway to be made up. As has been pointed out so often in this debate, the basis of our education is the primary school, and if the basis be not sound we cannot hope to have a sound superstructure.

I will not dwell long upon the size of classes. I wish to make clear that, in my opinion, the figure of 40 is too high. After all, a teacher has to teach individual children in the class rather than to address a public meeting of children. The Minister may argue that there are not sufficient teachers, and that to reduce the number of children in a class below 40 would also mean extra school buildings and extra classrooms. That is true, but the difficulties in which the Minister may find himself at present do not make the figure of 40 sacrosanct. The actual figure should be something far lower.

Regarding the difficulties over the supply of teachers, we are now reaping what we have sown, and the present Government are more responsible than any previous Government for the present situation. The present Minister of Education has held that office before. He was preceded by two other Ministers before returning to office. The previous Minister of Education—I do not blame the present Minister for this—was not convinced until June, 1958, of the need for the expansion of teacher training colleges, and that was only 18 months ago. After he became convinced that a certain expansion was necessary, he decided on a figure of 12,000 against expert advice that the minimum figure should be 16,000.

I appealed to the then Minister not to close down the training college at Wrexham. After much pleading, both by correspondence and on the Floor of this Chamber, the college was given a reprieve for 10 years. Had my appeal not been successful, the college would have closed and our difficulties regarding teacher shortage would have been all the greater. Even now, it has become quite clear that there is a need for a further reprieve for this college. I ask the Minister to consider this point very carefully, because the temporary status of the college is resulting in staffing difficulties. Would it not be better to make the present temporary colleges permanent, before electing new colleges in different parts of the country? Such a procedure would, I believe, establish a stability in our training college system from which we could expand much further.

Reference has been made in the debate more than once to the cutting back of programmes for the schools, the issuing by the Ministry from time to time of certain circulars in the name of economy. I am not concerned at the moment with the steps considered necessary in a period of financial crisis, but, when clearance of slum schools is postponed indefinitely in the name of economy, we are passing the burden of our difficulties on to our children—the innocent party. Most of those children were not born when the seeds of our difficulties were sown. It seems utterly wrong that because the fathers have eaten sour grapes the children's teeth should be set on edge.

Much as I dislike bipartisanship, there is much to be said for it in education, both within the Government and between the parties. By bipartisanship within the Government, I mean that there should be a firm understanding between the Minister of Education and the Treasury that when a programme of educational expansion has been announced and embarked on there can be no going back on that programme until it has been completed. By bipartisanship between the parties, I mean that if the implementation of an expanding educational programme is interrupted by a change of Government the change of Government should not mean the breaking down of that implementation of that expanding programme.

Had that been the policy in the past fifteen years, there would have been a steady and consistent advance. The black pages which still remain on our record—despite the fine glowing pages, of which I agree we can be proud— would have disappeared. In 1925–26, a national survey drew up what was called a black list of schools. In 1958, thirty-two years later, we had 549 of those schools on the list. I suggest that makes no sense in this enlightened age.

I want to say a word or two about the wide discrepancies between allowances made by different local authorities. First, I speak of allowances for books. The average allowance in county boroughs of England and Wales in 1958 was £1 5s. An average implies that some give more and some less, but what of the range? The highest allowance was £1 10s., given by some authorities which are to be congratulated. Other authorities, however, granted only 7s. 6d. per child. I suggest that such authorities should be told to put their house in order. The average per county borough for furniture, apparatus and equipment was 11s. 6d. per child, so that a school of 100 pupils would get £55. That would not buy much when we bear in mind that Purchase Tax was included. Some authorities granted £1 10s., and they are to be congratulated, but others made a grant of only 2s. 9d. per child. That is a disgrace.

I could give further examples if necessary, but I now turn to the question of the inspectorate. I know that I am treading on rather thin ice here. During my long period in the schools my relationship with the inspectorate was one of unbroken happiness, understanding and co-operation. At all times I found them reasonable men and women. I am pleased to make that testimony here this afternoon, but, after long consideration, I think we need a radical change of outlook as to the function of the inspectorate. I have in mind, in particular, the practice of conducting a full-scale inspection of schools. A happy band of inspectors comes along. They sit in the classrooms, listen to the teacher and later, if necessary, submit his presentation to severe criticism.

Those teachers are qualified teachers and range from teachers in the infant schools to tutors in the technical and training colleges. Too often an inspector is listening to a teacher of higher academic qualification and a much greater wealth of teaching experience than the inspector himself. This can only be a hang-over from the "payment by results" period. Inspectors come and inspectors go. Before they arrive there is awe, and they certainly enjoy that, but when they have gone there is general relaxation, of which the inspectors are fully aware and about which they can do nothing at all. That is why I suggest that we require another look at the function of the inspectorate.

It might concentrate a little more on the books and equipment, the stationery and apparatus which become available to the teacher, a little more on the conditions of the buildings in which teacher and taught have to carry out their work. They do that, of course, but I want them to do it more thoroughly. The inspectorate should inspect the local authorities as much as they inspect the teachers and, if the authorities fall short of the national average in regard to books, equipment and apparatus, the inspector should say so in no unmeasured terms. They should keep drawing attention to that until the authorities become more enlightened and mend their ways.

My time is up, and part of my "sermon" has to be thrown away. I am not making a party speech. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: To travel through one's ages is to take the heart of a liberal education. Shakespeare wrote of the seven ages of man. A modern educationist will know that a child passes through many ages, differing in experience and in emphasis, during his school life. Each age must be lived to the full if he is to take the heart of a liberal education. That is the substance of this debate. We are dealing with the provisions for children who are blossoming forth to life. They are growing quickly and need all the fresh air, the sunshine, the light and the warmth of the amenities which can be provided.

They are active, fond of running, jumping, romping and moving about quickly. We know full well they are curbed in their natural expression by being confined to small classrooms and puny playgrounds. Many of these schools are in rural areas with miles of open meadow around them, but the children are confined to a high-walled playground 100 per cent. macadamised. It is a period of activity, and what child does not revel in paint, paint brushes, pencils and crayons—very often messy things? But what does that matter if it helps the child to travel through his ages and get the heart of a liberal education. Let us give the child the space, the equipment, the apparatus—the paint, the powder and the paper—for that is, I believe, the primary task of our primary education.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. James Watts (Manchester, Moss Side)

I wish to make just two important points. The first is the hardy annual which is now not controversial, that the arrangement made some time ago in relation to religious schools of a second- ary type should be extended to primary schools. Secondly, teachers would be attracted to primary schools in very bad, slummy industrial areas—this occupies all my mind at present; I can think of nothing else—if houses could be built where they could live in comfort, going out warm and happy, having had a good night or a week of comfort at home. Very often at present teachers are able to find only very bad houses near their schools, and this makes it extremely difficult for them. I ask that consideration should be given to these two points.

6.1 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I was delighted that the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) was selected to open this short debate on behalf of the Government. He spoke, as always, with knowledge based on a lifetime of service in the primary schools. As one would expect, he vigorously emphasised what was right in post-war achievement, but it is the duty of the Opposition in this debate— as we have done—to point out to the Committee what yet remains to be done and how urgent this work is.

The impact of the Crowther Committee on'educational opinion and the Minister's own subsequent speeches, which have added their own vision of what can be done in education if Britain is willing to make the effort and the sacrifice, have won the present Minister golden opinions. The right hon. Gentleman now faces the formidable task of justifying those high opinions, of matching promise and performance.

I agree with a number of my hon. Friends who have pointed out that primary education has been the Cinderella of education ever since the Hadow Report. Most reorganisation of schools into secondary and primary has left the primary children in the old school buildings which are regarded as not good enough for secondary children. We have two nations in education, as we have often pointed out—those who go to private schools and those who go to State schools. We cannot do anything about that through this debate. However, it is also true to say that we have two nations in the State primary schools—those in the fine, modern buildings erected since the war and those in the pre-1900 schools. As Dr. Ollerenshaw pointed out in 1954, 750,000 children are in schools built before 1870 and 2 million children are in schools built before 1903.

I serve on an education committee. Like most local education authorities, the members of my authority are working hard trying to improve the older primary schools in Hampshire as well as to build new ones. My authority has to overcome, as every local education authority has, a backlog of some 40 years' pre-war neglect of primary schools. Like all local education authorities, it has had to pay for the alternate spurt and cut policy which Tory Governments have pursued ever since 1951.

My authority has, however, nearly completed the first ten-year programme, which has brought water sanitation to more than half the 115 village schools in Hampshire which ten years ago had only bucket sanitation. As I regard the matter of sanitation as tremendously important and of vital importance to every village school in the country, I should like to quote a recent report of the Hampshire Medical Officer: Increasing numbers of children on the roll of almost every school and the development of the school meals service have led to greater use of the toilets; the erection of school kitchens on congested sites has inevitably led to their being in close proximity to the sanitary blocks, enhancing the risk of contamination of food by flies; disposal of pail-contents becomes more difficult as sites become more congested; there is increasing difficulty in securing the standard of caretaking which is essential if chemical closets are to remain sanitary; parents are more hygiene-conscious; fewer children have pail-closets in their own homes; and diarrhoeal diseases are on the increase. Therefore, the Minister ought to do all he can to support local authorities in getting rid of bad sanitation in village schools.

In the case of my own authority, the minor works programme, since the Minister increased the maximum figure —we are very grateful to the Minister for it—has been used to improve our worst village schools. But the backlog of which I spoke is revealed in report after report by Her Majesty's inspectors. I should like to quote from a report— I am not quoting from the N.U.T.'s excellent new pamphlet, as other speakers have done, but from our own reports: The original buildings, now used as cloakrooms, date from 1833—present classrooms were added at the beginning of the century. The interior is dingy. There is no staff-room … Some day perhaps the teachers of this country will have the working conditions which the Factories Acts secure for factory workers. …or storage space. The school has 226 pupils. For eight years the headmaster had to teach the top class. I suggest that it is impossible for a headmaster to do the work that he has to do as headmaster if at the same time he has to be in full charge of a class. One of the two jobs suffers. This is a burning problem with heads of fairly small schools.

Conservatives are sometimes apt to be lyrical about the virtues of the small village schools. I still feel that a village child does not get a fair chance when competing for special places with children from the large new primary schools in the towns. Here is a picture of a three-class school, the ages ranging from 5 to 11. I quote Her Majesty's inspector's report again: In all three schools the children have a wide range of ability and of age, and the staff have to face the problem of providing sufficient stimulus to extend the brightest child and at the same time give the less able children the individual attention they require. Some village school teachers are geniuses who can do that, but I suggest that the task is beyond the compass of many.

There are thousands of rural primary schools with only two classes—one for children aged 5 to 7, one for those aged 8 to 11. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who spoke about the one-teacher school, might be interested to know that Hampshire is sending peripatetic full-time teachers round to ease the burden of the teachers in one-teacher and two-teacher schools. Sometimes these schools do not even have a room for each of the two classes. I give another quotation from Her Majesty's inspector's report: Ninety-eight children in three classes, one of which is housed very inconveniently in a converted corridor. I wish I could convey to the Committee the contrast between that kind of depressing report and reports either on new primary schools—bursting with activity and sense of purpose—or even on old schools which have been made more beautiful by minor works and improvements, such as fresh colours, a piano that really plays music—I would suggest that the Minister, if he is keen on music, might some day persuade local education authorities to destroy half the unmusical pianos which were supplied to schools before the war—a kitchen dining room, an extra classroom, hot water, a decent lavatory and wash basins, or cloakrooms where the children can dry their coats on wet days.

Even a little prefabricated school can work miracles in a village. I quote an inspector's report again: A school stood beside the Test since 1837. Last year the original building was demolished and within a few weeks a spacious and elegant two-classroom structure arose on the same site. A very real fillip has been given to the morale of the staff and children by the bright new building. If that is true, the converse is also true. Bad accommodation makes it difficult to get good teachers, or even teachers who will stay in a school. It is in the poor school that one will find the supply teacher, the temporary teacher, the person that one had to get merely because one had to have someone to put in front of the class.

One such village school in my area had three new teachers within one year. It was no wonder. The school had two classes in one room with a screen down the middle. It is not only the village that has the old primary school. Some of my hon. Friends have mentioned the squalid town primary school. Even a progressive town like my own town of Southampton has one such school in my own ward—St. Denys School. There is another not far away, Bitterne Church of England School. Not far away is Fremantle Church of England School. They are all cramped on a tiny site which does not conform to any regulation, possibly not even to the building regulations of 1902. They are old buildings almost incapable of improvement.

I appreciate what has been done by this and previous Governments, but my fifteen years on a primary committee have shown me just how much still remains to be done. The simple fact is that we should have been running a £70 million building programme year by year for the last ten years. The experts told Mr. Tomlinson that back in 1946 or 1947. Instead, this Government have moved by fits and starts—up and down. This year nearly every local education authority, after carefully choosing the most urgent of all the schools that it needs, major and minor programmes, find its programmes cut by the Minister. I reiterate that no education committee lightly shoves a list of schools up to the Ministry of Education Every authority prunes carefully.

Mr. A. Bourne-Arton (Darlington)

Will not the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) agree that there were certain fits and starts before 1951?

Dr. King

I am trying to deal with facts. If the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) wants a party political debate, he can have one. When it came into power in 1945, the Labour Party had to start with a country which was impoverished by war, without a single plan, without a scrap of preparation on the building programmes to be undertaken in schools. It went steadily on—

Mr. Bourne-Arton

The hon. Gentleman condemned the Conservative Government for their policy of fits and starts. I ask him to agree that that was not peculiar to one form of Government.

Dr. King

The hon. Gentleman must take my answer even if he does not understand it. I said that the Labour Party had to start from the beginning, and we steadily built up. If he looks at the building programmes started under the Labour Government, he will find that that held true until 1951 when the programme was approaching the £70 million figure I mentioned.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

Will my hon. Friend take into account that all through this century every Conservative Government have moved up and down by fits and starts in education?

Dr. King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reminder. Overcrowded schools, a shortage of architects in the public service, building labourers out of work, and a plethora of office building in the City of London, are the characteristic products of private enterprise and Conservative policy.

A primary school needs a staff room for the staff, a school hall where the act of worship and the school assembly can take place, a gym, dining facilities, a craft room, a library, adequate playgrounds and playing fields, and an adequate capitation allowances for books and stationery. Even some of the newest primary schools have not the full list of these amenities which I regard as essential.

Bad buildings are bad enough, but shortage of teachers is even worse. First let me again quote to the Committee: I want first to ask the Minister whether his plans for increasing the number of teachers are sufficiently ambitious to cope with this problem … when we reflect upon the conditions which exist in these over-numerous classes we must realise that a teacher is not a teacher but a circus-master to keep children in order. Proper education cannot be conducted in these circumstances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th May. 1950; Vol. 474, c. 1911.] They are wise words. They were said by the present Home Secretary in 1950 when he was girding at the late Mr. Tomlinson.

Two years later the Tories were in power and the first Tory Minister of Education addressed herself to the same problem in these words: …on the advice and facts given to me we cannot hope for an improvement in the size of our classes until the numbers of the children begin to go down after 1961. I think that is a dreadful thing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March. 1952; Vol. 498, c. 234.] It was dreadful. It was so dreadful that the Minister, instead of doing anything about it, was at that moment introducing the now notorious economy cuts of that years.

For several years progress was halted. There were no more new training colleges. This was not for lack of advice. The OFFICIAL REPORT shows that the Opposition, and my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in particular, again and again asked for action to produce more teachers. The Minister's own Advisory Council urged a 16,000 expansion in teacher training places. The teaching profession—the A.E.C., outstanding men like Sir Ronald Gould and Dr. Alexander—all pointed out to this Minister's predecessor that this was a minimum figure, especially when one realised that in 1962 the three-year teacher training would begin.

The Government tardily made provision for 12,000 new places long after the short-fall in extra teachers had become patent, and then, again too late, made this a crash programme in which— may I interpolate—everybody, especially the training colleges, have co-operated magnificently. Finally, again late in the day, the present Minister added the extra 4,000 which had been demanded two years before.

We cannot, however, feel the benefit of this expansion for several years. When the new teachers come out of the training colleges, most of them will be secondary school teachers. We are faced with a grave shortage of science masters and handicraft teachers and, contrary to what some people anticipated, of primary teachers. I believe that that shortage of primary teachers in the few years ahead of us is as important as that of the others I mentioned.

Moreover, as some of us pointed out years ago, the first bulge was followed by a second bulge—not so big as the first bulge, but bigger than anything which took place before the war. It shows no signs of declining. The latest birth rate figures are higher than any post-war year except three. They may still go up higher.

Today, although the position has eased —the hon. Member for Burton told us how much it had eased—primary schools are still overcrowded. Today teachers are rationed by a quota system. I believe that is right. As long as there is a shortage, as long as there are grim areas like Birmingham, it is fair; it is good for teachers; it is good for education authorities, and it is good for children, that we should ration teachers who are in short supply.

Mr. Hayman

Will my hon. Friend take into account that Birmingham has been satisfied to some extent at the expense of counties like Cornwall, where nearly 200 of our 300 primary schools have less than 100 children on the books?

Dr. King

Yes. I admit that there are difficulties in the application of the quota system. I cannot pretend to deal with that special aspect of it, although I sympathise with what my hon. Friend has said and with what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North said on the same issue. The existence of many small schools throws any quota out of balance.

Today every education officer looks ahead with foreboding to 1962, the year when there will be not an increase, but for that year a decrease, in the number of teachers. My friend the Chief Education Officer for Southampton, Mr. Freeman, whom I mention in this debate because this year he ends a distinguished career of service to education in my town, talked ominously to me a few weeks ago of the possibility of half-time coming back to some schools. I do not believe that it will. I believe that that is an over-pessimistic picture. However, we are in for a hard time. That hard time will be nearly as serious in primary as in secondary education. We must remember that on primary education we build in time the superstructure that Crowther and the Minister dream of.

As it is, today some primary schools are kept going by the employment of unqualified teachers. This year there is again a short-fall in the number of extra teachers. This year, as last year, hundreds of young men and women who wished to enter training colleges and are fit to be there were turned down.

Old annual reports of the Ministry of Education make very sad reading today. At page 3 of the 1949 Annual Report the experts demanded that the teaching force be raised to 240,000 by 1954. It fell short of that figure by 7,500. Yet the Report for 1954 says at page 11: There should be a good prospect of reducing nearly all primary classes by 1961 at least, to the regulation size of 40 children or less ". But, in 1961, as the hon. Member for Burton has really confirmed, one-quarter of all our primary children will still be in oversize classes. Moreover, we now know that the 240,000 target for the teaching profession is nearly 100,000 short of the number that we shall actually need.

Today, therefore, the Opposition, looking back over ten years, condemns the Government for their failure to be sufficiently seized of the problem of teacher supply until a few months ago. Britain now pays for 40 years' neglect of primary schools. It pays for the economy cuts of 1951, of 1956 and of 1958, and it pays for successive Ministers' failure both to plan and to lead.

The primary school teachers have indeed borne the brunt of the post-war burden. Despite handicaps, some of which I have mentioned, finer work has been done in the primary school than ever before. A simple example—and I was pleased to hear it referred to earlier in the debate—is that fewer children than ever before leave primary schools today unable to read comfortably and happily. The progress we have made in primary education matches that which we have made in secondary education. We still have, however, some all-age primary schools, and I plead with the Minister to get rid of the last of the all-age schools in this country so that all primary education may be in primary schools and all secondary education in secondary schools and both benefit.

The root problem that we face today, as everyone realises, is the supply of teachers. We need long-term solutions, and the Minister has already made those plans. We also need immediate—I would say, almost desperate—remedies. The Minister must do something to get into the training colleges those youngsters turned down by training colleges but capable of becoming teachers. For the immediate period ahead we must also recruit back all those who have been teachers and are capable of helping the country in this moment of need.

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to call together his advisers, with the Association of Education Committees and representatives of the teaching profession, to devise means of coping with the crisis of 1962. Even more, I would urge him to use every scrap of his undoubted ability and drive to speed up the training-college programmes and get them—to borrow a metaphor from industry—into full production as soon as possible.

We have heard this Minister speak in this House, in the country and on the radio; if he can now match those fine words with deeds, if he can convince his colleagues this time—as both he and Lord Hailsham failed to do in the past—really to carry the financial burden of expanding the teaching service to get the size of classes down—and of doing so rapidly—then, indeed, he will leave his mark on educational history and, not the least, on the primary schools.

For the past fifteen years in speeches in the country I have been quoting a passage strangely noble for a technical document. In Building Bulletin No. 1, 1949, one reads: Children of primary school age are growing quickly. Therefore, they need plenty of fresh air, sunshine, warmth, light and good food. They delight in free movement, and are active, inquisitive and often boisterous and noisy. Therefore, the school needs to provide uncrowded space, and opportunities for making and doing. They sometimes like to be quiet. Therefore, the school should provide the right kind of space in which small groups of children may rest quietly. I believe that that will be when they are very, very tired, indeed: They are intensely interested in the material objects around them. Therefore, they should be surrounded with good colours, shapes, forms, and textures, and will thus grow to understand beauty and simplicity. This last is pure Plato in a Government circular. I would add that they need— in their infinite range of abilities, interests, problems, home backgrounds —skilled teachers and small classes, so that education can be, in every primary school an individual matter.

When all is said, when the Ministers and the officials, the captains and the kings depart, when even the headmaster departs, we are left with the classroom, the class teacher and the children. This Minister's task is to provide enough decent and beautiful classrooms, to provide enough teachers, and enough qualified teachers, so that every child in the land shall receive the primary education he deserves. The goals are precise and firm. We need 60,000 teachers to get down the size of the classes to that required by the regulations. If we can bend the nation's will to that, then indeed towards the end of this decade we may proceed to the second goal, and raise the school leaving age to 16.

6.27 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)

The speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) well illustrates what a good thing it is that the Opposition chose a debate on primary education. I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman very much, because there is obviously so much to be said both about the successes of the primary schools today and what still wants doing. Almost every speech today has shown an appreciation both of the post-war progress and of the great task that we still have to bring our primary schools to the standards we wish.

I agree very much with my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) when he said that in the last few years, or, at any rate, quite recently, circumstances have contrived to concentrate the limelight on the secondary schools. The post-war bulge in the birth rate, moving out of the primary schools into the secondary schools, compelled the Minister and the local education authorities to increase the emphasis on the provision of buildings and teachers for the secondary schools. That was quite inevitable.

Then came the Crowther Report, which made insistent claims that the reforms and improvements in the secondary schools were urgently necessary and that we must pay attention to them. Very naturally, educational comment has been largely taken up in recent months with the Crowther Report. The Albemarle Report dealt with teenagers, and the Anderson Report, which is to come, deals with the problem of the 18-plus.

I feel, therefore, that the House has rightly shown a good deal of sympathy with the primary schools at a time when current discussion and administrative anxiety are strongly focussed on the secondary stage of education, but I can assure hon. Members that in the Ministry and in the local authorities we have always worked to a consistent plan for all stages of education. I am glad of the debate, as it gives just the opportunity that I was looking for to show how that plan has taken shape, and how I hope that it will continue.

We have always known—and there is no doubt about it in any hon. Member's mind—that the primary schools are the foundation of the whole edifice of formal education. If the infants and junior schools are not given the facilities to do their job well, the money and effort spent on the further stages of secondary education will, to some considerable extent, be wasted. Educationally, the primaries are first in order of time, and in no sense second in order of importance.

I was very interested in what the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) said. He made a point that has often occurred to me, that the primary schools, quite apart from purely educational considerations, make a unique contribution to the esteem in which the whole system of maintained schools is held. When a child first goes to school at the age of five the parents, or, at any rate, the mother, feels that that is a very serious event of quite exceptional importance to the child and to herself. One knows the kind of questions that she asks: will the child settle down quickly? Will the child be happy and get on well?

The answer to those anxious questions must have a lasting effect upon the respect and esteem in which the whole public system of education is held. Therefore, if it could be fairly claimed that primary schools were not getting their share of the resources available, that would be very damaging to the children and would be a cause of special anxiety to the parents. I am glad, therefore, to have the opportunity to dispel any apprehensions on that score.

I will begin briefly by describing the primary schools as they are in England and Wales today. There are 4 million children between the ages of five and 11 in a little over 20,000 schools, being taught by about 143,000 teachers. That is a large number of teachers; in comparison, it is seven times the total number of general medical practitioners in the country. Of those 143,000, 110,000 are women. It is, therefore, in these schools that the rapid turnover in staff due to early marriage is most keenly felt, and that is a point to which I will return in a moment.

There is, therefore, no doubt at all that the primary schools, by their function and size, have a very large and important place in the life of the community, and it is disturbing to hear it said that they are doing badly in comparison with secondary schools in such matters as building and staff. I think that the background to this feeling that they are not doing so well lies in the moving bulge in the birth-rate, and that is now passing to the secondary schools, as I shall describe.

I should like to go back a little and deal with the position as it was when the Act was passed in 1944. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, when he introduced his Measure, said that it would take a generation to carry out. That has often been quoted, especially now when we are fifteen years from the passage of the Act, or half way through a generation of thirty years. The fact is that in 1944 my right hon. Friend could know nothing about the post-war bulge in the birth-rate. It had not occurred. Still less could he know anything about a second rise in the birth-rate which has been taking place recently. His estimate that it would take thirty years to implement the Act was based on 5¼ million children in school.

If that number had remained constant during these fifteen years, and if Governments had spent on education as much as we have spent, I think that there is little doubt that by now the Act would have been fulfilled—not in a generation, but in half a generation. But what is the school population today? It is not 5 million children, but 7 million. As several hon. Members have said, this huge increase first made itself felt in the primary schools. There were in 1947, for example, 400,000 more live births than in 1938. Therefore, in 1952 there were about—not exactly—400,000 more five-year-olds than there had been in 1938. For that reason the school building programme, after the war, had first to be directed to putting roofs over this advancing army of five-year-olds.

The demand for new schools, as the Committee knows, was greater than the numbers alone since we had to deal with movements of the population. The flow of families to new towns and housing estates always poses a very difficult problem, if only for the reason that it takes longer to plan and build schools than it does to erect houses. We have a good record compared with other industrialised countries, most of whom also had a postwar rise in the birth rate. We have not had children out of school; neither have we had children taught in shifts. I believe it is correct to say that in almost every other industrialised country one or other of those unfortunate things has occurred.

Our building policy has been consistent. During the last eight years nearly I million new primary school places have been provided, and almost as many secondary school places. But as the primary bulge came first, so did primary school building. In the first four years of the last eight, two-thirds of the new places were primary and in the second four years only two-fifths.

Mr. Hayman

Would the Minister say what proportion of the new places provided in primary schools was in new towns and new housing estates, as compared with other areas?

Sir D. Eccles

Not unless I made an exceedingly difficult calculation. It would be very difficult to draw such a distinction between new towns and housing estates, and other areas. I will try, and if I can I will send the information to the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Itchen rightly drew our attention to the problem of reorganisation. In 1954, I started a programme of rural reorganisation, and I am sorry, as all Members are, that economic circumstances prevented that going straight through. I had hoped that in five years it would be completed in the rural areas. There were then 240,000 senior pupils in unreorganised schools. Today, there are 100,000, and according to the 1958 White Paper all these will be in secondary schools within the five years. The total cost of reorganisation in the whole of England and Wales is about £40 million, and two-thirds of this sum was included in the first two years of the present five year programme. That is not bad going. Most of the remainder is in a few especially difficult areas.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) drew attention to the difficulties in his county. The actual figures are not bad. At the beginning of 1959, 58 all-age schools were in service in the County of Cornwall. At the beginning of 1960, there were only 33. Every one of these 33 schools will be reorganised when this year's building programme is completed. That is a major change for the better.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) referred to the problem of reorganisation in his county. It is about the worst in the whole country. I do not know the reason for that but, if I remember aright, I think the county council has been fairly consistently in the hands of one political party. There are at present 91 all-age departments in Durham. Of those, 49 will be reorganised by building projects in the first two years of the five-year programme, and the other 42 should be dealt with in the subsequent three years of the programme.

I cannot say exactly when all the 42 will be reorganised, but we very much hope that the hon. Gentleman's date, 1968, will prove to be pessimistic. I undertake to put pressure upon this programme because I entirely agree with what he said; so long as there are over-11s in the same school as infants and juniors, we cannot say that we are carrying out the fundamental purposes of the 1944 Act. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North that we need the same standards in rural areas as in the towns. We are working towards that.

A good deal was said, quite rightly, about the unsatisfactory condition of some primary schools. At the end of the war, there were many thousands of primary schools in a very bad state. None of us denies that. Nearly all of them, I think, would have been put right by now if we had not first had to build new schools for the growing number of children. A vast proportion of the £700 million spent on school building since the war has been directed simply to increasing the number of schools. Had that money gone towards replacing and improving old schools, a very different picture would now be seen.

Local authorities, too, particularly in their finance committees, no doubt, were understandably unwilling to spend money improving out-of-date schools which they had planned to demolish and rebuild within a short time. Their plans were thrown out of gear, just as the Ministry's plans were thrown out of gear, by the unexpected increase in school population. They had to delay these replacements in favour of additions to the total number of schools, and this delay, very naturally, has caused much criticism and increased the demand for improvement. I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that, every time a new school is opened in his constituency, the contrast between it and the bad schools which still exist in the neighbourhood is stronger than ever. That is inevitable. It is a good thing, because it keeps up the pressure for continuing the programme.

Since most of the improvements to primary schools which were very much the subject of the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) as he spoke about various definite needs are done under the minor works programme, it is worth noting the difference between the minor works programme before we came into power and the minor works programme now. The last full calendar year of the Labour Government was 1950, and the money allocated to the minor works programme of that year was £7.3 million. It is now £18 million. It so happens that in the first quarter of this year precisely £7.3 million has been started. It is certainly fair to say that the minor works programme has been very substantially increased; it is now two and a half times greater than it was. However, it was a great source of anxiety to me when I was last at the Ministry that we could not go further ahead, and it still is.

I can record some excellent progress in installing electric light, sanitation, accommodation for school dinners, playing fields, and so forth. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), whose speech I listened to with great interest; I do not think that the National Union of Teachers' pamphlet gave quite a fair picture, but I can easily overlook that in gratitude to its authors for having brought the problem to our attention. If we are to have the resources we need for improving all our schools, quite clearly we must keep up the pressure.

I can give one or two examples, which could easily be multiplied, of what has been achieved. In Berkshire, ten years ago, there were 230 primary schools, of which 100 had no water-borne sanitation. Today, this 100 has been reduced to 50, and the authority expects to tackle all the remainder in the next few years. In the East Riding of Yorkshire, ten years ago—this is really a shocking figure—out of 210 primary schools 150 had no modern sanitation. One hundred and fifteen have been modernised and 11 more will be during the coming year. In other words, they are well on the way through the programme.

I was much interested in what the hon. Member for Itchen had to say about Hampshire schools.

Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)

Can the Minister give us any figures about Norfolk primary schools, before he leaves the subject of sanitation and so forth?

Sir D. Eccles

I have not got those figures here, but I will send them to the hon. Member. I interviewed representatives of the Norfolk authority recently about their capital works programme and I know how anxious they are to get on.

Mr. Hilton

I am sorry that the Minister cannot give us any figures—

The Chairman

If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.

Sir D. Eccles

As far as we can, we shall increase the minor works programme. But there is a practical difficulty here. As hon. Members will know, minor works are very time-consuming for architects and their staffs. It would be wrong to prejudice the new school building programme, especially at this time when it is so much larger than ever before.

The kind of criticism that the hon. Member for Rossendale and his hon. Friends launch about local authority programmes being cut is really not valid. What happened was something like this. A boy might have been given 5s. by his uncle at Christmas time. He goes to his uncle and asks for 10s. on the next occasion. His uncle says, "I am sorry, but you can have only 7s. 6d." The boy then goes home and tells his mother that his money has been cut. That is exactly the kind of thing which has happened. The major programme for school building is, in fact, 20 per cent. greater than it has ever been before. To describe that as a cut is really to make a rather curious use of words.

I come now to staffing in the primary schools. This is of vital importance to the whole education service. When the bulge moved out of the primary schools, we had to encourage the transfer of some teachers to the secondary schools. That period is over. But, in spite of all our efforts to obtain teachers for the secondary schools, there has been a small deterioration in secondary school staffing standards, while there has been an improvement in the primary schools. Between 1953 and 1959, the average size of class in the primaries has been reduced from 36 to 33. The proportion of pupils in oversize classes has dropped from nearly a half to under a quarter, and this improvement continues through 1959. I wish secondary schools had as good a report.

We could, of course, make much better progress in the next few years were it not for the introduction of the three-year training course. But I am sure that that decision was right, although, temporarily, we must pay a very high price for it. I agree, therefore, with all hon. Members who have said that we must recruit teachers in every possible way we can. That is our plan. The expansion of teacher training colleges is a very big operation since one has not only to consider where they should be, but how to staff them, what should be the right relationship with the universities and what should be done about the third year course. It is a very big operation, but I treat it, I might almost say, as the number one job to be done in the next few years. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) was on a good point when he said that in certain areas it would assist if the local authority would help in providing housing. It is quite an inducement, and it is one which I tried to push forward when I was at the Ministry last time.

I must take up what my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said about class sizes in primary schools. That regulation figure of 40 maximum, as against 30 in secondary schools, is a symbol to many of the lower esteem in which teaching juniors, quite wrongly, is thought to be held in official circles. The fact is that this question of maximum class sizes has not been a practical one in recent years. We have been too busy trying to keep pace with the school population and improve standards all round. Classes in primary schools now average 33, against 36 a few years ago, and that 33 today compares with 30 in the secondary schools, so that there is not a tremendous different at present.

I would agree with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and say that, personally, I have yet to discover any logical reason for considering that it is easier to teach a large class in a primary school than it is in a secondary school. I suppose there must have been some reason behind this figure; the right hon. Member for South Shields accepted it, and he must have known what it was for. I feel that we ought to examine the whole position again and that is what we intend to do.

When one goes into an infants' school today, where modern methods of teaching are being employed, and I agree with other hon. Members who have said this, we get a feeling of tremendous success and wonderful enthusiasm on the part of the teachers. There is no low morale in our primary schools; on the contrary, the teachers are on their toes. One sees these rooms, in which the children are not sitting in the old serried ranks as they used to do, but are grouped round tables, perhaps six or eight in a group, according to their ability in a particular subject, and the teacher circulating between them, giving them advice, tidying them up when they need it, and generally doing a wonderful individual job.

It is absolutely clear that if we have so many children in that class that we have to have these tables so close together that the teacher cannot get round them, modern methods fall to the ground. On this point, I agree that we have to do our very best to see that the great advances made in teaching these small children are open to all schools.

I cannot enter tonight into a discussion of the point raised by the hon. Member for Wigan about streaming. I think that that is a matter which the teaching profession must work out for itself, though what the hon. Gentleman said was very interesting, and I entirely agree that the primary schools handbook which the Ministry recently published is a very good piece of work.

I will now try to answer one or two questions which I was asked. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) asked me about a training college which is a temporary college, with a temporary life. I cannot give him the answer today, but we certainly intend to increase the teacher training college provision in that part of the country. Exactly where it will be and how we can best make a permanent college I cannot yet tell him, but we will do our best. I was asked why we had not proceeded with these plans for teacher training colleges before.

One reason for that is from the 1950s until quite recently, it has been very hard to fill all the places we have had with candidates of suitable quality. From the experience we have had, it was not until quite recently that, I am very glad to say, we have had a good increase in the number of men candidates coming forward, as well as girls, and we have been able to choose a little between the candidates presenting themselves.

Finally, I should like to draw attention to the fact that we are exhibiting in Milan a primary school built by the consortium in the Midlands which has done such good work. This will be on view at the Triennale, which is the great exhibition of design. So well-known was British school-building after the war that we were specially asked by the organisers of that exhibition to do this, and I have no doubt at all that this school which we are building there will be seen by more than half a million people, and will be a very fine symbol of the efforts that have been made by various Governments since the war to

build up the techniques of our school building. I hope that if any hon. Members are in Italy during the summer, they will go there, because we are making every possible effort to show this really worthy exhibit.

The 20,000 primary schools and the 4 million children in them will never be forgotten in the Ministry of Education or by the local authorities, and I can think of nothing better than to be the Minister of Education at the end of this decade, when the teachers will be available, and then be able to decide, as no Minister of Education since the war has been able to decide, where he should best use this freedom which he will have, after such a long period of simply chasing school numbers.

Mr. Greenwood

I beg to move, That Item Class IV, Vote I (Ministry of Education), be reduced by £5.

Question put:

The Committee divided: Ayes 175, Noes 240.

Division No. 80.] AYES [6.58 p.m.
Ainsley, William Ginsburg, David McInnes, James
Albu, Austen Goooh, E. G. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Allen, Soholefield (Crewe) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mackie, John
Bacon, Miss Alice Greenwood, Anthony McLeavy, Frank
Baird, John Grey, Charles Mahon, Simon
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)
Benn, Hn.A.Wedgwood (Brist'l, S.E.) Gunter, Ray Manuel, A. C.
Benson, Sir George Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mapp, Charles
Blackburn, F. Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mason, Roy
Bowden, Herbert w. (Leics, S.W.) Hannan, William Mellish, R. J.
Bowles, Frank Hart, Mrs. Judith Mendelson, J. J.
Boyden, James Hayman, F. H. Millan, Bruce
Brook way, A. Fenner Healey, Denis Mitchison, G. R.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Herbison, Miss Margaret Monslow, Walter
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hilton, A. V. Moody, A. S.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Holman, Percy Morris, John
Callaghan, James Howell, Charles A. Mulley, Frederick
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Neal, Harold
Chapman, Donald Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Cliffe, Michael. Hunter, A. E. Oliver, G. H.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oram, A. E.
Craddook, George (Bradford, S.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Oswald, Thomas
Crosland, Anthony Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Owen, Will
Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement (Montgomery) Janner, Barnett Padley, W E.
Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Paget, R. T.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jeger, George Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davies, S.O. (Merthyr) Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield) Parkin, B. T, (Paddington, N.)
Deer, George Jones, Dan (Burnley) Paton, John
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Pavitt, Laurence
Dempsey, James Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Donnelly, Desmond Kenyon, Clifford Peart, Frederick
Driberg, Tom Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Pentland, Norman
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter King, Dr. Horace Plummer, Sir Leslie
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lawson, George Prentice, R. E.
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Ledger, Ron Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Evans, Albert Lee, Frederick (Newton) Probert, Arthur
Fernyhough, E. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham. N.) Proctor, W. T.
Fitoh, Alan Logan, David Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Fletcher, Eric Loughlin, Charles Randall, Harry
Foot, Dingle Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rankin, John
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McCann, John Rhodes, H.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh MacColl, James Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Rogers, C. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Summerskill, Dt. Rt. Hon. Edith Wheeldon, W. E.
Ross, William Swain, Thomas White, Mrs. Eirene
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Swingler, Stephen Whitlock, William
Short, Edward Sylvester, George Wigg, George
Skeffington, Arthur Symonds, J. B. Wilkins, W. A.
Slater Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Willey, Frederick
Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Taylor John (West Lothian) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Snow, Julian Thornton, Ernest Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Sorensen, R. W. Thorpe, Jeremy Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Woof, Robert
Spriggs, Leslie Wainwright Edwin Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Warbey, William
Stones, William Weitzman, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Dr. Brougbton and Mr. Redhead.
Agnew, Sir Peter Farr, John Loveys, Walter H.
Allason, James Fell, Anthony Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Alport, C. J. M. Finlay, Graeme Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Amory,Rt.Hn.D.Heathcoat (Tiv'tn) Fisher, Nigel McAdden, Stephen
Arbuthnot, John Forrest, George MacArthur, lan
Ashton, Sir Hubert Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McLaren, Martin
Atkins, Humphrey Freeth, Denzil Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)
Barber, Anthony Gammans, Lady McMaster, Stanley R.
Barlow, Sir John Gardner, Edward Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Barter, John George, J. C. (Pollok) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Batsford, Brian Gibson-Watt, David Maddan, Martin
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Glover, Sir Douglas Maitland, Cdr. J. W.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Goodhew, Victor Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil
Berkeley, Humphry Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Bidgood, John C. Green, Alan Mawby, Ray
Biggs-Davison, John Gresham Cooke, R. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Bingham, R. M. Grimston, Sir Robert Mills, Stratton
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Montgomery, Fergus
Bishop, F. P. Hall, John (Wycombe) Morrison, John
Bossom, Clive Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bourne-Arton, A. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Nabarro, Gerald
Box, Donald Harris, Reader (Heston) Neave, Airey
Boyle, Sir Edward Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Braine, Bernard Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Noble, Michael
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Nugent, Sir Richard
Brooman-White, R Hay, John Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. D.
Bullard, Denys Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bullus, Wing-Commander Eric Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Orr-Ewing, C. Ian
Burden, F. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Osborne, Cyril (Louth)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hobson, John Page, A. J. (Harrow, West)
Butler,Rt. Hn. R.A. (Saffron Walden) Holland, Philip Page, Graham
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hollingworth, John Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Cary, Sir Robert Hornby, R. P. Partridge, E.
Channon, H. P. G. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Peel, John
Chataway, Christopher Howard, Hon, C. B. (St. lves) Percival, Ian
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hughes-Young, Michael Pitman, I. J.
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hurd, Sir Anthony pitt, Miss Edith
Cleaver, Leonard Hutchison, Michael Clark Pott, Percivall
Cole, Norman Iremonger, T. L. Powell, J. Enoch
Collard, Richard Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cooke, Robert James, David Prior, J. M. L.
Cooper, A. E. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Jennings, J. C. Proudfoot, Wilfred
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Ramsden, James
Corfield, F. V. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Rawlinson, Peter
Costain, A. P. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerby, Capt. Henry Renton, David
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Crowder, F. P. Kirk, Peter Ridsdale, Julian
Cunningham, Knox Lagden, Godfrey Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Curran, Charles Lancaster, Col. C. G. Roots, William
Currie, C. B. H. Leavey, J. A. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
de Ferranti, Basil Leburn, Gilmour Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Legge-Bourke, Maj. H. Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Scott-Hopkins, James
Doughty, Charles Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Seymour, Leslie
du Cann, Edward Lilley, F. J. P. Sharples, Richard
Duncan, Sir James Lindsay, Martin Shaw, M.
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Linstead, Sir Hugh Shepherd, William
Eden, John Litchfield, Capt. John Simon, Sir Jocelyn
Elliott, R. W. Lloyd, Rt. Hn.Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Skeet, T. H. H.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Longden, Gilbert Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Tilney, John (Wavertree) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Studholrne, Sir Henry Turner, Colin Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Sumner, Donald (Orpington) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Talbot, John E. van Straubenzee, W. R. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Tapsell, Peter Vane, W. M. F. Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Vickers, Miss Joan Woodhouse, C. M.
Taylor, w. J. (Bradford, N.) Vosper. Rt. Hon. Dennis Woodnutt, Mark
Teeling, William Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Woollam, John
Temple, John M. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone) Worsley, Marcus
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Wall, Patrick Yates William (The Wrekin)
Thomas, Peter (Conway) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Watts, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter Webster, David Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Mr. Whitelaw.

It being after Seven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the consideration of Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business).

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER resumed the Chair.


Order for consideration, as amended, read.

7.8 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I would be grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Would it be convenient for me to move the Amendment now, or do you want to put the Question first?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

I am obliged to the hon. Member. It would be more convenient if I were to put the Question now and then I will call the hon. Member to move his Amendment.

Question, That the Bill, as amended, be now considered, put and agreed to.

Mr. Driberg

Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.


Mr. Driberg

I beg to move, in page 5, line 33, after "thereto" to insert: provided that no such representation is to be made in respect of any question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, or in consequence of the social or political opinions or teachings of the incumbent of the existing Ward Church". I hope not to have to detain the House too long on this Amendment. It affects far fewer people than the major debate which, unfortunately, it has been necessary to curtail, but every hon. Member is aware that important issues of principle can sometimes arise from what seems to be, at first sight, quite narrow points. In this case, I suggest that we ought to consider very carefully what may be a threat to a fundamental liberty of a few of Mr. Speaker's own constituents, some of the clergymen of the Established Church holding benefices in the City of London.

The narrow point here concerns the provision which it is sought to include in the Bill to enable the alderman and common councillors of a ward in the City of London to change from one church to another as their official ward church, or, as the Bill puts it, to ask the Bishop of London to revoke the designation and establishment of the existing Ward Church as the official church of that ward and … designate and establish as the official church thereof any other parish church or Guild Church … situate in that ward or in a ward adjacent thereto. On the face of it, this seems a harmless enough provision, though if it is desirable I do not know why it was left out of the original Guild Churches Act of eight years ago. I do not think that any of us would object to such a change if it were sought for what one might call ordinary practical or even sentimental reasons.

The difficulty which I hint at in my Amendment might arise if it happened that among the Common Councilmen of a ward there were some with strong ecclesiastical or political prejudices. I am particularly anxious that this debate should not develop in any way into an argument on the merits of any of these prejudices; but hon. Members must be aware, particularly if there are any still among us who can recall the debates on the revised Prayer Book in 1927 and 1928, that there is a certain variety of doctrine and practice within the Church of England and that views on these matters are held with passionate conviction. I am putting it as objectively and as mildly as I can.

Common Councilmen are as fully entitled to their ecclesiastical and political views as anyone else, but it would be deplorable if the procedure contemplated in Clause 8 of the Bill were set in motion for any such reasons as these —if, for instance, some of the Common Councilmen, or a majority of them in any ward, did not happen to like the particular kind of ceremonial or absence of ceremonial found in their designated ward church, or if they found the teaching of its incumbent uncomfortably prophetic—if he were to preach on a great civic occasion from one of the inconvenient texts like the one about the eye of a needle, or something like that.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) was good enough to give me today, in reply to a Question which was not reached orally, a list of the existing ward churches. There are eleven of them, seven of Which are parish churches and four guild churches. The argument I am trying to put seems to me even stronger in the case of the guild churches than in the case of the parish churches, for the guild church vicars, who are appointed for a period of years only, are not protected by that ancient institution the parson's freehold, which, as I ventured to say on Second Reading on 25th February, has sometimes been used in the cause of freedom and sometimes for the purposes of tyranny.

In that debate, I also remarked that it might be disadvantageous to a clergyman, at least to the finances of his church, if it ceased to be a designated ward church. We should satisfy ourselves so far as we can, therefore, that the motives for any such change are what I have called harmless ones.

I now come to the gravest and most puzzling part of what I have to tell the House. After the debate on 25th February, I had a discussion with the Archdeacon of London, who has acted on behalf of the Bishop of London as promoter of the Bill and who has throughout been, as he always is, most helpful and courteous. He said that he was inclined to agree with me on this point and that if I would put to him a suitable Amendment on these lines, he would put it up to the Bishop. I did so, using in my Amendment as nearly as possible the actual words which the Church authorities themselves used in the disciplinary Measures sent to us some years ago from the Church Assembly.

I know that there are one or two hon. Members here today who took part in the whole series of debates—the Incumbents' (Discipline) Measure and the other—[An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Member voted against it."] Because it was impossible for the hon. Member who introduced it to give the undertaking which he was later able to give. As the hon. Member knows, one of the disadvantages of the Church Assembly Measure procedure is that these Measures cannot be amended in this House. They can only be accepted or rejected. That was the difficulty we were all in, and have been on numerous occasions.

7.15 p.m.

Today, this is not a Church Assembly Measure. It is a Private Bill promoted by or on behalf of the Bishop of London. It seems to me, however, that the argument I am putting is analogous to the argument which was put in those debates and which was ultimately found acceptable by the Church authorities and the Church Assembly themselves. Indeed, the fact that words such as these were included in those Measures surely shows that the Church of England itself does not regard this danger as a totally unreal one and that it would regard as unseemly and undesirable any attempt to penalise an incumbent in connection with matters such as these.

Accordingly, I sent my proposed Amendment to the Archdeacon of London and was in due course delighted to receive from him a letter, which stated, in part: Many thanks for your letter of 10th March, which I have now had an opportunity of showing to the Bishop of London. The Bishop agrees with your proposal in principle and has asked me to take the necessary steps to have a new Clause drafted by our counsel in time for the Committee stage, after first consulting the City Corporation as a matter of courtesy. The Bishop asks me to say that he is very grateful for all your interest in the Guild Churches Bill And so on. That seemed very satisfactory. The Bishop, the promoter of the Bill, himself agreed in principle with the proposed Amendment.

I was the more distressed to learn at a later stage that the Amendment was not, after all, to be included—because, as I gather, it had not been acceptable to the City officials to whom the Bishop had shown it. It may be all right that "as a matter of courtesy" they should be shown the proposed Amendment, but I cannot feel that it is right that the City as such should be able to exercise a kind of veto on a proposal made in this House which is acceptable to the Church itself and to the promoter of a Private Bill.

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Chelmsford in the slightly embarrassing situation in which, perhaps, he finds himself. I hope, however, that he will accept my Amendment. In doing so, he would be asserting and defending the rights of the Church and its clergy on a matter on which the Church and, because of our strange system of establishment, Parliament should have the last word. It is we and the Church, not the City Corporation, who should have the last word on a Private Bill promoted in this House by the Bishop of London.

If the hon. Member cannot accept my Amendment, he may repeat the argument that he used on Second Reading—that such an Amendment is unnecessary because, as he said in an interjection, The final decision rests with the Bishop." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 679.] —and that the Bishop would never allow the machinery to be set in motion for unworthy or irrelevant motives.

Unfortunately, it is no longer open to the hon. Member to use that argument. He has been deprived of it by the action of the Bishop of London himself in showing the proposed Amendment to the City authorities, not merely as a matter of courtesy, but so that they could have the last word on it. I have the highest personal regard for the present Bishop of London, but if he, so to speak, truckles to the City authorities on this matter, what is the value of any assurance that he or his successors would not truckle to a powerful ward organisation which wanted to change its church for the wrong reasons?

I must, therefore, ask the hon. Gentleman to give an undertaking that he will look at this matter again, and that when this Bill comes up in another place some words will be introduced into it which will meet my point and contain the substance of this Amendment.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

I just want to add a very few words in support of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). I think that the House as a whole should be grateful to him for spotting this point at such an early stage and for putting his case with so much restraint. It is very rarely that I agree with the hon. Member on any point at all, and, therefore, it is with the more pleasure that I feel that on this occasion he has right and justice on his side.

I approach this matter in, perhaps, a slightly broader context than the hon. Member. It is, of course, true that the rights of 11 constituents of yours, Mr. Speaker, are threatened by this Bill, and four of them in particular, those four who are the holders of livings of the guild churches and, therefore, are deprived of their freehold, but I am myself an unrepentant opponent of the present Establishment position of the Church of England and I always have been, speaking as I do as a son of a bishop of that Church and so, I suppose, with a certain element of hereditary authority, if nothing else; and I think that the Church of England is already at the moment so pushed around by quite a number of different authorities that we do not want to add the City of London to that list.

I myself feel very strongly that in a matter of this kind it is for the Church and the Church itself to decide who it is who will designate a ward church. If the Diocese of London felt happy about the arrangements which existed up to the time when this Bill was proposed, and if it felt happy with the Amendment which the hon. Member for Barking put forward at an earlier stage, it really is not the business of the City authorities to decide that they are not happy, and that, therefore, the whole Bill is to be upset in this way.

I do not know whether by hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton), for whom I have an enormous regard, can accept the Amendment as it stands. Maybe there are words in it which would not be suitable in a Bill of this kind. Nevertheless, I hope very much that between now and the stage when the Bill receives the Royal Assent he will consider very carefully whether, in fact, the power to try to change an existing situation which is now given to the Common Councilmen in any ward of the City of London is quite a right power to give in these circumstances, and whether in fact the liberties of the Church of England are properly preserved by the procedure which is laid down in this Bill.

I feel that the hon. Member for Barking has done a great service to the Church in raising this matter and I hope very much that it will be considered again before the Bill becomes law.

Sir Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)

First, I should like to express my appreciation of the manner in which this Amendment has been moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) and seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk). This is an extension, as the hon. Member for Barking has said, of part of the debate we had on 25th February. I will, if I may, deal with the last part of his speech first.

Initially, I would make it quite clear that it is true that the Amendment was not objected to by the Bishop of London. The object, indeed, of the Amendment is to offer certain protection to City clergy, particularly to the guild church vicars who no longer enjoy the parson's freehold, a point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking himself emphasised. It is the well established principle that no clergyman should be penalised or suffer any disadvantage owing to his doctrine, provided that it is in accordance with the doctrine of the Church of England, or because of his ceremonial practices, provided they do not transgress the law, or, indeed, because of his political opinions. There are these two parties concerned in the Act and now this amending Bill, the City authorities and the Bishop of London.

The Bishop, on further reflection, feels that he really is not able to support the proposed Amendment in its context in this Bill, and the reason which has prompted him to hold this view is that he feels that it might be interpreted as reflecting upon the Alderman and Common Councilmen of a ward who have the right under the Bill to make these representations to change the ward church. The Bishop is particularly anxious that no possible cause should be given to any such reflections on the propriety of any representations which might be made to him under Clause 8 of the Bill. The Bishop and the Corporation enjoy each other's full confidence.

I will say, if I may, that I am speaking tonight on behalf of the City as well as the Church. I greatly regret, as has been said before, that you, Mr. Speaker, cannot do this, owing to the very high office you now occupy, because you would have been able to do it with far greater eloquence than I can possibly command.

Furthermore—and this is a point which was made before—the Bishop's power under the Bill to accede to such representations is permissive only, not mandatory. I interjected that, as the hon. Member said, in his speech, and was supported later on by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) on this point, which I think is an important one.

I feel that it might be helpful if, just for a moment, I come to some of the reasons which would make the change of a ward church desirable and which I touched on in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question earlier today. When, after the passing of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act, 1952, ward churches were first established some City churches were in ruins, and have since been restored or are in process of restoration. It may be that at that time one or more of the original ward churches were second choices, since possibly the first choice was not then available. Furthermore, a church may then have been a ward church which was in a ward adjacent to the ward concerned, as the 1952 Act allowed.

It might well be that the civic authorities would wish to change to a church actually in the ward concerned because such a church is now restored and available or likely soon to become available. If, in the future, a parish or guild church becomes redundant for purposes of worship and is, therefore, closed or diverted to another use, and that church is also a ward church, it will be necessary to establish another church as a ward church in its place. This may possibly be the case with St. Michael's Paternoster Royal.

There have not been any representations made because we are discussing Clause 8 and this is not on the Statute Book, but a great number of unofficial discussions have been taking place during the last few years between the civic authorities and the Archdeacon of London on these matters, and I think it is really clear that in principle this amendment in the Bill for this greater freedom is indeed desirable.

Coming, then, to the arguments which were put forward by the proposer and seconder of the Amendment, I agree that possibly I am in something of a difficult position tonight, but I would put it to the House that the proposed Amendment, moved not in quite the same forceful and picturesque language as was used on Second Reading in discussion of this point, nevertheless does seem to assume that the Alderman and Common Councilmen of a ward cannot quite be trusted and will make improper representations.

I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman that in the discussions to which I have just referred the points regarding which he has expressed anxiety never once have been touched upon and have never been in mind at all. Furthermore, the Bishop, in these very improbable circumstances, would, as I say, be the second line of defence. As I mentioned earlier, he would and must have careful regard to the issues raised.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Driberg

If the argument which the hon. Member is using at this moment is correct, that this Amendment would cast a slight slur on the Aldermen and Common Councilmen and imply that they could not be trusted, would not the same argument have applied to the Incumbents (Discipline) Measure—that it would oast a slur on churchwardens, patrons and communicants of the Church of England, any of whom are entitled to institute proceedings against an incumbent but not on the grounds stated?

Sir H. Ashton

I personally do not believe, if I may continue the argument I am making, that the City authorities and the Bishop would ever act improperly in making a change of a ward church. On the other hand, normally I think that I would have asked the House to consider this Amendment as slightly superfluous and therefore to reject it. But I have been impressed. My position as the Second Church Estates Commissioner is a difficult one and I feel that I would like to listen, if I may, to further argument on this matter, if there is to be any, and with the permission of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the House, perhaps return to it, giving my specific advice to the House later. May I infer that that would be in order?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot foresee if the hon. Member will have leave of the House, but I have a suspicion that be might have it.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

May I have a personal word on this subject, as I took part in the Second Reading debate? The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) has referred to something I said. I very much hope that, in view of the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Chelmsford, the House will allow him to add something to what he has already said at the end of this debate. I think the hon. Member realised that there was a serious problem here, and I rather gathered from what he said that he had not reached any final conclusion but was willing to listen to different points of view.

Speaking for myself, I find that the position has changed radically from what it was on Second Reading. I must remind the House of what I said in commenting on the speech made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). My hon. Friend then said, referring to Clause 8: it gives an impression of civic tycoons throwing their weight about to try to intimidate or to discriminate against some parson whose preaching may be too stark and prophetic for their digestions. I then expressed the opinion that it was unlikely that anybody in the City of London would for … unworthy, frivolous or political purposes abuse the right to ask that the designation of a ward church should be revoked."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 679 and 681] I adhere to that opinion. I think it most unlikely, if the Bill remains un-amended, that the City Corporation or the members of the ward concerned would abuse their right to ask for the designation of a ward church to be revoked. I think it is unlikely that they would exercise their right on frivolous or political grounds.

The difficulty that I am in is this. I think that if this point had not been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking, and this Amendment were not on the Order Paper, the Bill would have gone through and the point would probably never have arisen in a concrete form; it would have been quite academic. That is no longer the position. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking has raised the matter as a specific concrete problem for the decision of Parliament.

We have to decide whether or not we shall write into the Bill a provision that no representation is to be made in respect of any question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, or in consequence of the social or political opinions or teachings of the incumbent … It seems to me, therefore, that if we reject the Amendment we shall, by implication, be assenting to the proposition that the aldermen and councillors will be entitled to make … representation in respect of any question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, or in consequence of the social or political opinions or teachings of the incumbent. I should be unwilling to assent to that proposition. I think that it would not only be regrettable—I was going to say reprehensible, but that is probably too strong a word—if any representations were made on those grounds. I have no reason to suppose that they would be. If we reject the Amendment, we are by implication acknowledging that the aldermen and councillors have a right to make representations on those grounds.

Sir H. Ashton


Mr. Fletcher

That is how it seems to me, and in support of that argument I shall introduce two further arguments. First, from what my hon. Friend said, and it was not disputed by the hon. Member, when this matter was put to the Bishop of London he was in favour of the Amendment and was prepared to accept it.

Sir H. Ashton

It was agreed in principle. But I think that in considering it in this particular context he took the view which I have just expressed to the House.

Mr. Fletcher

He accepted it in principle, but in this context he felt that there was a difficulty. That difficulty was apparently reinforced by the observations of certain City officials. I think it has to be considered whether their objections have any validity. If they apparently take the view that if these words were put in the Bill it would be a reflection upon them and that there would be an assumption that they might make some representations on these grounds, I cannot share that view at all. I do not think there is any force in that statement. It does not seem to me that there is the slightest reflection of any kind on these worthy gentlemen in the City, your constituents, Mr. Speaker, by making clear what even they recognise as implicit—that they should not make any representations on these grounds.

It does not seem to me that there is any more reflection on them in putting these words in the Bill than there is in the other Measures which protect incumbents throughout the land from their removal for doctrinal or political views. All that is suggested here is that the incumbents of the ward churches, who, as the hon. Member recognises, have not the ordinary free rights which the parish priest has in his freehold, should have the same kind of protection. Then he said that the final decision is with the Bishop and that that is a complete safeguard. It seems to me that it would be wrong even to contemplate that some future Bishop of London might find himself in the position of having representations made to him on those grounds.

Whatever we decide in view of the debate which my hon. Friend has initiated, if the Amendment is rejected it is highly likely that at some future time some aldermen or councillors may want to make some representations on grounds—let us face it—which in all probability will be ambiguous and quite vague. I cannot quite visualise on what grounds representations will be made if they are not made on grounds which are perhaps to some extent allied to one of these which my hon. Friend mentioned. There may be a situation in which considerations of this kind enter into the merits of the matter which the Bishop finally has to decide. I therefore think that we should strengthen the hand of this or any future Bishop of London if we made the position abundantly clear.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford has been good enough to say that he will reconsider the matter. As it seems to me that the only reason we are troubled with the debate is in order to appease the rather delicate sensitivities, as it seems to me, of the aldermen and councillors in the City, will the hon. Member consider whether an alternative form of words might suit my hon. Friend, meet the spirit of the Amendment and be acceptable to the Bishop and, at the same time, remove from the aldermen and councillors any possible suggestion that there is any reflection on them?

My suggestion is that instead of adding this proviso to Clause 8 (1), here or in another place or at some subsequent stage, an Amendment should be added to Clause 8 (2) making it clear that the Bishop should not make an order revoking the designation of a ward church on any question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial. If the proviso were added to the Bishop's powers, that would not impose any limitation on the aldermen and councillors and it would serve precisely the same purpose of making it clear that these were grounds which should not be brought into play either in the representations or in the decision of the Bishop. I therefore suggest that this is a serious problem and that there is an opportunity to find a form of words which should be acceptable, I think, to all parties.

7.45 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

Towards the end of his speech the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) said that this was a matter for the Church itself to decide. It is clear from the Bill that any decision which is made will be made by the Church and by nobody else.

I therefore suggest that the hon. Member's argument has no validity. Clause 8 says that the aldermen and common councilmen of that ward may at any time make a representation to the bishop…. All they are empowered and entitled to do under the Clause is to make representations—nothing else. Surely there is nothing wrong in that. The aldermen and common council men are there as representatives, and surely they ought to be in a position to make representations. We in the House would greatly resent it if we were restricted in our opportunities to make representations on any matter. I cannot see why there should be any limitation on any representations which the aldermen and common councilmen think fit to make in the interest of the members of their ward. That is all that the Clause entitles them to do.

It seems to me that, the representations having been made, it is entirely within the power of the Bishop to decide what he should do about them. As I read it, it will be for the Bishop and for the Church to decide what should be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) gave certain very valid reasons why it was desirable that there should be a provision such as this in the Clause to enable these changes to be made as may be necessary. We all agree that it is necessary that some such provision be included in the Bill. I think that the Bill is quite right and proper as it stands.

It should be said on behalf of the City Council that, as far as I am aware, it has not sought these powers in the Bill and has made no representations that the Clause should be framed in this way in order to give it powers to make representations. Having said that, it seems to me not to be reasonable that the Aldermen and Common Councilmen should be denied the right to make representations on any subject about which they care to make representations on behalf of the people they represent.

Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) indicated that he was prepared to listen to the debate and to reconsider the matter. I came into the Chamber with an open mind, but my mind has been made up for me by the last two speeches; and when I say that I hope that it will not be taken as impertinent. It seems to me that to both the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) what mattered was that the decision ultimately was taken by the Bishop. Not only the present Bishop of London, for whom I have the greatest respect and affection, but I am sure all future Bishops of London will take decisions on sound and right lines. One is not likely to be a small-minded man if one becomes Bishop of London.

I am anxious to avoid the injection into Church affairs, more than there is now, of Church party politics. I do not want to see any Bishop of London placed in the position of having to adjudicate between extremist Aldermen or Common Councilmen, never mind which party— extremely Evangelical or extremely Anglo-Catholic, or whatever it may be— who are criticising and attacking the party which holds opposite views. It seems to me that the Church of England is bedevilled by internal party politics; this is the scandal of the Church in the literal sense of the word. It is opening the door, albeit a very small door, to a recrudescence and an intensification of that sort of danger if we reject the Amendment. It is a wound to the body of the Church when there are rows in a parish because the parishioners do not like the churchmanship of the incumbent. It will be a wound to the body of the Church if religious extremists in the City of London criticise and attack the vicar of one of these ward churches. For that reason I support the Amendment.

We are not considering the present or any future Bishop. I am considering a possible outburst of ritualistic rows and troubles such as have bedevilled the Church in the past and may well bedevil it again. The Church of England is in grave danger always of being split asunder by ecclesiastical party politics and doctrinaire dissent. I believe that the Amendment will stop up one small hole in that respect.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

I was not able to be in my place when the Bill was debated on Second Reading on 25th February. I should not have thought any more about it if the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) had not tabled the Amendment; but that has caused me to be present now, and I have not risen and sought to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, without having given some thought to the issues involved.

I want to say at the outset, of course, that the Bishop of London would naturally be in favour in principle. He has been quoted very much today, and I shall talk about him again. He would be in favour in principle of this kind of Amendment. I cannot conceive of any Bishop of London who is doing his pastoral duty, with all the responsibility that that involves, consenting to make a change in the designation of a ward church on the grounds that the hon. Member for Barking and those who agree with him seek to rule out. But they have made out a case that the law should be fortified and that it should be stated specifically that the Bishop should not do so.

Sir G. Nicholson

Surely the whole issue is not a question of strengthening the hands of the Bishop but of limiting the grounds on which representations can be made. I wish that my hon. Friend would address himself to the point I put forward with so much conviction—that the danger to the Church is that petitions can be presented on this sort of grounds which do damage to the Church as a whole.

Sir P. Agnew

It is true that the Amendment is couched in the terms that my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Barking have stated, but it has been suggested by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) that another Amendment should be substituted which should not say anything about the nature of the representations to be made but, on the other hand, should say a great deal about the factors that are not to guide the Bishop in arriving at his decision.

Sir H. Ashton

That has not been moved.

Sir P. Agnew

No, but it has been referred to. I suppose that to keep within the rules of order I should confine myself to considering the Amendment which has been moved.

I would say that bodies as well as individuals often feel that they can make representations about all sorts of things which are completely irrelevant. I have never been a Minister of the Crown, but I am sure that those who are now sitting on the Government Front Bench will bear me out in saying that many representations are made to them about what course they should pursue in arriving at Ministerial decisions which are wholly irrelevant and sometimes grossly improper as factors to be taken into consideration by them. It is not any point at all in this case that the acceptance of the Amendment would cast some kind of slur on the City fathers and all the establishment in the City.

On the other hand, I think that what factors the Bishop should properly take into account when he is coming to his own decision—and he is the only person who makes a decision—are of very great importance. I should like to put the Amendment into some perspective with regard to the rest of our ecclesiastical practice in the Established Church of England. At present when bishops themselves are appointed it is the Crown that makes the appointment on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day, a man who holds particular party political opinions.

If there were real substance in what is the background of the Amendment, somebody should bring in a Bill and get it passed into law to provide that the advice tendered to the Crown in appointing a bishop should not have regard to any of the things stated in the Amendment. There is a very strong case for saying that.

Mr. Kirk

Disestablish the Church altogether.

Sir P. Agnew

That is another matter. I was speaking within the context of the Established Church and it is within that context that we have to deal with the Bill.

My apposition to the Amendment, which is absolutely firm, is based on this simple ground—that if this Bishop of London, and that is unthinkable, or if any Bishop of London or the bishop of any diocese based his administrative decisions of a parallel kind to this on the considerations given in the Amendment it would be clearly a gross abuse of his supreme pastoral authority. To put these considerations into the Bill would be to restrict and fetter the Bishop. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes, I think the Amendment would 'have that effect.

It is not the Corporation that is having a slur cast upon it. It is being cast upon the good sense and the wisdom and the special qualities with which the Bishop is invested and by reason of which he is appointed and consecrated a bishop. It is these that unwittingly have been called into question by the hon. Member for Barking and those who support him. For these reasons it is far better and wiser not to seek to put things of this kind into the Bill, which is largely administrative in character, but to rest instead in the first place upon the common sense of the Council-men of the City of London and, secondly, on the good, wise and fatherly administration of the Bishop of the diocese. I therefore reject the Amendment.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) might easily have found himself in very strange company if he had pursued one of his points only a little further. We hear about the Corporation in this matter and about the authorities of the City, but I have heard no one saying that either the Corporation as such or the City authorities as such have asked for the Clause and for the power that it gives to the Alderman and Common Councillors for the particular ward that is concerned.

Sir H. Ashton

This is an Amendment to Section 32 of the 1952 Act. They have the same powers under the Section to make a ward church. I think I am correct in saying that it was in agreement with the Aldermen and City Councillors that it was provided that they should have these powers of making representations.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Ede

Have they any evidence that the Court of Common Council or the Corporation of the City have made any representations asking that Clause 8 should be in the Bill? So far as I can make out, from the wording this Clause does not—and I am quite sure that the Second Church Estates Commissioner, by the telegraphic signs he is trying to make—

Sir H. Ashton

I was incorrect, I apologise.

Mr. Ede

I am not sure where we are now.

Sir H. Ashton

The right hon. Gentleman was correct in his argument.

Mr. Ede

I thank the hon. Gentleman.

This Clause, as it is worded, seems to me to give power to a very few people. We are trying to amend the Clause to avoid an evil, which I thought it was the intention of the hon. Member for Farn-ham (Sir G. Nicholson) to avoid—I am trying to support him. Anyone who represents an area including Farnham Castle ought to be an authority on prisons.

This appears to give power to the Alderman and Common Councillors of a ward in the City, a very limited number of people who need not reside in the City. In fact, I imagine that few members of the Common Council reside within the City of London. I remember the trouble which I had when I was Home Secretary in trying to get an electoral register for the City of London, owing to the way in which the property had disappeared.

Sir P. Agnew

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman apparently took the electoral register away from them altogether.

Mr. Ede

No, I did not. Hitler did that. I did the best I could to restore the damage which he inflicted.

This seems to me an amazing power to be put into the hands of a very limited number of people, to make representations with regard to the incumbent in certain circumstances which this Amendment seeks to avoid. I support the ground on which my hon. Friend the Member for Driberg—[Laughter]—my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)—after all, what I said first sounds rather better than the somewhat disrespectful way in which the name of my hon. Friend's constituency might be used in an allusion to his utterances.

I support the Amendment because I think that in every denomination what my hon. Friend described as the prophetic utterances of the clergy ought to be preserved. It may be necessary on occasion for the incumbent, in the discharge of the duties he has assumed, to say things which might arouse the animosity of a small group within his congregation. We want to get away from the position which is illustrated by the lady who congratulated the vicar on a sermon he had preached because, as she said, "I can think of someone to whom everything you said applies."

This is a duty which the incumbent has to discharge, and in these highly specialised congregations it is probably more necessary that the incumbent should be protected against representations which might be made by a minority claiming to speak for the whole of the church congregation. I regret that matters like this should come before the House of Commons, because I do not think we are the best qualified people to deal with these matters. Unfortunately, the law imposes the duty on us and we cannot escape from it. But as there has been no representation from the City as a whole on this matter; as no one has claimed to speak in a representative capacity and supported the Clause as it stands and as the Archdeacon put the Bishop's words into writing in accepting both the spirit and the wording of my hon. Friend's Amendment, I hope that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) will feel that he can accept it.

Sir W. Wakefield

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the words set out in Clause 8 would never have been included unless there had been agreement between the Church authorities and the City that they should be so included?

Mr. Ede

No. I have been too long a Member of this House—and I have held responsible positions with regard to the legislation passed in this House— to accept that merely because the words are here, some people have reached agreement about them. One of the reasons why we have a Committee stage and a Report stage is in order to deal with those matters.

Mr. John E. Talbot (Brierley Hill)

I intervene in this debate only because I am a liveryman of the City of London and one of the many hundreds, indeed thousands, who look up to the City as the font of municipal tradition, possessing a spirit which is unique in this country. I wish to present the viewpoint of the ordinary liveryman, and I am in no way briefed by the City authorities.

I feel that this Amendment is unnecessary because those who propose it are seeking to legislate for something which will never come to pass. If it is to have any value, it postulates to improprieties. First, that the Aldermen and Councillors of the guild churches will make a representation, the spirit of which is wrong, and secondly, that the Bishop of London will accept that representation in a similar spirit. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I feel that it is making a difficulty where none is likely to exist.

I agree that it is inappropriate that laymen should make representations about doctrine, ritual or ceremony. I agree that the political opinions of an incumbent are his alone. But when we come to say that representations may not be made about social questions, we are opening up a wide field. It is precisely on that argument that it may well be necessary for representations to be made. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that the congregations of the guild church are highly specialised, and I reinforce that. These congregations are composed almost entirely of those who work or have a special personal interest in the City of London and its traditions.

I should not like to advance the theory that the Aldermen and Councillors of the City of London are never wrong or can do no wrong. But I maintain that the way in which the City has maintained its great traditions for eight hundred or nine hundred years without scandals of the type that this Amendment seems to indicate is sufficient warranty that such scandals will never occur. With such a scheme as this only in its infancy, a scheme which incorporates an entirely new type of partnership between Church and laity and which will result in an enormous amount of good, the less technicalities we introduce the better. I repeat that this is a case where we should go forward in trust, in the certain knowledge that, with its history and traditions, the City and those who rule it will never do anything which is wrong.

Sir H. Ashton

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the House for allowing me to say a few additional words. I have listened to this debate with interest, but it would be foolish to suggest that my task is at all an easy one. Therefore, I suggest this course of the House. There are differences of opinion on what is obviously an important matter and I do not think that it would be right and proper to accept the Amendment which is before the House at present.

On the other hand, the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) made a suggestion that certain words might be included in Clause 8 (2), after "the bishop", which would achieve the kind of thing which many hon. Members have had in mind. It would, perhaps, be a mistake in a matter of this importance to make any decision tonight, but, as Second Church Estates Commissioner, I have been asked to take the responsibility as I understand it. I therefore suggest to the House that we should be prepared to have a further look at the suggestion made by the hon. Member.

Sir G. Nicholson

I speak again, by leave of the House, to ask by hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) to clarify what he has said. Are we to understand that he is inclined to accept the sort of suggestion made by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher)? That does not meet my point of view at all. How is he to give it consideration.

Sir H. Ashton

I had in mind that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) should withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that we should look at the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Islington, East. I may be quite wrong, but I understood that my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) supported that suggestion.

Sir G. Nicholson

No. I still feel strongly on this. I may have misinterpreted what the hon. Member said, but I thought he was talking about the powers and direction of the Bishop. What I am anxious to avoid is that questions of Church politics should raise their heads before they reach the bishop.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

Leaving aside the merits of the case, may I ask how we would become repossessed of this matter so that, when the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) has thought about it, we may know his views? Unless the debate in adjourned, I do not understand how, procedurally, he could look at the matter again and bring it before us to see whether we like what he then suggests.

Sir H. Ashton

I am not quite clear, but the suggestion was that the matter could be further considered and I take it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is within the powers of the House to consider it further?

Mr. Driberg

On a point of order. Would the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ash ton), or myself, be in order in moving the adjournment of the debate until another convenient day, so that the matter could be considered again?

Sir H. Ashton

Further to that point of order. Could the matter not be brought up again on Third Reading?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think that the Bill can be amended on Third Reading, once we pass it. The debate on the Bill could now be adjourned and the House could continue with its business on the next Bill. That, I think, would be possible.

Mr. Kirk

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I distinctly remember that on the Third Reading of the Homicide Bill an Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I should have thought that if it were possible on that Bill it would be possible on this Bill.

Mr. Gordon Walker

May I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to page 508 of Erskine May where, from a quick reading, I think it says that Amendments can be moved on Third Reading and that they are not limited to drafting or consequential Amendments, but that previous notice of them in the form in which they are to be moved is required by Standing Order No. 43? I understand that, although it is a very unusual practice, it is within the rules of order for Amendments to be moved and accepted on Third Reading.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am obliged to the right hon. Member. I am aware that minor Amendments may be moved and accepted on Third Reading. It may be that what the right hon. Member has read from Erskine May could be stretched to comprehend the Amendment now before the House.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Ede

Is it not as well to keep the position as simple as possible? Surely the simplest thing would be if by agreement we could adjourn the debate. Then the Second Church Estates Commissioner and others interested could have a consultation. He could have consultation with the promoters of the Bill and, possibly, some representative of the City. Then we could come back to the Bill and go straight on from where we are now, because he could inform us of what the result of the conversations was. I hope that we can keep this matter simple and not get involved in a discussion at some future time on the scope of the Amendment that we may have to move on Third Reading.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Before we pursue what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just said, may I refer to the question put by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) about Erskine May? Standing Orders, Private Business, 1959, provide, in paragraph 184 No amendments, not being merely verbal, shall be made to any private bill on the third reading". That confirms my view that we would be hard put to it to include this Amendment in an Amendment on Third Reading.

Mr. Driberg

In that case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned until a convenient date.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That means the debate on the consideration of the Bill, as amended?

Mr. Driberg


Question put and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed upon Wednesday.


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

8.18 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."

This Bill seeks authority from Parliament to do three things. The first is to perform corporate acts and to hold meetings anywhere in England as it could hitherto lawfully perform and do in the City of London and the City of Westminster. Secondly, it authorises that the name, the Royal College of Physicians, be the corporate name. The reason for that, the House, I think, should know, is that this name has been in use for 102 years quite regularly, but was never authorised in the Acts of 1858, 1860, 1886 or 1956.

Going much further back, there seems evidence that by a charter given by Charles II authority was given, but at that time the physicians of London did not take advantage of their rights by bringing a Bill before Parliament. I am not surprised, for they were very busy with the plague of London, which I think kept them very fully occupied. The original title dates back to 1518— so we are dealing with an organisation of very ancient origin—to the time of Henry VIII, and it then was: The President and College of Commonalty of the Faculty of Physic in London. The third, and minor, thing which is asked for from this House is that the limit of £1,000 on the annual value of lands that may be held by the College shall be removed.

Hon. Members have a right at once to ask two questions of those of us who have put our names to the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill: first, why oppose such an innocent Measure, and, secondly, if we have to oppose it, why do we proceed to seek the absolute rejection of the Measure rather than formulate an instruction to the Committee? The answer is that the Bill is so framed that the type of Instruction that one would have liked to put forward—it would have been an instruction relating to the constitution of the Royal College—would have been entirely out of order because it is not mentioned in the Bill.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Does it not inevitably follow from what the hon. Gentleman has said that it must be irrelevant?

Dr. Stross

When the hon. Gentleman knows as much about medicine as he does about the law, he will learn not to rise in his place so eagerly until he has heard a little more about the Bill.

Much as my hon. Friends and I sympathise with the desire of the college to move from its present home in Pall Mall, East to Regent's Park and to receive authority for a title that it has long used, we are left with the fact that we can only move the rejection of the Bill in the form we are now doing it in order to obtain time for a debate upon this body which asks for privileges from this honourable House.

I have been criticised, and the term used about me in taking this action, in a note in The Lancet and quoted in The Times, is that I am misusing Parliamentary procedure. This is an interesting viewpoint to take, and I am much too kindly in temperament to take any objection to it, for it is impossible to feel disturbance or annoyance when the basis of the objection raised results from ignorance of our procedure in this House. I hope every Member of the House, and certainly those at the moment in the Chamber, knows what our procedure is and the machinery by means of which we can obtain a debate which could otherwise never be achieved at all.

I want to make it clear at this stage that it is not the intention of my hon. Friends and myself to dictate to the Royal College. What we ask it to do is to think again about the matter with which I will now deal at once, namely, the grievance felt by many of the members of the Royal College who have raised this matter with us. It is on their behalf that we speak and not because we have any private axe to grind, and if we could not raise grievances in the House, then it would be a very unhappy day indeed for this Legislature.

In the first place, one must remember that the highest medical qualification given to physicians in this country is membership of the Royal College. Fellows of the Royal College are elected, or, as some people feel, selected, from the members, but they are elected only by the existing Fellows and not by members. Members can be put forward for Fellowship only by other Fellows and not by a member. This list of those who are so sponsored does not reach the Council of the Royal College directly, but first, as hon. Members will have seen if they have read what the Parliamentary agents for the Royal College have distributed to us, there are two committees which have to screen the names. Only those who pass through these two meshes then reach the Council, and voting then is by ballot. Members who have written to me do not themselves fully understand this procedure and they do not think it is reasonable that when their names are put forward in the ordinary way by Fellows for a Fellowship their names should not go forward directly for ballot.

There is another point which has been put by members. We must not, and cannot, treat Fellowship lightly. It is a very important and graceful distinction that goes, by and large, only to those who are thought fit by the Fellows for the highest honour that they can confer. But there is another implication, too, for members tell me that in their view merit awards—that means increased financial rewards—more easily follow Fellowship when Fellowship is once attained. Therefore, they feel nervous of criticising the constitution of the College or the method of election for fear that they will become unpopular. This may be absolutely wrong on their part, but I am here to voice the views which have been put to me.

Membership, which I have said is the highest qualification that one can achieve in medicine apart from surgery, is almost essential today for the higher posts in the hospital service, and among the members of the Royal College are, indeed, many of our most eminent physicians. Yet they say that apart from two of them out of roughly 4,000 they have no voice on the Council. There is a standing committee of some 20, elected by members, and two of those twenty are added to the approximately 900 Fellows, so that there are two voices from the members and 900 from the Fellows, but there are roughly five times as many members as there are Fellows. They consider this to be wrong, and it is this that they consider to be a grievance.

Looking at the circulated description of the constitution of the College which has been sent to us, we notice from the last page that it is open to any Fellow at any time to propose an alteration to the byelaws relating to the method of election to Fellowship, and the members of the College can at any time raise the same question through their elected representatives on the Council of the College. I have mentioned that there are two such representatives. I am told that they have never done so—I think this is important—neither has any member of the College ever complained to the College. That rather frightens me in view of the information that I have received from members. I find it frightening that representations should be made to us and that the officers of the college have no knowledge that there is any feeling whatsoever about this matter. It is, therefore, important to remember that dissatisfaction has apparently not reached the upper circles of the Royal College itself. The members feel that they are disfranchised.

What is even more archaic and worse is this. A Fellow has no vote unless he is present in person in London at the headquarters of the Royal College. I heard from a past-president some years ago that, of the 900 Fellows, the largest number meeting together was a little over 300. I understand that it is normally about 90. If it is 90, it means that 10 per cent. of the Fellows meet to elect their officers, to make decisions, and to elect further Fellows from the membership.

This would not appear to be a very large percentage, but it is made worse by the fact that, as voting is in person and no postal vote even for Fellows is allowed, Fellows who are in the provinces are at a disadvantage, and the many Fellows who are scattered all over the world virtually cannot vote at all. They cannot come to quarterly meetings, or even annual meetings, from Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. It is certainly difficult to do so.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

It is not unlike the system by which the hon. Member is elected.

Dr. Stross

All hon. Members are elected by people going to vote. Everyone has a vote. It is one man, one vote. At the Royal College two men have a vote for 4,000, if they are members, whereas every Fellow has a vote if he is able to be in London, but he has no vote if he happens to be at the other end of the world, even though he is a Fellow. I know that it is complicated, but I can see that the noble Lord is trying to follow me. I can assure him that the procedure I am discussing is quite as archaic and old-fashioned as our own.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

That is entirely my point. The procedure is almost identical to that by which the hon. Member himself is elected.

Dr. Stross

But not quite. We have postal votes. The noble Lord has missed the point here.

Other organisations of great standing, such as the Royal College of Surgeons, differ. One becomes a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons by examination, and therefore this difficulty does not arise. Nonetheless, about 100 years ago there was great difficulty with the Royal College of Surgeons and a determined attack was made by those who felt that they were then disfranchised. After very considerable agitation, they won a great victory. Now I think that the Royal College of Surgeons is a democratic body.

I think that some Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians would deny this and say, "What nonsense. To allow a young surgeon because he becomes a Fellow to have a vote and the same rights of raising his voice as the most eminent surgeon is ludicrous." Some Fellows argue in this way, but that does not affect me very much, and I think that they are wrong not to trust their younger people a little more. We are not speaking only of young and inexperienced people when we speak of members of the Royal College of Physicians. Many of them are very mature men who have been members for twenty or thirty years or longer.

The Scottish colleges again appear to be more forward-looking than the very eminent organisation which I am now describing. The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is at present revising its constitution. I do not know in what direction it is revising it, but it is in process of revision. It is understood in Scotland that any member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, if for some years he takes a real interest in his College, is likely to be elected to Fellowship. Therefore, in that respect, it is more democratic than our own English college.

We plead that a little breath of air by way of a wind of change should also permeate the chambers of the English institution.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

A fatal doctrine.

Dr. Stross

Two very radical changes were suggested to me by the members who wrote to me. First, they asked why all members should not have a right to vote to elect the executive, and even a right to put forward other members.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

How many members have written to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) on this subject?

Dr. Stross

That is a very proper question to ask me. I have had eight letters, and I propose to read one or two of them tonight before I finish.

Mr. Cooke

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many members of the Royal College of Physicians there are?

Dr. Stross

If the hon. Member had been here to listen to me or, being here, had listened, he would have heard me give the numbers. Last year, there were, I believe, 3,856 members, but I mentioned a rough figure of 4,000. No doubt, if the hon. Member gets the opportunity he will give his views to the House.

I have been asked by members of the Royal College to say that they think that they should have some right of government and, therefore, should have a vote. They also think that even if they do not have a vote, the Fellows, at least, should have a postal vote, so that Fellows themselves should not be disfranchised. I said earlier that I have not asked for this debate in order to dictate what this ancient institution should or should not do, but in order to raise grievances that have been brought to my notice.

I feel that any progressive and forward-looking alteration in the constitution of the Royal College would bring it into the esteem that it rightly should have in the eyes of everyone. Judging from the attitude of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), there may be one or two hon. Members who ask themselves: why should we in this house intervene at all? [Interruption.] They may ask: is not its own constitution a purely private matter for the College? I must answer that, because some of those who have just cheered my rhetorical question have not, perhaps, been in the House as long as I have. It may be that they are right in feeling as they do, but I think that the answer is not as palatable as it should be.

Members have roughly one chance in five of ultimate election to Fellowship, I am advised that open pressure by members, or criticism by them, does not enhance their ultimate chance. I have already made it clear that they think that substantial financial awards tend to flow after Fellowship. They therefore feel— and I quote from an article in the British Medical Journal of 1956—that they must remain, as were the founders in 1518: Persons that be profound, sad, and discreet, groundedly learned, and deeply studied in physic. Therefore, if there is to be any discussion, Parliament must speak up in this matter, and if any hon. Members feel that Parliament must never discuss the constitution and affairs of an organisation that presents a Bill asking for privilege, Parliament has changed in an extraordinary fashion. I am sure that no one here would accept that proposition.

The three Members for Stoke-on-Trent have appended their names to this Motion. There is nothing untoward in that; it is simply that the three Members always work together, and collaborate in everything they do, whichever' one of them takes the lead. I have said that I have had representations from members of the College from many parts of the country. I insist on warning, or advising hon. Members who do not, as yet, seem to agree with me, that the misgivings are widely if obscurely felt.

At this stage, perhaps I may quote a short letter—

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

Is the hon. Member suggesting that he has any section of opinion with him when he repre- sents one in 500 of the members of the body of which he speaks? Secondly, would not he agree that what he says is completely outside the scope of the present Bill, and that it does not come into this debate at all? Thirdly, would he not agree that the Fellows have one of the highest standards in the world, and that he is endeavouring to pour discredit on them?

Dr. Stross

I have heard some nonsense sometimes uttered in this House; I have never heard a more nonsensical and stupid intervention than that. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is new to this House. Before he makes statements, why does he not study our procedure and realise what my rights are? He is suggesting that we in this House have no right to discuss anything when a Bill is brought before us. To say that I am denigrating the Fellows of the Royal College is the most arrant nonsense. Let the hon. Gentleman not think that I give way to him in admiration for and knowledge of a profession that I have served for a much longer time than he has.

I want to read a short letter that I have received: I should like to tell you that I support most sincerely your effect to alter the Royal College of Physicians of London Bill. In company with very many other physicians who are members of the college I feel that the conduct of the college's affairs is such that we are as I think you have said 'disenfranchised'. The conduct of the college's affairs seems archaic and contrasts very badly with the other professional bodies of similar standing. The Royal College denies that last phrase, that the conduct of the College's affairs is archaic and contrasts badly with bodies of similar standing. It defends its paternalistic attitude. Fellowship is not a matter of examination. We have to know whom we are choosing.

I had a letter from a very well-known psychiatrist who asked me whether I noted—he used very strong language which I am not going to quote—on page 121 of a book called "Call the Doctor " reference to the fact that this is not the first time there has been criticism of the Royal College of Physicians. Here we note that in 1767 the licentiates of the College were very angry because in a pamphlet the then President of the College had quoted from the statutes of the College a clause which called for 'the admission of those only to be Fellows who, being graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, besides approved learning and morals, have also agreeable and sociable dispositions.' That is a long time ago. The truth is that the licentiates felt that this was an aspersion upon them. They got a locksmith to pick the lock of the door when the Fellows were dining in secret. They forced their way in and with their golden-headed canes broke all the windows. I have asked for this debate for only one reason—in order that utterances which obviously never reach the Royal College, the Fellows or the government of the College, should reach them from us if not through anyone else.

I should like to read one paragraph in an editorial written in the British Medical Journal of 7th April, 1956. This editorial was headed " The Gold-headed Cane" and was critical of the Royal College for reasons which may be brought out by others in the debate. The paragraph read as follows: Those who have a great affection for something that has had a local habitation and a name in the realm of medicine since 1618 should not feel guilty of impiety in voicing criticisms that are widely if obscurely felt. The antique mask the College wears on its official occasions has a certain faded charm of its own, but it sorts only too well with its present confusion of purpose. The Royal College of Physicians of London is faced with a challenge or a series of challenges with which it has so far come into only most reluctant and hesitating contact. Upon its ultimate response its welfare depends, and much of which is at the heart of medicine. We who have objected to this Bill and ask for its rejection have at heart the welfare of the Royal College as well as the body of medicine.

8.45 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone):

As might well be expected, I have received a great many letters from constituents who have written asking me to support the Bill. In their letters they have expressed anxiety and great concern lest the Bill might, perhaps, be rejected by the House, and they have put to me the reasons why they consider that the Bill should go through. So far as I can see, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has raised no objection whatever to anything in the Bill. Indeed, he expressly stated that the objects of the Bill were proper and desirable and he wished to see it go through in order that its objects might be achieved.

At the same time, I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central on taking the opportunity which the Motion for a Second Reading has given him and the House to ventilate and to learn of a grievance which exists. In the experience of nearly a quarter of a century in this House which I now have, there have been occasions when I and others have taken such an opportunity to ventilate grievances in this Chamber. It is one of the privileges of hon. Members to be able to ventilate grievances of their constituents or of others when such matters are brought to their notice. It is, therefore, a very right and proper thing that the hon. Gentleman has done.

I must tell the House that in all the letters which came to me I had no single complaint or grievance such as those raised by the hon. Member, but I realise that that does not mean that such grievances do not exist. I hope that, after having heard what the hon. Gentleman has said and what, perhaps, other hon. Members may say, the House will allow the Bill to have a Second Reading, and I express the further hope that the words said in the House in the ventilation of the grievances will be most seriously considered by those whose responsibility it is to see to the running of the Royal College of Physicians as it exists today. With those few words, I commend the Bill to the House.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

I am glad that the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) does not, apparently, share the view which we heard expressed from the benches opposite that we were in some way wrong to raise these matters on the Royal College of Physicians of London Bill. I detected in some hon. Members the same kind of resentment and, perhaps, indignation which has permeated the editorial paragraphs of the Lancet and the statement which the promoters of the Bill have circulated. They seem to feel that Parliament has no right to question the constitution or structure of the Royal College, or its methods.

I fully accept that the Royal College of Physicians of London is a most distinguished body which has a long history of service to medicine in this country. Nevertheless, it cannot conduct its affairs totally insulated from the world outside. We in this House are in a sense the consumers' representatives where the Royal College is concerned, and everything that it does ultimately, if indirectly, affects us as patients.

Therefore, much as the College would perhaps like to ignore Parliament, the very existence of this Bill shows that it cannot ignore Parliament. Under the terms of the Bill, we are asked to approve and to confer retrospective respectability on the title which the College has been using for about a hundred years, apparently without authority. Of course, it is a title which the College is fully justified in using, and it is obviously a legal accident that it has not got the title to it.

We are also asked in the Bill to allow the College to hold land in excess of £1,000 a year in value, and we understand that without a power of this kind the College would be unable to acquire the Someries House site where it hopes to erect a new college. I would say, in parenthesis, that if the architectural design of the building which the College proposes to put up is unworthy of its Nash setting, the Royal College might be in for a little further Parliamentary trouble later on.

These are all requests which, I fully agree with my hon. Friend, are perfectly reasonable and which we support, but if Parliament is being asked to grant to the College something which it wants and to confer upon it new powers, we are fully entitled to take a look at the institution. It is no good the College being touchy about this. The College must learn to listen to criticism, even if it comes from a quarter which it considers rather ill-informed.

I want to support what my hon. Friend said in moving the rejection of the Bill. For my part, I do not think that I have envisaged members voting for Fellows. It is one of the things upon which the promoters of the Bill in their statement poured scorn, but I am Strongly in favour of a postal ballot among Fellows themselves, for the reasons which my hon. Friend gave. I cannot see any reason why members should not join in electing the officers of the College and perhaps of the Council. Why should they not participate in those elections?

It is also argued by the promoters that the fact that there are two members' representatives on the Council somehow or other negatives our claim that the Royal College is run in a somewhat undemocratic way. I do not think that two councillors out of nearly 4,000 members is a fully adequate representation. In the course of their statement, the promoters say that the College's method of electing Fellows is no less democratic than that of the Royal Society. Unless I am very much mistaken, the Royal Society has only Fellows. There are no members; the problem, therefore, does not arise, and this is a rather inappropriate analogy.

My hon. Friend dealt with the claim at the end of the promoters' statement that it was open to Fellows to propose any alteration in the by-laws. There is also the odd statement that no complaint has ever reached the college. If one reads the statement literally, no complaint about anything has ever reached the College from members, and if this is true, it can only be for the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend who opened this debate. It is perfectly plain that so much depends on the decision of the hierarchy of the College that members would be rash indeed to voice their criticisms too loudly.

Criticism that I have heard has not been confined to members. Indeed, Fellows have said to me since notice of the Bill appeared on the Order Paper that they thought that it was excellent that a debate should take place in the House and that the structure and constitution of the College should come under review.

The Royal College at one time spoke virtually for the entire medical profession. I think that it has fought fairly hard, understandably perhaps, to retain a comfortable monopolistic position. It cannot be said that it exactly encouraged the formation of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I do not think that it encouraged the College of General Practitioners. I think that at the moment it is resisting, and successfully resisting, the establishment of a Royal College of Psychiatry. It is difficult to discover where the proportionate responsibility for medical education lies. The College must accept some of that responsibility at any rate, possibly a major part of it.

Speaking as a layman, and perhaps with some temerity, I would venture the view that the teaching of medical students in this country has fallen far behind the needs of the time. Too little is taught of social medicine, which is of greatly increasing importance, and of psychological medicine. After all, nearly half the medical beds are occupied by patients suffering from some kind of mental disorder, many of them untreated perhaps simply because of the shortage of psychiatric staff. Yet the undergraduate medical student is taught next to nothing about psychological medicine. In the London teaching hospitals the position is perhaps worse than anywhere else in Britain.

Many distinguished physicians seem to regard psychiatry as a minor and very inferior branch of medicine. The result is that in the teaching of psychiatry we are lagging far behind the United States and Canada and, I think, substantially behind Scotland. There is as yet no Royal College of Psychiatry. I hope that there will be before very long, but meantime it is the duty of the Royal College to ensure that doctors are trained and equipped to deal with the medical conditions which they are most likely to meet. Those who relegate psychiatry to this inferior status are doing a grave disservice to the medical profession and to the hundreds of thousands of sufferers from mental disorders.

I have the impression—perhaps I am mistaken—that the Royal College of Physicians dislikes change in principle. It might reflect that we are living in a time of rapid and revolutionary change, when even the most august of institutions might find it useful to adjust itself.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

This House, for example.

Mr. Robinson

I would agree with the noble Lord, if this were not an inappropriate time to discuss the matter, that it is high time this institution adjusted itself to changed circumstances.

If this debate has opened a window or two in an establishment where the atmosphere may have become a trifle stale and stuffy—

Colonel Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott (Ripon)


Mr. Robinson

—it can have done no harm. It may, perhaps, even have done a little good.

9.0 p.m.

Colonel Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott (Ripon)

A Bill like this gives an opportunity of saying a few words about this admirable and ancient institution, which has created a standard of medicine which has produced probably some of the finest physicians in the whole world. We in Britain take for granted the high standard of medical practice. It is one of our birthrights and we should think it extraordinary if we had to go abroad to get medical advice and medical services.

It is only when one goes abroad and hears what high respect is paid to our physicians that we realise the tremendous position which they hold. We see a steady stream of foreign patients visiting this country to benefit from their knowledge, their practice and their skill. We should think a long time before we make any suggestions of how this admirable institution should alter its organisation. We should be absolutely certain, too, before we make any suggestions that the changes that we suggest would be changes for the better.

To become a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians is to receive an award for academic distinction. That can be done only by selection. It cannot possibly be done by election. To have a postal vote amongst 4,000 members would not assure us that we should be getting academic distinction for those who were most worthy to receive it.

Dr. Stross

Does the hon. and gallant Member not agree that a postal vote for the Fellows should certainly be considered at this stage?

Sir M. Stoddart-Scott

I should have thought that the best way to get the right awards is to have selection by the smallest number possible and not by the largest number. As soon as we start increasing the number of those who make the selection, we should not be assured that the academic distinction goes to the right people and we should, I am sure, water down the standard of the Fellows of the Royal College. That is the last thing that this House would want to happen.

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) wishes the standards of the Royal College to be diminished by the methods which he has suggested. The hon. Member has expressed the dissident and dissatisfied views of eight members of the College. There will always be dissident and dissatisfied members, even if the selection is done by vote of the 4,000 members or the postal vote of Fellows. There will always be somebody who falls below the line and, therefore, will be dissatisfied and wish to have some other method of choice of Fellows.

This House should be the very last institution to lecture a college which has been so successful in running its affairs and creating the highest standard of medicine in the whole world. It was lectured by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). They would consider it extraordinary if we in this House were to lecture the trade unions and co-operative societies about how to manage their institutions. In the great City of Leeds, where we have a co-operative society with no political affiliations, the members of the Labour Party are continually trying to get rid of the postal ballot. Here it seems that members of the Labour Party want to introduce a postal ballot.

What this House should do when we pass the Bill, as I am sure we shall, tonight is to send the Royal College a message of thanks and admiration for the great services which it renders and the way in which it runs its College. We should congratulate it on its enormous plans for developing the College and medical research and medical education and,wish it great luck in this venture.

9.4 p.m.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

I am pleased to be able to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Sir M. Stoddart-Scott), with whom I serve in another capacity, because I know that he, as one Member of the House at least, will accept that there are many of us on this side, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who have spoken already, who take second place to none in our admiration for the work and antiquity of the Royal College of Physicians.

Sir M. Stoddart-Scott

They did not say that.

Dr. Mabon

On reflection, the hon. and gallant Member will realise that they did. Certainly, having read HANSARD, he will see that that was said specifically by each of my hon. Friends.

I wish to associate myself with the remarks of all hon. Members in relation to this excellent institution. We must not pretend, however, that because it has a great record, therefore it is completely without any defect and without any defect that could be altered slightly in some way to make matters more in tune with the times. Even the hon. Gentleman himself has actually had the temerity to do what, after all, we are being accused of, that is, to suggest reform. He has suggested that the present system of choosing the Fellows is not a good one. He has advanced this strange argument that a public meeting of the Fellows, even though 10 per cent. of the electorate turned out, namely, 90 out of 900, was somehow not a good thing and that one ought to have for the final selection committee, so to speak, a much smaller number than 90. In this connection he used a phrase which so astonished me that I wrote it down. He used the phrase, "The smaller the better", because the smaller the number, the higher would be the quality of those selected. That was the argument. I hope I do not misrepresent the hon. Gentleman in thus enunciating his argument.

What it means is that he would so reform the Royal College that there would be a special committee of the Fellows to decide who would be the new Fellows and that the remaining 900 would take no part whatsoever in the election of the Fellows.

The hon. Gentleman was, perhaps, moved to use this rather extreme form of argument because he was so very busily engaged in knocking down another argument which incidentally no one has advanced—certainly no one on this side of the House. The only people who have advanced a case for rejecting this argument, which I repeat was never made, have been the Royal College and the hon. Gentleman tonight. The Royal College in its submission to us argued against the case for having the Members elect Fellows.

Who is the sponsor of this idea? Whose idea was it? I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman in replying to the case from this side of the House would have been good enough to have addressed himself to the three excellent suggestions put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). His three suggestions—let me run over two of them—were that there should be a postal vote for Fellows, that the whole 900 should vote or be given the opportunity to vote, as the electors of this country are entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections. If for some very good reason they are unable to be present at the polling stations on Election day they are entitled to exercise their right of a postal vote. That does not seem to me a revolutionary doctrine.

The hon. Member's second point was that the members, who are, after all, the majority of all those associated with the institution, ought to be allowed with the Fellows to elect the officers of the Royal College. I cannot see how that is bad. I certainly recognise a very good argument in favour of it in the character of letters which some of us have received about this matter.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) has gone, because I hoped that in the process of going through Parliamentary experience he would not fail to listen to any protest made by a constituent of his. I had one doctor write to me and say, "I am a member of the silent opposition." I find that amazing, particularly when we are told by the official brief sent to us. and I quote members have never done so, and neither has any member of the College ever complained to the College. If, in fact, no member has complained to the College, there have been those who have written to my hon. Friends and to me, and to other hon. Members who have spoken. The actual number of members who have spoken to me about this comes to about 12, I think, on a quick count, and I have had six letters.

I now understand why it is that these people do not wish to go into print and why it is that I am asked by every one, except one, not to read his letter or to mention his name. It smacks very much of an oligarchy dispensing patronage and that one must not offend it or may not get even a reasonable and justifiable share of the patronage.

The hon. Gentleman said we were lecturing the College about the situation, and so on, and saying that we may as well lecture the trade unions. I hope we do lecture the trade unions. I for one wholeheartedly disagree with the present electoral practice in the Electrical Trades Union. I think that is quite despicable—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is going too far from this Bill.

Dr. Mabon

I know you are charitable, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and will not be too severe with me for trying to rebut what was said in another similar argument which managed to escape the notice of the Chair. That is the point. I think it is perfectly right to use this analogy that where matters are wrong we should protest and object.

It is obvious that there is something very seriously wrong when men of medicine, educated and trained in a very great art and who occupy very substantial positions throughout the country, should be unable because of fear of their own incomes, position or future prospects to speak up and make radical constitutional changes within their own organisation. There is something fundamentally wrong. If all these hon. Members say that it is irrelevant for us to argue this case, then where do we on behalf of our constituents make an objection?

I think that the Bill is an admirable one. We hope that the Royal College will perhaps listen to people who are trying to express on behalf of a number of others in the country their very great concern about the governing of this College of Medicine. The Scottish College has not had a dissimilar practice in many ways in the past, but they are at last turning in on themselves to consider their own usages. I am glad to say that they are looking upon this matter favourably. If there were any suggestion anywhere that this Royal College was willing to do that, or had even discussed this matter, I am sure that this objection would not have come before the House of Commons.

The fact is that the College has categorically and officially refused to consider any reform of its constitution and practice. It is quite above reproach in its own opinion. That sort of self-satisfied, smug attitude is, to my mind a very wrong way for a distinguished College to conduct itself.

There is no sense in trying to take all the virtues and accomplishments of a collective body and praise them for that, and then endorse an oligarchic system of Government. This kind of thing is reflected in countries which we regard as being in chains. It seems almost Orwel-lian that in the correspondence I have had—almost in line with George Orwell's "1984 "—these men are not in a position to express their opposition. I have done so tonight on behalf of some men who taught me when I was a student, and I find it almost incredible that I as a young man should have to do it. I do it on behalf of men senior to me in my profession and on behalf of men who were at the university with me. They have confidence that I would never divulge their names or get them into trouble. I wonder if other men, if they had similar confidence in their M.P.S, would have written more letters to hon. Members opposite and made representations.

This is an argument against the hon. Member for Clapham, who says that he has received no representations—at least, I presume that he has not—and that he will not be swayed by this argument of numbers and must receive at least 2,000 letters before he believes that any part of 4,000 are in disagreement. This is an argument of rebuttal to him. Perhaps men are frightened that their names will be given. In this House one hon. Member to my knowledge—he is now a Minister of the Crown—committed the grave blunder of divulging the confidence of a constituent in relation to one of his own ecclesiastical superiors. That was a despicable and wretched thing to do. It is like a breach of confidence between doctor and patient.

I hope that, having made our protest tonight about what we think is an unfair practice, the Royal College will have second thoughts about this, and that we may not only see the Bill on its way but also see in a few years' time a change in the government of the Royal College, which alas is sadly needed.

9.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Edith Pitt)

It ill, perhaps, be convenient if I intervene very briefly at this stage to give the views of my Department on the Bill. Hon. Members may find them helpful. I have been most interested that all speeches so far have paid tribute to the Royal College of Physicians. Indeed, the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) went out of his way to make clear, in, case his hon. Friends had not already done so, the admiration which they felt for this ancient institution. Nor has any speech from either side of the House been critical of the objects of the Bill; in so far as they have been referred to in the speeches, they have been commended. But many of the speeches have dwelt at some length on a point which is not included in the Bill.

The position is, as I see it, that the objects of the Bill are unexceptionable and are greatly desired by a most respected section of the medical profession. The opposition to the Bill has been based on matters which are not connected with the Bill in any way— namely, what is alleged to be the undemocratic attitude of the College, and particularly the way in which the Fellows are selected from the members and the rule that members of the College are not allowed to vote in the Fellowship election.

I am not the person to comment on those allegations tonight, for this is private legislation. Some answer has already been made across the Floor. Whether they are justified or not, they are nothing whatever to do with the merits of the Bill and they should be pursued within the profession. My right hon. and learned Friend understands that there is machinery which would enable this to be done. It is perfectly true that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) made the point that he thought that the machinery was extremely limited. Nevertheless, we are advised that there is a vehicle through which these protests could be raised in the Council by the Standing Committee of Members.

Having listened to the debate so far, I think that there is nothing to justify the rejection of the Bill. The entirely separate issues which have been raised by some Members have no bearing on the matters contained in the Bill, which all of us feel are admirable. We do not wish that its purpose should fail because of a discussion quite outside the province of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House and hope that it will be given a Second Reading tonight.

Dr. Stross

Before I use the fatal words, may I say that one could never resist the blandishments of the hon. Lady or of the hon. Member for St. Maryle-bone (Sir W. Wakefield). Although we do not withdraw one word of what we said, and we hope that the Royal College will have listened to and will study what we have said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.

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