HL Deb 29 July 1914 vol 17 cc260-8

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Duty to provide for education of mentally defectire children.

1.—(1) It shall be the duty of the local education authority for the purposes of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899 (herein called the principal Act) to make suitable provision, either alone or in conjunction with other local education authorities, for the education of children belonging to their area whose age exceeds seven years and who are ascertained to be mentally defective within the meaning of the principal Act, and accordingly after the words "they may" in subsection (1) of section two of the principal Act there shall be inserted the words "and in the case of mentally defective children whose ago exceeds seven years shall":

Provided that the duty of a local education authority under this Act shall not include—

  1. (i) A duty to make provision for boarding and lodging a mentally defective child unless the Board of Education are satisfied, after considering the report of a duly qualified medical practitioner approved by the Board under section one of the principal Act, and after consultation with the local education authority, that suitable provision for the child's education cannot be made in any 261 other way, and unless the grants payable out of moneys provided by Parliament in respect of a mentally defective child so boarded and lodged amount to not less than one-half of the cost of conveying such child to and from any school so provided and of educating, boarding, and lodging and medically attending and treating tint child (including in the case of a school provided by a local education authority expenditure out of income by the authority by way of interest on or repayment of capital raised, or by way of rent or other similar payment, for the purposes of the provision of the school); or
  2. (ii) A duty to establish a certified school for boarding and lodging mentally defective children, unless the Board of Education are satisfied after considering the reports of such medical practitioners, and after such consultation as aforesaid, that there are not less than forty-five such children belonging to the area for whose education suitable provision cannot be made in any other way.

(2) Subsection (6) of section two of the principal Act and the Elementary Education Amendment Act, 1903, are hereby repealed.

(3) In case of doubt as to whether a child is or is not mentally defective within the meaning of the principal Act, the matter shall be determined by the Board of Education.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY, on behalf of Lord MONK BRETTON, moved an Amendment to leave out subsection (3). The noble Marquess said: My Lords, my noble friend cannot be in the House for the moment, and I will formally move his Amendment. May I ask what the special reason of this subsection is? It was introduced at late stage in the proceedings in the House of Commons, and I really do not understand the use of it. The appeal to the Board Education as to whether child is a defective seems to me altogether out of place. Under the principal Act, the Act of 1899, the question as to whether or not a child is a defective within the meaning of that Act is determined by a doctor. The Government now say that if there is any doubt that doubt is to be resolved by the Board of Education. The Act of 1899 was a voluntary Act in this respect, and this is a compulsory Act; and it may very well be that it is not quite sufficient to say that one doctor should determine whether a child may be taken away from its parents and put into a boarding school elsewhere. But why should the appeal authority, as it were, be the Board of Education? I venture to say that the proper appeal authority against the doctor ought to be a magistrate of some kind. Your Lordships will remember that in the Mental Deficiency Bill of last year the authority was a judicial authority—namely, the magistrates who have the control of the lunacy administration of the county. If there is to be an appeal of any kind I should have thought that was the proper authority to appeal to in this case. At any rate, I venture to put the question to the noble Earl.

Amendment moved— Page 2, lines 22 to 24, leave out subsection (3).—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, the noble Marquess is quite right in his general interpretation of this subsection, but the circumstances in which it is expected that the Board of Education will be called upon to act are not quite those which have occurred to his mind. Here we are dealing for the first time compulsorily with all defective and epileptic children. The noble Marquess knows that this will be a compulsion upon a large number of local authorities to undertake work which they have not had before. Only a few local authorities, comparatively speaking, have acted under the Act while it n as a voluntary treasure. Now, however, it is going to be compulsory, and it is quite obvious that these local education authorities will not have any technical knowledge of the kind of children, or whether particular children ought to go to this school or not. It was really meant, in cases where there was a conflict of opinion between the parent and the local education authority, that then the Board of Education should be called in to act as arbiter in this connection. I can understand that a local authority of so much experience as the London County Council, for instance, would perhaps feel that this subsection reflected a little upon their powers of judgment. That was not the intention in putting in this subsection. It was really inserted in order to try and get a general ruling, and to provide local authorities all over the country who have had no experience of administration of this kind with some assistance such as that which the Board of Education can give them. I am glad to give an assurance that the Board of Education never intended to overrule the London County Council without consulting that Council in the first place. The noble Marquess will realise that, the wording of the subsection implies that this consultation would take place, because the jurisdiction of the Board of Education only arises in cases of doubt, and doubt can only arise when there is a difference of opinion between the London County Council and the parent. Then, of course, the Board of Education, knowing or being able to judge of the amount of experience possessed by the local education authority, would naturally be inclined to take that as one of the chief features which they would have to consider when they gave their decision upon the subject. It really is important to have this authority. It is more in regard to those areas which have not adopted the Act of 1899, as I said, than in regard to areas which have experience, that the subsection was included in the Bill.


I certainly am not going to press the noble Earl at the present moment, but I should like to represent to him that the words are very loosely drawn for the purpose he has in view. The phrase is, "In case of doubt." It is not said who is to have doubt. The noble Earl says the parent is to have the doubt; but there is nothing on the face of the subsection to say that. "In case of doubt" in any one's mind is very loose. Then the subsection goes on to say that the meaning of a certain legal phrase is to be determined by the Board of Education. It is not the sort of words one would expect. As to whether a child is defective within the meaning of the Act—that is to say, the legal construction of a particular phrase in another Act of Parliament—that is not for the Board of Education to determine at all; that would be for some legal authority to determine. I suggest to the noble Earl that he ought to alter the phrase if he intends to cover the kind of ground which he indicated on the part of the Department was meant. I hope he will consider with the draftsmen whether he cannot improve the words.


I shall be very glad to do that; but I think there is this to be said on the other hand. Although, perhaps, in form it looks as if the question to be decided was a legal one, is it not really much more a medical question? It is whether the child is defective within the meaning of the principal Act. It is important in a case of that kind to have the experience of a doctor. Then, of course, the case only arises when the local education authority acting under the advice of the doctor has a different opinion from that of the parent. It is in those circumstances that it is suggested that the matter should be determined by the Board of Education. I shall be glad to go into the question with the Board of Education, but as at present advised, supposing there was an alternative, I should not be inclined to suggest a magistrate. I would rather have a medical authority than one of a legal kind.


My Lords, I am very anxious that nothing should happen to prevent this Bill passing, and that no Amendment should be pressed at this stage which would in any way endanger the Bill. To a certain extent I agree with the noble Marquess opposite. I think that prima facie this comes very much in the category of blind and deaf and epileptic children who are now dealt with. The principal Act very properly provides that the opinion of a competent doctor should be obtained that the child is one which should be treated in a special school and is not fit to be treated in an ordinary school. There is no doubt that the parent would resent having his child earmarked in this particular way. I do not wish to move any Amendment which might delay the Bill, but I should like the Government to look into the question. If there is a conflict and a decision has to be given, the body to deal with that ought to be a local body. You cannot send a child up to the Board of Education in London as if it were an affidavit or some such document. The matter should be decided on the spot.


My Lords, this Amendment is put down on behalf of the London County Council. In that case the subsection is entirely unnecessary, and as the noble Earl is so well satisfied with the way in which London has administered the previous Act I would ask him whether at a later stage he would accept an Amendment excepting London from this subsection. I agree that it is absurd, even in connection with a local authority far away from London, that the matter should be decided by the Board of Education; but I think as far as the London County Council is concerned it is entirely competent to deal with such a matter itself. If the noble Earl will accept an Amendment on those lines it might avoid any conflict which might happen between those two bodies.


I think it would be better for me to look into the question generally, as I said just now. So far as there is a point of substance in the complaint which was raised by the noble Marquess, I think it is clearly desirable that it should be looked at as it affects the whole of the country and not as it affects the one district of London.


The noble Earl is well aware that a great deal of this legislation in London is separately treated. As regards London there is a separate Act altogether, and perhaps it would be suitable to follow the general lines of legislation on the subject.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:

Enforcement of obligations of parents of mentally defective and epileptic children.

5.—(1) If a local education authority are satisfied, after consultation with the parent of a mentally defective or epileptic child over seven years of age, that the parent is not making suitable provision for the child's education they may require the parent of the child to send the child to a certified class or school suitable for the child, and if he fails without reasonable excuse to do so may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for an order requiring the child to be sent to a certified class or school suitable for the child and willing to receive him, being either such as the parent may select, or if he does not select a suitable class or school, then such class or school as the court thinks expedient, and such an order shall be a sufficient authority for the conveyance of the child to the class or school named in the order: Provided that no order shall be made requiring the child to be sent to a certified class or school which is not within reach of the child's residence or to a boarding school without the consent in writing of the parent, unless it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that such consent is unreasonably withheld, or that the parent cannot be found, but consent shall not be deemed to be unreasonably withheld if withheld with the bonâ fide intention of benefiting the child: Provided further that if the court shall refuse to make an order the court, unless for good cause it shall otherwise order, shall award costs to the parent, and the costs so awarded shall, unless some reason to the contrary appears, include such sum as compensation for the expense, trouble, and loss of time incurred in or incidental to his attendance at the court as to the court may seem just and reasonable.

(2) The provisions of this section shall be in substitution for, and not in addition to, the power of a court of summary jurisdiction, on an attendance order not being complied with, to order the child to be sent to an industrial school under section twelve of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, as applied by the principal Act.

(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting the power of a parent to withdraw a child from school on proof to the satisfaction of the local education authority that he will make suitable provision for the child's education in some other way.

EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, after the word "may" in subsection (1) ["and if he fails without reasonable excuse to do so may"], to insert the words "by complaint." The noble Earl said: The object of introducing these words is to make it clear that the Summary Jurisdiction Act applies to Clause 5. It would cause great inconvenience if it did not apply as governing the whole matter of summary procedure.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 2l, after ("may") insert ("by complaint").—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6:

Certification of children.

6. Section one of the principal Act shall be construed and have effect as if the following words were added at the end of subsection (3) of that section:— Such duly qualified medical practitioner shall, if so directed by the local education authority, before giving a certificate under this section, consult the head teacher of the school, if any, which the child has been attending, or such other person as the local education authority may appoint for the purpose, and a copy of any report made by the head teacher or such other person shall be forwarded to the local education authority.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, after the word "authority" where it first appeared in the clause, to insert "or if he is so requested by the parent of the child." The noble Marquess said: My Lords, this Amendment has to do with the smile part of the principal Act as the subsection on which I ventured to address your Lordships just now. The Government propose to modify the principal Act in One respect—namely, that when they have asked a medical officer to determine whether the child is defective, they retain a power in the hands of the local education authority to direct that the head teacher should be consulted before the decision is finally arrived at. After all, the local education authority are not the only people or the principal people concerned. I know that education reformers think that the only people to be considered are the local education authority and the child, and they do not think that any one else ought to have any say in the matter at all. But as a matter of fact the parent ought to have a say, and your Lordships and the other House of Parliament think so and have put in some little protection for the parent. This Amendment is one more protection for the parent. The head teacher is a safeguard, because the head teacher does know what appearance the child has presented as a subject of teaching in the experience of the teacher himself. Therefore it is very proper that he should be consulted; and I think it would be quite fair that not only should the local education authority have the head teacher's opinion as a safeguard, but that the parent should have the head teacher's opinion also. I suggest, therefore, that in addition to the local education authority the parent may request that the doctor's verdict should be visaed by the head teacher. It is a very simple Amendment, and I think it is obviously just and fair. I hope the Government will accept it.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 19, after ("authority") insert ("or if he is so requested by the parent of the child").— (The Marquess of Salisbury.)


I shall be glad to accept the noble Marquess's Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Short title and commencement.

9.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1914, and shall be construed with the principal Act, and that Act and the Elementary Education (Amendment) Act, 1903, and this Act may be cited together as the Elementary Education (Defective, and Epileptic Children) Acts, 1899 to 1914; and the Education Acts, 1870 to 1911, the Education (Choice of Employment) Act, 1910, and this Art may be cited together as the Education Acts, 1870 to 1914.

(2) This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January nineteen hundred and fifteen.


My Lords, my Amendment to this clause is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, lines 11 and 12, leave out ("and the Elementary Education (Amendment) Act, 1903").—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.


When does the noble Earl propose to take the next stage?


I suggest this day week if that is convenient to the noble Marquess.

The Report of Amendments to be received on Wednesday next and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 203.)