HL Deb 11 June 1959 vol 216 cc988-90

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to make a statement which the Minister of Education is making in another place at the present time, and for the convenience of the House, I think it would be better for me to read it in the Minister of Education's own words. The statement concerns voluntary schools, and is as follows:

"The Government announced in the White Paper, Command 604, that they proposed in the next five years to press forward with the implementation of the Education Act, 1944, and in particular to provide full secondary education for all. They recognised that the Churches might need more help if the voluntary schools were to play their part. The Government have, therefore, been having discussions with the interests concerned, and also with representatives of the Labour and Liberal Parties; and I would now like to inform the House of our conclusions.

"The White Paper of 1943 and the Education Act of 1944 provided that the voluntary schools should neither be ignored nor eliminated, and that the dual system, while being radically adapted, should continue in existence. Developments in recent years, and the large new programme now projected will however confront the Churches with problems and liabilities of a kind and size that could not have been foreseen in 1944. There have been big shifts of population; building costs are much higher; and, of course, the whole concept of secondary education has been greatly enlarged.

"The Government have thought it right to approach these problems in the all-Party spirit of the 1944 Act. This has naturally meant close consultation with representatives of the Labour and Liberal Parties, and we believe that together we have found a solution by applying the principles of the Act of 1944 and of the earlier Act of 1936 to the needs of to-day. Accordingly we intend, within the next few days, to introduce a Bill which will—

  1. (i)raise the maximum rate of grant on the categories of voluntary school building work eligible as the law now stands from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent.;
  2. (ii) offer a maximum of 75 per cent. grant for new aided secondary schools needed wholly or mainly for the continued education of children from aided primary schools of the same denomination. I would emphasise that the primary schools in question are those existing now or, of course, replacements.

"Proposals on these lines have been accepted by the Church of England and also by the Roman Catholics, although they fall short of what the latter have asked.

"Under the Government's proposals, grant will not be available for new primary schools, nor for new secondary schools, except where they match existing primary schools. I would also emphasise that in considering any proposal for a new denominational secondary school I should use my powers under Section 13 of the 1944 Act to control very carefully the use that is made of the new grants.

"I hope that these explanations and this assurance will help to reduce the anxieties which have been expressed to me by the Free Churches.

"In brief, the Government's object is to enable the intentions of the Act of 1944 to be fulfilled in the altered circumstances of to-day and thereby to ensure that the children in aided schools have as good facilities for education as those in county and controlled schools."

That, my Lords, is the statement.


My Lords, so far as my friends and I are concerned we welcome this statement. It is quite correct that we were parties to the discussions, and we have agreed to the settlement which has been arrived at; it is, I may say, a compromise settlement. We look forward to the Bill in due course, and I think it would be wiser if we waited to see the Bill before we made any further observations on the matter.


My Lords, may I say a word or two? Reference was made to the Church of England and I should like on behalf of the Church of England to express my gratitude for the Government statement. Again it is not a moment to elaborate on that, but I am most grateful, first for what I regard as a generous meeting of the changed conditions since 1944; and secondly, for the recognition it gives that the Church of England has tried its best to co-operate with local education authorities and teachers in the building up of a national education system on a religious foundation. The third word I should like to say is that though this will, I take it, mean legislation, we are extremely grateful that the statement does not travel beyond the spirit of the 1944 Act. It might have been more difficult for us if the spirit of 1944 had been dropped and a new spirit proposed. I can say for the Church of England that we are grateful and are in agreement with what is proposed.


My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for his welcome to the statement.