HL Deb 07 July 1908 vol 191 cc1419-21


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is really a Departmental Bill, of, I think I may say without exaggeration, an agreed character. Questions have arisen from time to time as to the power of the Board of Education to insert in schemes relating to endowed schools a provision for giving notice to the headmasters and assistant masters employed in the schools to which the schemes relate. The matter was much discussed in the case of Wright v. Zetland (Marquess of) [1908] 1 K.B. 63; and this Bill is really in consequence of the proceedings which took place on that occasion.

The question is not a very material one in regard to headmasters, but the Bill deals more particularly with assistant masters. Your Lordships will see that by Clause 1 the employer is made the governing body. There was some question before that action as to whether the assistant masters were not in the employment of the headmaster, who had technically engaged them, but as headmasters are not generally men of much means, I think your Lordships will see that it would be rather unfair that the assistant masters should be in their employment rather than in that of the governing body of the school. The second subsection provides that— Notwithstanding anything in Section 22 of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, any pro- vision in any scheme, whether made before or after the passing of this Act, providing for notice being given to a master before he is dismissed from office, shall have full effect. This provision will prevent the Bill interfering with the particular circumstances of any special scheme. The third subsection provides that, subject to any other special provision, an assistant master shall have at least two months notice. That is agreed upon as being a reasonable period. Finally, subsection (4) allows an assistant master to be dismissed without notice for misconduct or other good and urgent cause, in spite of any thing contained in this Bill.

The Bill in its present form represents the result of long negotiations which have taken place between the Board of Education and the Incorporated Association of Headmasters, and a similar Association of Assistant Masters, and it is understood to have the support of both these bodies and of other persons interested in the question. I think I ought to mention that the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters have pressed upon the Board of Education a demand for the introduction of legislation that should confer on them absolute security of tenure, or, in the alternative, security of tenure subject to appeal to the Board. The Board have not seen their way to agree to such a proposal, because they think that no Department of State could usefully assume the position of arbitrator in such matters. The Association of Assistant Masters have been informed of this decision. They have expressed themselves as satisfied, and have foregone any further demands in this direction.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read a"—(Earl Beauchamp.)


My Lords, I do not think there is any disposition on this side of the House to resist this Bill, certainly not the Second Reading of it. With regard to what has just been said by the noble Earl, we are disposed to agree with him that at any rate in the first instance, it would be far better not to proceed further than the provisions in the Bill. It will be time enough to judge, after the Act has been in operation some little time, whether sufficient security has been given to the masters under its provisions before any fresh legislation is introduced giving an appeal to the Board of Education such as was mentioned by the noble Earl. There are two matters to which I should like to refer. I presume the intention of the first subsection of Clause 1 is that if an assistant master has reason to complain of action taken against him he will sue the governing body rather than the headmaster.




I have no doubt, speaking quite off-hand and without committing oneself too far, that that is a proper provision. As to the second subsection, I am surprised that the Government have not proposed to repeal Section 22 of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869. That section absolutely prohibits a scheme from containing any other provision except that of dismissal at pleasure, so that as it stands upon the Statute-book Section 22 of that Act is absolutely in the teeth of the policy of this Bill. That being so, perhaps the best course would be to repeal the section before the Bill is finished with in your Lordships' House. I submit that suggestion for the consideration of the Government.

On Question, Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.