§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
When I recall that it is less than a week since I last addressed the House in rather different circumstances, I confess that it is a great happiness to me personally to be moving the second Reading of this Bill on what is generally agreed to be a totally non-contentious occasion.
Hon. Members will recognise that the provisions are identical to the provisions of Clause 1 in the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill introduced to the last House. That Bill had completed all its stages in another place, but it was lost at the Dissolution and so comes to be reconsidered.
The Government's reintroduction of the provisions of Clause 1 at the earliest possible moment will, I know, reassure many people who have the interests of mentally handicapped children at heart, and not least their parents and those who have the important duty of teaching them in junior training centres and in hospitals for the mentally handicapped. These are the sole topic of the Bill of which I have the pleasure to move the Second Reading, though I recognise the omission of other Clauses of the previous Bill which it would not be in order to discuss now and which we shall have to deal with on another occasion.
The fact that we are all agreed that it is right that responsibility for the education of these children should now be taken over by the authorities responsible for general education services does not imply that the Measure should not receive our full attention in debate even at this late hour, though I shall place it before the House as succinctly as I may. It is good that Parliament should give special attention to the needs of those who are unable to fend effectively for themselves.
The House has recently had the opportunity of discussing the handicaps and 1290 the special needs of those who are chronically sick or physically disabled. Those handicaps and needs are considerable, and we are all glad to have shared in the recent passage of legislation that acknowledges these claims. Society's responsibility for the mentally handicapped is as least as great because they are unable to defend their own interests. Certainly there are hon. Members on both sides who have over the years played a special part in this, and in my own small way I, too, have been interested and concerned with the problem.
The Bill is concerned with the right to education—and I stress "education"—of those of our children who suffer from the severest degrees of mental handicap. The Education Act, 1944, provides that local education authorities shall make special provision for the child who suffers from any form of handicap to a degree which affects his ability to benefit from a normal school education. But the 1944 Act also allows for the possibility that the child may be regarded as mentally handicapped to a degree which renders him "unsuitable for education at school". Under Section 57 of that Act, which was amended by the Mental Health Act, 1959, the local education authority is bound to exclude such a child from the education system. A child so excluded becomes the sole responsibility of the local health authority, which has the duty to provide what is referred to in the Mental Health Act 1959 ascare and training in lieu of education".Thus, there developed a gulf between the great majority of children, including a fair number with some degree of mental handicap who receive a school education, and the much smaller number who are not educated in school because they are regarded as too severely mentally handicapped. The point at which mental handicap becomes too severe is obviously and inevitably a matter of opinion. Professional men and women have had the most unenviable task of reaching a decision which they know will lead to the exclusion of a child from school. However sympathetically it is done—I have no doubt that it is done with a great depth of sympathy—and despite the right of parents to appeal against such decisions to the Secretary of State, the exclusion of these children from the educational 1291 services of the country is often a heartrending blow to parents and may even be seen by some at any rate as an abandonment of concern for the child's future development.
Such a view does far less than justice to the fine work which has been done for these children under the auspices of the local health and hospital services. We all understand that the teaching of mentally handicapped children is a very hard task. Many of the children have only a small potential for development, but it has been found that, given almost unlimited patience and a real faith in the value of the task, a skilful teacher can achieve remarkable progress in fulfilling that potential. Experience has in recent years led many of those who are concerned to the conclusion that every child, no matter how severely handicapped, should have the opportunity to develop to the fullest extent of which he is capable, and that it cannot be right to exclude any child from the scope of the educational services.
Hon. Members will have an opportunity at a later stage to consider in detail the provisions of the Bill, and today I propose to mention them only briefly, in accordance with the normal courtesies of the House. Clause 1(1) provides that, from an appointed day, first, no child shall in future be excluded from the education system as "unsuitable for education at school"; secondly, local health authorities shall lose any power or duty to provide training for mentally handicapped children, that is, those powers and duties that they have to have so long as there are children excluded from the education system; and thirdly, those children who are now subject to an order declaring them to be "unsuitable for education at school" shall from the due date be regarded as being in need of special education in the same sense as children with any other handicap.
The Government reaffirm the previous Government's undertaking thatthe conditions of service and salaries of staff will not be adversely affected by the change".Subsections (2) to (5) of Clause 1 are included to fulfil this undertaking. Clause 2(2) refers to the Schedule listing enactments to be repealed by the Bill so as to achieve the purpose of Clause 1.
1292 Something like 28,000 children will be affected by the provisions of the Bill. Three-quarters of these at present attend centres—called junior training centres—administered by local health authorities. Many severely mentally handicapped children also have considerable physical handicaps, and the care of some imposes a burden, which, understandably, is more than even devoted families can bear. For such reasons, 6,000 or so of the 28,000 are cared for in hospitals. A small number, who cannot attend a training centre, receive some training at home, and some have been placed in privately-run centres or homes.
After the transfer enacted by the Bill, the junior training centres will be run by local education authorities as part of the special education provision. The L.E.A.s will also be responsible for the provision of education for children in hospitals for the mentally handicapped, in the same way as they now provide education for children who are in hospitals for reasons other than mental handicap. In assuming this responsibility, local education authorities will be able to build upon the splendid foundation of teaching work among mentally handicapped children which has already been laid by the hospital authorities.
In taking over their new responsibilities, local education authorities will rely gratefully on the continued help and support of the present staffs. The safeguarding provisions of the Bill, of course, apply to all the staff involved, and that is right because they work as a team. But I want to deal today especially with the position of the teaching staffs. They are in truth quite irreplaceable and will be warmly welcomed into the education service. A number of them, who will receive qualified teacher status under the education regulations at once or very soon, are likely to find their financial position substantially improved. The majority will not be, in the technical sense in which the term is used in the education service, "qualified teachers." For this group, representatives of the local authorities' and the teachers' associations, together with representatives of the present staffs, have agreed that a new category of school teaching staff should be introduced. Staff who transfer into this new category will have security of tenure in their profession.
1293 It follows from the basic concept of the Bill that the arrangements for the training of teachers for this work should now be integrated into the normal structure of teacher training. A pattern of selected colleges of education is already being developed to train teachers through three-year courses with a special emphasis on mental handicap. I hope and believe that sufficient people will be attracted to this most rewarding work to enable us, within a few years, to make all new appointments from among qualified teachers. Until this proves possible, it may be necessary, in order to maintain the service, to recruit less well qualified people, though not necessarily on a permanent basis.
At present, the main qualification is the Diploma in the Teaching of Mentally Handicapped Children established by the Training Council for Teachers of the Mentally Handicapped, which was set up in 1964 by the then Minister of Health. There is a well-established network of courses leading to this diploma, which is recognised as the standard qualification in this field. Its holders are accepted as fully qualified teachers, in the non-technical sense of the term, of the mentally handicapped. The qualifications required for entry to the diploma course, and the length, standard and content of the course itself, have been, for very good reasons, somewhat below those of the college of education courses which lead to qualified teacher status, and I think that it is generally agreed that some post-diploma teaching service with mentally handicapped children should be required before diploma holders are recognised as fully qualified teachers, again using that phrase in the technical sense. One of the decisions taken by the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), following wide consultations with the parties on all the policy issues involved, was that diploma holders should be recognised as qualified teachers in that sense after five years satisfactory post-diploma service, whether before or after the date of transfer.
This decision ran counter to the views of the staff—and not only the teaching staff—now engaged in this service. It caused widespread protests, which were echoed by my noble Friends in another 1294 place during the proceedings on the earlier Bill. My right hon. Friend herself is inclined to think that it was unduly restrictive to require the completion of as much as five years service for qualified teacher status by persons who had taken in good faith the best qualification which was available to them and which was specifically tailored to their chosen career—a career of so great and undoubted value to the community. She is, therefore, putting in hand, and has asked me so to inform the House, further consultation with the local authorities, the representatives of existing staffs and the teachers' associations, about the desirability of fixing a rather shorter period. Like her predecessor, she expects normally to waive the probationary period for diploma holders who satisfactorily complete whatever period of post-diploma service is eventually decided for qualified teacher status.
At the same time, arrangements have been made with the training organisations to provide, for diploma holders with the necessary qualifications for entry to teacher training, one year courses—either end-on or in-service—the satisfactory completion of which will lead straight away to qualified teacher status.
Before I leave staff matters, which are very important, if not directly mentioned in the Bill, I want to say a word about promotion to higher posts in the teaching of mentally handicapped children. The whole basis for the transfer contained in the Bill is integration in the education service, and it would surely be wrong to exclude applications for higher posts from suitably qualified and experienced teachers from maintained schools generally, and notably from special schools. On the other hand, though one should not attempt to safeguard promotion prospects in the Bill, above all things one would want to avoid any unjustified action which would adversely affect the career prospects and the reasonable expectations of the existing staffs, who, by their skill and devotion, and indeed by their enthusiasm for the changes proposed in this Bill, have established a strong moral claim on all of us. Clearly there is a balance to be struck, but the right principle must be "the right man—or, indeed, the right woman—for the job".
In practice, the Government would expect that the training and experience of 1295 the transferred staffs, and in particular of the diploma holders, would in the event be found to stand them in good stead in terms of promotion, and that appointing bodies, with whom the decisions will rest, would take the same view.
Finally, I should like to set before the House what we intend to achieve by this reform. The service given to these children is one which has in recent years developed considerably and, it would be agreed on both sides, does great credit to those responsible for its provision. The transfer will not immediately bring any very obvious change in the daily life of the children affected. They will remain in surroundings with which they are familiar, and be taught and cared for by people whom they already know and trust. Not only is this inevitable, but it is surely highly to be desired. Nor can we reasonably expect that the children's capacity to benefit from educational processes will in some mysterious way suddenly be enlarged.
At the same time, I hope that the House is convinced that great and increasing advantages will follow not only to these children, but also to the educational services of the country which will now, for the first time, be available to all children to the extent of their capacity to benefit from them. For the first time, those who have the task of teaching mentally handicapped children will be members of the teaching profession, and both they and their charges will have the benefit of all the resources of the education system. The fact that these children will no longer be regarded as "ineducable" must be a great comfort to their parents, as well as a public demonstration of the concern for them which we all feel. The full implications of this change will develop gradually as local education authorities become increasingly familiar with the needs of mentally handicapped children and gain experience in meeting these needs. In the longer term I believe that we shall find that the transfer has led to real advances in the standards of education which even those most severely afflicted among our fellows can profitably reach.
It may be of assistance if I added, finally, that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend, always subject, of course, to the wishes of the House, to appoint 1296 1st April, 1971, as announced by her predecessor, as the date upon which this Measure will take effect.
In our business it is sometimes the greater Measures which get the headlines and are relayed by the organs of public opinion, but there can be few more personal Measures than this one, as all those on both sides of the House know who have been deeply involved in this matter over the years. I shall naturally expect, in accordance with my duties to the House, if I may have the leave of the Chair and of the House, to seek, however inadequately, to reply to any major points that are made, but in the meanwhile I warmly commend this Measure to the House.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
This is the second Bill introduced by the Government upon which I have spoken from this Box in the last two sitting days. The Clauses in the Bill come from a Bill introduced by the previous Labour Government, and the Bill upon which I spoke on Friday of last week similarly was largely conceived by the previous Government. Nevertheless, we on this side of the House welcome the provisions of the Bill which the Minister has introduced, which repeat the provisions in an earlier Bill introduced in another place a few months ago, and which mark a further step forward in the provision for severely mentally handicapped children. We welcome the Minister's statement that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends that the date of the switch should be 1st April, 1971, which was the date contained in the earlier miscellaneous proposals Bill introduced in another place a few months ago.
For many centuries society in the western world paid little or no attention to the problems of those born with a mental handicap. They were inevitably neglected, sometimes treated, in what were harsher ages, barbarously, and where anything was done, usually all that was done was to put them out of the way. It is only in this century that society has begun to try to meet and to understand the needs of the mentally handicapped, and considerable advances have certainly been made in recent years in the education of severely subnormal children.
1297 In 1970, therefore, we know that every child can get some benefit from education. No children are ineducable. The view that some children are incapable of receiving education is no longer valid. This in itself as a concept is a major step forward from the situation which existed when the Education Act was passed in 1944, when it was believed that there was a section of severely mentally handicapped children who were not capable of education. We now know that that was not the case
At a time when we are introducing a Bill which transfers the function of training and educating these children who are severely mentally handicapped from the health authority to the education authority, it is appropriate for us in the House to register our appreciation to the local health authorities for what has been achieved under their management and to recognise that the progress which has been made by dedicated teachers in developing the concept and practice of training for the mentally handicapped child has been carried on under the aegis of the health authorities. Indeed, it is because of the work of those teachers and because of the work done under those health authorities and the effort which they have made that we can now recognise that every child can benefit to some degree and in different ways from education.
The purpose of the Bill was succinctly explained by the Under-Secretary of State. Indeed, this is the second debate on the subject. As I said earlier, an explanation of the Clauses was given by one of my noble Friends in another place a few months ago. We understand that the Bill is widely welcomed by the people who do the work and who are closely involved with the training and education of these severely mentally handicapped children. We are taking an important step beyond the Education Act, 1944. We are placing these children and these services, hitherto carried out by the health authorities, with the rest of the educational service. Therefore, the service for these children is no longer a service apart. By being brought together, it is given access to the full range of educational advice and facilities.
The House should recognise that it is not likely to be entirely a question of one-way traffic from the existing education 1298 service of giving advice, guidance and facilities to the people who are teaching in the training and education of these mentally subnormal children under the health authorities, because I believe that inevitably there will be cross-fertilisation. It was said in another place during the previous debate on the subject that a great deal had happened in recent years in forging and developing new techniques and concepts of teaching for these children. I believe that some of those techniques and new concepts will be of help, interest and value to the education service generally.
It is, however, the case, as the Under-Secretary has said, that the passing of the Bill and, indeed, the switching of function from the health authority to the education authority in April, 1971, will not in themselves mean any vast change at once. The children will remain where they are and with the same teachers.
I should like to put to the Under-Secretary a number of questions arising from the Bill. The first concerns cost. In dealing with the financial effects of the Bill, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum points outthat in practice there will be no significant additional charge upon the Exchequer.What are the prospects of the charges on the Exchequer and local authorities? It is clear that this new part of the education service will need an increasing amount of money in the next few years and that more places will be required for children of this kind. May we be told how many children are being trained in mixed training centres along with adults? One assumes that separate centres should be provided for them, and this will require additional resources from the Exchequer and local authorities. A number of these children are still housed in adult hospital wards. From the educational and every other point of view, they should be moved into wards specially designed for them.
It is interesting to note what was said in another place about mental subnormality hospitals. In the debate last April, Lord Aberdare said:At present in these hospitals only about one half of the children attend the hospital school and the other half are 'ward-bound', and yet there is evidence that at least 10 per cent. of these children at present in hospital are well above the severely subnormal level of intelligence. There is a large and challenging 1299 problem here, especially when one considers that only about one quarter of the staff in hospital schools are trained, and I cannot believe that local education authorities, if they are conscientious, will not find that they will need to give greater priority, both in capital and current expenditure, to these new responsibilities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th April, 1970; Vol. 309, c. 361.]I hope that the Minister will comment on the points I have made on this issue.
What is to happen to these children after they reach the age of 16, the normal school leaving age? At present they are trained and educated by local authorities, which provide their own premises and facilities as health authorities. Consider two cases, the first of those youngsters who are permanently resident in hospital. Up to 16 they are the responsibility of the local education authority. From 16, at which time they are probably still in need of continued education and training, they become the responsibility of the health authority.
The second is a similar group, but comprised of children who are not resident in hospital but who live at home, perhaps with parents or relatives. At present there is a split, and it is particularly important that there is a careful examination of the need for proper integration between the services provided by the local education authority and those provided by the health authority.
In most cases they are the same authority, but different departments will be in charge of these functions. For these children, who will have a low mental age at 16 and to whom the normal rules of educational development do not apply, there is need for close integration. It may be desirable for the D.E.S. and the Social Security Department to examine the problems of integration, giving advice to local authorities on the subject.
As the hon. Gentleman has said, teachers are, in general, protected by the terms of the Bill, but in the debate in another place on the previous Bill the question was raised of eligibility for qualified teacher status. My noble Friend the Baroness Phillips put what I thought was a strong case for defending the terms laid down in that Bill for eligibility in this aspect. Nevertheless, at the end of that debate, a number of noble Lords felt that the subject needed further consideration. There was, apparently, 1300 some dissatisfaction and worry in at least some parts of the teaching profession, and although detailed consultations had taken place with the Department of Education and Science, under my right hon. Friend, it is sensible that in view of the anxieties then expressed the Government should look at the possibility of changing the terms of eligibility.
As the Under-Secretary has said, there were included in a Bill introduced in the last Parliament two other items which are not included in this Bill, and the hon. Gentleman said that they would have to be dealt with later. Clause 3 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill dealt with postgraduate grants, which had apparently caused some concern and dissatisfaction both with the local authorities and the university authorities. The effect of that Clause was to end such grants when given by the central Government. That provision has been dropped in this Bill, although it was then part of a Bill in which a Clause dealing with handicapped children was included. Perhaps we may be given some guidance there.
An awful lot of nonsense was talked about grants to students who were living with mistresses when, in fact, the number involved was very small indeed. What are the Government's views and intentions in this respect? As I understand it, local authorities at the moment do not like the position. Standards are certainly not uniform all over the country. I certainly know that the Supplementary Benefits Commission found the situation intolerable, which was why that particular Clause was included in the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in another place.
We now seem to be back to the same kind of administration, where the local authorities had discretion to give grants to certain married students in certain limited circumstances, and the Supplementary Benefits Commission has stepped in, and is giving a very small number of grants to people who are "cohabiting." So nothing has changed as a result of that Bill not being passed. It would be useful if the hon. Gentleman could give us some guidance, tell us why these Clauses were dropped, and what intentions the Government have.
This is a small but important Bill. It was drafted by the previous Labour 1301 Government. Its purposes are entirely beneficial. We welcome it and hope that it will have an unopposed Second Reading tonight.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)
I wish to support this Bill, particularly from the point of view of autistic children and their parents. As hon. Members may know, this is a recently diagnosed condition and our methods of dealing with it are only in the early stages of development.
It is believed that there are about 7,000 of these children afflicted in this way in this country. I confess that I did not know about this condition until some years ago a constituent consulted me about his problems. Every hon. Member knows the great tragedy of a handicapped child in a family. Also there is the great distress of the parents in finding the kind of help they need to deal with the problem, particularly in the case of autistic children where we have not yet fully developed methods of dealing with the condition. I found in Birmingham a large number of parents in the same situation and became President of the Birmingham Society for Autistic Children. We held a meeting of parents and the local authority to discuss the problem. I have a vivid memory of the difficulties which both parents and officials found largely because all the officials—who, I emphasise, were extremely helpful in their desire to help the parents—felt bound down by the responsibilities of their respective departments.
That was in the days when responsibility was divided between the Ministry of Health and the Department of Education. I am therefore very pleased that the handling of the problem is now to be integrated in the Department of Education and Science where the section of the Department dealing with handicapped children has a great tradition of dedicated service in this work. Far better than anything I could say to describe the nature of the problem of the autistic child compared with other handicapped children is a very interesting passage in the memorandum produced by the National Society for Autistic Children, which I will read: 1302The tragedy is that autistic children are so vulnerable to the bad effects of living in a large understaffed institution. …The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) made a similar point—This kind of life is not good for any child, but it is worse for some than for others. A mentally handicapped child who is extroverted, friendly and who can hold a simple conversation, usually manages to get quite a lot of attention even if there are very few staff around.An autistic child, on the other hand, is helpless and bewildered, does not know how to defend himself against other noisy, boisterous children and cannot tell the staff if he wants anything, especially if he wants affection and cuddling. In this situation there are only two ways to react which are open to the autistic child. Either he becomes more and more withdrawn, ending up as a silent child in a corner, by himself, endlessly rocking and perhaps quietly scratching his face or arms until they bleed because he has nothing else to do. Or else his behaviour becomes more and more disturbed and difficult, until the staff are at their wits end to know what to do and tempers become frayed and quickly lost. Parents who visit their autistic children see these changes and are powerless to help. A few parents in the end cannot face the agony, and knowing also that they cannot cope with their child at home because there is no school available to help him, they do not visit any more—and the child loses his last link with the world.This is the real problem of these children. It is a new hope for them that the Department of Education is to be in charge. At present there are only 15 centres with trained staff who understand the art of training and curing these children. Nearly all those centres are in the South of England. There are only six centres in the North. This shows that the national provision for autistic children is inadequate.
I am pleased that the Department of Education and Science is to take on this important job. The Bill gives the Department the opportunity, but everything will depend on how the Department tackles the problem. I make only one major suggestion, and I do so with diffidence, because I know how expert those in the Department are. This condition is usually diagnosed at age 2 or 2½. Doctors say that the best hope of cure or improvement is that the proper training for an autistic child should start quickly. Normally the provision for education begins at age 5, but there is a little known provision in the 1944 Act enabling local authorities to provide 1303 education from age 2. I ask my hon. Friend and the Department to consider whether they might not allow local education authorities, particularly in regard to autistic children where the case seems to be so strongly shown, making this provision at an earlier age.
In my constituency there is a marvellous nursery for handicapped children run voluntarily, where the ladies tend the children for so many days a week. They have arranged, with their friends and husbands, a rota system with motor cars to take the children to and from their homes. This is an enormous relief for the families, particularly for families where both parents are out at work. It is a relief for the families, but it does not help the child, because no curative effort is being made at that stage. The child is merely being looked after with other handicapped children. It would be a great gain if the course of curative education could begin at an earlier age.
The problem arises also at the other end of the age group, because most of the centres at present stop catering for the children at age 15 or 16. If the work has been well done, it may well be that a proportion of the children will be very much improved. If they are not improved, the more violent and disturbed type of autistic child becomes even more difficult in adolescence. Therefore, one wonders whether the Department would consider continuing its provision for autistic children up to age 19, as it is enabled to do by the Education Act.
I am sure that the Department will provide special training for the teachers who will be dealing with autistic children, as it does for teachers of other severely disabled people.
Although it is a severe condition, fortunately there are not very many of these children. Thus it may be found useful for local authorities to share in the provision of centres, because fortunately not every local authority will need to have one.
I want to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Rotherham about the great importance of integration or to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State described earlier as "linkage"—linkage between the education authority when it hands over the responsibility 1304 for the autistic person to, say, the health authority. Varying degrees of disability remain from autism. Some of these children will always need to work in sheltered employment—for example, in Remploy establishments. Some may need hostel accommodation for the rest of their lives. It is important that there should be a proper integration and linkage between the two authorities.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me early in this debate, which is of great interest to me and was also of great interest to my predecessor who made his maiden speech in this House in 1945 on a similar topic, when he called for a positive approach towards health in the Health Service. My predecessor, Will Wilkins, as he was known to many hon. Members, served Bristol, South for 25 years and in that time built up a reputation for service and devotion to his constituents which was second to none. He was held in high esteem by everybody throughout Bristol for his services to his own people and to the city as a whole.
Mine is an industrial constituency. We have a number of industries—printing, paper, tobacco and engineering—and many of my constituents work in the aircraft and aero-engine works and in the docks. Some of our problems are due to the close positioning of industry and residential areas. In fact, I was trying to deal with one of these problems yesterday.
I am very pleased to make my maiden speech on this issue which is so non-controversial and which has such wide support. In Bristol we have a very good reputation for progressive thinking in both education and mental health. Indeed, the first institute which was certified under the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, was in Bristol, and hon. Members will recall that it was the 1913 Act which first separated higher and low grade subnormals. This separation has persisted, and it is this separation which we are trying to remedy with this Bill.
The early education psychologists felt that it was possible to do a once-and-for-all accurate measurement of intelligence quotients and from this to make a prognosis of future developments. We know that later work has shown that this is 1305 not so, and that such a diagnosis and prognosis can not only be wrong but can also be a positive hindrance to future development because any label of this nature tends to be self-perpetuating and to encourage the sort of behaviour which has been labelled.
In my constituency we have the Bush Training Centre with modern buildings and a fine staff. It was opened in 1968 and it caters for children and adults throughout Bristol. But this is a training centre, and hon. Members will know that transfer between special schools and training centres has been difficult because parents have felt that the training centre is virtually the end of the road, that the children are passing out of the education system, and they have resisted this. Just as in the tripartite system, transfer was supposed to be easy between secondary modern, secondary grammar and secondary technical, in theory it was easy but in practice it was difficult.
The label of "training" stultifies the real concept of education which is to take the spark of talent and try to develop it to the full potential. I ask the Government to think particularly of children in subnormality hospitals because these are the most deprived of all and they need a carefully planned series of stimulus experiences to help them develop. This is at the level of just realising that potatoes come out of the ground, that eggs are found in shells, and so on.
I worked in a special school for a short time and some of the hardest work that I had to do in my life was to teach a boy of 15 that 46s. was the same as £2 6s. Yet the same boy I overheard talking to a friend on a nature walk, and what he knew about flowers, plants and the countryside in general would not have disgraced hon. Members here. But he had been labelled a failure and he had been set back. What we really need is not to think of a subject syllabus as such but of social training and adjustment, social competence, how to use the telephone, how to catch the correct bus, and so on.
This Bill gives hope and it is a legislative break-through. In this House last week the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) mentioned the need for the teacher training inquiry to go into the reappraisal and integration of the 1306 training of mentally handicapped teachers. I reiterate that, but it is a long-term project, so I ask the Under-Secretary whether he has considered the short-term question of the courses being established in the colleges of education.
The hon. Gentleman may well feel that the situation is under control, but the people on the ground are concerned about certain aspects of it. The student ceilings of the colleges have been set by the Department of Education and Science, and the staff ratio is related to existing requirements and forecasts. Because of the special needs of handicapped children, students are expected to have had previous experience in this field, and they form an identifiable group within the college who need major special provision. Virtually none of the existing colleges of education staff have the necessary experience to do this work, and, as the courses conducted by the National Association for the Mentally Handicapped are run down, there will be grave danger, I fear, of dispersing the teams of expert staff who have been assembled for this work.
How are the colleges to engage the staff without damaging their existing requirements? If they cannot engage the staff, there will be grave danger that not only will the children and the students suffer but the colleges themselves will suffer from losing the enriching experience which can be given by such staff through their special experience of teaching methods and their knowledge of understanding and learning.
We now recognise the paramount importance of early learning in childhood. This is particularly so for the young handicapped. There is urgent need for more pre-school age provision for handicapped children, especially day nurseries and nursery schools or classes prepared to take a proportion of handicapped children. There is need to co-ordinate the pre-school detection of handicap. We know now also that certain children are at risk of developing a handicap: they can be identified, and there should be much greater co-ordination of services to support them and their families.
I ask the Minister to consider instituting a drive in the existing secondary schools among all children in this age 1307 range, first, to try to explain the problems of handicapped children to them—for children can be very cruel about these things if they do not understand—and second, to explain about handicap itself, because there is a limited field in which the prevention of onset of handicap is possible. By genetic counselling, since these children will eventually become parents, by chromosome tests, and by stressing the need for care during pregnancy, labour and afterwards, a certain amount of handicap can be avoided.
The statement in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum thatin practice there will be no significant additional charge upon the Exchequeris probably true in the short term, but in the long term, as the stigma associated with handicap disappears from our society, the overt incidence of handicap will grow. At present, the incidence equals the provision. Hon. Members probably know that in the four years ending 1966 local authorities provided 6,670 new places for severely subnormal children, but the waiting lists fell by only about 190. Costs are bound to increase because, as needs are satisfied, new needs are created.
I ask the Government, therefore, to follow this thinking through. As the child eventually becomes the adult, we have to think about the next stage. In South Bristol we have the Industrial Therapy Organisation, which was mentioned in this House for its work for psychiatric and mentally handicapped patients by my predecessor in an Adjournment debate on 2nd August, 1961. It does wonderful work. Last year, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne opened new premises there, and over 200 men and women were in gainful employment. From all over the world, 208 visitors have come to see the work being done. The organisation now has a housing association going as well.
But the organisation is handicapped by the label attached to its work. Hon. Members will know that someone who is unfit for work cannot earn more than £1 19s. 11d. without his benefits being renegotiated and reassessed. In physical illness, this clear-cut division between unfit and fit is all right, but in mental problems there is a fringe zone, in which a person may improve or may fall back 1308 a bit, and so on, in respect of which this condition is quite unsuitable. This is really making the organisation's work hard, because we have a situation where legislation makes it better financially for people not to work than to work. I would ask the Government to look at this, particularly in this context.
Finally, let me say that it is with very great pleasure that I reiterate the remark made by the Under-Secretary of State that this is a subject on which we are united, in looking after the interests of those who form no pressure groups and cannot speak for themselves.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
It gives me the very greatest pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) on a speech which was charming in its fluency, its persuasiveness, and the whole manner of its delivery. In this House we can count ourselves lucky to have such a valuable reinforcement of those of us who are interested in topics of education and social service. I am sure we shall hear him with pleasure on many future occasions. If I have any misgiving at all it is simply that the hon. Member has made many of the points which I should like to make, and very much better than I could hope to. I am sure we thank him very much.
May I also, as this is the first time I have spoken while you have occupied the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, say how pleased I am that you should be there, particularly tonight, because we know this subject is one which is dear to your own heart.
Like the hon. Member for Bristol, South, I welcome this Bill, because it removes this artificial barrier, stemming from old concepts as to the rigidity and the immovability of intelligence or lack of it. The idea that one intelligence test should discard as ineducable any child below the level of 50 or 55 seemed to me to be really a theory of despair, and I am glad it has gone.
On the other hand, I am glad for two reasons that the Under-Secretary of State uttered a word of warning that from this Bill we cannot expect immediate and great improvements. Firstly, a great deal has been done before, and it would be quite wrong if we gave any impression 1309 that we were dissatisfied with the devotion and care which these children have received from the health authorities. Secondly, of course, it must inevitably take time for this new approach to be translated into action. We change our attitude, but it must take some time for the actual practice to alter. There is, inevitably, a shortage of resources in all the fields of education, and particularly in trained staff. But from now on these children should have added to their lives a degree of brightness and stimulation which the educational service is best qualified to give.
Of course, their needs will vary enormously. There is the differing burden of disability of physical health, and, the question of multiple handicap, which will make it difficult to keep handicapped children, possibly of the same potential ability, in a group, because their very disabilities physically may make it impossible for them to stay together for long. Therefore, I suppose, the Department of Education and Science will need to make a survey, a broad, general survey of the different facets of this problem, of the needs, and of the facilities which are available, and of those which are desirable. I commend to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State the working party report called "Living with Handicap" published last week by the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care. I think its contents are not unknown to the hon. Member for Bristol, South. At any rate he confirmed from his own experience some of the findings in that report.
During the passage of the earlier Bill and in Questions in the House we expressed concern about the transfer of staff. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for the indication he has given that the points that concerned us are to be the subject of further consultations. It might be particularly hard on diploma holders of long service to have to wait even longer before they could call themselves fully qualified teachers. A constituent of mine who has been doing this job superbly well for 20 years is taking the diploma as part of a sabbatical break, and it would be very hard for her to have to wait a further five years. We suggested that perhaps a special register might be set up, as is done in other professions, but I am content to await the 1310 further provisions that the Secretary of State may make in the light of these consultations.
Qualified teacher status may become all important when a diploma holder is seeking a headship in his or her own field of the junior training centre. Since this change over the education service was announced some advertisements have appeared to the effect that only persons of qualified teacher status may apply for the post. Anyone without qualified teacher status would presumably be precluded from being considered for the job. I hope that the Minister will discourage local authorities from framing advertisements in those terms. One would like people with experience in this field to be considered and for the appointment to be made on merit.
Financial resources will be of paramount importance. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) asked some general points, but, as in other spheres of education, money spent in the earlier years of a child's life may save heavier costs later. I will quote a passage from page 234 of the report to which I have referred:… recent evidence has demonstrated that some severely subnormal children are capable of greater social competence than their limited intelligence and educational achievement would lead one to expect.Looking at the situation from a strictly economic point of view, it appears sound reasoning to attempt to reduce the large expenditure which would be required for permanent custodial care by investing in these children's future, through giving them a form of education and training which in their adulthood would make them less of a constant liability to society.That paragraph provides an economic justification for greater financial expenditure in making adequate provision on this changeover.
The hon. Member for Rotherham and others have referred to the importance of the post-school age training. Any normal child can continue his education be asking for it, voluntarily. The mentally handicapped child cannot. There may not even be a parent to speak for that child. Therefore, I would join in emphasising the need for a real link between the education and health authorities at local level. In this connection, special regard must be had in the area of the Inner London Education Authority, 1311 where the education and health authorities are not the same. It seems to me that the scale of effort required will be considerable.
In education, as in other matters, there is not only a limit on the money available but on the trained professional staff available. Here the Department of Education and Science has great potential reinforcements, provided that a policy is adopted and developed to make use of them.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South said that children can be very cruel to handicapped children. That is so. I suppose that it is the parallel of the animal kingdom, where unthinking, irrational animals tend to destroy the weak. But surely the educated and thoughtful human being learns to help his weak fellow. I suggest that there is scope for voluntary supporting activity by school children or students who opt for social service. For example, it would be highly desirable, along with bringing these severely handicapped children from five onwards into educational care, to pay some attention to their pre-school years. They will be in the same institutions and, as in the case of normal children, some of the best work—and it may be preventive work—can be done below the age of five. There is clearly a need for some pre-school activities and, in default of elaborate full nursery classes which are expensive, many hon. Members would be thinking of play group activities.
I hope to see techniques adopted whereby voluntary workers after courses of short but relevant training can do useful work, provided that they are within the range of guidance from a properly trained professional. In the hospitals, the junior training centres, and wherever mentally handicapped children are gathered together, such voluntary young workers can do real service, to the benefit of the children and to their own benefit.
It is the mark of a civilised society that it cares for its weaker members. I hope that the Department of Education and Science will encourage local education authorities to make a special effort. The need of these children is great, but it is also definite. I think that the public and this Parliament will want and will support effective action.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
At this late hour, on a Measure on which there is so much agreement, and on which the most important points have been put at least once, I will take just two minutes. Having recently met teachers of mentally handicapped children in different parts of the country, I wanted to add my tribute to the Minister for what he said about the nature of the qualification which will be needed by fully qualified teachers. There is no doubt that these young people were very disturbed and disappointed by the announcement that they had to go through five years' post-diploma teaching before they became fully qualified.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) disentangled the Opposition from their previous commitment in a most felicitous manner. We remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) under fire in the House on this issue, when he explained with the utmost clarity, short of losing collective Cabinet responsibility, that he profoundly disagreed with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science on this point.
Therefore, we can all rejoice now that the Minister has, in an admirable speech, decided to think again about this. Perhaps if it were decided that two years post-diploma training was adequate, that in my opinion would be a happy solution. I particularly noticed what he said about senior posts. Here again there was suspicion among these young people that their promotion prospects might be harmed as a result of this link-up. I hope that the Minister's carefully chosen words will be noted by those who have to take decisions on these points.
The financial Clause is genuinely puzzling. I am not sure what these enormous administrative savings are which will enable the Minister to cover what will surely be a considerable extra sum under the Bill. I hope that teachers of mentally handicapped children will get more money and more holidays and that there will be more of them. I hope that the provision of education especially to mentally handicapped children in hospitals will be greatly extended following the Bill. My mathematics tells me that if that is done the administrative 1313 savings will not cover it. I should like to hear the Minister's thinking on this.
Otherwise, of course, like everyone else, I warmly welcome a Bill which is not an administrative reform but which is a sensitive and civilised approach to a very human problem.
§ 11.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State moved the Second Reading in a very moving fashion. He rightly said that we have a moral duty towards the children who will be affected by the Bill, and his remarks have been supported and approved by every other speaker. In the light of that approval, it is with some hesitation that I wish to express some worries about the Bill. But they are practical points which no doubt were considered before the Bill was published, and I shall be grateful to hear from my hon. Friend on the point.
First, of course, the Bill abolishes the classification of children as "unsuitable for education", but the children we are discussing remain mentally subnormal. They are not educationally subnormal. They are severely mentally subnormal. It may be quite right to decide that in future they should not be thought of as ineducable, but the fact of the matter is that in my opinion—I admit that it is an opinion based on a limited knowledge—the education which can be given to them is more in the form of training than in the form of education in the generally accepted sense of the word.
On the other hand, I accept that it is right that they should be educated to the fullest extent of their ability, however limited, unfortunately, their ability may be. My hon. Friend is convinced that the education service is better qualified than are the social services, and particularly the county borough health departments, to cope with the problems of these children. He said that parents would be pleased about the Bill. That must be true of a number of parents, but it is not necessarily true of all parents.
There are some parents in my constituency who have children such as those we are discussing and who, genuinely, are fearful of allowing their children out of their sight or away from their homes at all. Perhaps understandably, 1314 although no doubt wrongly, they are fearful that the people who will be caring for the children at the training centres may not fully appreciate the delicacy of the children. Recognising that point, I wonder whether all parents will be reassured by the Bill and by the fact that in future their children will be educated rather than trained at a centre functioning under the health department. The fact is that the children are and will remain as much a medical-cum-social problem as an educational problem.
My second worry is financial. Both nationally and locally the education service is probably under greater pressure on its financial resources than are the social services. I therefore wonder whether these children will benefit more under the education service. The House was reminded last week, if it needed reminding, that in order to maintain existing standards in education it is necessary to increase expenditure in real terms by about 6 per cent. per annum. That increase is as relevant to local education authorities as it is to the national education budget.
It may be said that there will be little real increase in the expenditure within a county council's budget as a whole. As the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) pointed out, it states on the front of the Bill that there will be no significant additional charge on the Exchequer. But it should not be forgotten that, certainly in a county council's budget, education is under the greatest financial pressure of all. Having served on such a committee, I know all too well how great is that pressure and how much an education committee is obliged to pare down and to erode its hoped-for improvements and increases in different spheres. I wonder, therefore, whether expenditure upon these children will be maintained at the kind of level which we would consider as a minimum if they are to be transferred to education rather than remaining with health.
My next worry concerns the division of responsibility. In some cases the junior training centres are grouped on the same site as the adult training centres. In future, with the former coming under education and the latter under the local health department, will there not be the possibility of demarcation problems, or, 1315 alternatively, a proliferation of training centre staff?
Finally, could there not also be a proliferation of the bureaucracy in the local authority headquarters resulting from this particular transfer? I do not imagine that there will be any cut in the staff of the health department, but I suppose that it is possible that there could be an increase in the staff of the education department.
As I said when I began my remarks, doubtless these worries have been considered. I understand that the local authority associations were consulted prior to publication of the Bill. Nevertheless, I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would comment upon this point, because it is of immense importance if we are to make any change regarding these children that we must be certain that it will be to their advantage.
§ 11.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
Like hon. Members on both sides, I welcome the Bill. I commend the Government for picking this Bill out of so many good Bills and bringing it forward at an early stage. It is an example which I suggest they might follow with other Bills which were also left behind.
I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) on his lucid, first-class contribution to the debate. He spoke from much experience of this sphere which many of us lack. This is one occasion on which when we say that we are sure that the House will want to listen to him again we really mean it.
I will not delay the House long. I would have followed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) concerning autistic children, but as I have had the good fortune to have my name picked from the hat for Wednesday, I will reserve my remarks on autistic children and the provision of their educational and health facilities until that occasion.
I want to take up one or two points which have arisen in the debate. First, the question of age. I should like to press the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) that 16 will not be the upper age on which we will work concerning 1316 the education of the mentally ill and subnormal.
I welcome the point made by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) about the staff not being adversely affected. But in this sphere there is a lot of leeway to be made up. It is not a question of the staff not being adversely affected. As more qualifications and services are required from the staff the Government will have to consider their payment.
The Government are extremely optimistic in the preamble about the financial effects of the Bill. So much needs to be done that we cannot possibly reorganise the staff along the lines put forward in the Bill without increasing the expenditure which will be required. This is one area of public expenditure on which I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to push the Government. Although we have a responsibility to match our priorities in education and health, the point made by the hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill is right; that in this sector of the community, which is so completely our responsibility, we should be prepared to give the maximum of public resources to help.
When the Bill goes through and the transfer is made, there will be an obvious need for much greater expenditure on diagnosis, techniques and institutes. If education is to be successful, it must rest upon something more than a 50 to 55 i.q. just below and just above the line.
One of my concerns about the Clause which makes the local education authority the responsible body is the catchment area that we shall need to cover certain categories. For example, teachers who are able to teach the mentally ill and also the deaf are few and far between, and it is unlikely that in every education authority area where there are children in that category there will be teachers to train them. I think that there will be a need for an additional Clause, or a statement in Committee, to provide a consortium of some kind to deal with the special problems which arise in teaching those categories of children.
The Minister gave me a dusty Answer to a Question that I put to him on 9th July. I was trying to find out where 1317 the borderline was being drawn in my constituency. I asked the Minister about the transfer of property from the North-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board in the London Borough of Brent. I wanted to find out which property was being transferred, and when. I also wanted to find out where the Ministry proposed to draw the line between medical care and the educational possibilities that would be forthcoming. The Minister's Answer was that we should first pass the Bill. I accept that, but I should like to press him a little further. I should like to know what is to happen in my constituency so that I can, if necessary, give him adequate support for the things that will happen there.
My last point relates to the continuing responsibility of the Health Service for the health and welfare of the children for whom the new education authority will take educational responsibility. There are physical and mental changes which take place which have their relationship to the educational programmes being pursued. Although the administrative responsibility will change in the immediate future, the child will not notice a great deal of difference because the physical surroundings will be very much the same.
Medical research is making considerable progress, and a number of opportunities are presenting themselves for children in these categories, which will mean that the continuing assessment by trained and qualified teachers can be of considerable help in what we are doing for these youngsters from a clinical point of view.
I fully support the Bill, and I congratulate the Minister on bringing it in. As I have said before, it is easier to transfer a man from this world to the moon than to transfer one lump of one Department to another because the departmental chief usually guards his empire very jealously. You have succeeded in so doing, and I wish you well. I hope that you will be equally helpful in transferring the school medical service to the health authority in compensation for the bit that you are taking away.
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I join in welcoming the Bill. This challenge to the education service is a challenge which the service will willingly accept. I know a little of the wonderful work done by an existing special school in my constituency of Cambridge, the Lady Adrian School, and I am sure that the same dedication will continue when the service has this wider responsibility as a result of the Bill.
I also welcome what my hon. Friend said about the Government taking a fresh look at the requirement for admission to qualified teacher status of those who have been teaching mentally handicapped children. The transitional arrangements for teachers are of the highest importance, and the previous suggestion of a five-year post-diploma experience was certainly causing, in the words of one person who has been in touch with me, bitterness and frustration.
I understand that the number of diploma-holders involved will be less than 900. If the transition is to go smoothly over the next few years, it is essential that those teachers should not feel in any way undervalued. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will do her utmost to allay their understandable anxiety by deciding upon a rather shorter period of post-diploma experience before this qualification.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. William van Straubenzee
It would, I am sure, be the wish of the House that I should reply briefly to some of the points which have been made from both sides. First, it is my very pleasant and agreeable duty to join in congratulating the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) on his maiden speech and to add to what has already been said on the commendably lucid and charming way in which he addressed the House on what is, whether the occasion be big or small, always an ordeal.
There were many of us who particularly appreciated the hon. Member's reference to Mr. Wilkins, who had warm friends on both sides of the House. That, I have always felt, is perhaps one of the nicest things that can ever be said of any hon. Member, on whichever side of the House he sits. As the hon. Member 1319 has said, he will have a difficult task, but he is obviously beginning extremely well to fill the place of someone who was so greatly respected and liked as Mr. Wilkins. We warmly congratulate the hon. Member on his start.
I must not stray out of order and, therefore, I regret that I cannot respond any more than I have already to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) by talking about what is not in the Bill. The hon. Member must not try to trap an innocent, newly-appointed junior Minister. I merely say that the Government understand that there is still a problem here and it is obviously not appropriate to the Bill. I confine myself to saying that I am much happier that the Bill should deal with one matter and one matter alone.
I apportion no blame on an agreeable occasion like this, but I always thought that it was unhappy that so important a matter should have been clouded by discussion of what was formerly Clause 2, which was comparatively unimportant compared with what we are discussing now.
§ Mr. O'Malley
Can the hon. Gentleman at least indicate when the House can expect to find a settlement and solution of the two problems which remain outstanding?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I am sorry that I am not tonight in a position to give the hon. Member a timetable. It is in my nature to be forthcoming and willing, but on this occasion that is as far as I am prepared to go.
I must also defend the Department from one or two friendly comments that were made of it in connection with the Financial Memorandum. The point was raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). It is, obviously, the Government's responsibility to the House to set out as accurately as it can the financial effects of a Measure. Of course, the Financial Memorandum refers exclusively to the situation at the passing of the Bill. It has no relevance, for example, to any future increased expenditure. I should like to say extremly clearly that it is as fair an estimate as can be made in a complex situation of 1320 what will be the financial effects of the passing of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South made a valid point about courses in colleges of education and with particular reference to some of those who are well competent to give instruction. I assure him that the area training organisations, of which he has detailed knowledge, are well aware of their dependence on diploma course staff for training expertise in a matter of this kind. The college of education courses, to which I referred earlier and which are being established, will use many of the staff now on diploma courses. I will take up by way of correspondence his interesting point about the necessity for a drive in secondary schools for education in this sphere.
I cannot go further tonight on the subject of promotion. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, for commenting on what he called my "carefully chosen words". That is what they were. He will know that this is essentially a matter for local education authorities, and the demarcation line between Government and them must be observed under any Government. My words were indeed carefully chosen and I hope that, with his assistance in underlining them, the message which I sought to give will be carefully understood.
The hon. Member for Rotherham and others asked about the understandable anxiety that exists for those young people who are at present in adult hospitals. The number of children's places in all-age centres is between 4,000 and 5,000. This is to be compared with the figure which I gave of about 19,000 in junior training centres. Obviously, as resources permit, one would expect and hope that this provision would be replaced in buildings for children alone. This is the progressive direction in which hon. Members will wish us to move.
However, I stress that what we are here discussing is the Department of Education's responsibility for education and the fact that hospital care remains the responsibility of the hospital authorities. It will not be for local education authorities to deal with the hospital ward aspect. I do not wish to evade my responsibilities, but hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been 1321 in office will appreciate the necessity for making that distinction clear.
Several hon. Members asked about the age of compulsory schooling. There is indeed provision, in appropriate cases, for this to occur at as early an age as two and to the age of 19. This shows the scope that exists within the education service for the mentally handicapped child and young person. It is an across-the-board provision, and this is possible within the present law.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) and the hon. Member for Willesden, West, who have expert and personal knowledge of the subject, questioned me about autistic children. There are, of course, difficult medical problems—of diagnosis and so on—associated with this affliction. Obviously it will be our intention, from the educational point of view, to deal as effectively and humanely as we can with the problem when the transfer takes place. The hon. Member for Willesden, West reminded us that he will be raising this subject later in the week.
There is, I believe, no difficulty about a consortium practice. Special provision for this is not required in the Bill. This practice is already operating and it will continue to operate once the transfer takes place.
I am very well aware that there are a number of detailed, and not only detailed, matters which have been raised, but I hope that hon. Members will think it not discourteous of me at this late hour to say that I shall examine again most closely the record of the debate, and I think that it would be appropriate that I might be allowed to correspond with them on all detailed points; and that that would be in accord with the wishes of the House.
I thank the House warmly for the welcome given to the Bill, which I trust will now be given its Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House—[Mr. Monro.]
§ Committee this day.