HC Deb 07 February 1968 vol 758 cc569-620

10.30 a.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

I beg to move, That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the Education Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time. This will, I trust, be substantially an uncontroversial Bill. Its purpose is to enable the governing bodies of the colleges of education and the colleges of further education to be established other than as sub-committees of their education committees, which is the present normal practice.

I would remind the Committee of the aftermath of the Robbins Committee. Hon. Members and some of the distinguished members of the Committee will know that it recommended that colleges of education should become part of a federation of educational institutions linked to the university departments of education and given a good deal of autonomy and freedom over their own government. The view of the Government of the day and the then Secretary of State was that this was unacceptable and that, because of the teacher supply position and the position of the administration of the colleges, the moment was unwise for such a radical change, but it was felt that the colleges of education should be enabled to do much more advanced work, which has led to the institution of the Bachelorship of Education, and should be given a degree of autonomy over their own government.

As a consequence of this, a study group was set up in 1965, on which sat representatives of the local authorities, the voluntary colleges and the teaching staff of the colleges of education. The Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. T. R. Weaver, discussed the ways in which the government of the colleges should be liberalised and, at the end of the day, concluded that the way to do this was to enable greater academic responsibility to be taken by the academic staff of the colleges and to enable the colleges to go ahead in an atmosphere of freedom unhindered by unnecessary restrictions.

There were, however, widely different views on the Committee, and necessarily so, because the bodies represented on it were representative of very different bodies of opinion in the community. Consequently, the Committee was bound to rest eventually upon the consensus of opinion which could be reached over the conduct of the affairs of the colleges. That conclusion was that a measure of freedom should be secured for the colleges and that the governing bodies above all should be constituted other than as sub-committees of the education committee.

As hon. Members will know, the fact that governing bodies were constituted as sub-committees of the education committee not only meant that they did not have the ultimate responsibility for the colleges, since their decisions were referrable to the education committee and ultimately to the council, but also that they were bound by the standing orders which applied to the local authority. For these reasons, that structure was thought no longer suitable. Therefore, the main object of the Bill is to enable—without this legislation it would not be possible—both the colleges of further education and the colleges of education to be run so as to relieve them of the obligations which follow where the governing body is itself a sub-committee of the education committee.

I have referred so far to the colleges of further education and the colleges of education. But it would be proper to draw the attention of the Committee also to Clause 2, which enables special schools to have a governing body which also is not a sub-committee of the education committee. Special schools, where at present 67,000 boys and girls are being educated, never came under the provisions of the 1944 Act which enabled governing bodies or bodies of managers to be established for ordinary county primary and secondary schools, but I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that, if there are to serve on the governing bodies of special schools the kind of people with expertise or a special interest in the education of physically and mentally handicapped children, it would be excellent if the restrictions of the present legislation binding them to be subcommittees of the education committee could also be liberalised.

There is a further provision of the Clause, which also applies to Clause 1, and which enables schools to be grouped for this purpose. Once again, the Committee will appreciate that it would be useful if someone with this kind of expertise could be employed economically on behalf of not just one special school but several in a group.

I turn now to the scope of the Bill as it relates to the colleges of education. There are at present about 65,000 education students in the colleges of education in the maintained sector and another 30,000 in the voluntary colleges of education, with which the Bill is not concerned. In addition, of the establishments of further education, of which there are about 600, we should consider three particular groups.

The first is those colleges which are to constitute the 30 polytechnics this year. I would point out that, under the terms of the polytechnics, there is not only the necessary procedure of the approval of the articles of government by the Secretary of State, which apply to all articles of government constituted within this Bill, but also the designation procedure which, if anything, gives him slightly greater powers over the polytechnics. So they are, to that extent alone, a special case.

Second, there are about 200 colleges which engage in advanced work, that is to say, work leading to C.N.A.A., and degrees of that kind, and, finally, there is a group of 350 colleges which do, on the whole, no advanced work and concentrate largely on craft, technician courses and so on—

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I ought to know the answer to this question, but, in those last two sectors, now that the polytechnics have been designated, is the old distinct on between area and local colleges being maintained in normal speech or abandoned in view of the other changes?

Mrs. Williams

For the moment, it maintained in normal speech, but the administrative presuppositions behind the area and local colleges concept will obviously disappear as one gets the polytechnic college, the college doing part-time advance work, and the college doing virtually no advanced work. That was the distinction which I was trying to draw. This gives an idea of the Bill's scope.

Finally, I turn to the distinction between instruments and articles of government and the position of the clerk to the governing body. The instruments of government are fundamentally the college's constitution. The instrument of government lays down the precise makeup of the constitution and is concerned with exactly how many persons are on that constitutional committee from various bodies, and with the precise powers of the constitution and of those within it.

The articles of government, which are still subject under the Bill to the approval of the Secretary of State, are concerned with the precise functions of the governing body, the academic board which will be established in colleges of education under this Bill, and they determine the respective functions of those bodies and of the L.E.A.—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston-upon-Hull, North)

What is causing great concern—perhaps my hon. Friend would comment on it—is the fact that the instruments of government will not also have to have the approval of the Secretary of State. There is a great feeling that the liberalisation policy will fail if some local authorities are not prepared and willing to liberalise the set-up.

Mrs. Williams

If my hon. Friend will wait for a moment, I am trying to deal with the description of the Bill; I will then deal with his point.

To come back to the distinction between instruments and articles, the articles are also concerned, of course, with matters fundamental to the college, like the establishment and security of teaching and non-teaching staff, the appointment, suspension and dismissal of staff, the preparation and submission of estimates of expenditure, the responsibility for the upkeep, use, repairs and alterations of premises and equipment and, finally, the articles—I stress, the articles—are concerned with the admission, suspension and dismissal of students and the constitution of student bodies.

Thus, the relationship between the students and the institution is a matter for the articles, which are subject to the Secretary of State's approval, and not for the instruments.

I turn now to two points of controversy which have been raised. One concerns the matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) mentioned—the distinction between the articles having to be approved by the Secretary of State and the instruments not having to be approved. The second concerns the position of the clerk of the governors, whether he should be the county education officer or his representative or an administrative officer of the college itself. These are the main points of controversy which have been raised with us.

On the first, it has been submitted. notably by the National Union of Teachers' secretary and also by some individual principals, that the instruments should be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State in the same way as the articles. My original attitude to this was sympathetic; it seemed sensible. The Bill's intention was to liberalise the government of the colleges and it could have been argued therefore that the simplest way was by legislation.

But I ask the Committee to consider the terms upon which the Bill has been brought forward—on the basis of the Weaver Report that is, unanimously agreed by the local authorities and by the staffs of the colleges themselves, that is to say, their representatives on the Committee, and, of course, by the university representatives. There were opportunities—not only that, the matter came up—for those who were representing the staffs of the colleges to object to the present structure of the Bill and the Weaver Report's recommendations.

In other words, the matter of whether the instruments should be subject to the Secretary of State's approval could have been considered by that Committee, and at no stage did the representatives of the staff on the Committee indicate that they wished the instruments to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. This is important, because it was understood that the Weaver Committee was the occasion for views of that kind to be put, and, indeed, these were representatives of the staff of the colleges. Yet at no stage was this suggested. It has been suggested only after the publication of the Report and not before.

The second point is that a Report of this kind, agreed between the authorities, will be binding upon them in so far as they all feel that the unanimous recommendations are being carried out by each group of representatives on that Committee. In other words, it is perfectly reasonable for the representatives of the staff to feel that the local authorities will abide by the recommendations of the Report, and it is equally fair for the local authorities to take the same view of the other bodies represented. But if one is severely to amend those recommendations so far as they apply to only one group, the local authorities, one is bound to say that that one group may take the view that it is no longer bound by any of the other recommendations of the Report.

We thought that the Report was a consensus between these three bodies. It would now be difficult severely to amend those recommendations so far as they apply to one body and trust that those other items which are not at present in this legislation will then be duly, fairly and voluntarily carried out by the other bodies represented on the Committee —

Mr. Christopher Price (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Does my hon. Friend not agree that, since the Weaver Report was published and the Committee considered what it had to consider, a great deal of change in the generally accepted way of governing all sorts of bodies of higher education, in terms both of staff and students, has taken place, and that if we are to legislate purely on the basis of the Weaver Report we will legislate some years out of date?

Mrs. Williams

That is fair enough, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate, nevertheless—the Weaver Report was only published in 1966, after all—that an agreement to go forward on a voluntary basis within that Report would, in the same way that I have suggested, be pushed on one side if we were to legislate now on one part of it only.

It would be fair to suggest that we should do so if there were substantial evidence to show that the authorities were not willing to be liberal. However, the local authorities, which are partners in the education system, must be relied upon to do what they say they will do. One cannot invariably oblige them to do these things. If one did, one would destroy the autonomy of local government.

Secondly, the evidence that the authorities are not willing to do so has, in those cases which have been brought to us, been shown subsequently to have been incorrect. It is possible for an authority, in the first instance, to bring forward a scheme which is not satisfactory, but it is frequently the case—and it is certainly the case in the instances which have been brought to our attention recently by the N.U.T.—that the authority has then discussed the matter with the Department and, on reflection, has liberalised its recommendations. This is the way in which the education system works. It operates by a process of discussion and negotiation.

I suggest that hon. Members will find it difficult to sustain with evidence the view that there have been—there are none known to us—schemes put forward which have been accepted, both as to articles and instruments, and which have been illiberal in the way they suspect that some authorities may be illiberal.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Can the hon. Lady give a brief idea of what she means by the vague terms "liberal" and "illiberal"?

Mrs. Williams

I will give a precise example. It has been suggested in one or two cases that the representatives of the staffs of colleges would not be permitted to serve on the governing body or be represented on it. Since we wish to give greater power to the academic board, it is important that such representation should exist. In one or two instances it has been suspected that a local authority would refuse such representation, but in no case has that been the conclusion.

Paragraph 123 of the Weaver Report suggested that the clerk to the governors should be a senior administrative officer of the college. On the other hand, it has been submitted by some local authorities that the clerk should be the chief education officer of the local authority. However, this matter would appear in the articles and would, therefore, be subject to the agreement of the Secretary of State; and, consequently, I can give the Committee the assurance that the recommendation put forward by local authorities in this respect would be able to be most carefully considered by the Department and, in particular, by the Secretary of State.

I am sorry to have detained the Committee for so long, but I thought it right that I should give the fullest possible details to hon. Members.

10.48 a.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

The Committee will not have grudged the Minister of State any of the time she took in lucidly explaining the purpose of the Bill. I wish to make it clear straight away that the main object of the Measure is not in any sense con- troversial, at any rate in the Committee. As I said as long ago as March, 1965: … surely we could bring about by legislation statutory governing bodies for regional and area colleges, and colleges of education. At the moment, these governing bodies, which are not provided for by statute, have to be, in law, sub-committees of education committees…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 761.] I have long wanted to see a reform of this kind in principle come about. The hon. Lady rightly said that this is, in principle, an uncontroversial Measure. I am bound to say, however, that it is not an unimportant Measure. It is one, both in principle and in detail, which should receive our most careful scrutiny.

The hon. Lady was fair in what she said about the aftermath of the Robbins Report. My hon. Friends and I have never blamed the party opposite for the decision which they then took about the colleges of education. At that time, when we were in the middle of an unprecedented expansion in colleges—from 28,000 students in 1958 to 95,000 students this year—it would have been impossible to have detached colleges from local education authorities and join them to the university system in the way that Robbins had suggested. One must bear in mind the point about the urgency of teacher supply and the very real anxiety that some people have to ensure that we always remember that teacher training is about the needs of children, rather than about academic studies as such.

Having said that, we must also remember two further things. The first is that the decision was extremely disappointing to the colleges. The second —no less important—is that we must not think of the colleges of education and the polytechnics as being vocational institutions. They are institutions of higher education which are catering for a growing proportion of the system, and 95,000 students in the colleges of education make this sector a substantial proportion of our whole system of higher education. It is important, therefore, that the constitutional arrangements both for these colleges and for the polytechnics should be as we in Parliament would want them to be.

The hon. Lady was right in saying that the main anxiety and controversy has centred around the question whether it is right that the instrument of government does not have to be approved under this Bill by the Secretary of State, as do the articles of government. In answer to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), I sympathise with him in saying that we should not use the words "liberal" and "illiberal" in too loose a way. I am concerned, first, about the question of staff representation on the governing body and, secondly, about outside academic representation on this body. However, above all, I am particularly concerned about this body having a reasonable measure of autonomy and responsibility and of its members having full voting rights.

I understand that the Weaver Report was, as the noble Lady Baroness Phillips said in another place, a delicate balance, and I therefore understand the hon. Lady's fear lest we try to upset any part of the balance and thereby take us back some way. It is up to us, as a Committee, to see that this balance is right, which brings me to a point which I have often made in education debates. We sometimes talk about there being three partners in the education service—the teachers, children and local authorities. I am glad that the parents have come in more as a partner. Let us remember, too, that Parliament is a partner in the education service, which means that we in the House of Commons must see that the right structure is established. It is important that we should not allow this Measure to become law, and so set the legal structure. without ensuring that the balance is as fair as we can possibly make it.

There are two reasons why I find myself distinctly anxious on this point. The first is the decision that the instrument of government does not have to be approved by the Secretary of State. As the hon. Lady rightly pointed out, this concerns the very constitution of the colleges. Of course, local education authorities must have a strong, continuing interest in the government of these colleges. That is not at issue in this Committee. It would be irresponsible of us, having accepted the Government view that the Robbins recommendation cannot, for the time being, be "on", then to pass legislation which seemed to reserve that de- cision. I therefore do not dispute the view that the local authorities must have a strong, continuing interest in the government of these colleges.

But if the majority of the members of the governing body should be political members of the local education committee—and, above all, if there were any question of the outside representation or the members of the staffs not having voting rights—then those two things together would mean that the greater independence of the colleges, as important institutions of higher education, could not be achieved. In other words, the minimum conditions about which we must be concerned are that there should be adequate staff representation, adequate outside academic representation and that everybody on the governing body should have voting rights. If that were not so, the purposes of the Bill would be nullified. Can the hon. Lady say how many local education authorities have shown their willingness to constitute the governing bodies of their colleges in accordance with the recommendations of the Weaver Report?

The other reason for my anxiety—and, if anything, this is a stronger point; in making it I hope that I am not the only member of the Committee who feels real anxiety on this score—is the different treatment which some people feel is being accorded by the Government to the polytechnics, on the one hand, and the colleges of education, on the other. There should be a continuing non-autonomous sector in higher education and, in the speech I made on this subject some time ago, I said: At present, in many cases there are two routes; a university degree, followed by a period of professional training, or, alternatively, a course of professional study… to the requirements of the particular profession in question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 760.] Those two routes are often a good thing and I am far from saying that, in the near future, I want to see more and more professions couch their requirements solely in terms of a university degree course. The two routes are often a good idea. However, if we are to have a continuing non-autonomous sector in higher education, two things are essential. The first is that there should be what we are now discussing; liberal articles of government and a liberal constitution for the non-autonomous colleges. The second, and no less important, is that the polytechnics and colleges of education must be treated in the same way. In other words, I would find it difficult to accept a solution which gave the impression that the colleges of education were the Cinderellas of the education system and subject to less freedom than other non-autonomous bodies.

Mrs. Williams

I was trying to make the point that they would not be treated differently but that, because there are no polytechnics at present—for there to be any they must be designated—there is an administrative stage to be gone through in the case of the polytechnics which does not apply to the colleges. That is the sole distinction I was endeavouring to make. In the government of both we wish to see the maximum a autonomy.

Sir E. Boyle

I did not wish to be unfair or alarmist in anything I was saying. When I put this point to the hon. Lady's predecessor, who is now at the Foreign Office, the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)—in the debate last summer, when we were discussing teacher training regulations for colleges of education—he caused a number of my hon. Friends and myself some anxiety. When talking about the two tines of college, he even used the phrase "There may be differences" and he did not give me as clear an answer as I should like to have had.

In a sense the hon. Lady said something this morning which exactly pinpoints my anxieties. She made the perfectly fair point that the Secretary of State is in a stronger position in regard to the polytechnics precisely because he has to designate them. The former Secretary of State said in April last year, when giving guidance to local authorities: I am also giving them guidance on the pints on which I will wish to be satisfied before actually designating a polytechnic, including guidance on the government and academic organisation which I regard as appropriate for the polytechnics as major institutions of higher education. If one looks at the wording of the administrative memorandum which was sent out. one reads: The Secretary of State believes that these objectives can only be achieved by delegating the main responsibilities for conducting the affairs of the polytechnics to suitably constituted governing bodies with a large measure of autonomy, and, under the general direction of the governing body, to the director and academic board. Under the academic board, academic and administrative matters primarily affecting particular disciplines or groups of disciplines should he delegated as far as practicable to the staff directly concerned. I welcome those words very much. The polytechnics have a most important part to play as quasi-universities for the part-timers thus pursuing advanced courses in important professions. I should be very sorry, and I am sure the whole Committee would regard it as not right, if the Secretary of State were in a stronger position regarding academic freedom for the polytechnics simply because he has the function of designating them. Before we pass this Bill we want to be satisfied that the balance is being held fairly between the right concern and responsibilities of local authorities on the one side, and the aspirations of colleges of education on the other.

It is no good pretending that this story has always been a happy one. I ask the Committee to forgive me for telling one anecdote. It happened some years ago. When I was the Minister I had the experience of being invited to open a new college of education. I discovered, only a day or two before, that the principal of the college had not been invited to the civic lunch preceding that event. That may be an extreme case, but it is symptomatic of this situation. I ask the hon. Lady and the Committee, before we give this Bill a Second Reading and certainly before we report it to the House, to consider very carefully indeed whether Clause 1 goes far enough in holding the balance fairly between the local authorities and the colleges.

I ask the Committee to accept my deep apology because, owing to an urgent engagement elsewhere, I shall have to leave before the end of the debate. I shall leave it to my hon. Friends to develop further points. I thank the Committee for its patience in listening to me.

11.2 a.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton. Test)

I give a welcome to the Bill as a whole. It is a very desirable Measure. I go back to the point about the instrument of government. I am rather alarmed that the Minister's approval is not required. I have had some experience on local authorities, and the analogy of my local authority may be useful.

There is a similar point in the constitution of education committees in which the Minister has not the powers I think he should have. A number of committees do not have teacher representation upon them. They include my authority. Although I was an elected member of that authority, I was teaching under another authority and during the whole 12 years of my membership I was never allowed to go on to the education committee of my authority. Presumably it was thought that I would have a special interest. There is a great danger that unless the Minister has more power than he is given by this Clause many of these governing bodies will be constituted on rather more political lines. This is irrespective of party, for the same happens whichever party is in power. It is said, "You must maintain the political majority on this committee or that."

I cannot understand the necessity for the words "if any" in Clause 1(3). The subsection says, "the academic board, if any". Is it assumed that in certain of these colleges there will be no academic board? I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) that we do not want these colleges of education and other colleges to be different from the polytechnics, and so on. It is absolutely essential that there should be an academic board.

This Bill is concerned entirely with the maintained colleges and maintained special schools. Is the Minister of State satisfied that there is sufficient power to ensure—for want of a better word—the same sort of liberalisation of the voluntary colleges and voluntary special schools? We give a very warm welcome to the Bill as a whole, but I should like my hon. Friend to look at these points.

Returning to the question of the instrument of government, I am not really convinced by the explanation put forward by the Minister of State. I do not think we would upset the local authorities to a great extent if we made a change. I assume that it is feared that they might take some retaliatory action, but I do not think they would. My experience is that if an instruction such as that were given there would be a few moans and groans but it would be accepted in the long run.

11.6 a.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

Despite the recommendations of the Robbins Report, I approve the decision not to include the colleges of education in the autonomous sector. Although if they had gone into that sector they might have been the relations of the universities, perhaps poor relations, it is much more important that they should be seen as institutions of professional training with a dominant link with professional practice, that is to say, with the maintained system of education.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I very much want, if they are outside the autonomous sector, for them to have as strong a personality and as much independence in their own right as can be secured, subject to the essential framework of local education financial responsibility. We have to remember that although they have local roots in most places, the colleges are fulfilling a national purpose. Their students and staff come from all over the country and go out to the whole country. In that respect they are quite distinct from most of the other educational institutions in their areas and in the jurisdiction of local education authorities.

I feel some concern about the instrument of government because I am not quite satisfied about the machinery for ensuring that the recommendations of the Weaver Report are being implemented. Should I gather from the Minister of State that when the draft articles are submitted to the Department they are accompanied by the proposed instrument? Perhaps at that stage informal recommendations are made and there is an effective bargaining position. It seems that in all sorts of major and minor respects the draft instrument might be less than satisfactory.

My right hon. Friend mentioned teacher representation on the governing body. There is the whole question of numbers and comparatively minor but important points, such as the Weaver recommendation that local authority representatives need not necessarily be elected representatives. They could be co-opted from among people who are very interested in the subject matter but who for one reason or another are not elected representatives of local authorities. Weaver recommended that they should be appointed to represent the local authorities' position and interests on the governing bodies. It would be a great pity if an instrument were submitted to the Department which excluded that possibility and said that the local authority representatives must be elected councillors or aldermen.

Inevitably one wonders what will be the Department's minimum requirements for the approval of the articles. There must be some points which are a sine qua non. I should like to know what they are. I hope they would include the right of the governors to appoint the principal and of the principal to appoint and to dismiss staff. All these are matters which go very much to the heart of giving reality to the position of principals and governing bodies. I should have thought that Weaver, having struck the balance of the very genuinely competing or conflicting interests, came to the right solution that the clerk should be the senior administrative officer but his appointment should be subject to confirmation by the L.E.A., coupled with the recommendation that the chief education officer should have the right to attend governors' meetings and give advice.

It seems important, if the object is to strengthen the colleges of education, tht the clerk should not only be an officer of the college but should be engaged whole-time in the work of the college. That should be his primary interest and loyalty. Normally he should be working at the college and therefore in the ordinary way available to members of the governing body who might wish to visit the college. I should like to k now the views of the Department about such matters as the inclusion in more precise terms of the arrangements for student representation and the rights not only in regard to disciplinary procedures which at the moment seem imprecise, but also to what extent student representation should be included in the conception of academic freedom.

The National Union of Students in Colleges of Education, whose conference I had the privilege to attend this year, indicated in a discussion group on this subject that while it would be premature to request student representation on an academic board it nonetheless hoped that there would be student representation or participation in the subcommittees of an academic board. This is a very desirable feature which again one would not like to see specifically excluded from any articles of government which the Department might confirm.

On the financial side, I would hope that the recommendations of Weaver would be accepted as far as possible. Nothing is more aggravating for intelligent and interested people who have accepted positions on a governing body than to find that their wish to do something quite obviously sensible and in the interests of the college is frustrated by a sheer lack of flexibility in administration. In the end, the object of the Bill is to strengthen the colleges and these institutions. The only way that will be done is to get worthwhile people to serve on the governing bodies, and to make the office of principal one that is really attractive. That will get the best educationists wanting to serve in this position, however much higher their ultimate ambitions may be.

I hope, too, that the colleges of education, which are very varied not only in their size but in their character, will develop more diverse personalities in future, if their degree of autonomy is to have any meaning. I would hope that we will get various developments coming along, not in all colleges but in those that wish to pioneer new methods of training and new techniques. I would like to feel that colleges could be free, perhaps, to include students other than teachers, and that social workers would be included. Not all colleges will do that or want to do it, but I feel that some will, especially where there is a need in the area served.

Likewise, there is obviously great scope for experimental changes in the curriculum. The Nuffield project on Resources for Learning is making some very interesting suggestions about other possible ways of planning a teachers' course. I would like to feel that a really go-ahead college of education could pursue largely its own line in that respect. We will not make this kind of highly desirable progress unless the articles of government of the institutions are drawn with such flexibility that we get the people we want willing to serve as governors or as staff.

11.18 a.m.

Mr. Christopher Price (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

This Bill is primarily about the power structure in colleges of education and further education—about who controls them. At the moment most colleges, however their governors are constituted, are controlled by a sort of uneasy alliance between the principal and the Further Education Department of the Education Office. Usually after a couple of years of open warfare the principal is able to settle down to a sort of pact in which the Further Education Department tries to get as much as possible out of the treasurer of the county or city, and on that basis the principal forgoes some freedom and status that he might have had if there had been a different set-up.

The Bill foresees a radical change in that set-up and we should be aware of some of the changes which will follow if this goes through. I have no faith in governors or committees, or anything else as having any real effect on the situation at all. Such bodies are a pleasant charade that we have in local government—and I have spent much of my life serving on them—to give authority to the decisions of individuals. The important point of power on a college of education board is in the hands of the chairman of the governors, because so many decisions have to be taken between the governors' meetings and so many decisions are so complicated that the chairman's position is very important.

If the Bill becomes law and the constitution of the governors is changed, perhaps the governing body could be given a little more power, especially if members of staff of colleges go on to the governing body. I have sat on governing bodies of colleges of education when I was a secondary school teacher, and knew a little bit about it and when the principal, who knew a great deal about it, was not allowed to speak unless he was asked by the chairman—and some chairmen do not make a habit of doing that very often. There was no one else on the board of governors, which consisted of what one might call the local political gerontocracy, who knew anything about colleges of education whatever. The meetings lasted between 10 to 15 minutes, and took place once a term, and the government of the college went ahead perfectly smoothly and efficiently, but with no relationship to the meetings of the governors. The Bill intends to change this, and it is indeed time that the situation was changed.

I want to talk about some of the consequences flowing from having a clerk within the college, rather than outside it. The advantages are that the principal and the clerk, or the principal and the administrative officer, will for the first time be able to institute a degree of real co-operation in making the college a viable place.

The difficulties will be that whereas there has been in the past a tough director of education talking to a tough city treasurer in times of squeeze—and this has resulted hithterto in some pretty lush places compared with the local university department of education—now it may be that this clerk to the governors will not be in the same position. I do not know what the salary scale will be—perhaps the Minister can tell us—but he will not be able to talk in the same way vis-à-vis the city treasurer, and I suspect that he will have a great deal more difficulty in holding the financial demands of the college of education against the city treasurer, who ultimately controls the purse strings. Under the old set-up this worked rather well.

This change has to come, but one has to watch the financial relationships. The Minister of State was perfectly right when she said that this is a very delicate matter. The brutal delicacy of it is that the local education authorities or the directors of education know that as long as they have the colleges under their direct jurisdiction and as long as the principals of those colleges are paid roughly £3,000 a year, then they have to be paid roughly £4,000 a year. This is the measure of the status to the L.E.A.s which control of colleges involves.

If this is the beginning, as I expect it is, of taking institutions of higher education in from control of local authorities —it may be if we have total local government reform, it may not be—then one can see how natural it is that the L.E.A.s should fight against this loss of control.

Because of the present state of local government, because of the present methods, political control in local government is inevitable. I accept it, although some people think that politics should be kept out of local government. I say that one has to run it in the same way as central government. I do not, however, think that the methods of political control appropriate to the sewerage committee and the baths committee are absolutely appropriate for running a college of education. For this reason it is perhaps right that the clerk to the governors comes out.

We had a debate recently, initiated by the Opposition, on the growth of bureaucracy. If the clerkship, the administration, of all the colleges in local authorities goes within the colleges, there ought to be a substantial diminution in the administrative personnel in the further education departments of local authorities. At the moment the further education departments of local authorities are quite the biggest, and there is no reason why that should be.

What I am afraid of in putting what might be called the extra administrative tier in at the colleges is that the L.E.A.s will feel it necessary to keep all their staff in the local authority and all one would be doing would be to slide one more sandwich into the bureaucratic tier, which will leave us just as short of good administrators and will simply make the wheels turn rather less smoothly.

I hope that the Department will bear this in mind, and, when the process of transferring clerkships to the colleges is going on, will perhaps send a circular to local authorities, reminding them of their responsibilities in reducing their staffs in the further education departments commensurate with the increase in staff which has taken place in the colleges. One does not want all these sums going on in two different places. If I know anything about the Parkinsonian laws of local authorities, that is what will happen.

I intervened earlier in the Minister's speech because events, in terms of the government of universities, have moved so quickly in the past two years. They have moved further in that period than they have in the country in the last 50 years. We now have students on the Senate of Sussex University—not on the council, which is accepted now—but on the governing body of the university. I was on a university council and to me that was just as useless as being on the board of governors of schools. If students want to be on them, they should be allowed to be. At least they will find out that they have not reached that centre of power which they are trying to reach, and it gives some indication of what power in institutions is about. Very soon in most universities we will have students on all the councils, and a very large number on, if not the senate, then the faculty committees, a sort of senate at lower level.

My fear is that the colleges of education and polytechnics will remain, not one jump behind the universities, as they have been for some time in terms of student involvement in government, but, if we are not careful, five or six jumps behind. That is why I should like far more Ministerial control over the instruments of government in order to ensure not only that staff get a fair deal—the question of staff getting a fair deal is part of breaking the power of the principal in the colleges, which is very necessary, and involving the staff much more —but that students get a fair deal and that we do not have the sort of student demonstrations in polytechnics and colleges of education which we have had in the last two years in both the new and older universities.

We must think carefully about the question of control of instruments of government. Even instruments and articles of government, I would agree, are no guarantee. The intention ever since 1945 has been that secondary schools should have governors to give the schools independence, but the instruments and articles of government have been flouted left, right and centre by local authorities which want to make nothing of them.

I should like the Minister to spell out why voluntary colleges have been excluded from mention in the Bill. We all understand why they have been excluded, I think, but I should like to know whether she thinks it is such a good thing. The danger is that we may drive a wedge between the voluntary sector and the State sector in colleges, a wedge which is appearing between the direct grant and voluntary aided schools and the county schools in the school system. This is a difference which needs to be evened out rather than sharpened. My fear is that the Bill will sharpen it.

11.33 a.m.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) made an extremely important point about the staffing of further education departments. I hope that the Minister of State has taken careful note of it. I have no doubt that until local authorities and Government Departments react in the way described by the hon. Gentleman as necessary, and in the same way as any successful business organisation would react to a change in its set-up, there is bound to be a growth of the bureaucracy. But if local authorities and Government Departments can be persuaded to react in the way that they should, I have no doubt that the growth of bureaucracy can be controlled or, better still, that reductions in it can be secured.

I wish to return to the point made earlier about instruments of government. As a former member of a local education authority and as someone who on occasion was frustrated by the limits, sometimes the narrow limits, within which local education authorities had to work, may I say that I do not normally believe that the Secretary of State should be given still greater power, but the fact is that colleges of education have regional and national responsibilities as well as local responsibilities. All that is being asked for is that the Minister should have some reserve powers to ensure that something unfortunate does not happen should there be a possibility of its happening.

We have been told that the Secretary of State, on examining the articles of government, would take into account how they might be affected by the composition of governing bodies. The implication is that the Secretary of State might or could have doubts about the ability of the governing body collectively and, therefore, might insist that the articles should be very narrowly drawn. This by itself might circumscribe very considerably the freedom of action and thought which it is intended to create. Surely freedom of action for a responsible and representative body is preferable to less freedom for a body of people who could, under the Bill, be left responsible or representative.

Clause 1 refers to institutions providing full-time further education. We have been told that the total is in excess of 400. I am a little concerned about the number of governing bodies which will result from the Bill. Might not the establishment of the governing bodies cause a little too much fragmentation? I know that Clause 1(4) allows grouping of several colleges under one governing body, but clearly it is not possible to group together colleges in rural areas. I know that in practice many further education governing bodies are already allowed to act, although they may happen to be local education sub-committees, in accord with the spirit of the Bill. I should like to know whether the Minister of State is entirely satisfied that the Bill will not lead to certain differences of organisation and control of the smaller education colleges.

Finally, I wish to make a small practical point in connection with claims for travel allowances. I see from the debate in another place that, as a result of governing bodies at present being constituted as sub-committees of education committees, the members of the governing bodies can put in claims for travel allowances to the local education authority. Baroness Phillips, speaking in another place, said that as a result of this Bill governing bodies would be brought under Section 111 of the Local Government Act, 1968. Does this mean that claims for travel allowances will be made to the local education authorities or that they will go direct to the college? If it means that the claims have to be borne by the college, a sum will have to be put annually into the college estimates.

I do not want to exaggerate this point, but I know from personal and practical experience that estimates are pared down to the minimum and that every unavoidable cost is bound to react in, however small a manner, against some desirable improvement. I should be grateful if the Minister would enlarge on the question of payment of travel allowances.

11.39 a.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I should like to underline some of the points made by my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite.

I was a little disappointed by the reply which my hon. Friend eventually gave to my intervention on instruments of government for these colleges. It is a rather strange dictate of government that we are going to legislate on unanimous reports of committees. The whole sphere of education, in fact, the whole of our legislation, would be very different if all we did was to accept and immediately legislate on the unanimous recommendations of committees.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) said, there has been quite a revolution in the past two years, even since the publication of the Weaver Report, on the attitude to the setting-up of governing bodies, of the participation of people and individuals, not only in education, but in all our community life. "Worker participation" is now a common phrase and the party to which the hon. Lady the Minister and myself belong has published a very interesting working document on it.

Therefore, I wish to make two points. First, we must have adequate representation of the academic staff and of teachers from the areas which the colleges are covering—that is, the areas where students from the colleges go out to teach. That is very important, for this reason. There could be a local authority —one springs to mind, but I will not mention it—where a limited degree of teacher representation was allowed from the area of the local authority, but no representation was allowed from surrounding areas where the problems affecting teachers and the methods necessary to deal with them were completely different. For example, there may be a highly industrialised urban authority with a training college, and the surrounding area is agricultural, suburbia, semi-residential where the problems are very different and the teachers have different attitudes which need to be represented. On could have, on the face of it, a reasonably liberal representation, but, in fact, for a variety of reasons, representation curtailed in areas which are tremendously important.

Secondly, there must be adequate student representation. Over the past two or three years there has been a revo- lution in student thought and student ideas. There has been a recognition of the rights of students to be consulted. not perhaps on the content of their syllabus, but to voice opinions on its relevance and on the method of teaching and the way in which their studies should affect their future professional career.

We should be able to draw on the experience of mature students, just as women whose families have grown up have a particular experience and just as people coming in from industry have particular experience. This can be of considerable value. Speaking as one who spent his working life, until he came to the House of Commons, in education, I can say that people tend to have a rather cloistered attitude unless they are aware of the problems and attitudes to life which exist outside. This is a reason for having adequate student representation. I would go so far as to say that we should have it on the academic boards, because students' attitudes are relevant to what is going on.

I wish to refer to the strange phrase to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) referred at the end of Clause 1(3)—those two little words "if any" which appear after "academic board". We want to see these words deleted from the Bill.

I underline a point made by two of my hon. Friends about the position of the voluntary colleges. As all my hon. Friends know, I am a great supporter of the voluntary college and I wish that they had 100 per cent. grants, though not all my hon. Friends would agree with that. Nevertheless, we need some explanation of their exclusion.

In many of these things, there is no need for any difference between the local authority college and, say, that of a religious denomination, in organisation, discipline and representation of staff. I am glad that the voluntary college in my constituency has a very good academic board, but some voluntary colleges certainly need to change part of their attitude towards their students. They take their standing in loco parentis far too seriously, in a way more suitable to the reign of Queen Victoria than to that of Elizabeth II.

Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend will seriously consider the widespread objections to the control which the Secretary of State should have of the instruments of government, teacher and student representation and staff recommendations. There is a great deal of sympathy for the Bill, but this lovely creature could be made even more beautiful.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)

I also think that there is a good case for the Secretary of State having greater powers than the Bill proposes. It is not my normal instinct to bring back to the centre more powers than are absolutely necessary, but until we have a local government reorganisation providing all-purpose local education authorities totally responsible for nearly all aspects of education in an area, the Secretary of State should ensure that where an institution serves an area wider than that of one local authority, a stronger voice in the government of a college of education is necessary than is provided by the suggested representation of neighbouring authorities, which is all we have at the moment. I ask the hon. Lady to consider this.

I disagree with what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and others said, for understandable reasons, about student representation. I do not share the view that, for there to be proper communication among the principal, the managers and the student body, it is necessary for the student body—an ephemeral group which changes perhaps every three years—to be an active participant in that management.

Important decisions affecting the life of the student bodies will frequently have to be taken but the fact that they are not members of that body will not mean that they have no access to the principal and others to put their views. There will also be matters of confidence affecting personalities and appointments in which it is reasonable that the students' views should be known but unnecessary for them to participate in the decision taking machinery. We should look for a different kind of dialogue between the students and the governing body than was suggested by the hon. Member.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) said that governors are a pleasant charade which is part and parcel of our educational scene. I think that when this view is held, because powers are not great or the meetings frequent, it is a symptom of the feeling of many of us that because one is a governor one should therefore be part and parcel of the day-to-day management of a college. That is not and should not be so. Just because the everyday powers and responsibilities are not considerable, I would urge those who share the hon. Gentleman's view not at the same time to underestimate the importance of links, even if fairly tenuous, between an institution—perhaps a college of education or of further education or a special school—and the people whom those institutions exist to serve.

For example, I hope that, with regard to special schools, parents will always be represented on the governing bodies because there is a need for their viewpoint to be heard along with that of the professionally qualified staff. As to further education, it is very important that industry and commerce in the area should be represented, as is advised, on the governing body—not because they will take over the management of that institution but because the opportunities should be seized in appointments like this to involve local public opinion in the institution's activities, since it is there to serve them.

Mr. Christopher Price

My point about the charade was that the governors appointed did not do the things which the articles and instruments of government said that they were meant to do. My hon. Friends and I probably favour the informal links which the hon. Gentleman mentioned as much as he does.

Mr. Hornby

If that is the hon. Gentleman's view, well and good. Let us agree that the opportunity for governors to serve a useful purpose in this way exists, and should not be lightly set aside. If, when these measures take effect, the hon. Lady and her Department can advise the individual governing bodies on their role, this would be useful.

I have one point about the governing bodies of the colleges of education. I said that I do not want the student body represented there as such, but I do want teachers represented, and I hope that authorities will appoint relatively young teachers, who have recently studied at the colleges, and whose experience of the transition from the colleges to their first appointments is relatively fresh in their minds. This could be helpful.

I hope that when the Bill is passed we shall be able to have discussions and comments from the Ministry on the financial powers which will or will not be delegated to the governing bodies. Some interesting points were made about this, and, with the change in the bargaining position, we should look for some detail on this and hear from the hon. Lady what proposals are in mind.

11.56 a.m.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

I strongly welcome the Bill, having spent a considerable part of my working life in a technical college, but certain of its Clauses must be tightened up considerably. The Minister, for whom I have a great regard, has a blind faith in the willingness of people to do things when they say that they will do them. If she came to the outside world with me, she would find that experience is not quite as pleasant as she thinks.

I was once involved in negotiations over the right of teachers to be represented on a local authority education committee. There were 96 on the committee and we were asking for two representatives. I was told that one particular county councillor, "was not going to have any teachers dictating to him on the council", ignoring the fact that the proportion would have been 96:2. In view of this kind of mentality, some of the Clauses should be tightened up.

Those of us intimately concerned with the training of teachers are very concerned by the representations which we have had from the N.U.T. and the A.T.T.R., that it would be possible to have teacher training in institutions without an academic board. This is a real and grave danger. If professional standards are needed, we should also have professional scrutiny from outside. In the same way that university education departments have links with teacher training departments, academic boards should have links with polytechnics, as suggested by the N.U.T.

I liked the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) about the selection of governors, that, in this process, one was asking, "wherein lies power?" All backbenchers present today ask the same question about Parliament, "Wherein lies power?" One seeks to grasp it, gets one's hands around it and then finds that one is grappling with jelly. The same happens in education: one thinks one has the source of power, one closes one's hands around it, and it is gone.

This is primarily because, in selecting people for governorships, one makes sure that hellions are not chosen. The essential qualities for a governors' meeting are the abilities to be quiet, placid and quick —then we all go downstairs for the cup of tea kindly provided by the domestic science department, and it is over and done with.

We need some wider representation here. At great expense, we are told, local education authorities appoint professional people like schoolmasters and school mistresses and then refuse to use them in a directly advisory capacity, and completely ignore the views of highly trained and skilled professional people. It is all very well the local authorities or the Minister feeling that these people are willing that teachers should be represented what we must be sure of is that they will be represented. This is the key to the situation. I know all too many local authorities which do not want difficulties in committees from teachers who happen to know their stuff. Unless the regulations are tightened, the Minister will be talking in 12 months to her hon. Friends about a situation of which we warned her in advance.

The difficulty with representation is that large numbers of people can serve on councils and give up a lot of valuable time, but there is a second stratum which we could use but which we do not pick because governors are selected on the basis of the representation of certain organisations. There is more horse trading in the selection of governors for various colleges than is ever seen at New-market. I want some device whereby ordinary, non-affiliated people of considerable ability and skill can be chosen.

I am thinking of the type of person who used to come to my university extension classes out of an interest in education and a desire to take part in a discussion. They are able and competent people, but, because they have no interest in a set organisation, they never have the chance to serve in this kind of governorship—where they could make a useful contribution—primarily because, in choosing governors, we tend to polarise around political parties or set organisations.

I take this opportunity to warn the Minister—I hope that I am in order in raising this matter—of the dangers we might be facing in giving too much autonomy to the governors at the expense of the students. I have been trying—it has been a long, hard battle—to get students' rights in universities. A university should be an autonomous organisation but, when something goes wrong, it should not be the judge and jury. There should be a court of appeal outside and—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman hoped that he would not find himself out of order, but he is straying somewhat from the path of order.

Mr. Carter-Jones

If I may return quickly to the point—

The Chairman

I am afraid not.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I am concerned to see that students have a right of appeal here and that it will not be lost as a result of the passage of this Measure. I welcome the Bill but hop that the Minister will tighten up some of its provisions to ensure that representation by teachers and others is made secure and not promissory.

12.2 p.m.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

I wish to refer to two matters concerning the Bill. The first is the question which most hon. Members have mentioned—whether or not an institute or scheme should require the approval of the Secretary of State. When the Minister spoke I found her case convincing, but since the effect of her charm and logic has worn off, I have thought again and I am not now so certain as I thought I was. It seems that this is not just a question of the possibility of abuse of the political control of local education committees. All sorts of vested interests are involved, including those which have, by custom and in the course of time, secured a sort of prescriptive right to control various institutions. These are only too likely, even under this Measure, to prove self-perpetuating.

I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that it is not desirable, unless absolutely necessary, to centralise power or to remove the autonomous powers of local education authorities where they exist. However, I wonder whether it is necessary, to deal with the danger to which hon. Members have referred, to require that every scheme should be submitted automatically to the Secretary of State. It might be possible, with little difficulty, to insert a provision—perhaps by an amendment of the powers in the 1944 Act referred to in Clause 3(3)—to provide that the Secretary of State could, where there is evidence that there is local unrest or dissatisfaction, call in a scheme and require that it be revised. This would be simpler than insisting that every scheme should automatically be submitted to the Secretary of State. This is not an unprecedented idea, for the Minister of Housing and Local Government has certain powers under planning law to do much the same sort of thing. I should have thought that this would have met the doubts which hon. Members have expressed on this score.

The second point I wish to raise is of more detailed application and goes to the principles of the Bill. It is the complicated question of Clause 4(2), which I take to be the usual attempt by the draftsman to arrange the provision so tightly that it provides against every contingency. This subsection appears to be either unnecessary or dangerous. I believe it to be dangerous in principle because, if it means anything, it is an attempt—I hope that this does not sound too paradoxical —to enact retroactive legislation in advance. I cannot feel that this is right in principle or likely to be anything but dangerous in practice.

I am aware that the final words in Section 37 of the 1889 Interpretation Act act as a saver and permit a provision of this kind. Nevertheless, should we not consider, in connection with the intentions of the Bill, whether this is a reasonable provision? As I understand it, the purposes of the Bill are twofold. The first is to render legal things which are either illegal or of doubtful legality. The Weaver Report makes it clear that there is grave doubt as to whether the setting-up of boards of governors for these institutions is legal. The Report says that two clerks and a legal adviser to the Minister advised that it was illegal to set up a body which was not a sub-committee of the governors, although the I.L.E.A. thought that it was legal and said that it had done it and would go on doing it.

There is at least doubt about whether it is legal to do these things and some impressive legal authorities are saying that at present it is illegal. Let us assume that this is so. Then, it cannot surely be possible to legitimate illegal acts by a Measure which has not yet come into force. I suspect that any attempt to justify this in the courts could only result in the courts deciding that this was ultra vires.

Let us consider the second purpose of the Bill, which is not simply to legitimate something which may be or is illegal. It is also to compel local authorities to do something which, either through their inertia or decision, they have decided not to do or are unwilling to do. But how can one compel people to do things under the provisions of a Measure which has not yet come into force? This cannot be legal. While I accept that I have a suspicious mind, and do not fully understand the finer points of the law, this seems an extremely questionable provision. I suggest that it might lead to serious trouble if the actions of local authorities were challenged in the courts and that, insofar as it is not dangerous and wrong, I submit that it is totally unnecessary and should be removed from the Bill.

12 9 p.m.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

I welcome the Bill but, like other hon. Members, wish certain reservations. I am concerned about the instrument of government not needing the approval of the Secretary of State. This subject has my concern not merely in the interests of centralisation but in the interests of local autonomy. A further education sub-committee of a local authority could be constituted as the governing body of all the colleges in one area. In that case there could be very little influence exerted by those concerned in the area in teaching. Perhaps I am choosing an extreme example, but I hope that the Minister will deny that such a thing could possibly happen. I have raised this point because it is worrying many people engaged in teaching organisations and I wish to give my hon. Friend an opportunity to clear the matter up.

There is a growing ferment in the country for industrial democracy. All sections of industry are seeking its introduction. In this move, I suggest that we should not exclude what I might call the teaching industry. It is important that those engaged in teaching should have the opportunity of representing their points of view where they really count in matters of policy. This should be done not merely for the benefit of teachers, but for the members of the staffs concerned and in the interest of the whole organisation. When members of teaching staffs have the opportunity of discussing policy, they are better able to understand the policy which is being urged by the governing bodies. It is extremely important, if we are to get the sort of harmony and co-operation that is essential, that teachers are given adequate representation in these matters.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby)—who, I regret to see, is not in his place—on union representation. A great deal of agitation is going on among students for representation and they are demanding a say in the way their affairs are governed. It would be wrong of us, when passing a Measure of this sort, not to recognise that this agitation is likely to grow. We should take this opportunity to give students the right to be represented. If we did so we would not be giving anything away. No dangers are involved, and if hon. Members suggest that some are involved they could be adequately overcome. The Bill should contain a provision to see that the Secretary of State can urge this representation on local authorities.

Clause 2 deals with the question of what one might describe as consumer representation. I have long been convinced of the need in secondary schools and primary schools for parents to be represented. However, this need is accentuated for parents of children who attend special schools. I have had experience in my constituency of seeing the great interest that is shown by these parents, whose children are deaf, partially deaf or who, for other reasons, attend special schools. We should see that these parents, and all parents who are interested, are encouraged to put their views forward, for the whole organisation must benefit if this is done.

It is tremendously important at this time when there is growing contact between industry and education, to encourage as much as possible local industry to take an interest in what is going on. There is, therefore, the need for consideration to be given to representation of local industry on governing bodies of various educational institutions. I emphasise that this should not be limited to the employers. Opportunity should also be made available for trade unions to be represented so that they can make a real contribution.

I wish to make it quite clear that although some of these points may be regarded as critical, I very much welcome the Bill. All I ask is that it should be broadened in some respects to meet the needs of the situation better than it will in its present form. I hope that the Bill will get a speedy passage after its improvement.

12.16 p.m.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

It will be generally agreed that we have had a very useful discussion. It will also be generally agreed that it would be for the convenience of both sides of the Committee, and certainly within the spirit of our discussions, if we were to finish our Second Reading debate today. I shall not speak for any considerable length of time, in order that I can give the appropriate amount of time for the hon. Lady the Minister of State to reply to various points and so that we can finish this business this morning.

It has been a most agreeable experience to be present in a Committee where there is such a wide degree of unanimity on both sides. This is the second occasion in a week when I have found myself in this happy position. On Monday I was addressing a meeting at Oxford University, sponsored jointly by the Conservative, the Liberal and the Democratic Labour Clubs. We found ourselves in almost complete unanimity about the iniquities of certain educational policy. Today there has been an agreeable extension of that experience.

It is important to make one thing quite clear. The House is operating this Second Reading Committee procedure and as yet we are comparatively new to it. It is important to make clear that we are not giving any kind of second-class treatment to the Bill. It is merely a procedural device which we have adopted, that where both sides of the House are agreed—and both sides have so agreed—that a Bill is not of a contentious nature it is convenient for it to be dealt with in this way.

It would be most unfortunate, however, if those affected by this very important but non-contentious Bill believed that the House was not giving it the same kind of careful scrutiny and attention as, or regarded it as less important than, other Bills merely because of the procedural device we have adopted. I hope it will be understood by all concerned that on both sides of the Committee we attach the very greatest importance to this Bill and that in that sense we represent the whole House.

I must express the purely personal view that I am not at all sure that it is not an advantage to have a discussion in which I think very nearly every hon. Member has taken part. One has only to look at the membership of the Committee to see that everyone has a specialist interest one way or the other in the subject. That has added greatly to the tone of our discussions.

Inevitably, the greater part of what has been said so far has centred on the colleges of education. It would, therefore, be appropriate to remind the Committee, as the hon. Lady did in opening, that Clause 2 is also a very important part of the Bill and that the special schools are a very important factor in the whole school set-up. The proposals in Clause 2 are not in any sense controversial, but they will have an important effect upon aspects of the school structure, which is very important to us all.

I was not entirely certain that I understood the hon. Lady when she spoke about the power contained in Clause 2 for grouping. I understood that the principal thought in her mind was that one could thereby use the expertise of some specialist in this sphere, be it the partially deaf or mentally subnormal children, in a group of schools. I hope she will also agree that it is extremely important in schools of that nature, which frequently have special human problems of their own, that the grouping process should not be carried too far and that the special relationship and the attention that the governors can give to an individual school should not thereby be prejudiced.

Inevitably, also, the hon. Lady, in opening the debate, was good enough to paint the general background from which this Bill springs. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle) has apologised for his enforced absence, because of a very important engagement, from the later stages of our debate. There was agree-me it between the hon. Lady and my right hon. Friend that what I loosely call the binary line had been correctly drawn. That is the view of the Opposition party, and one understands it. I am on the record, and I cannot have changed my view suddenly, that we did not draw the binary line at the right place. I have said so in the House, but I accept without any question that we could not now make major surgical changes of that kind, although I believe that in time the House will make the change and move the binary line.

We have to remember that one of the principal causes of disappointment, which was referred to by hon. Members an both sides of the House at that time, was that we appeared to be giving something akin to second-rate status to the profession of education. I do not think it is controversial that maintenance of the morale of the profession is among the most important tasks facing the Secretary of State. It is, therefore, all the more important that we should scrutinise the provisions of this Bill. It is all the more important that we should be seen to be giving a status with the appropriate measure of academic freedom, which certainly would have been given if the binary line had been drawn other than in the way it has been drawn.

That is why hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have looked with such very great care at the provisions of Clause 1. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who has been listening to our discus- sions that certain Amendments are already in the minds of hon. Members on both sides. I do not propose to delay the proceedings at this stage with Committee points, but in due course, when we reach the Committee stage, the hon. Lady will certainly be required to justify fully the words "if any" in Clause 1(3), and particularly to defend—with greater persuasion than even she produced this morning—the exclusion of the approval of instruments of government by the Secretary of State.

I thought she was a little hard upon the representatives of Weaver whom she felt had not used the occasion to put forward that particular point of view. Maybe they did not, but nor do I think was the opposing view discussed. The representatives of the L.E.A.s did not, I think, take that opportunity to clear the point out of the way and as it were have it as part of the agreed package. I have to say "I think" because I have not had an opportunity of checking that point in the Weaver Committee Report since the hon. Lady concluded her speech. I speak subject to correction, but I do not recall that this point was cleared as part of a package deal by the other side. I think it a little hard of the hon. Lady to castigate the staff representatives—"castigate" is too strong a word, to criticise them—for not having secured their position then and so to find that the provision is not in the Bill.

Quite apart from anything else, as the hon. Lady pointed out, Weaver dealt with matters which are outside this Bill. The members of the Weaver Committee had their minds directed to many aspects and it might well have been a technical legal point which would not have occurred to the representatives in question. I speak for myself, but I think it was clear from the way in which my right hon. Friend responded to the hon. Lady, that it is likely to be the Opposition view also that the arguments have to be more persuasive than that.

I have a procedural suggestion to make to the hon. Lady which I hope she will find helpful. As she knows, there is no disposition on this side to hold up the progress of the Bill. The only objective we shall have when we meet in Committee will be to seek to improve the Bill in a constructive way. Therefore, she has not got a long Committee stage before her. Unlike her right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport—whose hand, I suspect, she holds lovingly from time to time in appropriate support—she has a non-contentious Bill and a short Committee stage before her.

Would she not, therefore, think it wise to do two things this morning? First, will she not commit herself irrevocably to opposition to the points made to her? Will she at least keep the ball in play? I ask her not to shut the door totally to representations made to her from both sides of the Committee.

We all understand the delicate nature of some of the negotiations which take place in matters of this kind. We have only to refresh our memories about the bodies which were represented on the Weaver Committee to see the many crosscurrents of view. It may be that the hon. Lady may think it wise not to hurry the Committee stage quite so fast as normally she would wish to do, in order to dispose of the Bill quickly, but to take a little more time for consultations internally with the various interests involved who, no doubt, will wish to make representations in one way or another to her and which may embrace all the views very forcefully expressed to her from both sides of the Committee.

There are only one or two comparatively—although important—detailed points the threads of which I may perhaps draw together. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison), speaking with personal and practical experience as a former chairman of an important L.E.A., raised a point about country areas in which colleges are spread. I hope the hon. Lady will feel —if not today certainly in Committee, but I hope today—that she can give the assurance for which my hon. Friend reasonably asked on behalf of areas which are very spread.

We have talked from both sides at considerable length about actual representation and about the powers of governments. I suppose that insofar as every different stage has its phrase, it was really the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), with his phrase that governors are "a pleasant charade", which will be remembered on this occasion. I simply want to say that I do not know whether I have been extremely fortunate, but I either have served or continue to serve on the board of every different kind of school in the voluntary, private and maintained sectors. This is partially because in former years and at present I have wanted to keep my hand in, as it were. I have done so in a fairly wide range of colleges of one sort or another at further education level and I can honestly say that I have not had the same dismal experiences as the hon. Gentleman seems to have had.

It varies from one part of the world to another. In both major political parties changes are regrettably made for no other reason than political representation, and good men and women from both political parties are removed, simply because political representation at the centre has changed. It has always been my impression that governors—in this case we talk of them, as they will become, the governing bodies of colleges—can have, and frequently do have, a very real use and can be an enormous strength of the academic staff of whatever institution they are supporting. They can be particularly helpful to the principal or headmaster. What is true is that it largely depends, and will depend in the terms of this Bill too, more upon the personalities involved and the approaches that they make than upon anything that we are able to write in.

My only criticism of Weaver is that it really envisaged an absolutely halcyon day when it would not be necessary to have the Bill in front of us at all. Let me give an illustration from the very interesting and delightfully written chapter on the quality and spirit of college government. It gives one or two illustrations on page 25 to help to indicate the attitudes that it had in mind in getting a good spirit in college government. It says: When a college seeks approval to a course of action which is at first sight unusual the first response should be 'Why not?' rather than 'Why?'. If that was the sort of general response, if that was the way in which we all operated, and in which all colleges of education and all L.E.A.s operated, many of the fears expressed from both sides of the Committee would be groundless.

The plain fact of the matter is that we are having to consider legislation for the minority, and it is important to say that it will be the minority of cases, where such an attitude of mind does not apply, or where, if it does apply, it applies very properly indeed. This is an important point. It is also important to stress again that we are talking about a minority. The hon. Lady does not meet the Committee when she says that her experience so far, and we accept this, is that the vast majority of L.E.A.s concerned are responding in what I might loosely call the spirit of Weaver. I have no doubt that they are if that is what she tells us.

But we are having to legislate for the occasional laggard or the future laggard, and that is where she has to meet the Committee and where, with respect, she has failed so far. There have been representations made to Members on both sides that it would not be at all proper for us to agree to provisions which permit any college to be under a board of governors other than its own exclusive board. We must explore this more fully in Committee, but my provisional view, remembering the very proper warning given by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, would be that to prohibit such a grouping would surely be unwise.

I cannot believe that it will be operated in any case other than where it makes very good administrative sense. There has been considerable discussion on both sides about student representation as it will emerge on these bodies. I am totally committed in this matter because I am an honorary vice-president of the National Union of Students, and in a sense I am a mandated Member. I would clearly be executed publicly, after some appropriate demonstration, if I were to say anything else.

There was great justice in the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) and by hon. Members opposite, that since Weaver there has been a very marked change in outlook on these matters, certainly at the universities. Here we are dealing with a body which is roughly analogous and to which we are seeking to give a certain measure of academic freedom. It is inevitable that there would not be unanimity on these matters. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) clearly has very well-argued reservations, and the whole Committee knows what great experience he has. He must be listened to very closely.

It may be an additional reason for hoping that the hon. Lady will change her mind. We shall also need to look much more closely than I confess I have at the two fascinating suggestions made by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). He said that they might be regarded as Committee points, and they are points which we shall need to look at much more fully. The possibility of what he loosely called a "calling-in procedure" analogous to planning consent, and his very telling inquiries into the effect of Clause 4(2), must be explored.

The hon. Lady was not present on the Standing Committee which dealt with the previous Bill but I fought an entirely lone battle on the subject of retrospection on that occasion. I was even abandoned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and it was a hideous experience, from which I have yet really to recover. On this particular occasion I know that we shall have to look at this much more closely in Committee. The general view from this side has been clearly expressed and I simply draw the threads together. We are firmly in favour of the principles behind this Bill. We have certain reservations of a Committee nature, of which we have given the hon. Lady advance notice. We ask that she will not totally shut the door on representations made to her. With the points that I have made, I hope that we shall agree to go forward in the spirit of the Bill.

12.39 p.m.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) was speaking of the horrid experience he had earlier of being abandoned by all his hon. Friends, even by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), but with the instruments of government, I seem to be clinging to nothing but a rather insubstantial piece of paper. I shall try to eplain in more detail to the Committee why I seem to take this obstinate attitude. First, I will deal with some of the points raised in the debate and I am sure that I will carry the Committee with me in saying that many points of controversy are to be settled in Committee, and all hon. Members have indicated their support for the general principle of the Bill.

I want to take my theme for a moment from the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), because he very clearly indicated the way in which, at least in many colleges of education, there has been a very considerable revolution in the approach, not only to the students but to the curriculum and methods of study. This is something, which all Members of the Committee who know colleges of education will agree, has characterised the most lively and best colleges of education where the work is quite remarkable and where, to echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, mature students and students from other professions are bringing a completely new approach and a new maturity and understanding to the work of the colleges.

At the other end of the scale there are institutions among the colleges and in further education which are far removed from the very best. It is partly to narrow this gap, and partly in order to give the best their heads, that we want to make sure that this Bill reaches the Statute Book. Having said that and reflected upon the very great importance of this, the first point that I take up concerns student representation.

Because of the point that I have made, that there is a very wide range in the institutions about which we are talking, both in the colleges and even more markedly in the colleges of further education, we in the Department take the view that it is for the institutions to make what suggestions they wish with regard to student representation. We are certainly not hostile to the idea of student representation, but we think that the only way to deal with this is to look at the proposals for each institution as they are put forward.

We have therefore advised student bodies that the appropriate place for them to make representations in the first in- stance is to the institutions on which they wish to be represented. Clearly one does not have quite the same sort of student position with a polytechnic or a college of education as one may have with a further education college dealing almost entirely with the further education of 16 to 18 year olds on craft and technician courses. One would not want to lay down exactly the same sort of thing and we think that the Committee would be of the view that one wants flexibility on this matter. The Department is certainly not set against the idea of student representation on any of these institutions.

Mr. McNamara

The point is that we are not suggesting that the Department has set its face against this. It is the authorities and in many cases the governing bodies of colleges which have set their faces against this. It is the inversion of the position and the right of appeal. Where do they make the representation and how do they get anywhere?

Mrs. Williams

They can go first to the local institutions and then to ourselves. The point that I am trying to make is that it is very difficult to lay down representation on a kind of mathematical basis, because one is dealing with totally different situations, possibly partly because this Bill has taken in the colleges of further education, whereas originally the Weaver Report and the Bill which arose from it was concerned, above all, with the colleges of education. I do not think that most Members of the Committee would wish it to be otherwise.

With regard to the point about the voluntary colleges, raised by several hon. Members, this is strictly speaking out of order because it does not come up on the Bill, but I can briefly answer by saying: Yes, the Secretary of State has full powers with regard to the establishment of academic boards and representation on those colleges, for the simple reason that they are not governed by the standing orders or by the rules of education committees of L.E.As. They are a special case and I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), that this Bill brings them closer together, not further apart so that it achieves just what he wished to achieve.

As to the special schools and the question raised about the grouping of them, I do not want to suggest that there would be groupings in all cases. We simply want to make it possible that there should be some grouping on the advice of the local education authorities, because as Members will know, many special schools are boarding schools, and they are not concerned only with the immediate area of one L.E.A. One wants to be sure that they get governors who will take a direct and active interest in education, and not regard this as yet another public job.

Grouping can lead to a higher quality on the governing board than if one did not allow it. As to the point made by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens), there is no question of the grouping of colleges of education. This is not covered by Clause 1, as Members will see, where, by paragraph (a), colleges of education are left out of grouping procedures, whereas in paragraph (b) colleges of further education are brought in. Hon. Members will know why. It is because colleges of further education can be complementary to one another. There can be an art college, a technical college, and so forth, not necessarily on the polytechnic level, where it may be sensible to group the colleges so that they have a single governing body. This is not the case with colleges of education.

I turn now to the legal point made by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). He also has me at a disadvantage because I am even less of a lawyer than he is. Indeed, I believe that he has a great deal of legal knowledge. This is substantially a Committee point, but my understanding is that this is not retrospective but simply a question of permitting those institutions whose articles have been approved to go ahead without waiting upon the last institution, which may have involved a great deal of negotiation over the articles because they were unsatisfactory.

In practice, what Clause 4(2) permits is that an institution, when established and when its articles have been approved, can go ahead on the basis of the articles —this is especially important in the case of polytechnics—without having to wait on the last and, as it were, least viable institution in that category. There is no question of the articles of government being approved in advance of the establishment of the institution. This was something which the A.M.C. believed to be possible under the Bill as drafted. There is no question about this: the articles must wait on the establishment of the institution.

Mr. Maude

I am not sure that that quite meets my point. The point is that the Government are purporting to take action compulsorily or are legitimating something which is illegal before the Act which justifies the powers has come into force. I cannot see why it should be necessary to have these things done before the part of the Act in question comes into force. Why not simply bring the Act into force earlier?

Mrs. Williams

It is a question not of the substantive Act not being passed but of the date on which this must apply to a category of institutions. The difficulty is that if a date is set, as it can only be set, when all the negotiations are completed for all institutions in that category, one would be holding up all the earlier institutions— [Interruption.] We may get a little bogged down on this point. Perhaps I could write to the hon. Gentleman on it. The general point is that this is not retrospective legislation, but I will try to make that clear in a letter to the hon. Member.

There have been a great many views expressed about the need to make instruments subject to approval by the Secretary of State. May I first clear up a misconception? The academic board is a matter for the articles, not for the instruments. There is no question but that an academic board can be established by permission of the Secretary of State. The force of the words "if any", which we can take up in Committee if we wish to do so, is that we are also dealing with colleges of further education. We are dealing with colleges Which are very different. We are also dealing with some colleges which have very few full-time courses and, in some cases, almost no full-time staff.

The only purpose of the words "if any" is to cover those cases—and I repeat that this is a matter for the articles and therefore a matter for consideration by the Secretary of State—where the setting up of an academic board would be nothing but a formality because, in effect, it could not be fully carried out or made useful. I give the assurance that the words "if any" do not apply to colleges of education or to major colleges of further education which do full-time and advanced work. That is the sole point of the words. I would hate my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite to read more into them than they carry.

However, that does not deal with the major point about the instruments. The views expressed on both sides of the Committee must be looked at again during the Committee stage. It would be improper for me to say anything else.

Hon. Members have said that there are local education authorities which have behaved illiberally and which have not given staff and teachers anything like the representation which they deserve or that, when they have, they have failed to listen to their points of view. In spite of the picture of innocence which my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) paints of me, I am aware that there are such authorities.

Perhaps not intentionally, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) put his finger on the point. He said that the instruments and articles of schools have been flouted left, right and centre. He went on to say that legislation was no guarantee that there would be a liberal approach to the interpretation of it. Indeed, he is quite right, because we already have the evidence from the schools of the very different ways in which local education authorities have dealt with the governors and staff of such schools. That is the whole point of my stressing the need to carry with us the good will of most local education authorities—and I say "most" because there may be some which refuse to be carried.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) was altogether a little too optimistic in his view about the reaction of the local education authorities. The local education associations—and I am authorised to say this—have made it clear that their members would feel that a decision to require authorities to obtain approval for instruments of government would impugn the competence of local education autho- rities and—this is the important point—would reopen the whole question of their acceptance of the Weaver Report as a whole.

That is a serious matter for us because the Weaver Report contains very much more than merely the establishment of more liberal governments of colleges of education and further education colleges. That, without doubt, is very central to the matter, but it is by no means all that the Weaver Report was concerned with. Anyone who reads it will see that it was concerned with the powers of principals, with the powers given to academic boards, with the rights of students, with student discipline, and with a whole range of other matters which make up the character of a college.

Since I am prepared to take absolutely seriously the views of hon. Members about instruments, I must ask them to take seriously the possibility of the non-co-operation of the local education authorities in a sector for which they and not we are responsible. The Committee might wish it otherwise. It might wish that the colleges were not the responsibility of the local education authorities. But they are their responsibility. That is the body under which they fall. I ask the Committee to consider seriously the possibility of losing the co-operation of, I repeat, the liberal majority of the local education authorities. I recognise there are some who are not so liberal.

What about the minority which is not so liberal? I was asked to give the facts, and I am pleased to do so. Up to now, we have been able to consider the articles and instruments of no fewer than 64 colleges from 39 local education authorities under the terms of the circular which asked the authorities to submit by June more liberal instruments and articles. Those 64 colleges and 39 authorities—they were not picked out; they are simply ones which we have so far been able to consider—have in every case agreed to the representation of two or more members of the staff of the college on the governing body. In every case they have allowed for university representation. In every case they have made some provision for serving teachers. In every case they have made some provision for other people with special contributions to make to be included. It therefore follows that in every case they have given representation to the principal as well as to members of the staff.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Are Sheffield and Leeds included on my hon. Friend's list?

Mrs. Williams

Yes. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that, after due reconsideration, Leeds is included on my list. This is the point of my earlier remark—that the first submissions may be different from the submissions made after negotiations. This was a point made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle).

Mr. Mitchell

With voting rights?

Mrs. Williams

As I understand it, yes. I will have to let my hon. Friend know about Sheffield. We understand that Sheffield proposes that the principal and two members of the academic staff should be on the governing body with voting rights.

Mr. McNamara

What about student representation?

Mrs. Williams

That point was covered by my earlier remark. Some do, some do not.

Mr. McNamara

And of those submitted?

Mrs. Williams

Of those submitted covering the whole field of colleges of education and further education colleges, some do, some do not. I should have to have notice of that question, but our view is that we should look at each case in terms of what has been submitted. There is some evidence on first submissions, but there is no evidence at the end of the day when the instruments and articles in the second case are approved and in the first case are returned to the authority along with the articles approved.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

With regard to the articles and, to some extent, the instruments, does the Ministry have a model in draft? If so, it would be interesting to see it, although there may be difficulties about that. If the hon. Lady cannot show it to us, may we have details of it in Committee so that we know on what points the Department require a judgment and what is to be provided for by the authorities?

Mrs. Williams

The model scheme is, in effect, what is in the recommendations of the Weaver Report. In all the cases that I have mentioned, they have kept fairly close to that model.

The facts do not bear out the contention of hon. Members that the need to carry the co-operation of the local authorities is crucial. We believe we shall do that. Since the Report was unanimously signed, we feel that the local authorities will wish to bring pressure to bear on recalcitrants to make it clear that they intend to carry out a Report to which they have subscribed. I will take my stand on the view that they will do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the Education Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time.

Committee rose at five minutes to One o'clock.

Janner, Sir B. (Chairman) McNamara, Mr.
Armstrong, Mr. Maude, Mr.
Atkins, Mr. Humphrey Mitchell, Mr. R. C.
Bell, Mr. Ronald Moonman, Mr.
Boyle, Sir E. Morrison. Mr. Charles
Carter-Jones, Mr. Newens, Mr.
Dalyell. Mr. Price, Mr. Christopher
Hill, Mr. J. E. B. van Straubenzee, Mr.
Hornby, Mr. Williams, Mrs. Shirley
Lyon, Mr. Alexander W.