HC Deb 07 May 1962 vol 659 cc108-36

Amendment proposed: In page 2, line 37, at end 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. K. Robinson.]

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 75, Noes 128.

Mitchison, G. R. Short, Edward Tomney, Frank
Paget, R. T. Skeffington, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin
Parker, John Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Ward, Dame Irene
Pavitt, Laurence Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Whitlock, William
Peart, Frederick Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Wilkins, W. A.
Pentland, Norman Spriggs, Leslie Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Prentice, R. E. Steele, Thomas Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Stones, William
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ross, William Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Mr. Grey
Aitken, W. T. Glover, Sir Douglas Prior, J. M. L.
Atkins, Humphrey Green, Alan Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Gresham Cooke, R. Proudfoot, Wilfred
Biffen, John Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Pym, Francis
Bishop, F. P. Gurden, Harold Quennell, Miss J. M.
Black, Sir Cyril Hall, John (Wycombe) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bourne-Arton, A. Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Box, Donald Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hay, John Roots, William
Boyle, Sir Edward Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Russell, Ronald
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Holland, Philip Seymour, Leslie
Bryan, Paul Hornby, R. P. Shepherd, William
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hughes-Young, Michael Skeet, T. H. H.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hulbert, Sir Norman Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Iremonger, T. L. Smithers, Peter
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Jackson, John Smyth, Brig, Sir John (Norwood)
Chataway, Christopher James, David Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Studholme, Sir Henry
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Tapsell, Peter
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Cleaver, Leonard Litchfield, Capt. John Temple, John M.
Collard, Richard Loveys, Walter H. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Cooke, Robert Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill McLaren, Martin Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Cordle, John McMaster, Stanley R. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Corfield, F. V. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Vane, W. M. F.
Contain, A. P. Maddan, Martin Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Maginnis, John E. Walker, Peter
Critchley, Julian Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Cunningham, Knox Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Whitelaw, William
Currie, G. B. H. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Dance, James Mills, Stratton Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Neave, Airey Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Emery, Peter Noble, Michael Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Farey-Jones, F. W. Page, Graham (Crosby) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Farr, John Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Woodhouse, C. M.
Finlay, Graeme Peel, John Woollam, John
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Gammans, Lady Pitman, Sir James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gardner, Edward Pitt, Miss Edith Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Gilmour, Sir John Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Mr. Batsford.
Mr. K. Robinson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 43, at the end to insert: and (e) may make training grants or allowances to such persons considered suitable for training as have not obtained grants or allowances from other sources".

Mr. Powell

On a point of order. I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee and subsequently of the House if the debate on this Amendment might also cover my Amendment on Report, in Clause 2, page 2, line 18, to leave out from "visitors" to the end of line 21. It is essentially the same point in reverse, and you might think it convenient, Sir William, that the two Amendments should be taken together.

Mr. K. Robinson

Further to that point of order. I have no objection to our dealing with the two matters in the same debate so long as we can preserve our position about dividing on the two Amendments.

The Chairman

It must be quite clear to hon. Members that as Chairman of the Committee I cannot commit Mr. Speaker on what line he may take in the House. It may well be for the convenience of the Committee and of the House subsequently to do as has been proposed, but I cannot give any undertaking.

Mr. Ede

Further to that point of order. I, for one, do not acquiesce in any such arrangement. I do not see why we should telescope two matters at two stages of the Bill.

The Chairman

If it is not for the convenience of the Committee we shall have two separate debates.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

It is not entirely a question of the convenience of the Committee. Surely it would be quite unprecedented for a debate in Committee to circumscribe any debate on Report to the House? Surely the position is that we have this debate and then, when we get into the House on Report, we shall proceed as we think convenient then.

The Chairman

What the hon. Member says is quite correct. If a considerable and full debate has taken place a few minutes before in Committee it may very well be within the recollection of hon. Members in the House and they may not want to repeat on Report the speeches which have already been made. I think that is all the Minister had in mind, but let us deal with the Amendment as it is before us.

Mr. K. Robinson

Important as was the point embodied in the Amendment which has just been rejected on a Division, this is a very much more important matter. Indeed, we on this side of the Committee regard this as the nub of the Bill. The purpose of this Amendment is to bring this Clause of the Bill, the Clause dealing with the training of social workers, into line with Clause 2, dealing with the training of health visitors, Clause 2 as it was amended in Standing Committee. Indeed, it was only by one of those accidental hazards of which all members of Standing Committees are fully aware that both Clauses were not then amended at the same time.

The arguments which were deployed in Committee certainly covered both points. There was general agreement, I think, in this case, too, that the arguments in favour of this Amendment were stronger in the case of the Social Workers Training Council even than they were in the case of the Health Visitors Training Council, the Clause concerning which was amended. It is quite true that the Government resisted this Amendment. The decision of the Committee was taken against the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary, but the decision on the principle was taken by the Committee. It was a fairly unusual occasion since for once the entire Committee was present at the time of the Division. The Amendment was carried by 10 votes to 8, with two hon. Members on the Government side abstaining, and the total membership of the Committee was 20.

The whole point at issue was very fully discussed in Committee, so I propose, on this occasion, to present the arguments in summary form. It is accepted, I think, that we need many more trained social workers for the health and welfare services in general, and, in particular, for the community mental health services which we are hoping to see established, but there is plenty of evidence that only a minority of local health authorities are showing themselves at all enthusiastic about establishing or developing these services.

There is a very obvious reluctance on the part of many authorities to spend their own money on setting up mental health services, and there is no provision for any substantial direct help towards this end from the Government. We say that if the financial burden of training social workers is to fall on individual local health authorities then it will only be those authorities, which have already shown their willingness in this direction, those which are sensitive to their responsibilities in the health and welfare sphere, which will send along members of their staffs to be trained and which will be prepared to pay the necessary training grants for them.

7.45 p.m.

As a result of this we believe that these services will not be established in what one may call the desert areas, and those are the areas where, of course, they are needed most. We made no secret of the fact from the very beginning of the Second Reading of the Bill that we should have preferred direct Government grants, but the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers saw fit to draft a Bill which not only excluded this provision, but made it impossible to amend the Bill to include it.

What we are suggesting here is that the councils themselves shall have the power to make payment of grants or allowances to trainees who have not for some reason, or who are unable to obtain, grants from other sources. Frankly, we regard this as a second best, but I do suggest that it is a feasible and a not unacceptable second best. I would echo what the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said on the last Amendment. On this matter, even more than on that one, everybody, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary, agrees that some such provision as this is essential in the Bill.

The Younghusband Report, the Royal College of Nursing, all the other organisations involved in social work, the Association of Pyschiatric Workers, all agree. I have had communications from some of these. One of them writes to me that the Association of Municipal Corporations has been asked to make representations to the Government on this point about the provision of grant aid. I do not know whether representations have been made. I certainly do not know what kind of reception they met with. But I have had representations myself from the National Association for Mental Health, which put this matter very clearly indeed. It wrote to me saying: You are very well aware that, since we first saw the draft of this Bill, the Association has been distressed that no central grant aid to assist the trainings envisaged by the Bill is proposed. We still feel that to discriminate thus against the social workers who are to be trained under the provisions of the Bill is grossly unfair and prejudicial to the whole of the training, not to mention the development of the Mental Health Act. This is the more disturbing when central grants are available for almoners, psychiatric social workers, child care workers, and health visitors, and we find it quite impossible to understand why the present Bill should discriminate in the financial arrangements for these particular trainees. We still feel that grant aid should be available to the National Council, that it should be available to the courses"— we have dealt with that— and that it should be available to senior workers given leave of absence from their posts. With all of that I am in complete agreement, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to listen for once to these unanimous voices and not to think that he knows best. He may be wrong, and if he is wrong, and assuming, as I must, that he does want trainees to come for- ward in quantity, then without this provision in the Bill it will be quite impossible to put the matter right or to do anything about it, without new legislation. One has only to reflect on how long it has taken to bring in this legislation to realise it would be a very long time indeed before a miscalculation of this kind could be rectified. The cost of the Amendment, in my view, would be minimal compared with the social benefits which would derive from it.

I should like to quote a couple of passages from the leading article in The Times today: The Government argue that the local authorities, not the Exchequer, should meet the cost of the training courses as a form of further education. Their opponents, with the Younghusband Report on their side and fearful of the consequences of relying on local government initiative, have cited precedents in the fields of probation and child care services for making more direct grants for training. The leader concludes with these words: While some of the many Amendments they themselves"— that is, the Government— will introduce show that they have been amenable to criticism on minor points, on the major one of paying for training they are evidently disinclined to budge. That is a pity, for the success of the whole scheme will depend on broad harmony at the outset, and the compromise suggested is a relatively small price for ensuring that the future is not jeopardised. Those are very weighty words. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to pay some heed to them. I have to speak in these rather despondent terms because when one looks a little further along the Order Paper one sees that the Amendment put down by the right hon. Gentleman shows quite clearly that he is deleting the Amendment that we made in the Bill in Standing Committee.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman might have been a little more flexible and have realised that the volume of opinion ranged against his own opinion is very formidable indeed. As the hon. Lady for Tynemouth said, "These are the people who know." These are the people who will have to work the Act and who are very fearful indeed at the consequences of the Bill as it stands, or would stand if the Minister's Amendment were accepted.

The danger of relying solely on local authority grants might be to some extent minimised if we could have the same kind of pooling arrangement for social workers that we have for the health visitors. I should be very interested to hear from the right hon. Gentleman if he has any views about this because, so far as I know, the Government have no intention of extending the 1958 Local Government Act to introduce pooling arrangements for social workers' training grants. This might remove some of the disincentive from the laggard authorities of sending people forward for training, because whether they send few, or many, or none the burden on them is much the same. If we could have something of that kind, not as a second best, because what I am moving is the second best, but as the third best, it might go some way towards mitigating the situation which we all fear will arise if the Bill goes on to the Statute Book unamended in this respect.

Dame Irene Ward

I again wish to support everything that has been said by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). I wish only to add one other point. Like the hon. Gentleman, I have come to the conclusion that it is very little use trying to make an impression on my right hon. Friend. At least, I want to suggest that it is not only the consideration of the local authorities or of those who are interested in social work from the point of view of promoting the work of the council that is concerned, but that if the right hon. Gentleman rejects this Amendment what he is saying to social training workers is that he does not consider that they should have as much right to train, if they so desire, as the health visitors, because of the health visitors' equalisation fund.

It seems to me that when we are trying—and, goodness knows, it is necessary—to stimulate many who are young, vigorous and enthusiastic with a real desire to serve the community there can be nothing worse for a young man or a young woman really interested in his or her job—and I do not think that many people would go in for social work training and social work service unless they were dedicated—than to feel that he or she may be prevented from obtaining the benefits of this training course because every local authority will not, or cannot, find the money.

It is not an incentive to young people to say, "Your local authority cannot find the money." There may be very genuine reasons why some local authorities, which are very hard-pressed, connot find the money, but this certainly is a cold douche to the young, the interested and the inspired. I cannot believe that my right hon. Friend is prepared to give to one section—I do not agree with the whole basis on which these grants are being given, but I am now arguing on this Amendment—and not to another. I cannot believe that that is fair or just.

I would remind my right hon. Friend that the Leader of the House, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, has just accepted my Motion on the need for greater co-ordination between Government Departments, so here is the first opportunity for my right hon. Friend to show whether he accepts the policy of the Government of which he is a very distinguished member. If he does not accept this Amendment because of the equalisation fund in respect of health visitors, he is creating discrimination against one section of the community, and that I would certainly deplore.

Someone complained, when I was moving my Motion earlier, that I talked about being horrified. I am talking again about being horrified. I should be absolutely horrified if this discrimination were allowed to exist. I notice that the new education service carries 100 per cent. from the Ministry of Education. This is an illustration of the difference between the Minister of Education, who gets his own way for his own service, and the right hon. Gentleman who has this financial purist approach and does not really care two hoots what anyone else thinks.

I shall feel most depressed if my right hon. Friend permits this discrimination in respect of those who have just as much interest in their own field as the health visitors have in theirs. Of course, as pointed out by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, this is a new service compared with the health visitors' service, which goes back to the time of Florence Nightingale. Although it was called something else, she established that service and I only wish that Florence Nightingale were here today as a Member of this House, so that she could crack my right hon. Friend on the head. She cracked the War Office on the head and the result was that the financial system under which the War Office operates was originally founded by Florence Nightingale.

I do not believe that my right hon. Friend, immediately after my Motion has been accepted, would be prepared to put in this discrimination against a section of the community, which, whatever the Executive may want, the back benchers and the chairman of the Conservative Health and Social Security Committee also wants and all who are concerned and are more knowledgeable in this matter want. Why should the right hon. Gentleman think that he knows more than anyone else? I support the Amendment.

8.0 p.m.

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

We did not have the pleasure of the Minister's presence when we debated this matter in Standing Committee but all who were there will remember that throughout all our deliberations the Parliamentary Secretary acquitted herself more than well and no one could have done better. On this occasion, however, I ask the hon. Lady whether she remembers the argument she had with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).

My hon. Friend pointed out that there was evidence that there were people who were fit for training and were chosen but in one case out of fifteen the person chosen had to fall out and a substitute had to be brought in because the local authority would not give the grant in that case. The Parliamentary Secretary then used strange words in saying that one exception did not test the rule.

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

I think it necessary to clarify the position. I offered to investigate the one exception referred to. The investigation disclosed rather different circumstances, so the matter was not pursued.

Dr. Stross

I see. In view of our discussions I am pursuing a rather narrow point now which I should like the hon. Lady to hear, namely, that it is a poor argument to say that one exception does not "prove" the rule, as the hon. Lady put it, though I think the word should be "test", and if there is an exception there is no proper rule.

We had some evidence that there may be local authorities who may not do their duty or may not accept their obligations. If that is the case what ensues? It seems to me that the local authorities who were prepared to do their duty would be spending ratepayers' money, in part at least, to train people whom they knew they might lose even though they made a condition that they should remain for two years. They would lose them to people who were not carrying out their obligations.

If we have to choose between the Minister doing it and local authorities providing services far other local authorities, by paying grants in this way to educate people and then seeing them go to other local authorities, surely it is better and wiser that the Minister or the Treasury should assist and should accept the obligation for the recreant and ill-adviser local authority. I think that this is a good argument. Rather than that Stoke-on-Trent should face the obligation on behalf of another local authority, it is better that the Minister should face it. I am sure that there will be few of these cases, but there is a principle involved, and I am sure that it is right to press the Minister to reconsider this matter.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has just made one of the paints which I wished to make. I support all that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) said in Committee. The Amendment is reasonable because it concludes with the words: … as have not obtained grants or allowances from other sources. We ask only that help should be given where people who are anxious and willing to do the work come forward and cannot obtain a grant for training from any other source. The people responsible would have to be absolutely certain, of course, that that was so.

Many local authorities, including my own, face a great shortage even of recruits and I was impressed by the idea put forward by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North that if we had the necessary grants there could be a pooling system. This would be advantageous also to the workers who would be able to obtain further experience, possibly in town and country areas. I support the Amendment, not because I think that local authorities are likely to withhold the grant, but because they often cannot keep the people in their own area. They have no hold over the individuals when they have trained them. They are perhaps tempted to go to another area either because they find it more congenial or because they wish to move for family reasons. The result is that the local authority concerned has expended money on training them and does not receive their services.

I hope that my right hon. Friend wild reconsider this matter on the basis that the grant should be made available where there is no other source. That would bring in many people who cannot afford to enter this service unless they receive a grant.

Mr. Fletcher

I should like to support the Amendment. I hope that when the Minister replies he will not give us some prepared answer. I hope that at any rate we shall hear from him that he has listened to the representations made in the debate from both sides of the Committee. I hope that he will have taken notice of the great volume of public opinion, as represented by that weighty leading article in The Times to which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) referred.

It does not make much sense for us to have debates in Committee if the Minister is to come here with a closed mind to these representations. Although this is a relatively small and thinly attended Committee, the speeches so far have been unanimous, two from this side and two from the other, and they are supported by informed neutral and representative opinion outside. The money involved is relatively small but there is a principle at stake.

It seems to me—coming to this matter with a fresh mind, since I was not a member of the Standing Committee—that the grounds for supporting the Amendment are quite overwhelming. The case for enabling the central council to have the power to make grants for the training of social workers—which is what the Amendment proposes—is so impressive that I cannot think that the Minister can possibly reject it. As the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) pointed out, this is a relatively new service. It is one to which increasing importance is being attached. This work is of much greater social benefit than can be measured in £ s. d.

Some local authorities may be willing to co-operate. We know from past experience that there will be others which will lag behind. This should be a national obligation and I should have thought that the case for giving a central authority power to make grants for the training of these people is overwhelmingly justified. I hope that the Minister will have listened to what has been said and will give a conciliatory response to the opinions expressed in the Committee.

Mr. Powell

I can assure the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) not only that I have listened carefully to what has been said in this debate, but that I have applied my mind to this question repeatedly at the several stages of the Bill. The overriding fact within which the decision has to be taken is that these courses for social work will be, as I have already reminded the Committee, an integral part of the system of further education given by the same institutions as are making available the whole range of different courses of further education.

It is settled policy, which the House has reaffirmed as recently as the Education Bill this Session, that the responsibility for providing grants to students on courses of further education is a responsibility of the local education authorities. The local education authorities, of course, derive substantial Exchequer assistance towards the burden which they shoulder in doing so, but it is their responsibility. Therefore, there is prima facie every reason why this, like every other branch of further education, should be treated in the same way, and the local authorities should exercise their responsibility in respect of students on these courses as on other courses.

The proposal before the Committee is that there should be a default power, as it were, vested in the relevant training council. I think that this would be a mistake, for several reasons. In the first place, it would inevitably cause a good deal of delay and uncertainty. The potential student who had not so far obtained a grant or allowance from another source would be entitled to apply to the training council which, in turn, might well wish to satisfy itself that a final decision had been taken by the relevant local education authority. All this time, the question of the place being held by the appropriate institution would be hanging fire and having to be kept open. So it is in the nature of a default power of this kind that it would tend to create delay and uncertainty for both the students and the institutions.

What is much more serious is that this would, as has been brought out in the debate, penalise the local education authorities which are behaving as we all believe most local education authorities will in fact behave and giving these grants on merits as they give grants for other courses of further education. This would mean that it would be the local education authority which did not do its job properly which would shuffle off the obligation and the burden on to the council and thus on to the Exchequer. It would, therefore, be a discrimination and a standing invitation, if I may put it in that way, to local education authorities perhaps to defer or to neglect students applying for grant for these courses in comparison with other courses.

If this is a function, as we have made it, of local education authorities, then the way to deal with the defaulting authority is not to relieve it of the burden it is trying not to accept but to see that, in this respect as in others, it does its job as an education authority.

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


Mr. Powell

There are a good many ways to bring pressure to bear on local authorities which fall below the standards of local authorities generally. This is why local government in this country is elective. I say quite firmly to the Committee that, if there were evidence that individual local authorities were failing to give fair consideration to potential students for these courses—I undertake that this matter shall be watched—there is no doubt that this could be shown up and pressure could be brought to bear upon them to conform with the standard of behaviour of local education authorities generally. That is the way to achieve the desired result, not by providing a default power which would be a let-out for the very authorities which ought to be brought up to scratch.

Creating, as we are in this Bill, a new branch of further education, we must deliberately and with our eyes open embody it in the system of further education and accept that this means that it will be a responsibility of the local education authorities to provide grants for students on these courses as on other courses.

8.15 p.m.

There have been references, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), to the pooling arrangements in regard to the cost of health visitor training. But, of course, there is an immense difference here in that health visitor training is very largely, and will continue to be very largely, the training of seconded employees of local health authorities, whereas here we are dealing preponderantly, and eventually almost exclusively, with people coming into the field as a part of further education who are, and who clearly ought to be, the responsibility of the local education authorities and whose training is part of the further education system.

It is for that reason, and in the confidence that local authorities will do their job here as much as in other respects, that I must advise the Committee not to add the Amendment to the Bill.

Mr. K. Robinson

May I take the Minister up on the question of the pooling arrangements? It is true that some of the social workers trained will be new to the profession, but a very large number of them, particularly in the early years, will be people already employed by local authorities. Is there any objection to introducing pooling arrangements which could, by their nature, apply only to such trainees? Since these arrangements already exist for health visitors, is there any objection to introducing them for social workers? This is a change in the Bill which we on this side cannot make. The Minister, as the representative of the Government, can make it, and he could do it in another place. Is he prepared to think of the possibility of introducing pooling arrangements so far as social worker trainees are people already in local authority service?

Mr. Powell

As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, this lies outside the scope of the Amendment. But, as I have said, we shall be dealing here very largely from the outset, and, as time goes on, almost exclusively, with students coming in, fresh students, as it were, who will take a course of further education and who will be entirely within the further education field. That constitutes a very clear distinction from the arrangements which exist at the moment for the training of health visitors.

Mr. Ede

I apologise for intervening in the discussion at this stage when I did not serve on the Committee. It seems to be the growing custom that, if one does not serve during the Committee stage of a Bill upstairs, one takes no further interest in the Measure. Unfortunately for me, I do not take that view of my duties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that that finds some acceptance in this Committee, because I have on occasion heard others apologise for intervening at later stages of a Bill when they had not served on the Committee

Will the right hon. Gentleman help me in this matter? Who are the local health authorities? Are they the county councils and the county borough councils, or do some of the district councils come in? If they are the county borough and county councils, they are the local education authorities. I revert here to something said by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who alluded to me recently as "My right hon. Friend", thus putting me on a level with the Minister, which I greatly resent even in her company.

Dame Irene Ward

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is a friend.

Mr. Ede

The experience which these authorities will have had as local education authorities is that the only way to deal satisfactorily with this matter is to have a pooling arrangement. Otherwise, one has exporting and importing authorities in this class of public servant. A number of local authorities will be training more people than they require in their own locality. Whether their salaries are paid out of the education rate or out of some other rate for the Health Service, the same ratepayers will pay the money. Some authorities will be educating these people and exporting them and other authorities will be training none and importing them. There was a time when the principal export of Wales was teachers. That was during the depression. I was once accused in Surrey of trying to turn it into a Welsh-speaking county because we were recruiting so many teachers from Wales. We might get the same situation again.

I suggest to the Minister that none of the objections which he has raised answers the points made by my hon. Friends who have pressed that there should be some way in which these people should be able to get grants. I agree with what he says about the disadvantage of delay while people are going round trying to scrounge a few pounds here and a few pounds there from various institutions in order to get enough money to pay the training cost. If the right hon. Gentleman would only agree to a pooling scheme, he would benefit the very local authorities on which he has to rely for carrying out this service and he would relieve ratepayers of merely training people for the advantage of other authorities which are not willing to do it.

Dame Irene Ward

I have been a member of the House of Commons for twenty-five years, but up to now I have never yet heard a senior Minister, or, indeed, a junior Minister, say that if a local authority, education committee or health committee, or whatever it may be, does not do its duty, it will be dealt with. To hear my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health say that is very surprising, since my experience has always been that, if one ever tries to press a Minister—heaven knows, I have often tried to press Ministers—one is told that no Minister will try to superimpose his or her view on a local authority. I was therefore extremely interested to hear what my right hon. Friend said.

I wonder how the Minister of Housing and Local Government will react to that statement. I am afraid that I have no confidence in it, for my experience is that, when the matter is put to the test, no action would or could be taken because over a very wide field there are local authorities which fall below guidance, directives, policy, or whatever one may call it, because local government is local government. Part of the reason for the local government Bill was to strengthen the powers of local authorities.

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary represents part of Birmingham, I wonder what the local authority in Birmingham would say if my right hon. Friend said to it, "You are not doing what I undertook you would do. I therefore propose as Minister to take action against you". The point is that he would not be able to take action because I doubt whether action against the local authority lies with the Minister of Health. I am certain that no Minister of Housing and Local Government would take any action. I therefore think that it was a proud boast which had no foundation whatsoever.

Mr. Pavitt

I wish to take up one point in the Minister's argument. He appears to be asking the Committee, for the sake of tidiness, to ensure that there is not a duplication of grants. The right hon. Gentleman said that, because it is part of further education, this matter must wholly rest with the education authority. In presenting that argument to the Committee, he was very careful to weigh the merits of the central authority on the one hand, the council we are discussing, and the local authority on the other. He has come down firmly on the side of saying that this must be wholly the responsibility of the local authority.

What Members on both sides of the Committee are pleading for is that the Minister should take the student into consideration. It may happen in this careful decision between the central authority on the one hand and the local authority on the other that the student will be anxious to do the job but will be unable to get the necessary grant to enable it to be done. In his neat, tidy and orderly fashion, the right hon. Gentleman has made the logical and clear decision that the matter should rest with the local authority, but he has been less than human in the way that he has more or less dismissed the student from the argument. The whole purpose of the Bill is to help the student. That is the job of work that we are trying to extend. Even if it happens to be a little untidy and does not quite fit into a neat pattern, it is still desirable that there shall be this outlet. If a student cannot get a grant through the local authority, there should be an alternative available.

Those of us who have served on local authorities know some of the problems. I accept the Minister's point about the problem of delay. We know that considerations such as whether the G.C.E. results have come through cause delay. By making delay the basis of his case, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is really able to get over the fact that he will not get rid of the other delays which occur.

Even with an improved grant, even with an understanding from the Minister that there will be an extra sum in the local authority's estimate for the coming year to provide for this new service, there comes a time, even though a deserving student, someone who has been approved by the new council, is capable of giving service in this field, when the grant has been exhausted. That student, through no fault of his own, through no fault of qualification or anything within his own control, but merely because the local council has already used the estimate put forward for further education on other well deserving things which one would not wish to restrict, is deprived of a grant. Surely there is a case for making exceptions in those circumstances and for that little bit of untidiness and leniency so that such a person can be given the opportunity to serve the community in this respect.

Mrs. Hill

I am not at all happy about this. I do not think that the matter has been cleared up satisfactorily. A local authority may have one or two very able young people whom it would like to take this further education course and who have probably already started work with a welfare department. But it may be that the establishment committee of that local authority is not willing to release those people and to pay their wages for a full two years while they take the course. It is not quite such a tidy course as some in further education, because the two years will not be spent on theory. A very large proportion of the training which one would wish to be given will surely be field work and outside the college of further education. It will certainly be under some supervision, but the supervision will be costly.

8.30 p.m.

I am not sure that the matter can be so tidily arranged as this. I am not sure that we shall get a sufficient grant in the block grant to enable education committees to give adequate support to students. As I mentioned earlier, some of the students may not be young people. Particularly in the child care service, it has been found very useful to encourage more mature people, but they will want much higher grants than the young students. There is such a tremendous amount of work to be done that we need people of that standard also. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make the position a little more clear, because I am not at all happy that we will get exactly what we are all working for in the Bill.

Mrs. Slater

Some of the points which have been made, from both sides of the Committee, should be having an effect upon the Minister. As the hon. Lady the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill) has just said, many of the students will already have done work of a different character within, say, one of the services of a local authority and will feel that they would like to go further and get adequate training to make them more qualified. By that time, they may be married and have children. Therefore, from the point of view of the local authority, they need a much larger grant. Their family must have a dependants' allowance.

If the Minister suggests that he can exert pressure by threatening local authorities who do not play the game, the position is not as easy as it might sound. Some time ago we spent a number of weeks discussing an Education Bill whereby we sought to make local authorities pay adequate rates for university students, because some authorities simply would not play the game. Although the Minister of Education had laid down a scheme, many local authorities resisted applying it until the recent Act was passed. In the meantime, while all the pressure is building up, the student who has a sense of dedication and who has valuable experience is denied the opportunity of qualifying further and becoming much more useful to the local authority.

Last week, I attended a conference called by my own local authority to discuss the training of public health inspectors. At our further education college, it is proposed to run a course to train them. There is a great shortage of these people throughout the country. To make the course economic, at least six students—more likely twelve—would be needed.

Other surrounding local authorities have made the point, however, that they would find it difficult to send students to us, not only because their establishment committee would not be very favourable towards releasing some of the people, but because for some local authorities to send even one student would represent a 2d. or 3d. rate, which is a very real factor when considering the rates for other local authority services. Therefore, even though Stoke-on-Trent is anxious to provide such a course at our college of further education, to make it effective students would be needed from neighbouring local authorities.

What pressure would the Minister be prepared to bring to bear on local authorities who, the minute we have trained the personnel, take them from us? They would offer them a house or a slightly higher salary than the recognised scale—

Dr. Stross

Or a fur coat?

Mrs. Slater

Not a fur coat. Unfortunately, not many women go in for this work. I wish that there were more of them. Those attractions, especially the provision of a house, are real ones to a married man. They attract these people away from a local authority which is not only short of public health inspectors, but does its best to train them.

I have raised this question with the Minister on several occasions, but I have had unsatisfactory answers. The problem applies equally to social workers as to public health inspectors. This is a matter which is growing in importance. Because of our complex society, we need more and more of these people to save some of the work which departments have to do because we do not have these people in the right place at the right time. For the sake of the future, for the work which needs to be done and for the sake of the student who is anxious to do the job, the Minister might at least have second thoughts. If it is not his responsibility, let him ask the Treasury to have second thoughts, because it may be that that is the Department which is applying the pressure.

Mr. Fletcher

I hope that the Minister is being influenced by these further considerations which are being urged upon him. I was not by any means convinced by any of his answers when he intervened in the debate a short time ago. I do not think that he put forward as a serious objection to the Amendment the fact that there might be a short delay when a student first applied to a local authority and then, if he did not succeed, had to apply to the Central Council.

The point on which the Minister was trying to advise the Committee was that a principle had been adopted by the House that because this was a function of further education, the responsibility must fall upon the local authorities and not upon the Exchequer. The Minister knows that there has been no such principle. The House has never laid down any such principle. It would be a sad thing if it were so. Two cases have been cited: the training of probation officers and the training of child care officers. In both those cases, the State pays.

This is not really a function of further education. It may be that the classes are provided by local education authorities, but the primary object of the training is not further education. It is to enable the State to have the services of a limited number of people who are urgently required for national service in various localities. They are precisely on a par with probation officers and child care officers.

It is the national interest which, in certain cases, requires that the State should bear the burden of training people for work of various kinds. If students have to go to another local authority to get a training course, that may be so, but it is because the work is of national importance and because people trained in this way travel from one local authority to another that in various exceptional cases the State has assumed the burden. Therefore, I do not think the Minister can rely on the argument that this is primarily a function of further education. This is a requirement of the training of people to do work in an entirely new field.

The Minister said that if the proposal were adopted it would encourage some laggard local authorities to neglect their duties. When the hon. Lady the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill) inquired how laggard local authorities could be persuaded to do their duty, the Minister said that there were democratic pressures. What he indicated was that if a local authority was remiss in making a grant for the training of social workers, that was a matter which would be raised by the electorate in the local authority area at the next election.

Was the Minister really suggesting that if a local authority neglected to provide a grant for the training of a social worker, that would be an issue at the next election on which the local authority would probably be turned out of office? He knows perfectly well that the democratic processes in local government do not work in that way. The ultimate democratic process in this country is the pressure that can be brought upon Ministers of the Crown in the House of Commons. Here we have had that exercised in a way which I very much hope will bear fruit.

The Minister has a considerable reputation. He has a reputation as a financial purist. I admire his integrity in financial matters. It is because I thought that his argument on the ground of financial purity in this respect was vitiated by the exceptions that I have indicated that I hope he will have the intellectual honesty not to reply upon that. I am sure that the Minister also wishes to have a reputation for Parliamentary skill. I urge him not to think that it would be any sign of weakness to listen to the speeches that have been made on both sides of the Committee and to accept the views of the Committee, as backed by influential opinion outside, and agree to a decision which was taken after considerable debate in the Standing Committee. I hope very much that the Minister will accept the views of the House of Commons on this matter.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I endorse the final word of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), that the Minister, having listened to speeches on both sides of the Committee, would be right to accept the Amendment. I have listened to discussions on many Amendments, but this is the first time I have ever heard a discussion where every speaker on both sides has been in favour of the Amendment. The only person opposing it is the Minister.

In the Amendment we are not asking that the council should give grants to every student who is to take a course. All the Amendment asks is that if a student considered suitable for training finds it impossible to get a grant from his local authority, the council may step in and make a grant. In other words, it is a very limited Amendment; but I think that it is a very important one.

The Minister is rejecting the Amendment for two reasons. He says, first, that this type of training is an integral part of further education and, secondly, that it ought to be treated as every other branch of further education is; in other wards, it should be the responsibility of the local authority to make the grant. I take the Minister up on that. If certain local authorities refuse to accept this responsibility, for good reasons—there may be good reasons—or for bad reasons, then there is an onus on the right hon. Gentleman as Minister of Health to ensure that not a single candidate is lost to this type of work. There is a very great shortage of social workers, and the responsibility for an adequate supply rests with the Minister of Health. If a local authority refuses to give a grant to any person, the Minister of Health—since he has no real control over local authorities, as the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has pointed out—must accept responsibility. If he does so he will also accept the Amendment.

8.45 p.m.

The Minister says that all forms of further education are catered for by grants by local education authorities, but that is not the case. Let us take three other social services—child care, probation, and the almoners' service—which are on a par with that of the social worker whom we are now discussing. Persons in those three categories do not depend upon the whim, or, sometimes, the financial ability, of the local authority in the matter of the making of a grant. By refusing to accept the Amendment the Minister is, in effect, discriminating against the social worker. I hope that he will bear that point in mind.

I now turn to the question of delay. The Minister seemed to think that it was an important matter. The person who would be receiving a grant under the terms of the Amendment is a person who has already been refused a grant by his local authority. He then has to face a delay, during which time the Council for Training in Social Work considers whether it should give him a grant. I have no doubt that a student would prefer to accept that risk and delay, knowing that he has no hope of receiving a grant from his local authority.

The majority of men and women who want to do this work desire to do it because they have a real sense of vocation. It is the type of work that often attracts dedicated people. Since there is such a grave shortage of social workers in so many fields the Minister should do nothing at all to turn aside one, two, half a dozen, or a score of these people, simply because he wants to put the whole onus on local authorities. He severely criticised local authorities who might not do their duty, but some of those authorities are in serious financial difficulties, because of the operation of the General Grant Order. The Government must accept some responsibility for that.

Has the right hon. Gentleman really no concern for the young man or young woman who has been refused a grant by a local authority, and finds that the door to this useful human service is completely closed? I hope that, having listened to all the arguments put forward by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, the Minister will be ready to accept this very modest Amendment, which deals only with those who have found it impossible to obtain a grant from their local authorities.

Mr. Powell

I must take issue with the statement of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) that to train for social work is not a function of further education. It is part of the purpose of the policy behind this Bill that training for social work shall be a part of education and not narrowly related to a particular employment. I am sure that the hon. Member will forgive my making that clear. Indeed, much of what has been said in this debate has brought out that the problems of this type of further education are shared by many, if not most, of the other forms of further education.

There is the problem of the export of the trained product, which was referred to, by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The fact that if a local education authority decides not to exercise its power to give a grant, that affects the students; that was the point made by the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt). The point of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill) that the Exchequer contribution to further education comes through the general grant. But all these are characteristics which are common to the whole field of further education. If those arguments are valid here they are valid for taking from local education authorities the grant-making function in regard to further education.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has just said that as Minister of Health I bear a certain responsibility for the supply of social workers in the welfare field, but, if we are to say that where it is local authorities who are responsible for providing the supply of trained recruits to this or that public need there the central Government must step in and take to themselves a default power, we shall go very far indeed.

I reaffirm the undertaking I have recently given, which the Parliamentary Secretary gave in Standing Committee, that the performance of local education authorities in this matter will be watched and that, with the support of the Minister

Division No. 174.] AYES [8.55 p.m.
Alnsley, William Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Brockway, A. Fenner
Blackburn, F. Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S. W.) Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Blyton, William Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)

of Education, I shall endeavour to see that there is no avoidance in this respect by local education authorities of their obligations.

I am sure that that is the way which is consistent with our whole structure of local government, with the local responsibility for services which we have entrusted to local authorities. I must advise the Committee that to take default powers which would have the effect of the least willing local authorities being able to rely on their students being catered for centrally through the training council, would be the worst way of discharging Parliament's responsibility for the general oversight of this function. That is the essence of the case. This is an integral part, and is intended to be an integral part, of further education. The way in which local education authorities administer it will be closely watched, but a default power as proposed in this Amendment would be the worst of all possible worlds.

Dr. Stross

Would not the Minister agree that if these default powers, as he terms them, existed it would mean that at once we would know centrally which local authorities are in need of being scrutinised and encouraged to change their habits? If we do not have the default powers, that might take quite a time to discover and during that time the individual student would be penalised.

Mr. Powell

No, I shall ensure that this is watched.

Mr. K. Robinson

If votes were to follow voices, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister would find themselves alone in the Noes Lobby in voting on this Amendment. Unfortunately, we know that all too frequently that does not happen in this Committee. Nevertheless, in order once again to register our very strong feelings about this matter, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends—and, indeed, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—to support us in the Lobby.

Question put: That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 77, Noes 143.

Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Short, Edward
Deer, George King, Dr. Horace Skeffington, Arthur
Delargy, Hugh Lawson, George Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Diamond, John Lee, Frederick (Newton) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lubbock, Eric Spriggs, Leslie
Fernyhough, E. MacColl, James Steele, Thomas
Fletcher, Eric McInnes, James Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh McKay, John (Wallsend) Stones, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Marsh, Richard Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Mason, Roy Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Gourlay, Harry Millan, Bruce Tomney, Frank
Grey, Charles Mitchison, G. R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Paget, R. T. Wade, Donald
Harper, Joseph Parker, John Wainwright, Edwin
Hayman, F. H. Pavitt, Laurence Ward, Dame Irene
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Pentland, Norman Whitlock, William
Herbison, Miss Margaret Prentice, R. E. Wilkins, W. A.
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hilton, A. V. Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Holman, Percy Rankin, John
Houghton, Douglas Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, A. E. Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Ross, William Mr. McCann.
Aitken, W. T. Gresham Cooke, R. Prior, J. M. L.
Atkins, Humphrey Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Barlow, Sir John Gurden, Harold Proudfoot, Wilfred
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pym, Francis
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hastings, Stephen Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bidgood, John C. Hay, John Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Biffen, John Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bingham, R. M. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Renton, David
Bishop, F. P. Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Black, Sir Cyril Holland, Philip Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Bourne-Arton, A. Hopkins, Alan Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Box, Donald Hornby, R. P. Roots, William
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon, John Hughes-Young, Michael Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Boyle, Sir Edward Hulbert, Sir Norman Russell, Ronald
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Iremonger, T. L. Seymour, Leslie
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sharples, Richard
Bryan, Paul James, David Shepherd, William
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Skeet, T. H. H.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Smithers, Peter
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Kerr, Sir Hamilton Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Chataway, Christopher Kershaw, Anthony Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Chichester-Clark, R. Kirk, Peter Studholme, Sir Henry
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Tapsell, Peter
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Litchfield, Capt. John Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Cleaver, Leonard Loveys, Walter H. Temple, John M.
Collard, Richard Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Cooke, Robert McLaren, Martin Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Cordie, John McMaster, Stanley R. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Corfield, F. V. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Costain, A. P. Maddan, Martin Walder, David
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Maginnis, John E. Walker, Peter
Critchley, Julian Markham, Major Sir Frank Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Cunningham, Knox Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Whitelaw, William
Curran, Charles Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Deedes, W. F. Mills, Stratton Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Wise, A. R.
Emery, Peter Noble, Michael Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Page, Graham (Crosby) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Farey-Jones, F. W. Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Woodhouse, C. M.
Farr, John Peel, John Woollam, John
Finlay, Graeme Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Worsley, Marcus
Gardner, Edward Pitman, Sir James
Gilmour, Sir John Pitt, Miss Edith TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Glover, Sir Douglas Pott, Percivall Mr. Batsford and Mr. Ian Fraser.
Green, Alan Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.