HC Deb 10 June 1969 vol 784 cc1365-86

As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Mr. Taylor

When discussing the new Clause, the Minister gave several reasons, which appeared to be valid, why we should have no concern about repealing Section 9(2) of the 1962 Act. However, many people in Scotland view with conscern the removal of what appears to be a safeguard for the continuance of religious instruction in Scottish schools.

In Committee the Minister explained that Section 9(2) was introduced last century not with the intention of trying to achieve the objects which those who had tabled the new Clause had in mind. It had not been introduced, he said, for the retention of religious instruction but to protect children of minority denominations from having their secular education undermined by the holding of religious instruction at indiscriminate periods throughout the day.

On the other hand, with the passage of time, Section 9(2) has come to be regarded as a safeguard which could be operated in the event of a local authority seeking to reduce to negligible proportions the amount of religious instruction given in its schools. I am not suggesting—indeed, I have no information which would lead me to believe this—that any Scottish local authority has plans at present to take such a course.

Mr. Dempsey

If a local authority decided to reduce the amount of time devoted to religious instruction in a school, how would Section 9(2) of the 1962 Act operate as a safeguard?

Mr. Taylor

Section 9(2) says: The time or times during which any religious observance is practised or instruction in religious subjects is given at any meeting of the school shall be specified in a table approved by the Secretary of State. Thus, if a local authority at any time in the future had plans to make such a reduction, then, if the Secretary of State was prepared to operate Section 9(2)—which calls on local authorities to submit their religious instruction timetables to him for approval—it would operate as a safeguard.

In Committee it was clearly pointed out that for many years Section 9(2) had not been used and that it was not envisaged that there would be circumstances in which it would be operated because no local authority had a proposal for such a reduction. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind the peculiar situation in Scotland whereby the only safeguard we have against the removal or great curtailment of religious instruction operated by local authorities is Section 8, which will continue in existence and which says, in effect, that if a local authority seeks to remove religious instruction, there must be a referendum of the local electors. However, this is only one safeguard and I believe that the retention of Section 9(2) could be a more effective safeguard in the second event; that is, should a local authority seek to reduce religious instruction time substantially.

Earlier in Committee concern was expressed in a letter which the Archbishop of Glasgow had sent to all hon. Members of the Committee. Dated 12th February, it pointed out that Schedule 3 of the Bill proposed to repeal Section 9(2) of the 1962 Act and added: I ask that this subsection be retained. I understand that up to present this subsection has not been observed and the Secretary of State has not been asked to approve a time table for religious instruction. It is feared that if the subsection be repealed, a Headmaster might be in a position to reduce to almost negligible proportions the time for religious instruction or observance, particularly in Schools which were not provided by the Local Authority under Section 17(2) of the 1962 Act and which are Public Schools used by Catholic children. Concern was also expressed by members of the Church of Scotland, and the Minister indicated that discussions would be held following the Committee stage. On 30th April I asked the Minister the outcome of those discussions, and the right hon. Gentleman replied: Representatives of the Education Committee of the Church of Scotland discussed the proposal … with officers of my Department on 20th March. They accepted the Department's assurances that the repeal of this obsolete provision would in no way jeopardise the statutory safeguards in Section 8 of the Act, for the continuance of religious observance and instruction in Scottish schools. That was never contested. It was never suggested that repeal would remove the essential safeguard contained in Section 8 of the 1962 Act, which stated that no local authority could stop religious instruction altogether. That has never been in doubt, and the Minister's statement was a fair statement of fact. But his Answer went on: No further meeting has been held with the Roman Catholic authorities since the meeting of 7th February at which they expressed reservations about the proposed repeal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1969: Vol. 782, c. 243.] In view of the letter we all had, the statement that no discussions had been held since 7th February, when the Roman Catholic authorities expressed reservations about the proposed repeal, causes concern.

In Committee we had another such matter, which was the Government's proposal to remove the safeguard for transfer to denominational schools. The Government then said that the provision was of no great significance or of any great relevance, but we pointed out that in the minds of the authorities it was a safeguard. The Government then readily, and courageously, admitted that they might have made a mistake, changed their minds, and retained the position. We are now dealing with something that is almost identical. This safeguard has not been used for years and it may never have to be used, but it certainly does no harm, and its retention would give comfort to a substantial number of people in Scotland. In those circumstances I hope that the Secretary of State will agree to its retention.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether he has had any representations that Section 9(2) should be removed. He may think that removal is essential for tidying up purposes and that it should be done in review legislation, but I suggest that he will have had few, if any, representations to that effect from any authority or from any person.

It is important to remember the very special situation we have in Scotland, which is quite different from that in England and Wales, in respect of the provision of religious instruction, which would certainly be affected by this Amendment. South of the Border, Her Majesty's Inspectors have a specific and statutory responsibility for ensuring that religious instruction is provided in State schools. The various G.C.E. examination boards conduct examinations in the subject. I understand that in England and Wales in 1963 about 72,000 candidates were presented for "O" level in religious knowledge, and that about 41,000 passed.

The position in Scotland is quite different. We have no inspection whatever. We are prevented by our law, for historical reasons which are important and, I think, correct, from having any inspection of religious instruction. Our teacher training regulations make no provision for training in religious instruction. We have no examinations under the old law, and the new Scottish Examination Board has not approved an examination in religious instruction. In those special circumstances, which are so completely different from those in England and Wales where there is inspection and examination, it is important that we should have this safeguard

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Will the hon. Member tell the House how many chaplains are specifically appointed in Scottish schools to deal with religious instruction?

Mr. Taylor

Most of the schools in Glasgow have honorary chaplains and that is the situation throughout most of Scotland. There is a move in Glasgow to try to extend the work of specialist teachers of religious knowledge A statement was made in a public speech on 19th January by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is responsible for education in England, which was quoted by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) that this was a time when those concerned with retaining religious instruction should "man the barricades"

Since then there has been an Adjournment debate which was promoted by the hon. Member for the High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) in which he put forward a case for abolition of religious instruction in schools. This is a matter of concern in England, but how much more signfiicant is it in Scotland where we do not have the protection of inspection and examination? This little safeguard should be retained.

The Secretary of State may say that we have protection through the local authorities, which are elected by the people, and any decision on a matter like this would have to be taken by local authorities. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) rightly said, the school chaplains perform a valuable function in the schools. On the other hand, we have to bear in mind the concern in many areas about the quality of religious instruction. Many hon. Members who were at school 25 years ago will be concerned about the way in which time for religious instruction in the curricula is used. In some places it is used splendidly, but in others it is used merely for swotting for examinations. This is not to be encouraged.

The Secretary of State said that a committee had been appointed under Professor Miller to review the whole question of religious instruction in schools. We await its findings with interest. In view of the concern expressed by an important church in Scotland, the concern by the religious instruction subcommittee of Glasgow Education Committee, which decided unanimously that the safeguard should be retained, and in view of the growing ground swell of the Humanist movement in our community, this safeguard should be kept.

The Secretary of State might say that it is not a great safeguard, but it does allow him to call for time-tables and to approve or disapprove them. To that extent it is a safeguard. If he thinks it is not an ideal or important safeguard and that it would not be of real value if it came to the crunch, would he be prepared at a future stage to insert some other safeguard? The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie), the late Mrs. Cullen and I put forward an alternative. I hope that the Government will propose another one if they are not to keep the provision of Section 9(2). The Government would be well advised to leave things as they are. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie

This is not a party matter in any sense. It is of great importance to many people in Scotland, irrespective of their political allegiance. The present practice should be continued, because there is a good deal of flexibility. If teachers are not prepared to give religious instruction, they are not forced to do so, but there are enough teachers in Scotland who are sufficiently interested in religious education and are more than willing to give such instruction.

What we really want are the necessary safeguards, and I am very pleased to see the Secretary of State on the Front Bench opposite, because I know his interest in these matters. If he is prepared to give us an assurance that all will be well, that religious teaching will be safeguarded, that the necessary time will be devoted to it, and that the time allocated to the subject will never be reduced to negligible proportions, I, and I think my hon. Friends, will support him. I shall be very interested in what he has to say.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I should like to add my support to the Amendment, because I think that it is widely regarded as a safeguard. The provision may not be called into use very often, but there is no doubt from the volume of correspondence that I and I am sure other Members, including the Secretary of State, have had, that this is a matter about which many people feel deeply. It strikes at the heart of much of the history of the whole of Scottish education, and it is worth while paying particular attention to this.

I received a letter in this evening's post from a teacher in what she describes as the largest primary school in Europe. It is certainly the largest in Glasgow. She expresses very well the anxiety felt not only by the many parents who have written to us but by the many teachers who do so much to make the religious instruction in schools worth while.

It is also important to remember that we have all had a letter from the Archbishop of Glasgow pointing out the strength of feeling in his community. I doubt whether any other Scottish Member has been convenor of a Catholic school for more than 10 years. My close association with education in those days has made me fully aware of the importance of religious instruction in such schools. The link between the church and the school in every town and village in Scotland in this respect is remarkably impressive, and should be retained. We should pay attention to people when they feel as strongly as they do in this connection.

I know that the Church of Scotland feels more confident about the continuance of its educational opportunities in the schools. But if it does, that is partly because of the system of appointing chaplains, which is much more universally accepted by the Church of Scotland than it is in the Catholic schools.

Those concerned with Catholic education in Scotland, which has a long and honourable history, should recognise that if this safeguard, as they regard it, is to be removed a very strong assurance is required from the Secretary of State, or, better still, an alternative provision in the Bill should be accepted. I urge the right hon. Gentleman most strongly that this be done.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I ask the Secretary of State to consider carefully what has been said in favour of the Amendment. All changes are not necessarily good and I cannot see why this provision was ever included in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that it has caused a great deal of concern. I have had many letters from constituents on the subject. I do not know whether they are Roman Catholics. It is impossible to tell. But they have expressed concern and they are right to do so.

There may be nothing sinister about this provision but it looks as though perhaps it is something sinister at a time when there is so much humanist talk about and also when everyone is aware of the dangers of the permissive society. Surely that sort of time is the very last time in which a change should be made which seems to undermine religious instruction in schools.

Even if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the Amendment, I hope that he will at least say that he will reconsider the matter and see what can be done at a later stage of the Bill.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

It would be unfortunate if this debate were to conclude without the other side of the coin being presented. I was brought up in a very religious home. I was given and I myself gave religious instruction in school and I would deprecate failure to give religious instruction to children of school age and above. But I doubt whether school is the right place to do it. There is a strong case for regarding this duty as that of the parents and of the churches, and I must say that the letters I have received have been few in number. Some have expressed the view that children ought not to be put in the position of having to be taken out of religious instruction because the parents object to their having it in school. That kind of situation can be disastrous for the balance of the child. Its temperament may be disturbed by being singled out because of the prejudices—if you like—of the parents.

This could be avoided by not making it obligatory on education authorities to have religious instruction in the schools. I repeat that I quite see, as we all do, that moral and ethical standards should be taught to children, and it need not necessarily be called religious instruction and need not, indeed, be based on biblical teaching. In my experience in schools, very often the religious instruction has not been based on biblical teaching. Often, people giving religious instruction or presumed to be giving it were in fact simply teaching moral standards, teaching the children how to behave as decent human citizens without reference to biblical connotations of any kind.

We should be very careful not to seek to brain-wash children at this or any age without their being in a position to challenge what is being taught. The word "sinister" has been used and it could be used on both sides of the argument. We should be very careful before we seek to do this sort of thing to children. If their parents feel sufficiently strongly about the matter, they will see that, outside school hours, the children are given such religious instruction as they think right and proper to give them, and that should be in the home and in the church to which the parents belong.

Mr. Dempsey

I was not a member of the Committee when this matter was discussed, but I have paid close attention to the benign views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). However, I am sure that he would be the first to admit that not all parents are as responsible and as thoughtful as he is about religious tuition. I am sure that he would also be the first to admit that one of the most important subjects to be taught in any school is the subject of the Law of God. I can think of many other subjects which are not so nearly important as the subject of believing in the Almighty and understanding His ways.

I am not evangelising, but I say sincerely that when on a Sunday I am coming home from my church and I see people who never move out of the door on a Sunday and who never send their kiddies to church, I am convinced that if these children had to depend on religious instruction in churches, many of them would never even hear of the Word of God. I often say that but for the evangelist on a Sunday, in my own part of the country some of the children would not know that God existed.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)

So what?

Mr. Dempsey

So what? We have to get back to God. If we believe, and I hope that we do, that the Law of God and the Word of God and the Deeds of the Almighty are important to the life of our community and our society, I can think of nothing more important at the present time. It is our duty to teach the children in school, in church, in the home, and in all other places, and I hope that the House will approach the problem from that point of view.

Why is this safeguard in process of being removed? The present Secretary of State for Scotland is a man of great integrity and character and acknowledged to be one of the most religious persons not only in the House, but in Scotland. I am convinced that he would be the last ever to submit or condescend to reducing the amount of religious instruction in schools. I make that absolutely clear. I am therefore anxious to ascertain what has led him to take this view, and that is the problem with which I am trying to wrestle.

Is he completely satisfied that this provision is unnecessary? This is what we all want to know. Ministers change and next month he may be the Foreign Secretary for all we know and we may have a new Secretary of State for Scotland. We therefore have to legislate with a degree of security about the teaching of religious instruction in the schools. This is the view which I have strongly held all my life, not only since I came to the House of Commons, but when I was a boy. Even before my school days I believed in religious instruction. I have tried to see that my children got religious instruction at school, that they went to church and had it there, and we ensured that they had it at home. It moulds their character and makes them fine citizens.

Both churches in Scotland have some degree of reservation about this provision. Both have met my right hon. Friend. One has accepted his assurances and the other has had some reservations. They have obviously been co-operative with Governments and local authorities and there must be some valid reason why they are uncertain about the need for the removal of this safeguard.

The alternative suggested has been a referendum among parents. Time after time the House has rejected referenda as a system of assessing the opinions of the people of Scotland. We rejected a proposal for a referendum only a few weeks ago and I am surprised that there is talk of a referendum as a possible safeguard.

I know for a fact that the churches are now spending a considerable sum on training clergymen to be full-time chaplains. Only recently I met one who was training at a college in London to be a full-time chaplain to play his part in moulding the minds and opinions and characters of young people as an antidote for society in general against vandalism and hooliganism and the other ugly experiences of a minority of young people in this country.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

Would my hon. Friend like to cite the evidence to support his assertion that the teaching of religious instruction has any effect on the social behaviour of young people? Having looked at this matter in some detail, I assure him that there is no evidence. If he looks at the evidence of young people going to Catholic schools, where the level of religious instruction is very high, he will find that there is a much higher delinquency rate among those groups than among children who receive very little religious instruction.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Dempsey

If my hon. Friend approaches the matter from another point of view and considers the percentages of people committing acts of violence and other crimes, he will find that those who have been taught religion are much better behaved. I could take him to a place where there is deep religious tuition, and one could leave anything a mile outside the town and go back later and get it. Nobody would dream of touching it simply because the people there always remember the Ten Commandments, which are extremely important in moulding the characteristics of young people. In the area from which I come the converse is the case. The cause which leads the majority of people to misbehave and misconduct themselves is bad parenthood. There is a parental problem here because the children are not taught right from wrong at home or anywhere else.

Let us be fair and frank. Surely we all agree that religious tuition cannot do any harm, but must do some good. I believe that my right hon. Friend has no intention of reducing the amount of religious instruction in schools. If he has no such intention, and he decides to remove this safeguard, would he say what he intends to put in its place? This is extremely important. This could be a fateful decision in the history, not only of Scotland, but of the rest of the United Kingdom. Everyone should declare his interest. I get letters from all sort of people and of all denominations asking me to give them an undertaking. I shall strive with might and main to retain religious instruction in the schools.

From the Midlands I was asked to become a patron of a society formed to retain religious instruction in the schools. It is non-denominational. I believe in Christian religion and Christian instruction in the schools. I hope that my right hon. Friend will say that there is no danger of religious education being interfered with by any Secretary of State or any Government in this country.

Mr. Ross

I am crowded down by a sense of Scottish history, and I must contain myself about religious education in Scottish schools. The Church of Scotland was built up on the basis that the State had no hand in it. It claims the great privilege of being a national church and yet a free church. The expressions of the history of the development of the church are there equally in respect of my powers concerning religious education in the schools. I am an instrument of the State. This is why there is a difference between the position in Scotland and the position in England.

I have no power to hold examinations in Scottish schools. But all these things are written in history and no one has tried to change them and no one has suggested that we should change them. The real safeguard for Scottish religious education is in Section 8 of the Education Act, 1962, not Section 9, and I assure hon. Members that this Secretary of State will not tamper with it. If hon. Members on both sides had been paying attention to what we have been doing about this matter since we became the Government, they will have noted that, because I was dissatisfied with the quality of religious education in schools, I set up a Committee to go into it and to advise me on ways of improving it.

Fifteen representations in favour of the preservation of religious observance and instruction have been received by my office in the last eight weeks. They have all been in general terms, with no mention of Section 9(2). I am sure that the writers have been disturbed by general discussion of this matter here, rather than in relation to anything that has happened in Scotland.

I make it quite clear that I would not have taken the decision to leave out paragraph 5 if in any way it removed a safeguard for religious education in Scottish schools. We have heard speeches by three hon. Members who have been members of local education authorities. Who are supposed to send timetables to the Secretary of State of Scotland for approval? The answer is the local authorities. They have never sent any such timetables. As for the education authority of which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) was a member, no request for approval of timetables has been seen over the last 20 or 30 years. What kind of safeguard is this? It just has not been used.

Why was it put in? It was put in because of the situation which I described earlier. Section 9 is called the conscience clause. Every public school and grant-aided school in Scotland is open to pupils of all denominations and any pupil may be withdrawn by his parents for any instruction in religious subjects.

I remember that when I was a boy at school some of the pupils did not appear for the bible period. The requirement in respect of timetables was that they should be approved for religious instruction, and there did not seem to be an undue loss of secular education concerning the times at which religious instruction was given. It was not a safeguard for religious instruction, but a safeguard for those who did not want religious instruction.

It should not be suggested that this provision provides a safeguard for the maintenance of religious instruction. The safeguard for the maintenance of religious instruction is in Section 8, and in respect of education authorities there is a statutory requirement about who shall be members. Included in the ad hoc committee of the education authority are members of both the main denominations of Scotland, the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic communities.

There has been a great deal of misleading information as to what is intended and what will be the effect. If this really were a safeguard then hon. Members would have been demanding, long before I was Secretary of State, that their local authorities should send timetables to the Secretary of State for approval and that they should be approved by him. Local authorities have never done so. I am sure that the hon. Member for Cathcart never even knew of its existence until he saw this Schedule. This is a strange kind of safeguard, if indeed it is a safeguard at all. No timetables have been submitted or approved for many years. The provision is in complete disuse.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Surely the safeguard lies in the fact that any parent who wishes to complain that religious instruction is not being included in the curriculum can go to one of the committees—the parents' committee or the convenor of the school or whoever it is—and say that this is not being done so that the safeguard can be brought into operation and the matter referred to the Secretary of State. This is how I, as a local authority member, always regarded it. I have always regarded the fact that it was never used as part of the fact that it remained a safeguard.

Mr. Ross

The words are perfectly clear: The time or times during which any religious observance is practised or instruction in religious subjects is given at any meeting of the school"— that is the 3,000 schools in Scotland— shall be specified in a table approved by the Secretary of State. It is a statutory responsibility placed upon those in control of the schools to send it to the Secretary of State for approval, and it is for the Secretary of State to approve or disapprove it. There has been no case of any of these tables being sent to the Secretary of State over the last 20 or 30 years. It should be a matter for approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite who, like myself, have been concerned about the continuing efficacy of religious education in schools, that this safeguard to allow children to be withdrawn from religious education is no longer being used.

As the Joint Under-Secretary of State indicated in Committee, it is significant that it is included in the conscience clause. Its inclusion there was intended to separate religious from secular instruction, and to regulate the time during which religious instruction was given, or religious observance practised, in order that dissenting parents could exercise their right to withdraw their children.

In Glasgow, religious instruction took place between 9 o'clock and 9.30 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, it was temperance, morals and manners. I know it, because I taught it. Certainly no one in my classes ever withdrew from religious instruction. They knew that it was the right thing to be done.

I think that there is and should be more concern about the quality of religious instruction taught in our secondary schools, but that is not affected by the Amendment. It was not, as has sometimes been suggested, designed to provide a safeguard against any attempt by an education authority or a head teacher to curtail the time set aside for religious instruction. Nor, indeed, has it ever been invoked for this purpose. The real safeguards for religious observance and instruction are in Section 8 of the 1962 Act and in the education authorities themselves.

My officials have discussed the proposed repeal of Section 9(2) with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and representatives of the Education Committee of the Church of Scotland. The letter from the Church of Scotland following these discussions reads: In the first place I should have written to thank you for receiving Dr. Bigwood and myself on the 20th March to discuss the clarification of the intention to repeal subsection (2) of Section 9 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1962. Dr. Bigwood has asked me to say how much he appreciated the courteous way in which we were received, and I personally am very grateful to you and your colleagues for the consideration you gave to our representations. So our reassurances were accepted. If it is acceptable to the Church of Scotland I do not think it can be suggested that what we are doing is so deleterious to religious education in Scotland. The Roman Catholic authorities, at a meeting on 7th February, expressed reservations about the repeal. It is, however, fair to point out that the statutory safeguards for religious instruction and observance in denominational transferred schools—and the Roman Catholic schools of Scotland are dealt with by the local education authority since we are much more enlightened than south of the Border—are to the satisfaction of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

10.45 p.m.

Religious education is carried on, and the safeguard is in Section 21 of the 1962 Act which makes it clear that the time set apart for religious instruction in any such schools shall not be less than that so set apart according to the use and wont of the former management of the school. There are also provisions for the appointment of supervisors of religious instruction, without remuneration, and so on. This has always been satisfactory to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and is today, and we have applied de facto to the schools which have been built since then exactly the same circumstances in relation to religious instruction.

I do not want anyone to raise—and I hope that no one in Scotland will—this false point about an attack on religious instruction in Scottish schools. That is not the case. The membership of the committee which has been set up is, I think, such as to command a certain measure of confidence in its ability to look realistically into the matter, and I hope that following the advice which I shall receive from it we shall be able to make provision for improving the quality of the religious education in schools.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's sincerity in these matters, and I hope that he will appreciate mine, too, but in the light of that explanation I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to see his way to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

I asked four questions, and we have not received the clarification that we require. The right hon. Gentleman said that the real safeguard lay in Section 8 of the 1962 Act, which contains a provision for a referendum in the event of the total withdrawal of religious instruction. Subsection (2) contains a slight safeguard against reducing the amount of religious instruction to negligible proportions. If Section 9(2) goes, what safeguard will there be against a local authority some time in the distant future reducing the amount of time allowed for religious instruction to negligible proportions—not withdrawing it; reducing it to negligible proportions?

Section 9(2) provides a slight safeguard. The right hon. Gentleman says that that is no safeguard. If it is no safeguard at all, why is it that all the appointed members from the churches in the Glasgow Education Committee area unanimously asked for it to be retained? If it is not a safeguard, why do the Archbishop of Glasgow and the Roman Catholic authorities wish it to be retained? Are they wrong, and have they no grounds for concern?

Next, will the right hon. Gentleman consider, not the question of denominational schools, where there is full protection under Section 21, but the position in those areas where there are no denominational schools and where Roman Catholic children have to go to ordinary State schools? What protection will there be for the religious instruction of these children if the time is reduced? This was the principal point in the Archbishop's letter.

The last thing in the world that we want is a vote on an issue like this. I want to avoid it at all costs, but will the right hon. Gentleman bear those matters in mind? What protection is there against a local authority reducing the time for religious instruction to negligible proportions? Once Section 9(2) goes, what protection will there be?

Mr. Ross

What protection is there in approving or disapproving time tables? I cannot force timetables upon them. It is not within my power as Secretary of State so to do. What happens if I disapprove? Let us follow this through.

Mr. Younger

I presume that if they are obliged to submit a programme for the right hon. Gentleman's approval and he disapproves that programme they have not carried out the undertaking laid down in the Act?

Mr. Ross

They have not done that for 30 years.

Mr. Younger

They have not been asked to.

Mr. Ross

It is not because they have not been asked to. This is a statutory requirement, but they have not done so for 30 years. We are getting on to some false points. This was something to allow it so to be arranged that people could withdraw their children from religious instruction without any effect on their secular education. It was for their consideration that this was done. But there has been no demand for this provision, because parents have not withdrawn their children from religious instruction. [Interruption.] I am talking about Scotland. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) may smile about England, but we have a different set of standards in Scotland.

The hon. Member for Cathcart asks what the safeguard is. I return to the point that it is in Section 8, and in the quality of local authorities. We must appreciate that point and maintain their quality. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) will fully appreciate that.

The hon. Member for Cathcart has done us a good service in making clear that there is no attack upon religious education in Scottish schools; nor is there likely to be. That being so, I hope that he will not cloud the issue by creating a division where there is no need for one.

Mr. Galbraith

Why does the right hon. Gentleman introduce this change? Why not leave things as they are?

Mr. Ross

Because this is obsolete. No one has been sending me these timetables. Why clutter up the law in this way?

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

I am not happy with the reply of the Minister. We have had an assurance, but I am not happy. I put down the Amendment on my own and I am grateful for the support that I have received from my hon. Friends. Although I am not happy, it would be very unfortunate to have a vote on the matter, and with a great deal of reservation I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 34, line 5, at end insert: (c) in subsection (3), for the words from 'training' to the end there shall be substituted the words education or training provided by the authority under section 1(3) of this Act, articles of clothing suitable for such physical education or training'. This is a minor drafting Amendment to paragraph 7 of Part I of the Schedule. It brings the wording of subsection (3) of Section 11 of the 1962 Act into line with the wording used elsewhere.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 36, in page 34, line 22, after 'authorities)', insert—(a).

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that it would be convenient to take at the same time Amendments Nos. 37 and 48. All three go together.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

If that is the wish of the House, so be it.

Mr. Millan

The Amendments provide for the repeal of subsection (2) of Section 15 of the 1962 Act. That subsection empowers the Secretary of State, after due inquiry, to issue an order transferring an endowed school to the education authority for the area, provided that the annual revenue of the school is less than £1,000. This provision was originally made in the Act of 1908, at a time when intermediate and secondary education was being developed. It presumably served the dual purpose of enabling the Department to put the smaller and less efficient endowed intermediate and secondary schools out of business and of providing the school boards with school buildings which they would otherwise have had to provide themselves.

If that was the purpose, it is not relevant to present-day standards. I am sure that no hon. Member would expect us compulsorily to transfer any endowed school to the education authority for the area concerned. It would not make any sense to try to bring this up to date by putting in a different figure from £1,000. It is completely obsolete.

For that reason these Amendments eliminate this provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 37, in page 34, line 23, at end insert: (b) subsection (2) shall cease to have effect.—[Mr. Millan.]

No. 38, in line 32, at end insert: (a) subsection (2) shall cease to have effect.—[Mr. Millan.]

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 39, in page 34, line 36, leave out 'school, junior college or other'. With the leave of the House, I suggest that with this Amendment we also discuss Amendments Nos. 40, 41, and 42.

The effect of these purely drafting Amendments is to meet a point raised by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) during the Committee stage. They omit references to schools and junior colleges from the revised subsections (3) and (4) of Section 19 of the 1962 Act contained in paragraph 12 of Part 1 of Schedule 2, and are thus intended to achieve consistency of wording in the Section as amended. Subsections (3) and (4) as amended will refer to 'educational establishments' instead of 'schools, junior colleges or educational establishments'. Since the definition of 'educational establishment' in Section 145 of the Act includes schools and junior colleges, the Amendment involves no substantive change.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 40, in page 34, line 39, leave out 'school, college or'.

No. 41, in line 41, leave out 'schools, junior colleges and'.

No. 42, in line 46, to leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 35 and insert: (b) for subsection (4) there shall be substituted the following subsection— '(4) Where the premises or equipment of any educational establishment under the management of an education authority do not conform to the standards or requirements applicable to that establishment or are not maintained as mentioned in subsection (3) above, the Secretary of State may, after consultation with the authority, direct that the premises or equipment be brought into conformity with the said standards or requirements or into the state of maintenance mentioned in that subsection (as the case may be) within a period to be specified in the direction; and it shall thereupon be the duty of the authority to comply with the direction.'

No. 43, in page 35, line 5, at end insert: 13. In section 20 (acquisition of land and execution of works), in subsection (1), after the word 'may' there shall be inserted the words 'subject to the provisions of subsection (1A) below,'.—[Mr. Millan.]

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 35, leave out lines 6 to 11.

I would suggest that with this Amendment we also discuss Amendments No. 49 and 51 in Schedule 3.

These Amendments are consequential on the decision of the Standing Committee to remove Clause 3 as originally presented; that is, the Clause which repealed Section 16 of the 1962 Act which relates to the transfer of denominational schools to education authorities. The reference to Section 16 in Sections 21 and 22 of the 1962 Act, which respectively set out the privileges accorded to transferred schools and provide for their discontinuance, are restored, and Section 16 is removed from the list of enactments repealed in Schedule 3.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 45, in page 35, line 23, leave out paragraph 16.

With the permission of the House I would also discuss at the same time Amendment No. 52.

The effect of these Amendments is to preserve the existing wording of Section 27 of the 1962 Act which gives education authorities power to conduct or assist the conduct of educational research. The present Amendment to Section 27 deletes the words, 'or assisting the conduct of'. This Amendment was made on the assumption that the words were unnecessary since the new Section 25 set out in Clause 5 gives an education authority power to make payments to any person to assist the carrying out of educational research. On reflection, however, we think that a power to make payments is too narrow. An authority might assist research, not by making payments, but by making facilities available; for example, facilities such as schools. It is not absolutely clear that that kind of assistance would be covered if we deleted those words. Therefore we have reinstated them here. This is an enhancement of the local authority's powers.

Amendment agreed to.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move, Amendment No. 46, in page 37, line 16, at end insert: 32. Section 98 (service of notices) shall cease to have effect. With this we can also discuss Amendment No. 53, if the House agrees.

These Amendments provide for the repeal of Section 98 of the 1962 Act. That Section set out the procedure for serving notices or other documents under the Act. However, Clause 24 of the present Bill provides for the service of notices under the Bill, and under the principal Act, and we no longer require Section 98 of the 1962 Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 47, in page 37, line 19, leave out from 'words' to end of line 22 and insert: '"and—

  1. (a) except as mentioned in paragraph (b) below, the provisions of this Part of this Act shall, with any necessary modifications, apply for that purpose;
  2. (b) section 125A of this Act shall apply in place of section 125 thereof in relation to the procedure to be followed by the Scottish Universities Committee in preparing a scheme under this Part of this Act."'.—[Mr. Millan.]

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