§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Further considered on Report (according to Order).
§ Clause 30 [Local education authorities]:
THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved, in subsection (1), to omit paragraph (a) and all words in paragraph (b) down to "constituted", and to substitute:
In relation to those areas of Greater London which comprise respectively the London Boroughs numbered 1–12, 13–17, 18 and 19, 20 to 24 and 25–32 in Part I of Schedule 1 to this Act as a reference to the Greater London Council acting by means of special committees thereof (to be known respectively as the Inner London Education Area Committee, The West Essex Education Area Committee, The North-West Kent Area Education Committee, The East Surrey Area Education Committee and The Middlesex Area Education Committee).
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we now come to the educational clauses of the Bill, and let me agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newton, on one point, although I do not think I can agree with him on any others. Let me agree with what he said at an earlier stage: that 518 an Amendment of this kind is one of the most important Amendments that we could be discussing. That thought is very much in line with the one conclusion of the Royal Commission that I can remember agreeing with in any way, and that was their view that education was the most important of all the local authority functions.
§ Of course, the trouble was really laid bare in the very honest speech of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, at the last stage, when he told us that the whole of local government in Greater London needs to be recast and an authority larger than any existing one is required for the purposes of traffic and planning. I do not know whether that lets the cat out of the bag. It certainly agrees with what has been often said: that this is a Bill intended, though misconceived even from that point of view, for the purposes of traffic and planning, and poor old education must be fitted in as best it may. I have not heard the noble Lord, or anybody else, suggest that the proposals we are discussing immediately here, or any of these educational proposals, are to be desired on educational grounds. No one would have said for educational reasons that changes of this sort were wise.
§ This reminds me rather of Procrustes. I am sorry the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who was at one time President of the Classical Association, is not here, because he could have corrected me if I am wrong. But, as I recall, Procrustes had a bed and when people came to him he used to adjust them to the bed. If they were too tall he chopped off their feet, or possibly their head in an extreme case, and if they were too short he stretched them out. If I may say so, that is the kind of antic with which the Government are concerned in this Bill. This Bill of theirs is a sort of bed of Procrustes, and education just has to be adapted to it, very forcefully and very foolishly. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will not feel I am parodying him if I say that his idea is that these educational proposals will not do as much harm as we suppose. That is perhaps a fair paraphrase of his view. But, of course, it is beyond question that they will do some harm, and we consider that they will do a very great deal of harm.519
§ I need only remind the House—and one must not repeat too much of what has been said at an earlier stage, but it is sometimes difficult to avoid doing so—that these proposals have no support in the findings of the Royal Commission or in any other authoritative quarter, and they are very much disliked by the teachers. One noble Lord picked me up because I said that the teachers were 100 per cent. against them. Perhaps I overstated the matter, and I think later there was general agreement that I should have done better to say that 99 per cent. were against. But, at any rate, this proposal was very much disliked by teachers.
§ Our Amendment here would establish 5 educational authorities in the whole review area, instead of 21 suggested in the Bill; that is, one inside the greater London area, and four outside, instead of one plus 20. The Government would set up 21 authorities altogether, instead of 8 authorities as at present. Perhaps I could just remind the House that the 4 authorities that we are proposing for the outer London area would be organised on the same lines as the Inner London Education Authority, proposed by the Government. That education authority is far from being an ideal body, but we regard it as the lesser evil. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, is not here, because on the last occasion he was the only noble Lord who had any disposition to assist the Government, in spite of their serried ranks and their overwhelming numbers in the Division Lobby. The only help they had was from the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, and he asked me why, if I thought the London education authority was a muddle, we proposed to extend the muddle by setting up the same system in the outer area. As I explained then, the answer is that we do not think the London Education Authority is at all an ideal solution. It is a single-purpose authority, whereas we feel that education is very much better handled by a multipurpose authority. But it is a second best, and we would therefore extend that arrangement, rather than the dreadful plan that the Government are putting before us.
§ The main principles on which opposition is based were set out before, and I must not run over them all again, 520 though there was one aspect of the case which was placed before me by the County Councils Association—a very important aspect—to which the noble Lord did not reply last time (it was thrown at him, one might say, without preparation or advance notice), and which, perhaps, he might care to deal with this time. I explained last time that the County Councils Association—and we all know that they are not a body in love with Labour; they are non-Party, but certainly non-Labour—are strongly supporting the Amendment now before the House, and one of their main grounds for doing so is that strategic planning in an area like this is necessary in the case of most of the leading aspects of education. They consider, I am sure rightly, that you cannot carry out strategic planning over the area as a whole if you set up these 21 authorities. They mention fifteen aspects of strategic planning—that is to say, aspects of education which ought to be planned in an organised way. I will not develop the arguments; I will merely mention the headings of these aspects of education.
§ First of all, there is the assessment and allocation of children to grammar school courses; second, the arrangements at fee-paying schools for the admission and maintenance of children selected for grammar schools; third, the arrangements for boarding school education; fourth, the advisory services. I hope the noble Lord is following these headings even more carefully than he did last time, because he did not comment on them then, and this time he cannot say he has not had adequate notice. Fifth, teacher training and teacher courses generally; sixth, conditions of service for teachers; seventh, special education treatment; eighth, further education in technical colleges—very important indeed; ninth, awards to students; tenth, maintenance allowances; eleventh, youth employment services; twelfth, school health services; thirteenth, architects' and school building programmes; fourteenth, supplies and equipment; and, fifteenth, links between schools and further education. Those have been singled out by the County Councils Association, whose experience in this field I am sure the noble Lord will not wish to disparage. If these must be, as they say, and we 521 say, strategically planned, the fragmentation of the area into 21 authorities is utterly unsuitable.
§ There is also the special question, the vital question, of what is sometimes called "free trade". I think we all dislike that as a phrase, but there is the question of free movement of children between the various parts of this area or across the frontiers of the area from the outer world. I think we are all aware that it would be absolutely calamitous if every child had to stay in the area of its own authority. I am sure that on this the Government and the noble Lord the Minister would agree. The noble Lord will no doubt argue that that danger is being averted under the Government's plan. On the last occasion the Government tried to claim that they had already provided for this free movement. They said that there is a reference to it in the Bill, and that we need not be so worried about this as we appear to be. But we pointed out two great loopholes in their arrangements.
§ The first is that there is no assurance that, in the future, there will be the schools for the children from outside the area to come to. It is one thing to make it statutory that no child can be turned away because it comes from outside the area; but if the school is not there, or if there are not enough places, you have the same result without actually interfering with the theory of free movement. Last time we laid great stress on the need for making sure, not just that any child coming from outside at any particular moment would not be turned away on that ground, but that there would be sufficient places to cater for all these children coming from outside in the future as in the past. Secondly, we pointed out that there was no provision in the Bill to meet the needs of those children who might wish to cross the boundaries of the Greater London area, either going into or coming out of the remaining parts of Kent, Surrey and Essex, or moving into or from Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire.
§ My Lords, in response to Amendments pressed by my noble friends Lord Shepherd and Lord Crook, and others, the Government have tried to meet both points; and if my tone appears to the noble Lord to be uncompromising, and at times borders on the unfriendly, let me assure him that we are grateful for 522 small mercies. We should say "Thank you" to him and his colleagues for certain Amendments which they have put down to meet the arguments of my noble friends. I assume that it would not be well to become involved in these Amendments at this moment, but I must call attention to the fact that the position under Clause 30 will be slightly improved, as compared with what it would have been otherwise, by the Amendments which are to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, to Clause 31. The Government are there trying to do something to guard against these two dangers that I have mentioned, and I do not want the noble Lord to think that we are not grateful for that. But if our Amendment is carried those Amendments will not be necessary.
§ They are really Amendments to try to undo a little of the evil which will result from the Government's far-reaching plans. Indeed, the more one looks at it now, and the more one notices (and, in a sense, welcomes) the despairing efforts of the Government to make a little sense out of their propositions, the more one realises how unnecessary the whole thing is. We are left with the great question of why it is necessary to bring about these extraordinary changes and, if they are to be brought about, why the Government cannot adopt our Amendment. But we are left, broadly, with the paradox that the Government, who are claiming to set out to strengthen local government, are cutting at its roots.
§ Under the existing arrangements the education authorities have worked quite efficiently and harmoniously together; the movement of pupils between the areas has presented no great difficulty under voluntary arrangements, and the main services have generally been strategically planned. We are faced now with a position in which it is thought necessary to ensure that these things are done by Statute and by Ministerial intervention, or by threat of that intervention. I repeat that if the Government reject our Amendment, and we are left with the Bill as it stands, these proposals of the noble Lord do somewhat diminish the evil; but they are desirable at all only because they are a small attempt to undo what in itself is quite unnecessary.
§ Let me give a few examples. Existing legislation does not prescribe that authorities must consult with one another. Yet 523 there has never been any complaint that they have not done so. Now it is to be made a statutory duty; we have to interfere with local authorities in order to make sense of the situation at all. To take that step in the name of decentralisation of local government is surely the policy of a madhouse. Again, the movement of school children across local authority boundaries has been going on all the time. Now we are going to make statutory provision to tell the authorities what they must do. The specialist and advisory services have been provided on a wide basis. Now the Minister of Education has to say he will encourage the new authorities to club together to preserve these benefits, and, apparently, if they do not club together they will be clubbed. One is bound to ask oneself, why is all this necessary?
§ Lastly, we have been talking about free movement of children as though it were a complete end in itself. Obviously, children must go to the right school and this should take priority; but, equally obviously, the more often a child can find the right school in his own area, the better it is. The child does not only receive education, he has to get to the school. He has to wear the clothes that are acceptable and take part in school activities, for which his parents may need financial assistance. They may need maintenance allowances if he is over school age, or may need remission of school charges. The school health services and youth employment services are valuable adjuncts to the education services. Of course, what we are now doing is to run the risk on increasing the cases in which one authority provides for the child and another is responsible for all the rest.
§ One may say that uniformity will be achieved. How will it be achieved? By agreement or by Ministerial pressure? Maybe in the end it will be achieved by Ministerial pressure, but it would all be so much simpler if the noble Lord and his colleagues would not set up all these unnecessary authorities. And when he has done it, how much will be left of the vaunted freedom and discretion of the new boroughs in regard to education? What is really being done is that we are setting up these 21 authorities. We—when I say "we" I mean the 524 Ministry, through the Government—realise they cannot work if they are left to themselves and we are bringing outside pressures to bear. One can only wonder if this is seriously intended to be a move to increase the autonomy of the local bodies.
§ There are many points I could return to, such as the great difficulties felt by the religious authorities which were referred to last time; certainly the fact that they will have to negotiate and cope with so many bodies as compared with the past. This weighs in their minds against the proposals. I hope the noble Lord will realise that we do appreciate that he has tried to save a little from the wreck; to sweep up a little of the mess. I have no doubt that when these proposals and his Amendment to Clause 31 come forward, if this Amendment has been rejected, we can accept his Amendments in principle. But I should like him to believe that we regard the Government's failure to provide sound educational proposals as the greatest of all their failures. I am speaking for myself, but I think this view is widely held everywhere, even by those who believe there is something to be said for the Government's reforms but who will be critical, even contemptuous, of the educational proposals. We are trying in this Amendment to make the best of a bad job. It is no good my pretending I am very confident that the noble Lord will meet us here; but I should like him to realise that, if he does not, we feel he is making educational nonsense of Greater London.
Page 42, line 39, leave out from the beginning to ("constituted") in line 2 on page 43, and insert the said words.—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I wish to support my noble friend. Personally, I have not a great deal of experience in the educational world. Perhaps my only experience is that of a parent trying to find a place for his own children. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Newton, that one of the things that struck me as I tried to find a proper place for my youngsters was the wide standards that exist. I am speaking purely of private schools. There are many that are very good, but equally there are very 525 many that are very bad indeed. I suppose that if one tries to judge proper standards of education, in the long run it depends upon the question of examinations: one could decide whether a school has succeeded by the number of children who pass examinations in the year.
In London we have this one education authority, the London County Council, and I do not think that even the worst enemies of the London County Council would deny that their standards of education, both for the bright and for the moderately able child, are the finest in the country. Perhaps one could say they are the finest in the world. That standard has been obtained because there are the proper organisation and the right attitude of the persons on the Council responsible for education. In the case of the Surrey County Council one could say that almost the same standards obtain. These standards are not merely maintained in trying to get children into a university, although that is the object of all schools, but the machinery exists to provide for these proper standards. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Newton, whether he really believes that, having fragmented the education system in these 32 boroughs—although I agree it will not be 32 in the first instance, because of the inner education area—these new boroughs will be able to provide the same wide range of education that a progressive authority like the County Council can provide?
One will look, as one does, at the type of schools we have in the country. They try to cater for all types of children, for the bright and the not so bright, and for those who need different types of education from others. Private schools, in order to keep their numbers, have to attract children from all over the country. They are boarders, paid for by their parents or, in some cases, by local education authorities. Here we are dealing with children who, because of transport difficulties will be tied to the area of their borough.
Does the noble Lord believe that these boroughs will be able to provide the wide range of service which the L.C.C. have provided in the past? Whilst one recognises the qualities of such authorities as Manchester and Birmingham, do they, in fact, provide the same wide range of facilities to their children as 526 is possible within the London area? I appreciate that this Amendment does not deal with the L.C.C., but it suggests that the Government should try to create a similar organisation where possible, with groupings of boroughs under a central guidance to see that proper standards are developed and maintained, and also that children who are less well-equipped should have the necessary opportunities. To give these opportunities requires considerable finance and skilled staffs, which are hard to find. I question whether the boroughs, if left on their own, will be able, within the resources available to them, even with the best will in the world, to provide the type of co-operative and co-ordinated system of education that the L.C.C. now provides. I beg to support my noble friend.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HEALTH (LORD NEWTON)
My Lords, we had a full debate on this Amendment on Committee and I then made a rather lengthy speech. I do not propose to inflict the same speech at anything like the same length on your Lordships again this afternoon. What this Amendment aims to do is to set up in outer London the arrangements the Government are proposing in the Bill for inner London. I listened carefully to both noble Lords, but I am bound to say they have not advanced what appears to me to be any compelling reasons for agreeing that, in the reorganisation of the government of Greater London we ought to provide in the same way for outer London as we are proposing to provide for inner London. In inner London, there has always been a single education authority, and the service has grown up as one unit, without any relation to the boundaries of the metropolitan boroughs. The boroughs themselves have never administered education at all. Moreover, in inner London the transport system is so closely linked that children can conveniently attend schools some distance from their homes; and many children do so. I do not think that anyone can dispute that these are weighty reasons for not breaking up the existing service and handing it over to the new Inner London Education Authority.
Those are the reasons which led the Government to adopt the expedient of 527 having a single-purpose authority for education in inner London, notwithstanding the disadvantage of its being a single-purpose authority. Nevertheless, these arguments, which seem to us to be conclusive for inner London, do not apply to outer London. We believe that it would be a great mistake to divorce education from the other personal services. That is a disadvantage of the scheme for inner London, which, for the weighty reasons I have just given, we are prepared to accept. On this point of not divorcing education from personal services, I would pray in aid some observations which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, made in his speech, when we debated this Amendment in Committee. The noble Earl said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 250 (No. 87) col. 185]:… I think the proposal of a single-purpose authority, which is concerned with education alone, is neither ideal nor so good as what we have at the moment. I argued on Second Reading that the multi-purpose authority, one which, for example, combines responsibility for education and housing, is likely to be much more effective in the field of educational planning, and there are many other well-understood arguments for the multi-purpose, as opposed to the single-purpose, authority.I find myself in complete agreement with those views of the noble Earl, and it seems to me that those words constitute the main objection to the Amendment which he has moved this afternoon.
The noble Earl has referred to the Amendments which I have put down, and I am grateful to him for saying that, so far as they go, they are acceptable, or at any rate not unacceptable, to him. We are concerned, both in the Bill as it now stands and in the Amendments which I am going to move, to safeguard parents against any hardship that may be caused to them or their children by the change of boundaries. This is the purpose of Clause 31(7). Parents living in borough A will have exactly the same right of access to schools in borough B as parents living in borough B. Moreover, by one of my Amendments Clause 31(7) is to be widened to include children outside Greater London who wish to attend schools inside.
It is perfectly normal for local education authorities to take into account places on the other side of their boundaries when they plan their own provisions. I should have been content to have 528 left it at that, but I have responded to the invitation which was made to me by the noble Lords, Lord Crook and Lord Shepherd, in Committee to see that all possible doubt is avoided by putting down this Amendment, which will require the new local education authorities to consult their neighbours before preparing their development plans, in order to ensure that when the authorities are drawing up their plans the needs of children in both areas are taken into account. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to the view of the County Councils Association that his Amendment would make possible what he called strategic planning. I am not absolutely clear what is meant by "strategic planning" over a wide area. But, even assuming that it was possible and it had the advantages which the noble Earl thinks it has, I should still not have the opinion that those advantages would outweigh the disadvantages of the system which is proposed in the Amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked me whether I really believed that the London boroughs will provide as wide a range of education as the County Council are doing. The answer to the noble Lord is: "Yes, I do believe that." I would say to the noble Lord that, if he does not believe that, he is inferring that the county boroughs up and down the country who are education authorities are not at this moment providing a sufficiently adequate range of educational facilities, and that they would never be capable of doing so. If the noble Lord thinks that, then he ought to say so. But I do not think he does believe it. If he does not believe it, then I do not see why he should doubt the ability of the new London boroughs, many of which will be larger than the county boroughs and education authorities for the rest of the country, to be just as good. Those are the reasons why I must again invite your Lordships to reject the Amendment, as I did on the Committee stage.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I have rarely seen a Minister so ill at ease in refuting an Amendment such as has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Longford. Quite rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, referred to the county council as a single authority, without the boroughs having any responsibility for education, and gave that as the reason for 529 setting up the London authority to take care of education. Here we are dealing not with educational standards but with the administration, which, of course, has a considerable effect upon educational standards. Each of the authorities who are to come into the Greater London area under this Bill have also been constituent parts of a single education authority—Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Essex, Kent and the rest, all single authorities. Under the 1944 Act they have operated with divisional executives, and in some cases for larger authorities with excepted areas. They have, under that administration, had the responsibility of administration within an overall budget and policy agreed by the larger authority. All that we are asking in this Amendment is for the newly transferred areas to have a similar type of administration to that to which they have been used under the operation of the 1944 Act in the counties with which they have previously been associated.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, refuted the reference by my noble friend Lord Shepherd to the ability to provide specialised facilities, technical and otherwise, and suggested that in that regard he was criticising the existing county boroughs, because many county boroughs are smaller than some of the units which will be established in the outer London fringe. It is obvious that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has not had a good deal to do with educational administration, because in many county boroughs there are reciprocal arrangements for various types of specialised education in the county and the county borough within the area. I think of Luton and Bedfordshire, and even of Middlesex and Hertfordshire. The establishment of the administration suggested in this Amendment would prevent those out-county arrangements. They are not always satisfactory. There is always the difficulty and argument within the authority itself, unless it has no arrangements whatever and has the single arrangement with the other authority, as to whether or not the student or pupil can take advantage of the other facilities arranged.
This set-up, as I visualise it, means that we shall have a wide range of operation, overall planning, an overall budget and local arrangements through educational executives; and in some cases, if it is necessary, where there was previously 530 a divisional executive it will operate in the same way. That means that an educational administration can be set up which will give facilities for a wide range of activity, affording the people in the area a similar type of administration to that to which they have been used, and bringing in or maintaining the interest of those people who have been associated with the divisional executives or the area authorities in the educational system.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, one of the most important elements in the educational process is the selection of the type of secondary school to which a primary school child is to go. A great deal has been said in the course of the debates on this Bill about free trade as between one education authority in the Greater London area and another; that a child will be able to go without question from a school in one education authority to a school in a neighbouring or other authority. What has never been made clear is how the selection is going to be made. If the selection is going to be made by the authority in whose area the child is attending a primary school, it may well be that the principle of selection will be quite different in two neighbouring boroughs. One borough, for example, may be imposing an 11-plus examination and another borough will be wishful to have a completely open and comprehensive form of secondary education. So far as I can see, the multiplication of these authorities is going to mean the multiplication of possibly totally different methods of selection. There are already different methods of selection in different parts of the country, but this will mean a multiplication of them in what is, after all, a homogeneous area and one which could be made more homogeneous if the whole business were under the review of the Greater London Council in the way proposed.
Perhaps at some stage we shall receive some information on this aspect, but until we have that information it looks as if this will be one of the most important elements of confusion in the operation of these new arrangements. It is one of the elements which will cause grave concern in homes up and down the country, because there is no part of the whole educational process in 531 which the parents and children of all classes are more deeply concerned than in the question of what is going to happen to them when the 11-plus pass from the primary to the secondary school.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, there is a further point on this matter which has not yet been touched upon but which I think is not without importance. It is going to be difficult to weld the various authorities which will make up the Greater London authority into one unit so that they can work together. I am not talking only about education, but about the whole ambit of their activities. If in the case of education you are going to make what, in effect, will be first-class local authorities, first-class local borough councils, and second-class local authorities, some of which are, for one reason or another, entitled to run their own education independently, while others are considered unable to do so and have therefore, to be brought into a larger group of the Inner London Authority, it is going to make the whole process of integration, and amicable co-operation, very much more difficult.
There is the further problem of recruiting and keeping good teachers. Most teachers, I imagine, would prefer to work for a large authority: there are more prospects for advancement, more scope for specialisation and altogether better facilities. If, across the way, and as part of the same general authority, there is to be a much smaller local authority which does not offer the same scope, as time goes on you will inevitably find that the majority of the better teachers will gravitate towards the larger Inner London Authority, making life much harder for those who are responsible for education in the various outer London boroughs. That is clearly a problem which applies to all sorts of authorities on the periphery of any large city, though they have certain advantages, in that they have their own locality and autonomy, their own country districts and certain things which may appeal to local patriotism and to the best type of teacher.
None of those arguments will apply in this case, because they will all be part of the Greater London authority. But when it comes to education, and the 532 recruitment and treatment of teachers, there will be the grave disadvantage for those on the periphery and the smaller authorities to the advantage of the centre. That, as time goes on, will mean that we shall find the better teachers congregating in the centre. More of the parents on the periphery will wish to send their children into the centre. We shall find (though it depends on the answer given to the pertinent question of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger) a large number of parents who wish to send their children into the centre for that reason. The result will be a complete unbalance on the educational side between the centre of the Greater London Authority and the outer borough councils.
I do not advance these arguments as being of enormous weight compared with those which have been put forward by my noble friends on this side, but I think they are a substantial contribution to the balance which must make people look with a great deal of favour upon this Amendment—in the interests of the children who are to be educated; of the parents who are interested in their children's education; of the teachers, without whom the children cannot be educated, and, on the non-educational side, of the general working together in co-operation as between the different councils in central London and on the periphery.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, this has been a useful discussion about a difficult and complex matter, as has been revealed in the course of the debate. The existing County of London is to have an Education Authority for itself and, as the noble Lord said, there never has been other than a county authority for education, even if we go back as far as the School Board for London. I think the Government have been wise to concede, especially to the teachers and the parents, the principle of one Education Authority for the County of London. The only danger is that they are threatening to review it in 1970, though as to that we shall have to see what happens.
It is important to understand the existing set-up in the extra-London counties (that is to say, the counties surrounding the County of London) which traditionally have been somewhat different from the London County Council. In the counties surrounding the London County 533 Council the county councils, up to the passage and implementation of this Bill, will have been considerable education authorities. I refer to those of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, which the Bill does not touch a great deal, and so on. Those county councils were important and great education authorities and did some fine work, although their politics are not all the same—in fact, I think at the moment they are all Conservative. But they did considerable education work, particularly in the field of secondary and higher education. They were undoubtedly the predominant education authority in the counties, though it is only fair to add that there was a varying degree of delegation to the county districts and of responsibility by the excepted authorities—what is the phrase?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
All this indicates how right I was to say that we are dealing with a complicated matter. Frankly, I wish the Education Act, 1944, had not been as cowardly as it was in facing the pressure of the county districts, who quite naturally want more powers. So I admit that in some counties we have primary education wholly in the hands of local county district authorities. But the county remains a big, important education authority.
Therefore, this Amendment, which my noble friend Lord Longford has moved very ably, and which has been supported by my colleagues on this side, does the best it can with an imperfect and difficult situation. That is all we claim for it. We think it is better than the provision in the Government Bill. What the Amendment apprehends is that if the county system of education is broken up, as is proposed in the Bill, then the free flow of opportunity into higher education, in particular by the children, will to that extent be impeded.
The Government say that there will be plenty of free trade (to use their own ugly term) between one borough education authority and another. Indeed, it will be mandatory on an outer London borough who are to be education authorities in that, if parents from another borough want their child to be educated in the first borough, they must do it. 534 So far as it goes, that may be all right, but local authorities, like the rest of us, can be awkward now and again and they may not always like it. In all the circumstances, we, with the County Councils Association, thought it best—and it is a balance of advantage and disadvantage—to create in this rather more sparsely populated area of outer Landon education authorities which are in principle somewhat similar to the Inner London Education Authority, which would be composed of the Greater London councillors for the area concerned and nominees of the borough councils for the area concerned. The area might be two, three or four London boroughs who would constitute between themselves, with the Greater London Council, this education authority. It was the best that could be thought of in the circumstances to try to get the best of the old world and the best of the new.
The Government, however, having got their minds concentrated on uniformity of London boroughs, with uniform powers right through the area, will not have it. On balance, I think they are wrong. I do not know whether my noble friends would agree with me or not, but, for myself, assuming that this horrible Bill is going through, I think life would have been much simpler in education in the future if the Greater London Council had been constituted the education authority for the whole area. I do not know that I should have enthusiastically initiated it, because it is such a big area. On the other hand, as the London County Council have been such a distinct educational success—as I think is admitted by everybody: by noble Lords opposite, as well as on this side, and by Conservatives among the population—and have shown that it is possible for a large authority successfully to administer education, I should not put it past the coming Greater London Council to do the same.
There is a good deal of local representation in the London educational system. There are local managers and local governors; and people associated with the boroughs are often used. So the local authorities, and people from them could have been associated with the Greater London Council. So I believe that, having gone as far as they have done, the best course for the Government would have been to make the 535 Greater London Council the education authority for all purposes. However, as I say, not all my noble friends may agree with me on that point. But, faced with the difficult circumstances that we are, and imperfect as the Amendment is, we nevertheless think that it would improve the Bill as compared with the rather confused situation which the
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved to leave out subsections (6) and (7). The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Government have now had plenty of time to think about the anomalous nature of the two subsections which this Amendment seeks to delete from the Bill. They are indeed anomalous. Apart from the parallel clauses dealing with the youth employment service, there is nothing analogous to them in the whole of this Bill. The Bill seeks to make immense changes in all aspects of London government, and at no point except in relation to education and the youth employment service does the Bill propose to insist that in a comparatively short time there should be an obligatory review of the536
§ Government are producing in education by this measure.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 117) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 55.535
|Addison, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Rusholme, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Attlee, E.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Champion, L.||Listowel, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Chorley, L.||Longford, E.||Walston, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Wise, L.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Henderson, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Glentanar, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Monk Breton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Grenfell, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Moyne, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Newton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hanworth, V.||Ormonde, M.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hastings, L.||Rea, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Howe, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Cromartie, E.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Just, L.|
|Denham, L.||Jessel, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Lothian, M.||Salisbury, M.|
|Devonshire, D.||Mabane, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Dudley, L.||MacAndrew, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Effingham, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Spens, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Malmesbury, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Margesson, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mills, V.||Twining, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ effect of these changes. Still less is there any provision that there should be an obligatory review with predetermined and very narrow terms of reference.
§ That is what these subsections require: that there should be a review which is to be completed six years after the Inner London Education Authority comes into being. If it is to be so completed it will have to start pretty soon; it will probably take at least 18 months to two years to make a really comprehensive review. And that means that the new authority will be under the shadow of inspection and possible reorganisation from the day it starts its work. And do not let us forget it will be an authority on which, by definition, there will be a lot of persons who have had no previous experience as members of an education authority. Their experience will have been in the 537 borough councils in London who have not previously had any part in the educational system.
§ This review is binding on any Government that may happen to be in power in the period between now and the time when it is to be completed, early 1970. I am sure it is to be presumed that the authors of this Bill do not anticipate that this obligation will fall upon a Conservative Government, because I notice that when the Conservative Party discuss their policy for the future they are apt to do so in terms of Britain in the 'seventies. Clearly they have already decided that the remaining part of the' sixties will be, from their point of view, a total loss.
§ It means, therefore, that the review will be in all probability undertaken by a Government who have had no part in setting up this rather curious form of educational administration, and who may be quite unsympathetic to the purposes behind it and will certainly be unsympathetic to the notion that the only direction in which the educational authorities should be modified should be in the direction of break-up. Because I must remind your Lordships again that the terms of reference of this review are already narrowly circumscribed. There is no power in it to suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, did just now, that education might become a function of the Greater London Council. The only purpose of the review is to see whether all or some of the functions of the Inner London Education Authority should be given to the boroughs; that is to say, to discuss fragmentation and not to discuss further integration. So we may have the farcical situation of a Government whose leanings are very definitely either towards the status quo or towards wider integration being compelled to set up a review which is concerned solely with fragmentation.
§ This means, of course, that because the review has to begin quite soon we shall have, right from the beginning, yet another period of uncertainty which is going to affect the teachers. I do not want to repeat the arguments about this that I gave in the Committee stage, and in any case it is obvious that it is going to affect the position of the teachers if they are uncertain whether the authority 538 they serve will be in existence in six years' time. It is going to affect long-term planning. Schools, like Rome, are not built in a day. Sites have to be found and preparations made far ahead, and cannot be made by an authority which lives all the time under a sword of Damocles.
§ It is going to affect the children. I referred just now to the 11-plus examination. The London County Council is, we understand, bringing the 11-plus examination to an end, and, if I may say so, a very good thing, too. No decision will be more warmly welcomed in the homes of the children, both by the parents and the children themselves. The London Education Authority is at the moment working towards a fully comprehensive system of secondary education in which all the children go to the same secondary school to follow courses suited to their particular bents and abilities. Suppose, as a result of this review, it is decided to give some or all of the functions of education to the boroughs. Then some boroughs might like a comprehensive system of education and other boroughs might wish to have an 11-plus examination and selection of the children to go to a secondary modern, secondary grammar, or secondary technical school at the age of 11. In that case it means that the children in London, who now know that as they come up to 11 this nightmare is removed, will have to live with the possibility that the nightmare is going to be revived, that they may, after all, be subject to the kind of selection which has operated in many parts of the country and still does, and which has resulted in immense tension in the homes, both among the parents and the children.
So we are going to have uncertainty. The attitude of the Government about uncertainty seems to be very odd. In all other contexts except education the Government use the argument, "We must not have uncertainty." Indeed I think it would be fair to say the pages of Hansard are spattered with observations, particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the noxious character of uncertainty in local government. In the Committee stage I quoted one of his observations and I will this time quote another. There are plenty to choose from. In the Committee stage, in the discussion on an Amendment which proposed to give power to the Minister to
transfer functions from the boroughs to the Greater London Council, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, strongly resisted the introduction of any such power on the grounds of uncertainty. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 249 (No. 82), col. 1046]:
I would attach one condition here; that is, that there should be certainty from now on throughout this whole field. Any further uncertainty as to what the future of these arrangements may be … would inevitably perpetuate the uncertainty among the staff which we all wish to avoid or do what we can to mitigate.
Clearly the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is on our side.
§ I do not know what arguments the Government may have left to resist this Amendment. I cannot think they are going to use the arguments which they used before. They were rather like the arguments that are generally used in a breach of promise case: "I didn't promise to marry her, and if I did I didn't mean it"—because they argue from two wholly inconsistent premises. The first is that the review is absolutely necessary; it is of great importance because this is a new type of education authority—which indeed it is. The second line of argument is that, although the review is so tremendously important, nobody need be concerned about it and it would not create this dangerous uncertainty because nothing will happen as a result of it, except possibly a few quite trivial changes. The Government cannot have it both ways. Either they intend to insist upon this ridiculous thing which it will not be for them to carry out, because they anticipate real change, or there is no need to make it an obligatory review if it is merely intended as a façade or to bring about quite trivial changes.
§ The real truth of the matter is that these clauses have got into the Bill only because of what one might call a rather disreputable political bargain. The Government were persuaded eventually that it would be disastrous to break up the inner London education system and, contrary to the recommendation of the Royal Commission, they conceded that there should be this special and rather peculiar form of Inner London Education Authority. But, having conceded it, they were determined to have some price for it, and the price which they demanded for it is this really ridiculous proposal 540 that there must be a review, relating to only this part of the Bill's proposals, except for the youth employment service. In foisting this obligatory review upon an unknown Government in the future, and at the same time restricting the review, the one possible development which, if this Bill becomes law, I think we may see come in time that—the education authority will be the Greater London Council—is precluded. They have restricted the scope of the review so that it can be for fragmentation only. I beg to move.
Page 44, line 25, leave out subsections (6) and (7).—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)