HC Deb 09 March 1961 vol 636 cc662-3
16. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Education to what extent permission has been granted by local authorities or headmasters and headmistresses to representatives of Moral Re-armament and other religious organisations to address school gatherings in State schools on the principles of their beliefs; whether local education authorities have sought advice on this matter from his Department; and whether local education authorities or headmasters and headmistresses have authority to arrange for occasional expositions by accredited representatives of variants of the Christian faith and of the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or other religious faiths accepted by communities within the Commonwealth.

Sir D. Eccles

Nothing of this kind has come to my notice except at one school in Cardiff. Local education authorities have not sought my advice on the matter. It is within the discretion of the school authorities to invite outside people occasionally to give talks in schools, but any religious instruction given in county schools must he within the framework of the agreed syllabus.

Mr. Sorensen

Has the Minister made any inquiries into—I take this from the Press report—the visit of a representative of Moral Re-armament to a certain school and the extraordinary amount of time used to expound his views? Secondly. if variants of the Christian religion are allowed to be expounded, is it not highly desirable that at least the higher forms of the grammar schools should be acquainted with the other faiths professed by communities within the Commonwealth?

Sir D. Eccles

I understand that representatives of Moral Re-armament asked the local education authority's permission to give talks in its schools, and the local education authority did not agree. One headmaster who was approached independently in good faith allowed the representatives to come to his school. I think he now realises that he made a mistake.

I think that it is better left to the schools themselves to decide what they teach.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the Minister assure us that he will see to it that when Moral Re-armament teachers go to schools they inform the children that among some of the most eminent of their supporters in the past have been many Fascists, including the late Herr Himmler?

Mr. G. Thomas

Since this is a Cardiff High School to which reference has been made, and the Press reports were very garbled and corrections have been made, will the Minister make it quite clear to the House that there is overwhelming feeling in Cardiff that we should keep out of our schools religious controversy but that in this case the headmaster did not expect that there would be any controversy at all?

Sir D. Eccles

I have said that I believe that the headmaster acted wrongly but in good faith. It really is not within my power to say in advance exactly what any lecturer is likely to tell the boys.