HL Deb 27 May 1948 vol 155 cc1173-93

6.14 p.m.

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Walkden.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Provisions as to transfer of powers conferred by the Charitable Trusts Acts, etc.]:

LORD LLEWELLIN moved, after subsection (3), to insert: (4) A draft of any Order in Council under this section shall be laid before Parliament.

The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading of this Bill, as those of your Lordships who were here on that occasion will remember, we had some discussion as to whether there ought to be some kind of appeal from a decision of the Minister under this clause. It had been thought that perhaps it should be an appeal to the Chancery Court or to some other body of that sort, but in the course of the debate I suggested that the appropriate appeal from the Minister was, if I might so put it, to the High Court of Parliament and that any Order made under Clause 1 should be an Order which had to be laid before Parliament. If I remember rightly, I said during the course of the discussion that, as the Bill was then drafted (and indeed as it is still drafted), I did not think these Orders would be such as to be laid before Parliament and that an Amendment would be necessary. I have accordingly put down this Amendment, proposing that not the Order itself but the draft of any Order under this clause shall be laid before Parliament. Since these Orders may have the effect of transferring the jurisdiction, I think it would be better that the House—that is whichever House might object to it—should object before it becomes a fact. That can be done in respect of a draft Order much better than for a final Order. That is the reason why this Amendment has been put down in this form. I hope—indeed I have reason to believe—that the noble Lord opposite will be willing to accept it. In that hope, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 9, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Llewellin.)


The noble Lord's Amendment has been carefully and favourably considered by the Ministry, and I am pleased to say that I am authorised to accept it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Extension of the Endowed Schools Acts to education generally in lieu of education of boys and girls, and to modern endowments]:

LORD WALKDEN moved, in subsection (1), to omit "subsection (5)"and insert "subsections (5) and (6)." The noble Lord said: This and the next Amendment are really bracketed together. They have been put down to redeem a promise given in another place to ensure that the income of an endowment for the purposes of imparting professional skill or learning may not be appropriated for other purposes, except with the consent of the governing body of the endowment. I think that that is adequately provided for in these Amendments, and that the promise which was given in another place will be fully carried out. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 16, leave out ("subsection (5)") and insert ("subsections (5) and (6)").—(Lord Walkden.)


So far as I am concerned, I have no possible objection to these two Amendments, the first of which is obviously consequential on the second. As the noble Lord has said, they redeem a promise given in another place, and I think it is proper that it should be so redeemed.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the second Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 28, at end insert— (" (6) No provision shall be made by a scheme as to, or as to the governing body of, an endowment which, or the income whereof, is applicable solely or mainly for the purposes of education for imparting professional skill or learning, unless the governing body of the endowment assent to the scheme.")—(Lord Walkden.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Provisions as to pupils becoming registered pupils at, and being withdrawn from, schools.

4.—(1) A local education authority shall have power to make arrangements with respect to a primary school maintained by them, not being a school which is for the time being organised for the provision of both primary and secondary education, under which any junior pupils who have attained the age of ten years and six months and who are registered pupils at the school may be required to be withdrawn therefrom for the purpose of receiving secondary education.

6.19 p.m.

THE EARL OF PERTH moved to add to subsection (1): Provided that where a pupil who has not attained twelve years of age is receiving religious education at a voluntary school in accordance with the tenets of a particular religious denomination, he shall not be withdrawn from the school under any such arrangement unless either:—

  1. (a) his parent consents to his withdrawal; or
  2. (b) arrangements have been made for him to receive secondary education at a school (not being a county school) at which he will be provided with religious education in accordance with the tenets of that denomination."

The noble Earl said: I gave notice during the debate on the Second Reading that we should move two Amendments, one to this clause and one to—I think—Clause 6, but, at that time, I said that I would not develop the arguments in their favour. We have now put down this Amendment to Clause 4, and in submitting it I would like first to remind the Committee that the normal age of leaving a primary school is the age of 12. The object of Clause 4, if I understand it rightly, is to confer on a local education authority the power to require the withdrawal of a child or children of 10½ years or over from a primary school which they may be attending so that they may be sent to a secondary school. I think that is the object of the clause and that the noble Lord will agree that that is so. I understand that it is desired to make this change because it is alleged that the governors of certain voluntary schools try to keep their children until the age of 12, and that is thought to be a bad plan.

We have no objection in principle to the proposed course but we feel strongly that the new provision should not override the wise rule which was laid down in the 1944 Act and which, I may say, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has often confirmed, that children should be educated in accordance with the desire of their parents. I think that the Government have supported that principle and it is confirmed by Section 76 of the 1944 Act. It is to safeguard that right that we have put down this Amendment. If it is accepted, as I hope it will be, a child of 10½ years may still be withdrawn by the local education authority, but only on one of two conditions: either, first, that the consent of his parents has been given to such withdrawal, or, secondly, that he is sent to a school where religious education is in accordance with that given in the primary school from which he is to be withdrawn.

I will not weary your Lordships with any long arguments, because I think the facts are so patent and the justice and rightness of the course we propose must be clear to all your Lordships. It is to safeguard the right of parents to say how their children shall be educated. That is a right which permeates the whole of the 1944 Act. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will give this Amendment full support, and that the Government will accept it in view of the declarations they have made. There is one thing I should make quite clear. In submitting this Amendment we have no intention that a child shall remain in the voluntary schools beyond the age of 12. The provision applies only between the ages of 10½ and 12. There seems to have been some misunderstanding about an Amendment proposed in another place. It was thought that the Amendment would affect the whole school life. That is a misapprehension. It applies only between 10½ and 12 years of age. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 14, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Perth.)


I should like to say one word in support of what my noble friend, Lord Perth, has said. I cannot help thinking that this is what lawyers call casus omissus. The effect of the clause without this Amendment cannot be fully borne in mind because, supposing the child is over 12, the rights of the parents are preserved, but supposing he is only 10½ or 11 the rights of the parents apparently lapse. Surely the younger the child, the greater should be the rights of the parents. They know him or her and they are better able to judge, and, although he may be precocious in some ways, they may validly feel that the change will be a bad thing for him. I know some exception has been taken to this Amendment on the grounds that those who supported it wish to retain the child all the time in the all-age school. That is not the intention of the Amendment, nor can it have that effect. Although the need for this Amendment is felt most strongly by one particular body, I believe that there are others who agree to it, and it applies to all.


I am sorry to say the Government cannot accept this Amendment. The clause has been put in the Bill not for the reason the noble Earl, Lord Perth, stated, but to give proper legal sanction to what is the general rule in all primary schools to-day in making arrangements for children sufficiently mature to go forward to secondary schools. It must be remembered that every child in the land is entitled to a secondary school education. That is the child's right. To give effect to that right, the education authorities gather the children together at the beginning of the autumn term, and all those between 10½ and 12 years of age who are ready to go forward to the secondary school, go forward together. That is a convenient arrangement and it has been in operation for some years. To do it in any other way, so as to have strict regard to age only, would mean that the children would go on to the higher grade schools in dribbles and drabbles on their birthdays, in the middle of term or at the end of term. That would be inconvenient for teachers and not at all good for the children. So there is a sort of school birthday at the commencement of the autumn term and all the children go forward at the same time.

It is sought to make an exception in the case of certain denominational schools whereby the arrangement which is provided for in this measure very adequately and, I submit, very properly, shall not apply, and so that children between 10½ and 12 years of age may be held up in a primary school unless the parents agree to them going forward. The child cannot be held up after 12 years of age because, as the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, pointed out, there are no restrictions after that age. Then the law operates quite freely. But it is sought to male an exception and throw the onus on the parents in the case of children in these denominational schools. It would be very improper for any parent to hold up a child from going forward with his educational development. The effect on the child's mind would be most unsatisfactory. I speak as a father and a grandfather, whose children went to ordinary schools. Children look forward to going to secondary school. They are keen to go on. The average age of the children when they go forward on the "school birthday" is 11 years 2 months. When a parent holds a little one back, the boy goes forward at the age of 12 as an older boy among younger children of 10½ and 11. The poor child is a bigger one among little ones, and it is uncomfortable and unsatisfactory for him and for the teachers.

The second proviso says that a child may be sent forward at 10½ or any age up to 12 if arrangements have been made for him to receive a secondary education at a school, not being an ordinary local education authority school, at which he will be provided with religious education in accordance with the tenets of the denomination to which he belongs. In the great Act of 1944 generous provision was made for all voluntary schools. Satisfactory arrangements were made for the continuation of the good work which they have carried on through the ages. But it has been proved abundantly that the generous provision for these excellent bodies was for elementary education. There was little provision for secondary education. If this stipulation were made law, the children at those denominational schools would be bound to be held up, because there is an inadequate number of denominational schools of a secondary character. I have a Report available which shows that in 1939 over 60 per cent. of council school children over 11 years of age were in senior schools, but that only 16 per cent. were so accommodated in voluntary schools. That may have altered a little in the interval of nine years, but it cannot have altered very much, because nobody could get much building done. I agree that the religious education authorities are seeking to get secondary schools provided, but it will take them a long time, and until they get sufficient of such schools these children will be held up. I suggest that that would be a deplorable state of affairs, and I hope the noble Earl will not press his Amendment.


I am afraid I cannot accept the arguments put forward by the noble Lord. It seems to me that he is entirely throwing over the whole principle of the 1944 Act. How can he reconcile what he says with the wishes of the parent? He says that the parent ought not to be able to hold the child back. I am a father and a grandfather, and I can speak on this matter as well as the noble Lord. I am certain that if it were up to me, I would say that it was in the interests of the child to go forward. It may be that parents are far better judges than the local authorities. If I do not press the Amendment to-day, I hope the noble Lord will look into the matter again between now and Report stage. We feel strongly that this is a matter of vital importance. Surely the Committee would not wish a child to be sent to a school of which the parents entirely disapprove.


I would like to ask the noble Lord opposite one question. Does he say that the parent of the child of 10½ to 12 years of age has the same right to be consulted as the parent of the over-12 child? On such reading as I have been able to give to the Bill, it appears to me that it is not so. I do not ask for an answer now if the matter is to be raised again on Report.


I may say that there is no right of consultation in regard to a child over 12 years of age. The law stands quite clearly that over 12 they go forward to a secondary school.


As to where they go, I mean.


As to the particular school to which they go, yes. But they have to go to a secondary school. The choice is open. If there is an opening in a religious school, they can go there. We are concerned because there are so few openings. That would result in the stultification to which I referred. So far as the age question is concerned, we ought to be quite clear about that. I have the official figures which show that the average age (I did not say the limit) is 11 years and 2 months. They go forward generally at an average age of between 10½ and 12. The intention is to legalise that practice, and to leave open the date between 10½ and 12, according to the qualifications of the child. The noble Earl indicated that if we will look into this matter again he will not press his Amendment to-day. I can assure him that we are quite willing to look at it again. We are most anxious not to do anything unfair. What we have in mind is the interest of the child. It is suggested that parents can judge better than public authorities. These children are judged by inspectors, who examine them to see if they are ready to go forward to secondary schools. I am not sure that parents can do that. However, I will undertake to have another look at the matter.


On that understanding, I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WALKDEN moved, after subsection (3) to insert: (4) In subsection (1) of Section eighty of the principal Act (which requires the proprietor of every school to cause a register to be kept containing particulars of all persons of compulsory school age who are pupils at the school), the words ' of compulsory school age ' are hereby repealed.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is moved to bring about a simplification of the work of registering the child. At present, two separate registers have to be kept for those who are of compulsory school age and others who are not of compulsory school age, but are rather older. It would be much simpler to have one register for all the children. The matter of the attendance or non-attendance could then be dealt with by inspectors, who have access to that register and who will have reports about children that do not attend school regularly. We are proposing this Amendment to simplify the working arrangements. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 39, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Walkden.)


As I understand it, this gets rid of one register and so reduces the registers from two to one. That is a very welcome act, especially from a Government which in other respects has multiplied the number of forms which people have to fill in. I am delighted to see this act of grace on this occasion.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 40, leave out ("section eighty of the principal Act") and insert ("the said section eighty").—(Lord Walkden.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is put down to improve the Bill and to make it adaptable to modern conditions. The word "child" has a legal meaning which does not cover all pupils. If we insert the word "pupil" in place of the word "child" it will cover all concerned, "pupil" meaning a pupil of any age. This is really consequential on other Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 45, leave out ("child") and insert ("pupil").—(Lord Walkden.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

6.38 p.m.

Clause 5:

Amendment and consolidation of enactments as to provision of clothing.

(4) A local education authority may, with the consent or the proprietor of a school not maintained by the authority other than a special school, and upon such financial and other terms, if any, as may be determined by agreement between the authority and the proprietor of the school, make arrangements for securing, for any registered pupil at the school who is unable by reason of the inadequacy of his clothing to take full advantage of the education provided at the school, the provision of such clothing as is necessary for the purpose of ensuring that he is sufficiently clad while he remains a pupil at the school:

Provided that any arrangements made under this subsection shall be such as to secure, so far as is practicable, that the expense incurred by the authority in connection with the provision of any article under the arrangements shall not exceed the expense which would have been incurred by them in the provision thereof if the pupil had been a pupil at a school maintained by them.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved, in subsection (4), after "inadequacy" to insert "and unsuitability." The noble Lord said: Clause 5, to which I am seeking to make two Amendments, is the clause dealing with the provision of clothing for those who attend various types of schools. If one looks at the first part of the clause, under subsections (1) and (2), we find that in the case of those schools—at any rate, of special schools—where the clothing is either inadequate or unsuitable, the local education authority may provide such clothing that the child will be sufficiently and suitably clad. In subsection (4), which deals with schools not maintained by the local authority, although they may come in and help, we find that they may provide clothing only where the clothing is inadequate; not where it is unsuitable. I suggest that they should be empowered, if they so wish, to provide clothing in schools where the clothing is unsuitable as well as where it is inadequate. By "inadequate" clothing, I mean inadequate in amount. I suppose that if a child has not a pair of shoes, he will be provided with a pair.

It seems to me also that where one is helping one of these children because his parents are poor and cannot afford proper clothing, one does not want that child to be marked by his clothing—even although it may be adequate in texture—being different from that worn by any other child in the school. I suggest that the local authority be empowered—as they are earlier in this clause—so to clothe that child that he shall not be marked and, perhaps, be a victim of mocking or ribaldry among others in the same school. It is a short and simple Amendment, and is proposed with the most humane point of view. I hope the Government will be able to accept it because as the clause is now drawn, it seems to me that the mention of "unsuitability" in the first part precludes an education authority from considering it in connection with the second part. I would much sooner have seen the word "inadequacy" left in both parts. For those reasons I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 37, after ("inadequacy") insert ("and unsuitability").—(Lord Llewellin.)


I am sorry to say that we cannot accept this Amendment, because it would create unfairness between one education authority and another, or between some sets of schools and another. The first part of Clause 5 has reference to nursery schools, boarding schools and special schools. Those are schools where little children are sent for particular reasons. Of course, they must be suitably clothed, and that has to be provided for. That is made clear, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has shown by his remarks. Lower down, in subsection (4), we are dealing with the generality of children in voluntary schools, schools not maintained by local education authorities. While it is the case that the general schools under the local education authority do not have the word "suitability" or "unsuitability" applied to them, it would be unfair to make it applicable to the private school, the voluntary school, and leave other schools in their present position. Of course, with normal children (and the first part of the clause refers to those who are not quite ordinary) if they are adequately clad they are generally suitably clad. Therefore, it has not arisen in their case. It does arise with the little suffering children. With ordinary children in ordinary schools, I do not think that any mother or father would send them to school with any comic setup to make them look like Charlie Chaplin, with brother's coat or father's trousers. As the position is as I have stated in relation to the different sets of schools, I am unable to accept this Amendment, because it would create unfairness.


That is the last thing I wanted to do. Do I understand from the noble Lord that if I had included in my Amendment only the word "unsuitability" in line 12, after "inadequacy," we should then place them all on the same footing? For my own point of view, I think that where a child is unsuitably clad—not only a child who goes to a special school, but to an ordinary school whether it is maintained by the local authority or not—the local education authority should be empowered to give him clothing. If it is only because I have not proposed to insert the word "unsuitability" in line 12, after "inadequacy", that this difference will come about, I will amend that before the next stage of this Bill, and we will get rid of the only reason the noble Lord has so far given me for not accepting my Amendment. I feel that this is the kind of thing the Government should look at again. We have a very forthright and straightforward Minister of Education, and I think that after a word or two with him you would soon have "unsuitability" inserted in a clause like this. I would like to hear whether anything of that sort would put the matter right, because I do not want to discriminate between one school and another. The Government are discriminating at the present moment, because they are allowing clothing for special schools and not other schools.


The children at special schools need special clothing. I am not quite sure that the suggestion made by the noble Lord as to line 12 would be quite appropriate, or even that it would give effect to what he has in mind. We should need to consider that further. I am not at all sure that it could be fitted into this clause, but I am authorised to say that we will look into it and see whether anything can be done to meet the point, which is perhaps not a very substantial one.


I am obliged to the noble Lord. If we have a talk about it between now and the Report stage, I have no doubt that he will be able to do something which I believe everybody in this House would like to see done. Naturally, we want to deal with all schools on the same footing. At any rate, on the assurance that we can discuss it again between now and the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Recoupment to local education authority of cost of providing education for persons not belonging to their area]:

THE LORD RANKEILLOUR moved, after subsection (6) to insert ( ) For the removal of doubts any pupil who is in fact receiving primary or secondary education as the case may be in a school maintained by a local education authority shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to be a pupil in respect of whom provision for such education is made by that authority.

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Perth I beg to move this Amendment. This relates to a curious little point, about which there has been some doubt and controversy. It refers to what I may call "over the border" children, who are accepted in the schools of a different local authority from that in whose area they reside. Doubt has arisen as to the position of these children. They have been accepted in these "over the border" schools for one reason or another, and are receiving their education there. But apparently they are not regarded as the responsibility of the authority in whose schools they are being educated until a formal sanction has been given by the local education authority. In practice it apparently takes a considerable time before I his authority can be given. I believe it has been held that these words are unnecessary, and that the children are already the responsibility of the local authority, but I do not know whether the point has ever been properly cleared up. These words would clear it up. I would add only that in Standing Committee in another place this was considered to be another attempt to keep children in the all-age class. But it does nothing of the sort, and cannot have any effect of the kind. It deals only with the narrow point of these over-the-border children. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 20, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Rankeillour.)


This Amendment is really unnecessary. Clause 6, replacing the equivalent provision of Section 106 of the principal Act, enables local education authorities who provide for the primary or secondary education of any child who belongs to the area of some other local authority to be recouped by that other authority for the expense of educating that child. The latter authority must make the recoupment unless, under the provisions of subsection (1), the Minister determines that they ought not to do so. There are dubious cases which may be referred to the Minister, but we are advised that the opening words of Clause 6 (1) on page 6—namely: Where any provision for primary or secondary education is made by a local education authority…. are wide enough to cover the point. The Amendment would secure nothing which is not already provided for in this Bill, and is therefore unnecessary.


I understand that some local authorities hold that a manager or governor of a school must not accept over-the-border children unless they have obtained the consent of that local authority. Are they right in so obtaining that consent, or are they wrong? This is a point which has arisen and it is really the object of the Amendment.


I am not familiar with that controversy: there is always some controversy somewhere about something. I think I am right in saying that the broad intention of the Act of 1944 was that there should be freedom of choice as to where children should go; and if a choice is made whereby a child goes to a school over the border, the words to which I refer ensure the recoupment of the second authority by the first of the cost of educating that child.


If the noble Lord is able to give us an assurance that as soon as a manager or governor accepts that over-the-border child, the local authority then have the duty automatically of demanding repayment, I shall be satisfied.


In view of what the noble Lord has said, I will not press the matter now. But perhaps he will fortify himself with a definite legal opinion as to whether, in the case I have mentioned, provision is made for the children. If he will do that I shall be extremely grateful, and I hope that I shall not need to trouble him any further.


If it will assist the noble Lord, I may say that I have been informed that what we might call the over-the-border authority cannot refuse to admit the child. I think that answers the noble Lord's question, and that he will agree that the provisions of the Bill meet the whole situation.


In view of what the noble Lord says, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

First Schedule [Minor and consequential amendments]:

LORD LLEWELLIN moved to add to the Amendments to the principal Act: Section forty, subsection (2).—" After the words ' it shall be the duty of the local education authority ' insert ' for the area in which the school at which a child is a registered pupil is situated.'

The noble Lord said: I seek to amend Section 40, subsection (2) of the principal Act. The problem arises in this way. A child's home is in, say, area A and he is sent to one of the schools in area B. It is a question which school attendance officer will see whether the child is attending and, if necessary, take proceedings against the parents for non-attendance. One might think that such an Amendment was not necessary; but when one finds, as I have found, that the two largest education authorities in the country, the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council, have been advised in different ways as to what their powers are, the matter becomes of some importance. The Middlesex County Council have been advised that the authority to prosecute or take proceedings is the authority in whose area the school is situated. The L.C.C., on the other hand, are advised that residence must be the qualifying factor in deciding which county council takes the necessary proceedings. Obviously this is a very simple matter and should be cleared up, especially when two extremely responsible bodies such as the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council have been advised in completely different ways about it. I am only seeking to ensure that the responsibility is placed on the right party and that doubt should be removed.

I have sought in my Amendment to secure that the authority to enforce these proceedinges shall be the authority in whose area the school stands. I hope that will be the view of the Ministry I of Education. Obviously the school attendance officer responsible for that school is the one who looks through the school books and it seems to me it should be he who takes the proceedings. As I am seeking to amend Section 40 subsection (2) of the principal Act I am proposing to put this Amendment just before Section 40 subsection (3) which I think is the appropriate place for it. Presumably if the Amendment is accepted it will have to have a side note as well as the words I am proposing. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line II, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Llewellin.)


I think I had better state what appears to be the legal position in this rather vexed matter. I would point out that Section 40 (2) of the principal Act gives the local education authority the duty of instituting proceedings for offences under Sections 37 and 39 of the Act relating to breaches of the law of school attendance. The object of this Amendment is to make it clear that the authority to bring those proceedings is the authority of the area in which the school at which a child is registered is situated. The Amendment will not do as it stands, because some of the offences under Section 37 are committed in cases where the child is not yet registered. It would be necessary, therefore, to restrict any such Amendment to cases of offences under Section 39; that is, where a registered pupil fails to attend regularly. Therefore, the Amendment does not quite meet the case. But we are aware that there is this conflict as to whether the action should be taken by the authority where the child is resident or the authority in whose area is situated the school where the child is or would be registered. There are two great authorities in conflict. If the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment, we are prepared to think the matter over carefully to see whether it is possible in the Bill to do something to meet the difficulty which he has described.


I am quite satisfied with that assurance. I do not quite know who should take action. However, it seems to me that Parliament, when it imposes a duty upon a local authority to take some proceedings, should make it clear upon which local authority it is imposing that duty. If some better wording than mine to achieve that end can be found between now and Report stage, I shall be glad. Therefore, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for saying that he will look into the matter again. We clearly cannot go on having, for instance, the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council taking different views of where their duties lie. That is the kind of case in which Parliament must step in and do something. Although it may now be the eleventh hour, quite a lot can be done in one hour. The twelfth hour has not yet struck. Therefore, I look forward to the noble Lord in that hour—it is several days in fact—producing from the Department a suitable Amendment. I am certain that he can do something about this question to make the position quite clear. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.4 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved to add to the amendment of Section 48 (3) of the principal Act: After subsection (3) insert: '(3a) Nothing in the foregoing subsection shall be deemed to place upon a local education authority an obligation to replace or repair any dental or optical appliances if the replacement or repair is necessitated by lack of care on the part of the person supplied. '

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is on a slightly different point, and it arises in this way. It may not be a very important point. Local education authorities, however, have been advised that they have a duty to provide for any pupil things like spectacles. It is quite light that they should do so. But they have also been advised that they have a duty to go on providing such things, however often, wilfully or otherwise, a child may break its spectacles. There ought to be some limit. My Amendment is moved in order that: Nothing in the foregoing subsection shall be deemed to place upon a local education authority an obligation to replace or repair any dental or optical appliances "—

I hope that few children at so early an age require false teeth— if the replacement or repair is necessitated by lack of care on the part of the person supplied. I think it is a problem which should be looked into. If a child is so careless with its spectacles or false teeth, it is a little hard that a local education authority should have to go on providing them week after week. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 40, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Llewellin.)


Before the noble Lord replies, I should like clarification upon this point. Why is it necessary to make any amendment to these provisions? After July 5 I understand that children who require them are to receive lovely spectacles and false teeth from the Minister of Health. Is it really necessary to amend the present clause at all, in view of that?


I am afraid that, if we accept this Amendment we shall be landed in difficulties that we wot not of. A small minority of little children no doubt lose their spectacles; they might drop their false teeth down a drain, or something of that sort. Such children may be in trouble and they often resort to what the boy said when someone asked him what a lie was—" A help in time of trouble." A child might concoct some story as to what had happened, but who could prove what had happened, I do not know. Small boys or small girls, who are equally fertile in giving explanations, do not realise the necessity of looking after their spectacles. If a case arose where an authority sought to recover the cost of those lost spectacles, or of an odd tooth that might be lost, it would involve great trouble and expense in trying to make the parents see that it was the fault of the child, and that therefore the parents should pay the cost. The trouble of trying to make them pay would be more than it was worth. An important point is that, while the argument was going on about responsibility in the matter, the child would be going without spectacles. That would be bad for the child and bad for its education. By and large, I think it is much better not to be small-minded about these little things. If a kiddie has lost its glasses, it ought to be given another pair. After all, I think that spectacles are provided in large numbers, so they do not cost a great deal. It would be better to do that rather than try to pursue this little child into court, where it may have to be called as a witness before the magistrates. I suggest to the noble Lord that he should not press this Amendment. I hope that he will talk suitably to whoever asked him to put it down and ask them to be a little more broad-minded.


I think that this is quite a suitable point to have been raised, and I do not in the least apologise for having put my Amendment on the Paper. Before those last words of the noble Lord, I was going to rise in the most gracious manner. However, I will be broad-minded about it. The noble Lord has accepted one of my Amendments, and has promised to look at two others; therefore, without any further ado, I beg leave to withdraw my fourth Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WALKDEN moved to delete the proposed amendment of Section 1 (1) (c) of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, and to substitute: For the words ' or, in the case of children, that they appear to be permanently incapable by reason of such defectiveness of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary schools, ' substitute ' or, in the case of children, involves disability of mind of such a nature and extent as to make them, for the purposes of Section fifty-seven of the Education Act, 1944, incapable of receiving education at school.'

The noble Lord said: The words which appear on the Marshalled List are related to Clause 8 of the Bill, at page 9. We have considered this question during the discussions on this Bill. It really bears on the question of mental deficiency. This drafting is an improvement on the drafting that applied previously. There is a difficulty about the meaning of the phrase "feeble minded." The expression suggested in this Amendment is disability of mind of such a nature and extent as to make them…incapable of receiving education at school.

Those words are very wide, and will meet all cases where consideration has to be given to the problem. I may add that that drafting has been agreed between the Ministry of Education and the Board of Control, which is concerned with mental deficiency. Part of this comes under the Ministry of Health. It is rather tangled up, and this wording has been agreed to by both sides. I beg to move the Amendment as being an improvement on the previous wording.

Amendment moved— Page 16, second column, leave out lines 5 to 11 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Walkden.)


I certainly have no objection to these words. I would only say that some years ago the words "mentally defective" were adopted as less objectionable than the word "mad." Now we are getting some other words—namely," disability of mind." I suppose that in ten years' time those words will have such a context that we shall have to alter them to something else. Of course, they all mean exactly the same thing, but if the noble Lord wishes to have these words, I only hope that they will be permanently adopted and that we shall not always be trying to cloak the unfortunate incapacity from which people suffer; whatever words we use, it remains feebleness of mind.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule [Repeals]:


This Amendment is purely consequential on what has been decided previously, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 27, after ("eighty") insert ("in subsection (1), the words ' of compulsory school age ', and").—(Lord Walkden.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Remaining Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.