HL Deb 14 April 1970 vol 309 cc346-92

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill and as such covers two quite different subjects. The first of these, the subject of Clause 1, is by far the more important and deserves to receive the lion's share of our attention this afternoon. Clauses 2 and 3 serve only to rearrange the powers under which certain student grants—which are aready being paid out—are awarded. A minor point in one of these clauses has caused a certain amount of excitement but I hope later in my speech to set the mind of the House at rest on this issue.

I am glad to have the opportunity of opening the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill, because it introduces a reform for which strong support has developed over a number of years and which as, I believe, welcomed by all those who have an interest in the education of handicapped children. The change provided for in the first part of this Bill can be seen as an important step in the development of society's attitudes to those who have the misfortune to be born with a mental handicap. In the last century and well into this one, it was felt that the best way—indeed, one might almost say the only way—to deal with the mentally handicapped was to put them out of the way and forget them as far as possible. Society to-day is better able to understand that a mentally handicapped person is no less human that a normal one: he feels the same need for the affection and acceptance of those around him, and suffers no less acutely from the same frustration when he is unable to do the things that others around him are able to do. A child suffering from mental handicap is one whose mind is not capable of developing beyond a certain point: sometimes the potential for development is very small indeed; but sometimes, given consider-able patience and individual attention, the progress that can be achieved is quite remarkable. The education policy of this Government has concentrated upon the theme that each individual, whatever his circumstances, should be given the opportunity to develop his ability to the utmost. I am sure that the House will agree with me that this principle is nowhere more relevant than where an individual is fated inevitably to be handicapped in relation to his fellows. Mentally handicapped children therefore deserve our special attention, and their education should be carefully planned so as to make the most of every aptitude that they possess.

The 1944 Education Act requires local education authorities to establish which children in their areas suffer from any form of handicap which is likely to affect their ability to benefit from normal methods of education. They have a duty to provide education by special methods which meet the needs imposed by the handicap. Such education may be provided either in a normal school or in a special school. But the 1944 Act also calls upon local education authorities to consider the possibility that some children may suffer from mental handicap to such a degree as to make them "unsuitable for education at school". Section 57 of the Act provides that, after due medical examination, the local education authority should, in effect, wash its hands of such a child. The child is referred to the local health authority, who then have the duty to provide what is referred to in the Mental Health Act of 1959 as "care and training in lieu of education".

The provision of training for teachers of mentally handicapped children under the ægis of the Training Council in itself constituted a marked advance on earlier practice, and a great deal has been achieved by local health authorities in carrying out their responsibilities to these children. It is in large measure due to the enlightened way in which they have developed the concept and practice of training for mentally handicapped children that we are able to-day to recognise that there is no hard and fast line between a majority of children who can be educated and a minority who cannot; and that there is much in common between the educational needs of mentally handicapped children and of other young children. Given a sequence of good learning experiences (though this may have to be more carefully structured than for other children) and opportunities to work individually or in small groups, with encouragement from sympathetic and knowledgeable teachers, they have shown that they can learn and can make considerable gains, both personally and socially. This Bill provides that every child shall have a right to the education that will enable him to develop his full ability.

The children who will be affected by the provisions of the Bill number around 28,000. About 6,000 are in hospitals, and almost all the rest attend centres—called junior training centres—administered by local health authorities; a small number, who may have additional handicaps, receive some training at home, and some have been placed in privately-run centres or homes. When the transfer takes effect, the junior training centres will be approved as special schools by the Secretary of State and will from then on be run by local education authorities. There has been a considerable expansion in training centre provision over the past decade. Many health authorities have been able to carry out the policy of separating children from adults and many junior training centres are housed in modern, purpose-built accommodation, looking very like schools: some authorities indeed call them schools. In some places a centre has been built close to a special school for educationally sub-normal children, and close working links have already been developed. Such signs are encouraging for the future.

Education authorities will also be bound to make arrangements for the teaching of mentally handicapped children in hospital, on the lines of their existing arrangements for teaching children who are in hospital for other reasons, such as accident, illness or physical handicap. Many, though not all, hospitals for the mentally handicapped already provide some teaching for child patients, and in these cases education authorities will have a worthy foundation on which to build. Where at present children in hospitals for the mentally handicapped are not receiving any teaching, the local education authority will be bound to assess their educational needs and to provide for them. The successful development of educational work in hospitals for the mentally handicapped will depend upon the establishment of close relationships among all those who are in any way concerned in the welfare of child patients.

I have attempted in what I have said so far to provide the House with a picture of what is to happen if Clause 1 of the Bill before us becomes law. I should like now to refer briefly to the provisions of this clause. Clause 1(1) provides that, from an appointed day, first, no child shall in future be excluded from the education system as "unsuitable for education at school"; secondly, local health authorities shall lose any power or duty to provide training for mentally handicapped children—that is, those powers and duties that they have to have so long as there are children excluded from the education system; and thirdly, those children who are now subject to an order declaring them to be "unsuitable for education at school" shall from the due date be regarded as being in need of special education in the same sense as children with any other handicap.

Subsections (2) to (5) of the clause, which are substantially in common form, are included to fulfil the Government's undertaking that the conditions of service and salaries of staff will not be adversely affected by the change". The local health authority is also the local education authority, except in Inner London and the City, and the mechanics of the transfer between the two authorities will be straightforward. In Inner London the transfer will be between the Common Council of the City of London and the Inner London Borough Councils as health authorities and the Inner London Education Authority which covers the area of the City and the Inner London Boroughs as a whole: this accounts for the reference to local health authorities not also being local education authorities". Here the arrangements will be more complex, as they will also be where responsibility for the education of children passes from a Regional Hospital Board to a local education authority. Subsection (6) refers to the Schedule listing enactments to be repealed by the Bill so as to achieve the purpose of Clause 1.

It has already been announced in another place that if Clause 1 becomes law in this Session in Parliament the date on which it is expected to take effect is April 1, 1971. In closing what I have to say about this part of the Bill, there is one point which I think I ought to make. Much is expected of this reform, and rightly so. But we must not expect everything to change all at once. The picture up to this moment has been one of gradual development and the legislation now proposed will allow that development to continue within the education system and as part of the general provision of special education for handicapped children. To start with, local education authorities will need a little time to explore their new responsibilities and to establish relationships with their new staff and with hospital authorities in the field of mental handicap. Their policy for the education of their new charges will have to be thought out carefully. The children, in virtually every case, will remain where they are now and will be taught by the same teachers. And this is right, for these are the teachers who have the special skills needed for this very difficult work and whom the children have learnt to know and trust.

The essence of the change is that for the first time both mentally handicapped children and their teachers will be part of the educational world: they will have access to the advice and facilities available in the education service. With the special school system open to them, a more flexible approach will be possible in meeting the children's needs and they can be offered more challenging opportunities as their response develops. Teachers will be able to benefit from professional exchange with their new colleagues, both in special education and in the wider school sphere, and to contribute their own experience to broaden their colleagues' understanding of the implications of severe mental handicap. Out of this cross-fertilisation, made possible by the removal of a barrier that is simply outmoded, I anticipate that we shall see stirring developments in what is done for these children whose needs are so vast: no spectacularly sudden developments, but a steady advance that will be immensely worthwhile.

I turn now to the remaining clauses of the Bill. Clause 2 has received a great deal of publicity, most of which has been ill-founded. The clause is an enabling one which gives the Secretary of State power to supplement the grants paid to certain students. These students may at present receive discretionary allowances from either their local education authorities or from the Supplementary Benefits Commission. This clause does not extend present provision—it centralises it and will allow the application of uniform standards and conditions. Nearly all students attending first degree and equivalent courses or courses of training as a teacher receive an award from their local education authorities. These awards are mandatory under the Education Act 1962 and are paid subject to conditions which are either set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State or in arrangements approved by him. The awards comprise fees, maintenance grants and supplementary allowances; for example, for extra attendance at college or on a vacation course. Included among these supplementary allowances are allowances for the dependants of a student. Not all students are entitled to dependant's allowances. Only if a student is married before his course begins and either is over 25 or has supported himself for three years out of earnings may he claim, as of right, allowances for his wife and children. If he is not over 25, or if he has not supported himself for three years, or married after the year in which his course began, he is not entitled, as of right, to allowances for his family.

In 1964, following pressure from both major Parties, the then Secretary of State, Mr. Quintin Hogg, agreed to an amendment to the Awards Regulations which would give discretion to local education authorities to pay allowances for the spouse and children of an award holder in cases of hardship. This amendment was foreshadowed in an answer to a Parliamentary Question on July 23, 1964. Subsequently, in December, 1964, after consultation with the local authority associations, an amendment to the Regulations was made. This amendment, sub-sequently incorporated as Regulation 13 of the University and Other Awards Regulations, 1965, gave local education authorities power, in cases where in then-opinion hardship would occur, to make payments in respect of the maintenance of the spouse and children of the holder of an award even though the normal conditions for the payment of these allowances were not fulfilled. The payments were not to exceed those made to a fully entitled student but could be less.

It was agreed with the local authority associations that local education authorities would normally be expected to exercise their discretion only when a student had a child born within six months of the beginning of the course, or where the wife (or husband) was chronically sick or disabled.

At the same time the then National Assistance Board agreed, as a temporary measure, to consider requests for assistance from all categories of students who were not otherwise eligible for allowances for their dependants. Thus by the end of 1964 it was possible for these students to obtain assistance which would relieve the considerable hardship that many of them experienced. In many cases it would have been impossible for these students to complete their courses without this additional assistance, and had they been obliged to withdraw, this would have been a waste of public funds.

My Lords, I would emphasise that these students are not irresponsible young persons. The conditions governing the payment of dependants' allowances require a student to be married and over 25 before his course begins before he is entitled to allowances for his dependants. Many students who get married and have dependants during a course are in their twenties, and a few, who may be following a very long undergraduate course, may be older. Some will have married and had children while in employment before entering college but, because they have not been self-supporting for three years previously, failed marginally to qualify for allowances for their families. It was against this background that the arrangements with the local education authorities and the National Assistance Board were concluded. The majority of these students are responsible, intelligent and decent young people who need help if they are to complete their course.

We are convinced that students should be encouraged to complete their course before they take on the responsibility of a wife or children. For this reason we intend that any allowances paid to students in respect of their dependants should be seen to come from a different source and be paid in a different form from the normal student grants. The present arrangements are temporary, and unsatisfactory. It is necessary to replace them with something that is permanent. The Supplementary Benefits Commission wish to withdraw from what was admittedly designed as a temporary expedient, because benefit is normally subject to the overriding condition that a fit person under pensionable age should be registered for employment. A full-time student cannot fulfil this condition. The view of the Commission is perfectly reasonable, and we are greatly in their debt for the consideration they have given to students in the past and for the patience they have displayed while new arrangements were discussed.

Local education authorities are very willing to relinquish their powers. Interpretation of hardship inevitably varies from one authority to another, with the result that anomalies occur. Additionally, they argue that, even if they could define hardship, they have no satisfactory machinery for measuring it. In any case, provision for hardship should, for the reasons I have stated, be made outside the normal awards system. Clause 2 of this Bill will enable the Secretary of State to bring together under the Department of Health and Social Security the responsibility at present exercised by local education authorities and the Supplementary Benefits Commission.

In due course regulations will be laid before Parliament giving details of the scheme. Broadly it is intended that from September 1, 1971, local education authorities will lose their power to pay discretionary dependant's allowance, and the Supplementary Benefits Commission will cease to accept applications from students for assistance. The regulations will specify the conditions under which allowance will be paid, and will enable Social Security officials to assess applications and the Department of Health and Social Security to make payments. The allowances will, as now, be discretionary and will not exceed those paid to a fully entitled student.

In view of what has been said in the newspapers and elsewhere about allowances for students' mistresses, I wish to make the position quite clear. The Regulations under which local education authorities have power to pay dependants' allowances refer to "the spouse and children of an award holder", but the Supplementary Benefits Commission do not distinguish between a married couple and a couple cohabiting as man and wife. The Ministry of Social Security Act 1966 says: Where a husband and wife are members of the same household, their requirements and resources shall be aggregated and shall be treated as the husband's and similarly, unless there are exceptional circumstances, as regards two persons cohabiting as man and wife. In this respect the Commission have treated the student the same way as they treat other members of the community. The Bill is intended to enable the Secretary of State to pay allowances on the same basis as the Supplementary Benefits Commission. Who will actually receive allowances, and the conditions they must fulfil, will be set out in regulations which will be laid before Parliament later. On one aspect of the conditions I can give an assurance; it will not normally be possible for a student to claim an allowance for an unmarried partner unless there are dependent children of the alliance. It is with the children that we are mainly concerned, and I should like to emphasise this.

Various numbers of students have been quoted, and in nearly every case the numbers have been greatly exaggerated. We estimate that the total number of students affected by these arrangements will not exceed 1,000 and that, of these, all but a very small minority—less than 1 per cent.—will be married. This is essentially a problem of students who are married with families, but who were either under twenty-five or not married when they began their courses: it is not, and never has been, a problem of unmarried students living together. In a very few cases there is the problem of illegitimate children. An unmarried mother will in future, as in the past, be able to go to the Supplementary Benefits Commission for help; the unmarried father who is trying to support his family will not. In these very few cases, a small fraction of the whole, the student will be able to apply for support for his children. I would conclude on Clause 2 by emphasising that it does not extend or change the rules at present governing the payment of dependants' allowances to students on the grounds of hardship.

Finally, I turn to Clause 3. Under this clause the Secretary of State will be given authority to make regulations in which he will designate postgraduate courses, and local education authorities will lose their existing power to make awards to students who wish to attend these courses. In future, such students will be able to apply only to a central Government agency—that is to say, a Government Department or Research Council—for an award. This change in the law was foreshadowed by the Secretary of State when he said on December 16, 1968, that an agreement to this end had been reached with the local authority associations.

The present position is that awards to postgraduate students are made by several central Government Departments, the Research Councils and local education authorities in England and Wales. However, for many years local education authorities have not been expected to make awards for courses that fall within the field of responsibility of one or other of the central Government agencies. This division gave rise to confusion and a substantial volume of complaints. Local education authorities felt that they were continually exposed to demands for discretionary awards from candidates whom they regarded as the responsibility of central Government. Then university departments may have been dissatisfied with the number of awards made by a central Government agency for their courses and were disappointed when they found that local education authorities were discouraged from making awards for such courses. It has therefore been necessary to clarify and regularise the situation.

Clause 3 gives effect to a policy change which all who were consulted accepted— not only the local authority associations, but also the Vice Chancellors' Committee, the various professional associations, and the National Union of Students. Arrangements have been operating since the beginning of the academic year 1969–70 which reflect the assumption by central Government of the major responsibility for supporting postgraduate courses. Local education authorities have not, in fact, been making awards for courses for which central Government accept responsibility. But their power to do so still remains, and Clause 3 will remove this power. Clauses 4 and 5 are cast in formal terms with which the House will be familiar; the financial effects of the Bill, which are desoribed in the introductory memorandum, will be considered in another place.

I conclude by drawing the attention of the House back to the proposal in Clause 1 of the Bill: that the power to exclude mentally handicapped children from the schools should cease to be used, so allowing these children in future, like all the rest of their fellows, to receive all the wider benefits that our education system can give them. My Lords, this is a measure about children; it will relieve much tension and bring a happier prospect for the future to many children and to their parents. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Baroness Phillips.)

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for explaining this Bill so thoroughly. The noble Baroness devoted a great deal of her speech to the question of student mistresses, which has created quite a lot of attention in the Press recently. I must say that I shall have to study very carefully what she said, because it was rather complicated, but I should like to say straight away that I was not altogether convinced. I should like also to welcome the fact that this Bill has been introduced in this House. It is always a pleasure when Bills are introduced here. No doubt it is an even greater pleasure to the Government on this occasion, when they consider what has happened to Clause 1 of their main Education Bill in another place. Perhaps that might encourage them to introduce more Education Bills here.

As its name implies, this is a rag-bag Bill of various miscellaneous provisions, of which I would agree with the noble Baroness the most important is that in Clause 1, which transfers to local education authorities the responsibility for the education of severely subnormal children, who are at present the responsibility of local health authorities. There is no doubt at all that this is a most welcome provision. It has been eagerly awaited by all those concerned with the education of these children, ever since the first decision was announced by the Prime Minister in November, 1968. Indeed, there has been a certain amount of impatience at the delay in bringing this legislation forward.

There can be no doubt at all that of recent years considerable advances have been made in the education of severely subnormal children and it has come to be generally acknowledged that every child can derive some benefit from education. I need only remind your Lordships of the debate we had on February 17 last, on a Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, drawing attention to the education of autistic children. In that debate particularly it was the common consensus of opinion, I think, that certainly autistic children can benefit from education, and in fact if they do not receive education they may well rapidly deteriorate. And so we have come to believe that Section 57 of the 1944 Education Act, which refers to children incapable of receiving education at school, is no longer valid, except in so far as severely subnormal children may require a different kind of education outside the normal school.

This transfer of responsibility for their education recognises that fact, and it has the additional advantage of establishing a more flexible boundary between the severely subnormal children and the educationally subnormal children who are at present educated in special schools. I know there is at present excellent liaison in certain cases between the local health authority and the local education authority, which ensures flexibility between training centre, mental sub-normality hospital and educationally subnormal school, but this new transfer will certainly facilitate future Arrangements of that kind. However, I would agree also with the noble Baroness that the mere change of administration from health authority to education authority will not of itself accomplish miracles.

I think we should pay tribute to the local health authorities, who have hitherto carried the burden and have made very significant advances in the theory and practice of caring for these unfortunate children. I would quote just one sentence from a speech by Mr. D. A. Fiske, the chief education officer of the city of Manchester, because I believe it contains wise advice. He said: … above all, it is going to be necessary for those in education to recognise with due humility that a good deal of work has been going on under the health authorities in the training centres that most of us in education are not aware of, do not understand and should not condemn because it has not been done by people whom we should call qualified teachers. This brings me to the main worry that I and my colleagues have about Clause 1 of this Bill; that is, the position of those who are at present teaching these children under the health authorities and will now be transferred to the local education authorities. It is clearly stated in the Bill that their position is safe-guarded and will be no worse than hitherto. But recently the Secretary of State for Education and Science has announced that all staff holding the Diploma in the Teaching of Mentally Handicapped Children will be recognised as qualified teachers provided that they have had five years' post-diploma experience of teaching subnormal children. Equally, those who have not as yet had five years' post-diploma experience will be eligible to become fully qualified teachers once they have completed their five years. This of course is welcome in principle, but if they are going to be given qualified status, surely the requirement of five years' post-diploma experience is very hard, not to say unjust.

If one takes the case of an older teacher—that is, in this context, over 25 years of age—he or she must have had five years' successful experience of teaching first, before he or she can qualify for a one-year diploma course. Is it really just that after that they should still have to wait another five years before they are entitled to be qualified teachers? I should have thought that in their case pre-diploma experience should equally count against the five-year qualification period. Or if we consider the case of the younger teacher, under the age of 25, he must have had at least 18 months' practical experience first and then take a two-year diploma course. Surely it is not fair to him that after that he has to wait another five years before becoming a qualified teacher.

We remember that the normal school-teacher takes a three-year course and then has to do one year in schools before he or she is qualified, and is in fact paid on the Burnham scale after three years; whereas the younger teacher in the mentally handicapped field will be expected to have done 18 months' qualified service and a two-year diploma course and had five years' experience—a total of 8½ years—before becoming recognised as a qualified teacher. That seems to me unjust, and I should have thought that a requirement of two years' practical experience after the award of a diploma in that case would have been much fairer. If this proposal is not modified, I fear that it may have an adverse effect on recruitment at a time when we are already short of skilled teachers.

It is envisaged—and I very much welcome the fact—that for the future there will be three-year training courses within colleges of education. But what about those teachers who, in the mean-time, before these courses get going, are either at the moment on diploma courses or are about to go on them? They see themselves facing a period of seven or eight years before qualification, while their brothers and sisters who are no better equipped than they axe with "O" levels find their way into a three-year course and qualify after three years. There really is a serious and difficult question here and I beg the Government to look carefully at it again. It is not as if large numbers were involved: in total those who hold the diplomas number under 1,000, taking those in training centres and in hospital schools together, and surely 1,000 teachers in a body of nearly a quarter of a million deserve special treatment.

There is another side to this question. On the other side of the coin the teachers who are qualified in normal schools will no doubt be eligible for teaching the mentally handicapped, without having had any special form of training. This again is an important point and one that I feel has not been given enough thought. I would advise the Government that it was recommended specifically in the Scott Report of 1962 that a normal teacher transferring to the teaching of mentally handicapped children should take a one-year supplementary course. This seems to me to be a sensible recommendation. I very much welcome the fact that some teachers of severely sub-normal children will be recognised as fully qualified by the education authorities, but I think the future prospects of these teachers teaching in normal schools, and of teachers in normal schools teaching the mentally handicapped, requires much more thought and perhaps in both cases some form of transitional course.

I should like to ask two questions on Clause 1. The first is on subsection (1)(b), which relieves the local health authorities of responsibility for children of compulsory school age and transfers the responsibility to the education authority. I should like to ask what happens to these children when they come out of the bracket of compulsory school age, at the age of 16. Are they then automatically handed back to the responsibility of the local health authority? In many cases this might be most unfortunate when one thinks of instances of mentally retarded children who could well benefit by continuing their education. They may be 16 years in age but they may only have attained the mental age of 7 or 8. One would hope that in such cases it would be possible for them to continue their education under the local education authority rather than being transferred to the local health authority and having to attend an adult training centre or a mental subnormality hospital. If that were their future, it might well undo much of the good that had been done by their education up to the age of 16.

My second question is on finance. The Explanatory Memorandum states that savings resulting from administrative economies will result in no additional charge on the Exchequer. My Lords, I wonder what these administrative economies are? Whatever they may be, I think local education authorities will be hard put to it not to increase expenditure in this field. They will be facing a situation of a shortage of teachers, of inadequate places for all the children involved, of children in mixed training centres with adults, and children in adult hospital wards. As the noble Baroness explained, their responsibility will extend to all children and they will have to review the position particularly in mental sub-normality hospitals. At present in these hospitals only about one half of the children attend the hospital school and the other half are "ward-bound", and yet there is evidence that at least 10 per cent. of these children at present in hospital are well above the severely sub-normal level of intelligence. There is a large and challenging problem here, especially when one considers that only about one quarter of the staff in hospital schools are trained, and I cannot believe that local education authorities, if they are conscientious, will not find that they will need to give greater priority, both in capital and current expenditure, to these new responsibilities.

I now come to Clause 2, the one to which the noble Baroness paid such attention. I cannot altogether agree with what she said. It may well be that the clause is meant to apply to cases— and very rare cases—of exceptional hard-ship, but it certainly does not say so. As the clause reads at the moment it seems clearly to empower the Secretary of State to make supplementary grants to students in respect of their mistresses or, in the case of a female student, whatever the male equivalent may be. My Lords, we may be a permissive society, but we are not a libertine one and this provision is really more than we can take. Why should the taxpayer be asked to finance the student in these circumstances? I was surprised to see no sign of a blush on the face of the noble Baroness as she explained these provisions. Personally, I had put it down to a bit of electioneering on the part of the Government—an attempt to catch the students' vote. We shall certainly seek to amend this clause.

I am not at all clear about the procedure under this clause. The official handout that was given when the Bill was announced stated that the Department of Health and Social Security would assess and pay these special allowances, but the Bill itself says that the Secretary of State—presumably of Education and Science—may by regulations make pro-vision for the payment by him. I am confused as to whether this is a responsibility of the Department of Education and Science or whether it is the Department of Health and Social Security. In any case, although I fully agree that it may be right for supplementary grants for legitimate wives, husbands and children to be assessed and paid by the Secretary of State, I cannot believe that it is right to lay on him the responsibility for including mistresses and concubines. There may be a very few exceptional cases of hardship, but they are very few, as the noble Baroness said, and I should have thought that they should be treated in quite a separate way. Indeed, I should have thought that the right way to deal with them would be by means of the supplementary benefits provision. But as I have already said, I will read with great care what the noble Baroness has said to-day.

Finally, my Lords, I have nothing to say on Clause 3. It seems relatively un-contentious, but perhaps I may just inquire whether, in the case of postgraduate students, their grants also will take into account the degree of cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex that they may be enjoying. On the whole, I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading, although we shall certainly wish to amend it at the Committee stage.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to give a general welcome to this Bill. It does a number of worthwhile things. I shall have one major sin of omission to lay at its door, but on the whole it is a very good Bill. Clause 1 provides a reform which we all welcome, particularly those of us who have been interested in the education of mentally handicapped children. The borderline between health and education in this particular matter must be very hard to draw. We can have nothing but praise for the people on the health side who have been looking after these children in the past, just as we can look forward with confidence to their being looked after, once the Bill is made law, by those on the education side—and of course for many it will be exactly the same; it is merely a transfer from one Ministry to another.

It is, I think, extremely important that we should acknowledge, as we are acknowledging in this Bill, that virtually no child is ineducable, and even if there are some, no one knows which ones they are, and one cannot draw a line. Children, however bad their handicaps are, respond to some form of education. That came out very clearly when I asked an Unstarred Question and we had the debate on autistic children which has been very kindly referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. It came out clearly that children who otherwise would often have been written off as ineducable were able to be educated to a large degree. I have no doubt that it will be, above all for the parents, a tremendous relief to know that no longer will children be written off in this way but that acknowledgment is made that they are educable.

I would cordially endorse—if one can endorse a question, a point about which I am not sure—Lord Aberdare's question about what will happen to these children at the age of 16 if they are capable of further education, because that is something to which we must pay more and more attention. I agree with Lord Aberdare on the point about the teachers with the diploma; it seems to me that the extra five years of teaching which they are being asked to complete after receiving the diploma is hard, and I hope that the Government will have another look at this matter.

I now turn to Clause 2, which has been dubbed by the papers, and to a slight extent by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, as the "libertines' charter". I have never really believed in this. The thought of Mr. Short leading a campaign for the permissive society is not one which carries very much conviction. I do not really think that on this matter the Government can be accused of making an election issue for student votes, because one of the things I would lay against the Government at the present moment is that they are very much aware that votes are to be gained from the general public on anti-permissiveness, on a vieing with the Conservative Party on the subject of law and order; and to introduce this clause at this time is an act of courage rather than an act of vote-seeking. The fact that these regulations are to be made by the Secretary of State and are, we are told, to be laid before Parliament, seems to me a quite sufficient safeguard that they will not be abused.

It is extremely important that we see that people get the education from which they can benefit, and that true dependants are not in any way harmed by regulations drawn in too tight a way. I think that this clause, by taking over the work that the National Assistance Board was doing beforehand, makes sure that there will be no real hardship cases. I for one am perfectly prepared to accept the assurances of the Government that this provision will not be made into a sort of general hand-out for students' mistresses and lovers but will merely be a means of seeing that a very few hard cases, where children and other people would suffer, can be looked after. I must say I am a little perplexed by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who said, if I understood him rightly, that if you are going to have these exceptional cases and you are going to look after them, would it not be better to put them back to the National Assistance Board? I do not see why. If these cases are going to be paid for by the taxpayer anyway, why should they not be paid for through the regulations which make the most sense and where they fall most neatly into place?

It is on Clause 3, however, that I have my one complaint about this Bill. Although it is a complaint about something which is not in the Bill, I hope your Lordships will bear with me, the more so since I have been very brief on the previous two clauses. It is a complaint about the charges in the whole system of Regulations for postgraduate students, which have taken place not just in this Bill but over a period of time, and indeed very much over the last year.

There is one previous question, before I get on to this major one: the question of parental contributions. On that I should like to ask whether this clause may not lead to greater inflexibility in making awards in the less conventional areas of study. I am aware that the National Union of Students has certain misgivings about this matter.

But it is more important, I feel, that this Bill should have taken steps, or Regulations should have been made at the same time, to abolish parental means testing for this particular category of student. Indeed, as some of your Lordships will be aware, I am quite convinced that the whole system of giving students grants according to their parents' income, once the students have passed the age of 18 and therefore the age of majority, is a totally unjust one. It seems to me that this is where the Government might well correct an injustice and what is obviously an anomaly. The defence which has been made in this House by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and in another place by Mr. Fowler, that before the age of majority was changed to 18 the age for the ceasing of parental means testing was not 21, does not appear to me to be a very good defence. The fact that the age was 25 when the age of majority was 21 was silly and unjust, and the fact that it is still 25, now that the age of majority is 18, is even more silly and unjust.

And Mr. Fowler's accusation, made on January 30 in another place, of dereliction of parental duty by those parents who will not necessarily assist their children over the age of 18 is an unfair one. If we are giving grants to students, we should respect the age of majority. We have now taken the age of majority as 18, a time when young people take responsibilities, when they have freedom from what their parents can say to them. They may, and we hope they will, still accept parental guidance, but they should no longer be under the power of their parents as these particular clauses make them. It should not be within the power of parents, once students have reached the age of majority, to stop their children getting further education if they are able to profit from it; and that is the situation at the moment.

Even if the £ 35 or £ 40 million necessary to do away with the whole parental means test system is not available (and while in another place the Chancellor of the Exchequer is relaxing the economy, it seems to me there are worse ways in which it can be relaxed than in rectifying injustices, reducing anomalies and helping students), surely it can be done in this case of postgraduate students. Here is a case where the average age of the students is between 22 and 25. It really is absurd that no advantage should have been taken of this Bill or of the regulations which will accompany it, and which have been put into operation over the last year. Before a year ago there were many more cases in which parental means testing was not applicable. It is only over the last year that we have got to a stage, which is finally reached in this Bill, where all postgraduate student grants have parental means testing applied to them.

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, almost certainly will not be able to give me any assurance at this stage of the Bill; but I hope that what I am saying is something which the Government will take to heart. This is a real anomaly, which ought to be cleared up, and this would have been a good occasion to do it. But, with that exception, I, and I am sure all my colleagues on these Benches, wish this rather good Bill a fair wind, and certainly a better wind, as Lord Aberdare has said, than their present major Bill has got in another place.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on the fact that, at long last, the changes which he has been advocating for years are now to take place. I have no doubt that the proposal that this group of handicapped children should be put under the care of the Department of Education and Science will be generally welcomed. It seems particularly suitable in view of the tremendous development in the methods and techniques of teaching both mentally subnormal and handicapped children. It is perhaps worth saying here that colleges of education have already been planning courses of training for teachers in this field; and the Church training college at Culham has already had notable success in pioneering such courses.

I would say just two things in regard to Clause 1 of the Bill. I think that this is an occasion when we ought publicly to say how much this country is indebted to the devotion of the large number of people who spend their lives in hospitals and institutions, as well as in camps, caring for children who come into this category. From time to time, I visit hospitals of this kind, and I never cease to marvel at the extraordinary devotion which nurses seem to be able to give to these children. Recently there have been lamentable exceptions, and I think it is important that we should recognise what a remarkable thing it is that, faced with this tragedy—because it is a tragic situa-tion—so many people, including parents, respond with astonishing qualities.

Secondly, if the new proposals are to be successful this ought to be an occasion when there is a new support for voluntary help in this field. I found it interesting to observe the two reactions to the recent incident at the South Coast resort. There are still people who would like to push these things out of sight, and who are offended by or cannot bear the pain of seeing people in this unhappy position. But the really interesting thing is that once the matter became public there was a tremendous outburst of support and help from all sorts of voluntary agencies. I believe that this is still needed. Although the Bill will provide for the drawing up of statutory resources, there is still a tremendous amount that can be done by voluntary assistance, together with the statutory authority.

This is particularly true in those cases of children who are not in homes, hospitals or institutions but are still cared for by their parents. I believe that few people, except those who have been in close contact with these cases, can know of the tremendous strain that is placed upon a mother, day in and day out, who has to care for a child like this. I hope that it will be possible for women's organisations of various kinds to help in some way to provide the kind of rest and relaxation which is needed if that sort of work is to be done.

I come to Clause 2; and, having read it and having listened to the noble Baroness, I must say that this does not seem to me to be anything more than a change of procedure. I think it is a grave mistake to try to make out that here is some new matter of principle. I think it has been made quite clear that what is proposed, namely, a discretionary proposal, is in fact a change of procedure in dealing with certain cases. As I read the Bill, and as I listened to the noble Baroness, I did not find anything which suggested that in the case of a student cohabitating with a girl there would be any question of assistance, whatever form that assistance might take, except in cases where there is a child, although I think the noble Baroness referred also to cases of illness. Obviously, this would be a special case, and might or might not qualify. But surely the point is: what is to be done in a situation where two students have lived together and have had a child? It would of course be quite possible for us to take the view that this simply cannot be recognised; that this is an intolerable situation. But we must recognise it.

What happens then? Provided that the young man leaves the girl and her baby, and no longer cohabits with her, the law of the land provides that she is eligible for some form of social security. But, my Lords, is it a very moral procedure, just at the point where perhaps the young man is really feeling his responsibility to insist that he should cast off that responsibility in order that the girl may qualify in the only possible way for social security? The alternative is that he should give up his studies and undertake employment, and so be able to support the mother and child. There may be cases where this is proper. Again, this is made discretionary to the Ministry. But is it really in the best interests, either of the student or of the country, that a student in this situation, who, shall we say, is half-way through his training as a doctor, should be told, "You cannot continue to train any more; you must go off and get such job as you can in order to support the girl by whom you have had a child"? I do not think that this is a way of developing responsibility within the student himself, and I doubt very much whether this is the best way to use our resources.

It seems to me that over the last few years, as usually happens, we have found a procedure for dealing with these cases. It has really arisen out of practice. The proposal now is that these matters should be handled by a particular Department. Like the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I am not quite clear who is going to handle them. But I hope that this particular Department will have some specialised understanding and knowledge in dealing with cases of this kind.

The figures which the noble Baroness gave us made quite clear what a small percentage of cases is involved, and I am quite sure that we ought not to get the whole thing exaggerated. I think it un-likely that the percentage will get much larger. Nevertheless, it seems to me that we ought to be ready to recognise that under this clause there may be claims for support, not as a result of any exercise in permissiveness, but through this tendency of the younger generation to get married much earlier. I belong to a generation which did not think in these terms, but I believe that we have to recognise that for many young students the age when they are likely to get married is now much younger than it used to be. It may be part of their own insecurity, or of the insecurity in the world in which they live, but I do not think we should be too worried if in fact the number of married students increases roughly in proportion to the marriage age of the rest of their particular age group.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has dealt so ably with the first part of this Bill that I should merely like to make a short intervention on Clause 2(4). I am sorry to find myself at variance both with the Church and with the noble Baroness. She did her best to give us an explanation which, of course, we shall look at carefully, but it was one about which I did not really feel very happy. This clause enables a claim to be made by a man or a woman cohabiting with a man or a woman, for the maintenance of his illegitimate child—or should it be children? I am not quite sure whether it is restricted to one child or whether it can be an increased family.

I think this is going too far. We are living in a very permissive society, but there must come a time when the public is supported when it takes a certain view. I know it is suggested that this is, as it were, merely a transfer of payments from one Department to another. But I think it is much more than that, because it gives the impression abroad that by putting it in the hands of the Secretary of State for Education the educational world is sanctioning this sort of behaviour. That is what I object to. If these people have to be supported, let them be supported by the Department of Health and Social Security; but that the educational world should take over this responsibility and, as it were, sanction this sort of behaviour is bad from the public point of view. When I was up at Oxford those who got engaged were sent down. It was considered that we were there to take advantage of studying, and that if we got engaged obviously our minds were not on our studies. I think that was a fairly reasonable point of view. I am glad to say that I escaped both engagement and being sent down by rather a narrow squeak.

Education in the proper, broadest sense is not just restricted to learning; it is the education of the whole man, character training in the best sense of the words, and the accumulation—sometimes a very painful one—of worldly wisdom. Living in sin, as it used to be called (and I personally see no reason for altering that way of expressing it), and having illegitimate children is not only not being very worldly wise, it is throwing a burden on the community, on your honest and upright neighbour, for your own failures. If such people wish to study, and the community in its generosity (at the taxpayers' expense) wishes to support them, then I say let it be done by the proper Department and not by giving the imprimatur, the sanction, of the educational world. It is such a bad example to set to those young people who are decent, upright, and want to live a proper life. I do not think that we could have had a greater contrast than at this present moment, when three brave men, disciplined, calm, and facing death, are manoeuvring their space ship back to the earth—and I am sure with the prayers of everybody in the world behind them. Those three young men will no doubt be heroes in their country for many years to come, and their country will be very proud of them. We here, on the other hand, are now underwriting, as it were, the feckless, irresponsible young men and women, and taking money to support them from their honest, decent-living neighbours.

There was a time when the British characters was well known all over the world as one of the finest elements, respected everywhere, and the English-man's word was his bond. It seems to me that now, slowly but surely in this permissive society, those sterling qualities of our countrymen are being undermined, and I feel that this Bill, with the encouragement which is given by the Government, is just another step in that direction. I hope that when the time comes and we go into Committee there will be an Amendment, and I shall vote against the inclusion of this subsection.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, this is a curious little measure. It is called an Education Bill, and it has, I suppose, three clauses of most significance. I do not object in any sense to Clauses 1 and 3, but in between these two clauses there is Clause 2, which introduces a new principle in this country which must cause widespread concern. I hope that nobody here has ever formed the opinion that I am puritanical. I am not a bit puritanical, and I am very well aware of how people live and how youth lives to-day. My own deep feeling on this matter is that the Government, at this difficult time, should give a lead to the youth of the country.

This Bill carries an innocent title; it reminds the doctor of the necessity to sugar a pill, and somebody might well say, "Well, there is some significance in that". I feel—and having listened to my noble friend I am certain—that this represents another piece of ill-digested legislation which I would ask the Government to regurgitate. In fact, when we all read that very long statement made by my noble friend, which obviously is an after-thought which has been given to her to-day, I think we shall be able to discover, I am pleased to say, that the Government have made a collosal error in framing the Bill in this way. I have read the Bill and the 1965 University Awards Regulations (which of course have to be read to understand the Bill) over and over again, and everything I am saying this afternoon, as one should on a Second Reading, is related to just that.

I have the feeling that there are wise people who are saying, "Take this back. Let us save our face, but don't let it go forward as it is in the Bill to-day". Of course I am referring specifically to Clause 2(4), which says clearly that it provides for the mistress of a male student, or the lover of a girl student, to qualify for a Government grant similar to that of the wife of a husband. I feel that the Government are conspiring with the "pop" films and some modern literature to give the impression that sex before marriage is not only right but that it should be encouraged, and indeed rewarded by the taxpayer. Because where is this money to come from? No money for the nurses—we cannot afford it; but the taxpayer is to be called upon to give this sex subsidy. I would say that this Bill also encourages young people to bring children into the world who are denied the right to exist within a stable, permanent relationship. That relates to what my noble friend has just said on the subject of children. Any encouragement of this kind to the students does not mean that they will ever suffer in the future; it is the child who is brought into the world who is going to suffer.

I really feel that the country should now be told by the Government whether chastity and virginity have any intrinsic value at all. We are told—I think my noble friend mentioned it—that this pro-vision will only concern mature students. Surely a student's lack of maturity is well established if he has to keep a mistress as a crutch to help him study. In the field of medicine, I remember that in my day men students accepted the fact that they had years of training before them. They had to put up with it; they had to discipline themselves. Nobody ever suggested that in order for those years of medical training to be made a little easier the Government would come along and finance a nice mistress for you. Furthermore, if a student is prepared to permit a young taxpayer, sweating in a mine, a factory or a shipyard, to help to support his mistress, that proves his immaturity. Why should not all we have heard about this Bill be applied to apprentices? Why should it not be applied to other categories of workers? Why only the pampered student? As a feminist, I feel very strongly that this provision makes a girl vulnerable to pressure from a selfish, undisciplined young man who, whether he becomes her lover, as he can do, at 25, or takes her as his mistress at 25, can qualify for a grant. I have looked up the 1965 regulations and they indicate that a girl student of 21 can take a lover, and a male student can take a mistress who is under 21.

I have a few questions which I should like to ask. As cohabitation, unlike marriage, is terminable at a minute's notice, is the student permitted to change partners and to retain the grant? Also, how often will this be permitted? Are we to have regulations setting out this nonsense, which will be read by every country in the world and make us a laughing stock? The taxpayer is going to pay a grant and "How many mistresses can you have?" will become the question. We shall soon have protests from Liverpool saying, "We believe in three mistresses, not one".

It seems to me that once again a Bill has been introduced which is designed to increase the load which a woman will have to bear in the permissive society: for it is she who will have to care for an illegitimate child and bear the accompanying stigma. My noble friend Lady Phillips knows the gossip of universities as I do. If a girl sleeps with a man, do your Lordships think the gossip goes around, "Ah, it was only one man"? I think the modern expression is, ''She sleeps around". But that expression is never applied to men. This is a Bill which is heavily loaded against women. Noble Lords may laugh, but they should think of their daughters. It is the girl who suffers. The Divorce Reform Act was loaded against the women, and here is another Bill of the same kind. It amazes me that a Labour Government have approved a measure which is detrimental to the morals of our young people and designed to undermine the institution of marriage.

I want to say to my noble friend Lady Phillips that I am sorry for her. She has been given this unpleasant task, and the more she tries to explain the Bill away the worse it becomes. Whatever she says, the regulations do not alter the principle. With full employment there is little difficulty in earning a living for three years to qualify for a subsidised mistress or lover. That is one of the qualifications. On the question of maturity which is being stressed, my noble friend must have learned that academic brilliance and stability are not necessarily related. She knows—and we do not have to look far from this place—that there are men who have done brilliantly at Oxford or Cambridge but who seem to be suffering from delayed adolescence. This Bill provides a suit- able bedfellow for the new Divorce Reform Act.

The Government should have given more thought to the recent resignation of Sir Jocelyn Simon—that wonderful man, the President of the Divorce Court— from the Divorce Law Reform Union. He resigned after reading an article written by the Parliamentary Officer of that organisation (which guided the House on the Divorce Reform Act), who wrote: Either it will become perfectly acceptable at all levels of society that the young will live together unmarried, or else a divorce in the mid-twenties will become accepted as a perfectly ordinary part of life. Society will be forced to recognise this factor. In his letter of resignation, Sir Jocelyn said: The author may well be right that this problem of behaviour is a likely result of the Divorce Reform Act, but it hardly seems to be a situation which an organisation devoted to the promotion of stable marriages should view with complacency, much less give implied approval to. It appears that the attitude expressed by that member of the Divorce Law Reform Union, which, as I have said, supported the Divorce Reform Act, is reflected in the Bill before us to-day. Indeed, this may be one method of forcing society in the direction he indicated in that article.

Another point which I want to make to my noble friend Lady Phillips is that it seems that Clause 2 has established that needs have nothing to do with morals. In that case., can we expect some amending legislation? I ask that question because, if a widow in receipt of a small State pension cohabits with a man, the pension can be withdrawn. However, provided that the lover has a separate address, although he may have sexual intercourse daily, her pension will be unaffected. It would be interesting to know whether the same rules apply to this new sex subsidy for students? Can they live apart but, provided they prove that they are having regular sexual inter-course, qualify for the grant? Then, my Lords, housing being in short supply, are the Government prepared to get over this administrative difficulty by helping co-habiting students with accommodation, in order not to deny the poor little darlings the sex subsidy?

When are we going to stop harming our young people by spoiling them? Throughout the country do we not see youths demonstrating, protesting—spoilt boys who are enjoying an education that was denied to their fathers and grand-fathers. What do we do? Instead of bringing in some legislation which may control them, we introduce this Bill in order to allow them licence in another form. Why should not a student learn the virtues of discipline and control, instead of being rewarded for indulging in pre-marital sex? What my noble friend said about children only emphasises the point. In other words, we say to them, "If you are unfortunate enough to bring a child into the world, don't worry; the Minister of Education will come along and look after it for you." I say again, apart from the principle involved, that it is the girl who is at risk. It is she and her illegitimate child who are to be the victims of this latest piece of permissive legislation.

I want to deal with what the right reverend Prelate said. I was rather surprised that he adopted such a very simple, easy attitude. I do not think he can have given the Bill very careful thought. The argument that this is simply a transference of funds from supplementary benefits to education is, in my opinion, cynical in the extreme. I suspect that that is an administrative afterthought. I was a Minister of National Insurance, and I always regarded supplementary benefit (or national assistance, as it was called in those days) as a net in which to catch all those unfortunate people who did not qualify for insurance benefits—people like the un-married mother and her child. Such assistance could hardly be said to en-courage extra-marital sexual intercourse. The grant to be given to cohabiting students, under the auspices now, I under-stand, of the Ministry of Education, is a positive incentive to sexual licence with official approval. Here is the great difference: the other allowance, of course, had to be asked for, and there was a careful investigation; but here it is going to be practically automatic.

My Lords, this provision has been injected into a Bill called an Education Bill, and we may well ask: "Education, what for?" Has sex education come to such a pass that the Government have decided to adopt an indulgent attitude towards irresponsibility, and, indeed, promiscuity? And do not let us feel that that is an over-statement. This legislation is opposed to the principles about which most women feel strongly. I knew that the name of the noble Baroness who has just spoken appeared on the Paper only just before the House sat, and we have not discussed the matter. But it is rather significant that both of us, though politically absolutely opposed, and both having been to university, having given thought to this, should have come to the same conclusion: that this was a fundamental mistake on the part of the Government. My Lords, when the next Election comes, if the pundits are bewildered by the abstention of women, they should consider whether what has kept women away from the polls is not the price of food but the price which has to be paid by themselves, by women, and their daughters, for some of the permissive legislation which has now been put on the Statute Book.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, parents of mentally handicapped children all over the country have been campaigning for the transfer of responsibility for the education of their children from health to education. The thought behind this enthusiasm was that at long last the teachers of their children would become highly qualified teachers, and their children first-class citizens in the educational world. I have always been a sceptic, in that I feared it would entail simply a switch from one Ministry to another, with little advancement to the teachers or the pupils. I can see that in the short-time period my fears have been realised in the implications of this Bill. In my opinion—and I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will agree with me in principle—the teachers of mentally handicapped children, and indeed E.S.N. children, need the greatest skill, patience and endurance if they are to obtain the best results from their pupils.

The education of the mentally handicapped child is of the greatest importance to itself and to its family. I am privileged to be a member of the Training Council of Teachers of the Mentally Handicapped, representing on that Council the parents' point of view; and the decision of the Minister of Education that after receiving the Diploma of the Training Council's two-year course, which is the only recognised diploma in this country, teachers will have to wait five years before becoming qualified for full teacher status, came as a considerable shock. I understand that some concessions have been made, and our chairman, Professor Clarke, of the Department of Psychology of the University of Hull, is leading a deputation from the Council to meet the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Short, on the 27th of this month to discuss this situation. I can only say, my Lords, that unless reasonable concessions are agreed upon I shall find it very difficult to remain on the Council as the position which I hold at present, representing parents on the Council, is in no way served by the Minister's decision.

My Lords, may I now turn to the changeover as it affects hospital schools? We have in the hospitals a number of abandoned children, and indeed a great number of those who are far from abandoned but who for various reasons are unable to live at home. The Education Act at present in force lays down the obligation of all parents to ensure that their children attend school. In the changeover of the mentally handicapped to education, how far does this responsibility rest on the hospital authorities? In Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, we have 340 menially handicapped children. Of this number, only 120 attend our special training school. Of this 120, approximately 20 are borderline cases, in the sense that there is some doubt as to whether they can benefit from the training that is given to them in the school. The standard for deciding whether a mentally handicapped child is capable of obtaining benefit from training is in the hands of the psychological department, who test all the children.

When this hospital became a comprehensive hospital, dealing with all aspects of child care, the case was put to the Regional Board, and I believe to the Ministry, as to whether there should be enough teachers and adequate schools to give education to all the children on the mentally handicapped side. It was then decided that we could have teachers only for those who were regarded by the psychologists as trainable. Personally, I feel that the present arrangement is wise, but in view of the Bill before us I think we should know the thinking of the Government on this subject.

If we accept a ratio of one teacher to fifteen pupils—and that must be right—we shall need another fifteen teachers, which at present rates of pay would entail an increased cost of something in the region of £ 12,000 annually—in one hospital. I am asking this question as parents may insist on their children going to school, and the hospital may be put in a very difficult situation from the point of view of both accommodation and teaching staff. Here, I got a little bit bewildered. Did I understand the noble Baroness to say that, under this Bill, these children about whom I have spoken, those who are definitely cast out from school by the psychologists, will remain under the health authorities? From the reaction of the noble Baroness, I gather that I must have misunderstood the position.

Now I turn to another point. I understand that the salaries of teachers who are qualified under the Training Council Diploma will be decided by the Burnham Committee. I trust that there will be an improvement on the present salaries; otherwise, it is extremely unlikely that we shall get trained teachers to take on this arduous and essential work. On the takeover, it is important for us in the hospital world to know whether Burnham school holidays will be available to the teachers. At the moment they get far less than those in the normal schools, which is a great detriment to recruiting. If these holidays are decided upon, we must know at once, as it will mean that the children will be in the wards for far longer periods and it will require reorganisation of the nursing side of the hospital.

It would appear that the education authorities have not fully considered all the implications of this takeover. It is of vital importance that the plans of the Government are fully understood prior to the takeover, otherwise chaos may ensue. I have given the noble Baroness notice of some of these questions. Naturally I do not ask for immediate replies to those on which I have been unable to give her notice, but it may be that, after consideration, she will be able to let me know the views of the Government so that I can consider them for a further stage of the Bill.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that this Bill will receive a general welcome not only in this House but in the country, and I think we should be clear that there is no implication that the health authorities have not done their duty properly or even admirably. In the majority of cases, the chief medical officer, upon whom a great deal of responsibility rests in these matters, is also the health education officer, and it is within my knowledge that very great care is taken by these officers before a child is declared ineducable. The same problem at that end will still remain. The advantage will be that the children will not be divided into two categories; they will come into one category—they will be children, and they will be the responsibility of the education authorities.

One thing that I hope will arise from this Bill is that we shall not talk so much of training children who have been regarded as ineducable but that we shall begin to educate them. "Training" has never seemed to me to be a good word when used in regard to children. The object of education is to teach children to take their place in the world as they are best fitted to do. The object here is, has been and will continue to be, precisely the same. A child regarded as ineducable in the ordinary sense must be taught if it is possible to teach it. In many ways it is possible and, with new knowledge and new factors arising, more and more children are being taught to enjoy some life. They may not become valuable economic units—that is not what we are concerned with. We are concerned that a child should be taught to enjoy life to the best of his ability. In that respect this Bill should help us a good way forward.

I think there has been some exaggerated talk—and some of it in this House—on Clause 2. Clause 2 alters nothing at all. It merely brings into the daylight something which has been going on for a long time. Whether or not it ought to have gone on I am not arguing the merits of the case; I am not arguing morality. The fact remains that these things are now brought under the education umbrella, having previously been the responsibility of social security in some form or another. What I cannot understand is why it is not to remain there. I am not arguing about the necessity to make this change, for I believe it is necessary. I am not arguing about the question of the mistress, the able-bodied mistress sometimes helps maintain her partner or vice versa; because there are cases, in spite of what the noble Baroness has said, where males are taken into care by females. It is not always as one-sided as it is made to appear.

In any case, it seems to me that this is a proper matter for social security. In fact, I think that we ought to deal with education purely as education. Extraneous matters such as maintenance or dependants ought to be the responsibility of social security. It is a social security matter and not an education matter. I am surprised that it has been brought into this Bill. I think it would have been far better to have a clear-cut decision that it should be taken as social security. There do not have to be separate payments, there are plenty of avenues existing for single payments to be made where the benefits come from more than one source. There is no question of the indignity of having to go to draw supplementary benefits. They can be drawn through a single channel. It would keep us clear on what we are spending on education and what we are spending on social security. The country ought to know these things, ought to know how it spends its money. I hope that it might be possible to reverse this tendency. I know that social security wanted to get rid of it—and, presumably, to get rid of the cost of it, too, and to make it part of the cost of education. But I do not think that that is the right way. I hope that some reconsideration will be given to this matter.

I think Clause 3 will be generally welcomed. It makes clear where the channel of responsibility lies for postgraduate courses. These are of various kinds; some are short and some are long. In the case of the long courses, I must con-fess that I am a reactionary. It seems to me that it would not hurt if persons who have already received education grants to get to a satisfactory degree state so that they can earn a reasonable living, and who want to go on to get another and higher degree (usually to command a higher salary in the market), were obliged at some stage to pay something back toward what the State has been prepared to spend on them. I know that as a result of these postgraduate courses they become of greater value to the community, but they also become of infinitely greater value to themselves. When a person of 23 or 24 years of age has per-haps gone into industry for a couple of years and then decides to go for a higher degree—for example a B.Sc. wishing to attain an M.Sc.—I think it proper that he should be encouraged to do so. But I do not think that he should be encouraged entirely on the basis of the responsibility of the State. At that stage—and not at any earlier stage—provided that they are enabled to earn a much increased income as a result of post-graduate courses, I should like to see them recognise their responsibility to the State. I should like to reverse the process and put a little more responsibility on the person. Beyond that. I would give a general welcome to the Bill. The important part of the Bill is Clause 1 and I hope that we shall do nothing to imperil that.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, like one or two other speakers I want to speak on Clause 2(4) of the Bill. So far as Clause 1 is concerned, I know nothing about the education of handicapped children but I thoroughly approve of the clause, and in this regard I thought that the observations of my noble friend Lord Aberdare on the qualifications of teachers were very pertinenit. We should spare no efforts in regard to the education of handicapped children. When we come to Clause 2(4) about which we have already heard quite a lot, I find myself on the side of the two noble Baronesses who have spoken. In fact, on the Divorce Reform Bill I was really on the side of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and one or two other noble Ladies, which may rather surprise them. It may appear that we are strange bedfellows—no, my Lords, that would be the wrong expression!—I mean it is strange that we should think alike.


My Lords, I was thinking the same thing.


We have become used to students, or militant students, expecting, apparently, to choose their own teachers and to do away with examinations, so perhaps we ought to regard Clause 2 of the Bill as a mild adventure of the Government. Certainly, the modern State appears to impress on students that the world owes them a living; but I think it is extraordinary—in fact, this is the first time we have heard of it—that apparently the world also owes them a mistress. I deplore that this should appear in a Government Bill.

There may be cases of hardship, and if the hardship is genuine it should be dealt with in other ways; through National Assistance. This is bad propaganda for the Government, and although of course I ought to welcome that, it is also bad propaganda for the country that this should appear in a Government Bill. I think that some high-up person in politics actually said that he regarded the modern age as the most civilised age we have ever had. No doubt a great many so-called progressives will agree with the provisions in subsection (4). I am sure that Dr. Leach, Provost of King's, who gave the extremely controversial Reith Lectures will approve. I am equally sure that the great majority of the British public will thoroughly disapprove.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, pointed this out as being an example of great courage on the part of the Government. He may well be right. Perhaps it is, but I think it is an example of gross stupidity. It is an insult to married people. The corner-stone of a civilised community is the family. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, glossed over the words and said that they would apply to only a few people; but that is not the point, it is the principle that matters. My first thought on reading the subsection was that there had been some mistake in the printing, but apparently there was not, and one has to accept this as being what the Government intend.

My Lords, I find myself in a difficulty. I have always thought it unfair that illegitimate children should suffer under any disability because of their illegitimacy. It is not their fault that they are illegitimate; we should blame the parents. An illegitimate child ought to benefit from any State hand-outs in the same way as other children. But I object to the parents of illegitimate children benefiting from their lack of discipline. I am no saint, but one has to keep up certain standards in public, and it is monstrous to find that mistresses and lovers are to receive grants from the State from what is, after all, taxpayers' money. It is extraordinary, and I am very surprised at Her Majesty's Government.

It is even worse in respect of the man because, presumably, if a woman who is a student receives an award, and provided that they are over 25, the man concerned can benefit from the grant and so he is just a gigolo. This is extraordinary legislation. Even during the last days of the Roman Empire, when the Roman citizens were being spoonfed into oblivion by the "Welfare State," there was nothing like this. I know my Gibbon fairly well, but I can find no reference to grants being paid for mistresses.

I ask the Government to think again about this measure. The majority of people in this country are tired of the permissive society; they are tired of their children being the prey of drug pedlars and of their property being broken into. We want to tighten up on the permissive society. But this measure, as some noble Lord said, turns it into the libertine society. I have always thought that if you have too many hand-outs from the State, eventually you will destroy the self-reliance and sense of responsibility of the British people. I agree that hard-ship and misfortune which is not the fault of the person concerned must be alleviated, but I implore the Government seriously to consider any Amendments which may be moved in respect of Clause 2, either by noble Lords opposite or on this side of the House, and to consider redrafting subsection (4) so that it does not read as at present.

The Arts Council is a Government body and I understand that it pays, or has paid, the fines imposed on individuals who have broken the law. If we can go as far as that, I suppose we could go as far as is provided in subsection (4) of Clause 2. But I hope that when she replies to the debate the noble Baroness will give the House some assurance that during the Committee stage the Government will try to amend this clause. As I said before, my Lords, it is very bad publicity for this country, and will make us a laughing stock in many countries.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I will be brief, but I should like to deal with a point raised by the right reverend Pre-late the Bishop of Lincoln He is not in the Chamber at present, but presumably he reads Hansard. I went one better than the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, because I got engaged while I was a student, but I was not married until I had taken my degree. My grand-son did one better than me because he got engaged and was married when he was a student, but he did not have a family until he was a self-supporting schoolmaster. I think that not enough emphasis has been laid upon the difference between getting married when you are a student and keeping a wife or even keeping a concubine when a student, if your wife or concubine is not dependent or made dependent by having a child. That is another question. But I think that if one accepts a Government grant to become a student, one must refrain from producing a dependent family. If you have children, you will have, in effect, a dependent wife.

The right reverend Prelate said that people are marrying younger. No doubt they are; but they are also marrying women who are and can be independent. When I think of the mature student, the man I have in mind is the sort of man to whom we used to give grants for higher education through the Extramural Department of London University. He would be a man who had had no opportunity of higher education after the age of 15 or 16 and who, after he had been for some time a wage earner, had become a devoted and hardworking W.E.A. student. Naturally he had a wife and perhaps dependent children. If he was regarded as a suitable person for a grant to enable him to take two or three years of study for a degree or a diploma, the grant would be awarded, and if he had dependants extra payment would be given him for the purpose of keeping them. And I think rightly. That is the sort of mature student we should encourage. But on consideration I really think that Clause 2 of this Bill opens the door rather too widely, whether in practice or merely in public conciousness, to the horrible behaviour indicated as a possibility by my noble friend Lady Summerskill.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I want to say just a few words on Clause 2(4). I speak because of some of the things that have been said by previous speakers. Not one of them has denied that these situations exist. In these situations the most important persons are the children, and having listened to the noble Baroness sitting immediately in front of me I am very worried lest, if there is much of that kind of talk, the children of these associations will find themselves labelled not only as illegitimate but, as they used to be fifty years ago, as bastards. I think that in the interests of the children, who are the innocent people in these situations, whatever may be thought about them, the language in discussing this matter ought to be reasonably restrained.

There has been no suggestion, certainly no proof, that by transferring the cost of maintaining these mothers and children to the Department of Education and Science there will be any increased cost to the community. That needs to be borne in mind. I can appreciate what I may refer to as the reasonable attitude of my noble friend Lord Pargiter. Frankly, if we are not going to spend any more money and if these situations already exist, I think that in the interests of the children we ought most seriously to consider paying these allowances in such a manner as will encourage the development of a stable home background, and I would make an appeal that serious thought be given to what I regard as the courageous statement of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln. I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, in what he said about this matter, for it would have been easy for the Government to dodge this one and very easy for them to have dropped it. But I believe that there is a considerable case in the interests of the children for treating this matter in a serious and constructive way.


My Lords, I apologise for intervening in this debate without putting my name down and also for having missed part of it, but that was not my fault. I thought that my noble friend had explained Clause 2 very clearly and coolly enough to damp down some of those whom I call members of the Puritan League. I think it was unwise of the Government to bring this clause forward to play into their hands, and it may be that the clause was a kind of Civil Service backlash. I simply cannot understand why the Supplementary Benefits Commission could not continue to deal with such a small number of people. It seems to me that the whole thing is a storm without any good reason.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, I must say I find it difficult to reply to this debate, not because of the suggestion that I was loaded with something which was difficult, because if you are a Minister you have to deal with all kinds of legislation presented to you, but because some of the noble Lords who have participated in the debate have ranged rather far and made it difficult for me to be coherent. Therefore, if I miss what they may regard as important questions, I apologise and will have to communicate with them by letter.

Let me say at once to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, that as a keen historian I am very much tempted by what he said about the Roman Empire; but if he really wants classic cases of mistresses and children being kept on public money he has only to look at the Regency period. There seems to me to be a slight element of class discrimination when he brings in students and their mistresses; but I leave that aside at the moment. It is not my duty to give a discourse on morality or say whether sex immorality is the only kind of immorality there can be, though I think that there are worse kinds of immorality than sex immorality. I have to deal with Clause 2.

I am sorry that the noble Baroness did not like my explanation. I tried to emphasise that this was a discretionary power. It is not mandatory on the saviour State to keep all illegitimate children. This seems to be the emphasis that has been placed upon it. It is a discretionary power which will be exercised by regulations, and it is likely that when we see these regulations they may well place the emphasis on the children. As we have tried to emphasise, no student is going to be allowed to keep a wife or a mistress (if I may use this word, which is too often emotive) or someone with him unless there is a child. I thought I made that clear.


It is not in the Bill.


The regulations still have to come before the House. The provision in subsection (4) which seems to worry everybody is to regularise the situation which is at present accepted by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. The Supplementary Benefits Com-mission cannot continue to pay money to fit men who are not available for employment: and a student cannot be deemed to be available for employment.


Have they been doing it up to date? If so, why has the situation changed now?


They have been paying it up to date. I said that this was a temporary arrangement, which came in as a result of discussions in 1964—in case it might be suggested that this Government was the one which brought this about. It would be waste-ful—I do not think any noble Lord has contradicted this—to discontinue training in the middle of a course. It is equally true that many students have long courses. I know that several noble Lords have pointed out that when they were in college they wailed patiently; and I am sure that this is true. But I want to say that this is equally true of the majority of students to-day. The majority of students are sensible, responsible young people. I think it is unfortunate that the noble Viscount should bring in the question of protesting and people breaking up things, which has nothing whatever to do with the Bill that we are discussing to-day. As I say, I think it is unfortunate, because we have already had far too much of this in the Press, and it is something that is right away from the main point under discussion. This is the transference of a payment.

I am bound to say that there is a slight element of the attitude, "If we don't know about it, it doesn't matter too much"; but the moment that it is put into an Act of Parliament you know that some people cohabiting are entitled to this payment. Perhaps I may repeat that this is related to the children, where there are children. We have never accepted in the British Constitution the idea that a woman should neglect her children in order to go to work to maintain them. This is really what is being said if this is taken conversely. I am sorry that some noble Lords have sug- gested that they may try to change this clause. If they do, I think they must be clear about what they are trying to change. If they succeed in taking this out of the Bill, then they will be throwing it back on to the Supplementary Benefits Commission, who should not be paying money to this man at all. So this is not so simple as merely deleting this clause. I will leave that point there.

I was very heartened by the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, because I am bound to say (and I say it in no sense of being unctious) that, as somebody who tries to be a Christian, when I deal with legislation or when I sit in court I constantly have before me the thought that one must exercise justice and mercy; that "There but for the grace of God go I." It is too easy to criticise. On the point that this is a mistress living with a student, I would ask: what about the woman who would like to marry the man, but is prevented from doing so for various reasons? She may well have a religious faith which forbids divorce; there are all sorts of reasons. When we come down to numbers, there are about 1,000 students receiving this money, the vast majority of whom are married. We must keep this thing in proper perspective. I can say no more on that point. Noble Lords can return to it during the Committee stage if they so wish. I hope that the Press will not put me forward as a propagator of sex subsidies for students.

When we come to the matters dealt with in Clause 1, I have some answers to the various comments made by noble Lords; but others are lengthy and, with permission, I will reply in more detail in writing to the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Grenfell: they will know that I will not omit to do this.

On the question of the responsibility of educating the children in hospital, I indicated by nodding to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that it will become the responsibility of the education authority. Obviously some kind of testing will have to take place, and it will be worked out from that point on. But these children are part of the Bill. I have taken note of the other specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell.

On the important question about teachers who will become of qualified status, which I think was raised also by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, there is one matter in relation to the five years. As the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, will know, at the moment, within the present structure, the period is ten years. The five years seem to be a reasonable period of time, and one that would give a large number of the teachers qualified teacher status already, because they would have done the five years and would qualify. Those who at the moment are in training will have the opportunity to move over to other courses. This is in the process of being worked out. The right reverend Prelate made some reference to the fact that colleges of education are already considering this matter. I do not think there will be any hardship: in fact, if I may fall back on the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, he said quite categorically that no member of staff would be worse off. He would not say this lightly.


My Lords, I think that what those who are interested in this aspect want to see is not that they are no worse off, but that they are better off.


I take the noble Lord's point, and I know of his great concern in this subject. As he mentioned, there are to be some discussions later this month.

On the question of the qualified teacher status, I would only remind the noble Lord (I am sure he is well aware of it) that this will entitle them, when they are qualified, to teach any child in any school. Since they have entered the profession in a slightly different way, one has to exercise some caution here because one is discussing with existing teachers who, as will be known, are very chary of any change in case there is what they call "back-door entry".


My Lords, it seems to me that the fact that these teachers have taught mentally handicapped children for another five years will not in any way increase their qualifications for teaching in normal schools. Equally, those teaching in normal schools will have no special qualifications for teaching in schools for the mentally handicapped. I feel, as the Scott Report felt, that there should be some course for each category to learn the other's trade.


My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, at the moment the position is balanced against the qualified teachers, who have to take a course if they are going to move to teach children in special schools, whereas those who will now come in as qualified teachers will not have taken the same general course as the present teachers. What I can assure noble Lords is that a large number of these people will automatically move into this because they will already have the five years. These are things which must be worked out. I think I can leave it there. I have taken note of the point made by the noble Lord, and I know from his distinguished record in this field that he will not leave the matter until he is happy about it.

Perhaps I might pick up one point in the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln which I have omitted to mention. I did pay tribute to the work of the health authorities, and this of course is very meaningful. There is no doubt, reading some of the documents that have come through, dry as dust as they are, that what they have done is remarkable. To those who work for the mentally handicapped I would certainly say that nobody could pay them sufficient tribute. I feel that every little bit of propaganda suggesting that some are not as good as others must be very hurtful to those people who have worked in this field all their lives.

I believe that the volunteer must be used. I have had a number of letters from mothers who have mentally handicapped children, and I wish there were time to read them to your Lordships. They are touching in the extreme, and as the right reverend Prelate said, only those who care for either the physically handicapped child at home or the mentally handicapped child, or those children who are both, can know the terrible strain under which they live. Any scheme of volunteers would certainly be something we should give our attention to.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, referred to the parental contribution. I take his point: I should probably have done exactly the same thing in his situation, and used the opportunity to bring this. in. He said that further extensions of the principle would be a matter of priority in education expenditure. When we discussed this earlier I think I pointed out that very substantial sums would be involved if this were to be dropped at this point of time. This is not to say that changes will not take place, but I should be doing the case less than justice if I suggested that his very eloquent plea would be accepted at this point of time. However, it is always under review.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness would bear in mind this thought while it is under review: that although it would cost a great deal, as I said in my speech, to abolish it altogether, it could possibly be tackled from the top end and from the top age limit a little bit at a time.


My Lords, I took note of that point. I do not think that any other noble Lords raised any other specific point to which I can reply this evening. But this does not mean that I have not taken note of them. I hope that this Bill is not going to have too stormy a passage through the House, because I hope that those noble Lords who are so opposed to Clause 2 will appreciate that this is not a mandatory claim upon the Secretary of State to subsidise students' mistresses: this is a discretionary clause to deal with cases of hardship where children are involved. If we keep this in mind we are not so likely to get confused. The regulations may well contain the words "child" or "children". I hope that I may make the appeal to those of your Lordships who are under a misapprehension that they will think again before trying to delete this clause.


My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting but may I raise one point? Would the noble Baroness clear up a point in my mind about whether it is the Secretary of State for Education or the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security who is involved in this?


My Lords, I checked that, because I made the point in my speech. The Department of Health and Social Security will act as the agents for the Department of Education. It is the Secretary of State for Education who is concerned in this.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.