HC Deb 07 May 1962 vol 659 cc99-108

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, at the end to insert: (c) may make grants to educational institutions for the purpose of establishing or maintaining such courses as are mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

The Chairman

It would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in page 2, line 37, at the end to insert: (c) may make grants to educational institutions for the purpose of establishing or maintaining such courses as are mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

Mr. Robinson

That would be convenient, Sir William.

In Committee, we had a brief discussion on this subject on an Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) to Clause 2 only. In replying to the Amendment, and, incidentally, rejecting it, the Parliamentary Secretary addressed her remarks entirely to the problem of health visitors, which she was perfectly in order in doing. I am sure that she and the Minister will admit that the arguments in favour of an Amendment on these lines are weaker for health visitors than they are for social workers. For that reason, I propose to concentrate on the case for making grants to educational institutions for maintaining courses for training social workers.

It is more relevant to social workers because, whereas the Council for the Training of Health Visitors will mainly be concerned with co-ordinating, tidying up and perhaps standardising existing courses of training, which for the most part are workng reasonably well, the Council for Training in Social Work, as we shall have to call it in future, will have an entirely different job. Its job will be to establish new courses and standards.

We all agree that we want the best courses in social work training, with the best teachers. There may well be a reluctance on the part of some institutions of further education to start courses. It is to deal with this type of case, which may be rare, but which I am sure will exist, that this specific power for the councils is needed in the Bill. A power to make grants to educational institutions would be entirely in keeping with the other functions of the councils already in the Bill—the promoting of training courses, the approving of courses, and seeking to attract persons to those courses. In doing this the councils should also be able to assist the establishment of courses, wherever this is necessary.

We have in mind that the councils might pay the fees of an external lecturer of the required standing and ability who might not otherwise be employed on a course by one of the less well off establishments of further education. Alternatively, the councils might assist in the payment of fees for practical training associated with a course. In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary, in dealing with this problem as it affected the Council for the Training of Health Visitors, was at great pains to assure us that Exchequer money was available and was freely given in various ways to these courses for health visitor training. That may or may not be, but it certainly does not apply to social work training.

I want to give an example of something which has happened already. The Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies at Leeds University was approached by a local government association of welfare authorities with a view to its introducing part-time release courses for local authority welfare officers. As I understand, the Department was very willing to do this. However, it approached the Ministry of Education and was refused point blank financial assistance towards the establishing of such a course. In the absence of that financial assistance, the authorities at Leeds University felt that they could not embark on it and nothing has been done. I have received more than one local authority protest about this decision. The letters which I have seen take the view that the university has been prevented by the Ministry of Education from co-operating with their welfare departments.

If a power of the kind embodied in the Amendment were incorporated in the Bill, this sort of thing could not happen. This is a reasonable power. I cannot think that it would cost very much money. As we know, the income of the councils is assured by the Government, whatever their expenditure is over and above their income. However apposite the hon. Lady's arguments may have been to health visitor training, I am sure that the Minister will agree that they are not appropriate to social work training. It is on this count that I regard these Amendments as important, and I hope that they will be excepted by the Minister.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I support the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). I will not reiterate his arguments or the difficulties experienced in the discussion on health visitors in Committee. I should like, from the point of view of my own local authority, to read a letter I have received which supports the proposal made by the hon. Gentleman. The Town Clerk of the County Borough of Tynemouth writes: The resolution of the Association of North Eastern Welfare Authorities has in mind the interests of serving social welfare officers in accordance with the recommendations for further training as set out in Table 32 (page 266) of the Younghusband Report. I asked my town clerk what view my local authority took on this subject. I had some correspondence with the Minister of Education on the original representations made by my local authority for the County Borough of Tyne-mouth. I sent the town clerk, for the purpose of submitting to the appropriate committee of the local authority, the answer I received from the Minister. I will not weary the Committee with all that, because I believe that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North will know in what direction the Minister replied. I sent that reply to my town clerk. The answer to that letter supports what the hon. Gentleman has said and continues: 'Whilst I am sure the Association appreciate the relevant recommendations in the Working Party's Report … it is to them a matter of concern as to whether Colleges of Further Education have sufficient resources; that is, staff and tutors available to inaugurate part-time courses for the serving officer. This point was made by Professor Raybould of Leeds University and later by Mr. R. Huw Jones, Principal of the National Institute of Social Work Training. Having regard to the resources already existing in the University and Extra Mural Departments it is felt that the designated serving officers within the age range and with the qualification of experience as set out in the above Table, should have an opportunity of taking a professional qualification in the universities suitable for a middle-grade social welfare worker. I believe the kind of officer the Association has in mind is one who by years of experience can be said to have acquired, through in-service training, a broad basic background of social welfare services, and by reason of this is qualified to take a recognised professional qualification through part-time courses. This would appear to be one useful way in which welfare authorities can encourage appropriate serving officers to qualify, and thus hope to fill the gap which is now being caused by retirement of the older trained officer occupying senior posts either in case work or in the administrative grades.' I return herewith the letter addressed to you from the Minister of Education, and trust what I have stated may be of some assistance to you. What the Minister of Education offered was not acceptable to my local authority, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will now be able to meet the proposals we have in mind.

It is very regrettable, after three and a half years of study of the whole case by the Younghusband Committee, that my right hon. Friend has felt so disinclined to meet its recommendations. I cannot understand his disinclination. As I said in the debate on my Motion, earlier today, we should be prepared to accept proposals made by so eminent a body, a body that has the support of all those who are concerned with the development of training the workers side of our social services. That being so, I must use all the power at my command to support this Amendment.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I wish to endorse what has just been said by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and to support very briefly the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). I do not wish to redeploy the arguments, but I think that the most cogent of them was that used by the hon. Lady. To those of us who have studied the Younghusband Report and seen its recommendations, the case seems to have been made out. We discussed this matter at some length in Committee, when the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary gave a far from satisfactory reply. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will see their way clear to accepting this rather small Amendment—it is permissive only—which would enable help to be given when the courses are established.

Mrs. Eveline Hill (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

There is grave anxiety on this point. In other spheres, my own university has, with the help of the right hon. Gentleman and the Home Office, given twelve-month courses, for which there has been some financial support, for welfare workers in hospitals, where we are short of almoners, and also for child-care officers. It would wish to do the same thing in this instance, but it does not seem that the necessary support will be forthcoming. That seems rather disastrous, because it is not easy to run courses for social workers of the type of which we are thinking at the moment in, say, a college of commerce, where suggested courses are being organised in my own town.

It would seem to be very much better to give this wider support so that we may have the fully matured people. The people we require for the social worker courses are not just the 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds, but the more mature people who need additional support grants, and so on. I think that it would be advisable far us to widen the scope at this point. We have the opportunity here. Let us make the most of it, and ensure that, ultimately, we have a good band of well-trained workers in this field.

7.15 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)

The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) made it clear that the case, if there were a case for this Amendment and that which we are taking with it, must rest mainly upon the social worker. The courses for health visitors are well established; they have been running for a number of years and there really is no question of their flagging or not being available for lack of finance. But when we come to the courses for social workers, we are looking forward to what we believe will be a new and considerable development in further education.

Therefore, the question is posed whether the power should be given to these councils to make a direct grant. But the very fact that this is to be an integral part of further education in the future is the clearest reason why these courses should be financed in the same way as are other further education courses, and why the very proper subvention which should come from the Treasury should be through the same channels as subvention reaches other courses of further education. There is really no reason why, just because this is a new development and one which we wish to favour, we should set up a new and different channel for conveying Exchequer money to the maintenance of these courses.

I realise that during the interim period before the Bill will have reached the Statute Book only a very limited number of courses will have been set up. There have been, as the Committee knows, the four pioneer two-year courses, and I know, and instances have just been mentioned, that disappointment has been felt that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education did not feel it right to encourage the establishment of other than these pioneer two-year courses. The reason was not that there was any lack of finance for establishing them, or any lack of wish to do so, but that it seemed wrong, before the Bill was passed and before the council could take the grip upon the training situation which it is our intention that it should take, that various types of courses should this year be set on foot throughout the country.

It is, therefore, not evidence of lack of resources, or that there will be a holding back on the part of further education, that these other courses have not been instituted during this year. There is really no reason to suppose that authorities responsible for further education will be more reluctant to finance and maintain these courses than they are to finance and maintain the other courses which are already an integral part of further education.

I must advise the Committee that it would be quite wrong when, as I say, we are embarking on an extension of the system of further education, for a quite separate and special channel of finance to be instituted for the maintenance of a particular type of course. It is for that reason, and not because one wishes in any way to cast doubt upon the future of these courses, that I must advise the Committee not to accept these Amendments.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

That was a disappointing answer, but I expected to be disappointed because I, too, have had some correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. Of course, the proper Minister to answer is not the Minister of Health, but the Minister of Education. The buck has been passed by the Minister of Health to that absent Minister and I am afraid that we shall not hear anything from that Department this evening.

However, the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the point which most interests me, whether one is particularly interested in it as a Ministry of Health or a Ministry of Education subject. Let us be clear about this. Unless there is some change in the general grant to meet the new situation and expenditure, this new service—which, I understand, all local authorities engaged in this work regard as essential—can only be met at the expense of other expenditure, at the expense of education or some other service.

Mr. Powell

This is relevant expenditure for the general grant.

Mr. Ede

That is what I am saying and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for so speedy a confirmation of the view I am putting forward.

It is, of course, one of the difficulties that arise. The position is that whenever an authority must consider new expenditure which is eligible for the general grant, it may have to discuss where it can cut down—perhaps on the fire brigade or some other service—to find the money for this new education service—unless it is decided to derive the whole of the expenditure from the rates, which I imagine most local authorities would be reluctant to do.

Can the Minister say, since the Cabinet is one and indivisible, whether we can expect—if this is accepted by the Ministry of Education as an appropriate expenditure—an increase in the money which is devoted to the general grant to cover the additional expenditure involved? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I received a letter from the Town Clerk of South Shields similar to that written by the gentleman whom the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) calls "my town clerk." I do not possess a town clerk. Earlier in the day I heard the hon. Lady speaking about "my Government". Whatever may be the fate of this Government, they would certainly hate to be told that they were "my Government", so I will not say so.

The subject with which we are dealing excites considerable interest among the responsible local authorities. They are willing to undertake the work. They are willing to grant leave of absence to the appropriate officers to undergo the appropriate courses that some of them will require. It would be disappointing if we were told that we can have no assurance whatever at this stage that when the time comes there will be no Government money available to assist this work without making deductions from reasonable expenditures that the local authorities are already incurring.

Dame Irene Ward

Since the Minister's reply will be a very unhappy one for my local authority, I am sorry that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) feels unable to address the town clerk as "my town clerk", because my town clerk would be pleased if he did.

Can the Minister tell me, since all the people concerned are in favour of the Amendment, why the Government feel that they must oppose it? I simply cannot understand why, in a matter of this kind about which all the people with experience—far more experience, if I may say so, than is possessed by my night hon. Friend in these matters—are agreed, he is taking this view. Why should he be so opposed to it? It is not my idea of democracy at all. I understand that we are trying to get something established which would be acceptable to everyone interested in this matter. As far as I know, every one takes the view expressed in the Amendment—except my right hon. Friend.

I feel disconcerted about this. Can we have an assurance that, when the time comes, no one will interfere by saying that the money is not available? My right hon. Friend has not given me any great confidence in recent months that sufficient attention is to be paid to our desires. Why has he gone against the wishes of everyone who considers that the Younghusband recommendations are preferable to those put forward by the Minister? I hope that my right hon. Friend will address himself to this fact, for I am not interested in the channels about which he speaks, or whether he thinks that this or that channel is preferable. People experienced in these matters want this, yet my right hon. Friend presents a Bill which does not meet the point of view of people who are in a sufficiently experienced position to be able to offer advice.

Mr. Powell

It seems to me that the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) brought out the point at issue. He reminded the Committee that expenditure on this, as on other further education courses, is relevant expenditure for the general grant and will fall to be taken into account when the general grant is recalculated in accordance with the expansion of further education in this respect which we look for.

That being so, given the general system of further education which we have, it would be quite wrong for this particular

Division No. 173.] AYES [7.30 p.m.
Ainsley, William Deer, George Houghton, Douglas
Bacon, Miss Alice Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Hunter, A. E.
Blackburn, F. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas
Blyton, William Fernyhough, E. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Fletcher, Eric King, Dr. Horace
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Lawson, George
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Brockway, A. Fenner Gourlay, Harry Lubbock, Eric
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hamilton, William (West Fife) McCann, John
Callaghan, James Harper, Joseph MacColl, James
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hayman, F. H. McInnes, James
Cliffe, Michael Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Herbison, Miss Margaret Marsh, Richard
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hilton, A. V. Mason, Roy
Darling, George Holman, Percy Millan, Bruce

form of further education to be taken out from the rest and treated differently. This is really the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). Everyone who is an enthusiast for any particular form of further education can, and often will, argue for it to be treated specially. It would be quite wrong, however, to take this form of it out of further education and finance it differently.

Mr. K. Robinson

With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, this is not a question of a particular form of further education in which one is interested. This is a new venture, and am I not right in thinking that when child care workers were in a similar position, special arrangements were made about their training and financing? I believe that those arrangements still operate. Like all hon. Members, I am extremely disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's reply and to show our disapproval I ask my right hon. Friends to divide against the second of these two Amendments, where, I think, the case is strongest.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.