HL Deb 10 December 1973 vol 347 cc893-965

3.39 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it might be convenient and helpful if I were to intervene at this early juncture to give your Lordships some broad indication of the views of the Government up to now on the general question of corporal punishment, particularly in schools, and a brief account of the developments relevant to it which have taken place in recent years. At the end of the debate I will respond to the points that your Lordships make—or to some of the points that some of your Lordships make—in the course of the debate, and perhaps proffer some advice on the attitude that we might adopt to the Bill.

I think it is as well to recall the powers that my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State has in respect of corporal punishment in schools. The only stipulation which she makes which relates to corporal punishment is that a punishment book must be kept in schools by head teachers in which details of all cases of corporal punishment must be entered. The legal basis on which this provision rests is the right of the Secretary of State to call for returns and reports on this matter from local education authorities. While it is true that the Secretary of State does have powers to abolish corporal punishment by Regulation in special schools and direct grant schools, such powers do not extend to county or to voluntary maintained schools, which represent, as your Lordships know, the great majority of schools in this country; nor does it extend to independent schools. The attitude of the Government towards corporal punishment is quite simply and succinctly expressed in a reply given by my right honourable friend in another place on May 11, 1972, when she said: In my view this, like other questions of discipline in individual schools, is best left within the discretion of local education authorities, the managers of the schools and the teachers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 836. c. 1539.] She and I are, of course, aware of the view of many, not least the bodies representative of the teachers themselves, that corporal punishment is not a particularly effective agent of education, and we welcome the fact that its use is on the decline.

Our impression—and I would remind your Lordships that we are, through Her Majesty's Inspectors, in close touch with what is going on in schools—is that teachers are nowadays using the cane less and less. There is good reason to expect that this trend will continue and that in due time we shall indeed see what the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and her friends want to see; that is, the total disappearance of corporal punishment from schools. Certainly I would confirm what the noble Baroness has already said; that developments in teaching methods, in the social organisation of schools and in the design of school buildings are all contributing to encourage the emergence of warmer, more personal and more natural relationships between teachers and pupils. Furthermore, specific developments in remedial teaching and a significant growth in the schools' psychological service in many authorities are having a beneficial influence on the ways in which difficult children are handled.

In 1967 Lady Plowden, in her Report on Primary Education, recommended that while decisions on punishment should generally be left to the professional judgment of teachers, the infliction of pain as a method of punishment in primary schools should be forbidden. But (and this is a point I would like your Lordships to note in particular) she was by no means in favour of making caning a criminal offence—which is what this Bill does—nor was she in favour of proceeding by legislation, which of course is what the noble Baroness proposes to do. At the same time, as a result of a particular case attention was being focused on the possibility of abolishing corporal punishment in schools for handicapped children. There was also at this time considerable interest in the use of corporal punishment in approved schools and remand homes—and I shall say more about that later in the debate.

The then Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon Walker, issued a circular in January, 1968, in which he expressed the view —and presumably the view of the Government in which he served—that the practice of corporal punishment should disappear from schools, but he felt that the responsibility for achieving this was best left in the hands of local education authorities, governing bodies of schools and teachers, and I shall be interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, who is shortly to follow me, whether in fact his Party still take that view or, if they have changed it, why they have changed it. A draft circular was discussed with local authority associations, in connection with the issue of that circular to which I have just referred, in the early months of 1968. In the discussions leading up to the issue of that circular, it became very clear that further action to restrict or abolish corporal punishment would not command general support in the educational world and no steps have been taken, either by this Government or by their predecessor, to change the law further in any wholesale way, and none is in contemplation.

However, as the noble Baroness has said, in the last year or so a number of local education authorities have taken steps, as they are quite entitled to do and have been encouraged to do by the two statements of policy which I have just discussed, to restrict the use of corporal punishment in various ways. One authority, to which the noble Baroness has already alluded, earlier this year banned its use altogether in all its schools. Another—namely, ILEA—has, again as she said, from the beginning of this year prohibited its use in its primary schools. The important point to note, of course, is the extensive consultation which they had with their teachers and those concerned with primary schools before bringing that prohibition into force. Many authorities, in regulations governing corporal punishment, make its use contingent on the express permission of the head teacher or actually restrict its use to head teachers or to senior staff. It is very common for such regulations to forbid the canning of girls by male teachers.

I now turn briefly to the legal position, which is important as the Bill is proposing to introduce a criminal offence. So far as the administration of punishment to pupils is concerned, the position in law at present is that the teacher stands in loco parentis, as the noble Baroness has said. He owes to the children entrusted to his care the same degree of supervision as the law requires of a good and reasonable parent, and in dealing with a badly behaved child he is allowed the same powers of "reasonable chastisement" as the law grants to such a parent. This common law review of the right of punishment of a minor has been strengthened by statute, first in the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904, and again in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

Still continuing with the legal position, your Lordships will have noticed that the Bill is intended to be applied to Northern Ireland; and it also provides for its extension by Order in Council to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. I want at this early stage, before advising the House about the Bill in general, to make it quite clear to your Lordships that the Government could not accept either of these particular provisions. So far as Northern Ireland is concerned, this is a matter which it is expected will be the responsibility of the new Assembly and Executive, once power has been devolved upon them. It will be for them to consider what legislation, if any, is desirable in this field in Northern Ireland. The wishes of the Island Governments in this matter are not yet known, but it is virtually certain that they will regard the inclusion of such a provision of a Bill of this nature as being contrary to normal constitutional practice, as indeed it is. Corporal punishment is essentially a matter domestic to the Islands and one which is fully within the competence of their own Legislatures. There is a principle that Parliament does not legislate for the Islands on such matters, and I draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that this principle was recently endorsed by the Royal Commission on the Constitution in their recently published Report.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that subject would he clarify the position about Scotland, which he did not mention?


My Lords, what I have been saying about Northern Ireland and the Islands does not apply with the same force to Scotland or to Wales. I say "with the same force", but I do not want to develop that part extensively now because if possible I want to reflect upon what your Lordships have to say. It is the sweeping nature of these changes, their application to the entire United Kingdom, without in our view sufficient attention to local variations and to local attitudes and conditions, that is one of the reasons for our objection to the Bill—as I hope I have already have made clear by reference to my right honourable friend's remarks in another place a year ago.

On the face of it, the Bill under discussion would seem to me to amount to a radical change not only in tile law as it stands but also in our whole approach to this matter. Not only does it create a new criminal offence of wilful assault on a minor, but where the parent and guardian are concerned it explicitly abolishes the common law defence in such criminal proceedings of "reasonable chastisement" upon which teachers have hitherto relied. It proceeds in an entirely different way to bring about what many people, I think on both sides of your Lordships' House, as well as outside, would regard as a desirable trend, a decline in the use of corporal punishment in education. Nevertheless the Government will listen with interest to your Lordships' deliberations on the Bill. What I am particularly looking forward to hearing is what, in the view of your Lordships, are the changes in the schools and the changes in society that have occurred, for instance, since the Labour Party were last in office which lead us to want to adapt such a radically different approach to the abolition of corporal punishment in our schools.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, claimed that this Bill was timely; and I think that she was quite right. I think that the speech to which we have just listened indicates that there is a great need for us to look in depth into this matter of corporal punishment. There are those who still claim that to spare the rod is to spoil the child; there are others who say that caning is the only tiling that some children can understand; and there are others who say that it is a means of achieving discipline that ought to be kept in reserve. Frankly, that would appear to be the attitude of one of the largest professional organisations catering for teachers, the National Union of Teachers who gave evidence to the Plowden Committee in 1964 to that effect.

I think we ought not to overlook the fact that it was their view that it was advisable not to concentrate of this single issue of corporal punishment as a means of achieving discipline but that more attention ought to be paid to supportive measures—and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, touched on some of them—that would provide more interesting curricula and far greater opportunities for pupils to undertake interesting studies while at school. I am quite sure that we on this side of the House will say that many of our schools lack the resources they ought to have in order to make school as interesting and rewarding as it might be and that we cannot too soon achieve a state of affairs where we can say that all our schools are getting a fair share of the resources to such an extent as we would enable them to give far greater consideration to the needs of individual pupils than has been possible up to the present time.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, quoted from Plowden. Plowden was in 1967. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, and from the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, of what has been done during these last few years and of what is promised for the immediate future. It is precious little when we look at it. It is true that ILEA, the greatest education authority in the country, last year decided that corporal punishment was to be abolished in primary schools. They made it quite clear that they hoped that there would be an improvement in the secondary schools in London. It has taken nearly six years to achieve that point. The progress that has been made in London has been achieved in precisely the kind of way that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, suggested that progress should be made: by discussion and negotiation with the teachers. The discussions have been very lengthy indeed and one wonders whether in fact this rate of progress is anything like good enough. The way forward that many teachers would choose is discussion and agreement; and I have no doubt they feel that they have a very strong case.

I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, with interest. He started by saying that he did not think that corporal punishment, that caning children, did a very great deal of harm. I would be interesting to know what good it does. Does it do any good at all? Has anybody been able to prove what it does? I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford himself went out of his way to denigrate the use of corporal punishment. He said that it was a practice that was not particularly effective and he welcomed the fact that it was on the decline. If he welcomes the fact that it is on the decline, then there is very little to be said for it. One wonders who is going to make a case for its retention, since the Government welcome the fact that it is on the decline and greatly look forward to the day when there will be none of it. Of course we welcome all the progress that can be effected by discussion and negotiation; but it has shown itself to be a very slow and uncertain procedure.

My Lords, I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill. I have noted the large number of speakers on the list and I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' May I say that I hope that the House will look at this matter dispassionately and will not be over concerned with making Party points. I had the feeling that the noble Lord was being a little political in his speech in the way he touched on matters concerning Party attitudes. Let me say that he well knows that the Party for which I am speaking to-day have not laid down a hard line on this; but I would remind him that Mr. Edward Short—who followed Mr. Crosland, who followed Mr. Gordon Walker; and it was interesting that the noble Lord went back to Mr. Gordon Walker—in his book, Education in a Changing World, which was published in 1971, said: Sanctions and punishment are utterly unacceptable to-day. A free society cannot be sustained by an authoritarian system of education. Perhaps the freedom of our society would possess more reality if our children were nurtured in freedom and given the chance to acquire the self discipline that it requires in order to survive. Therefore, I say as frankly as I can to the noble Lord that that is the attitude which has been developing within the Labour movement towards the use of corporal punishment for minors.

I think we have no reason to feel that we are on the wrong road. A survey was undertaken in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1961 and published in 1968 in a book by Sir Alec Clegg and Barbara Megson, called Children in Distress. It is quite clear from reading that report that there is no case to be made out for the retention of corporal punishment. As the report said: There is no support for the view that schools which cane rigorously produce the best behaviour. There is no support whatever for the view that schools in which the cane is most used produce fewest delinquents. There is no support for the view that the school environment does not affect the rate of delinquency amongst children of school age. There is no support for the view that the best behaved school in the West Riding drew pupils from socially favoured areas. In so far as schools in this inquiry are concerned behaviour was best and delinquency least in those schools where corporal punishment is used sparingly. If any Member of your Lordships' House is in doubt about the matter we are discussing to-day, I would urge him to read The Last Resort; Corporal Punishment in Schools, edited by Peter Newell.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, gave a number of instances of what has happened in schools where corporal punishment has been abolished. I think that if noble Lords read the book whose title I have just given, they will feel that the case the noble Baroness made to the House this afternoon is there supported by additional facts, and there will be others like it. I shall be surprised if we do not get more reasons and more argument from this side of the House before the debate is over. I have come to the conclusion that as far as this Bill is concerned, this House would be doing a good thing if it agreed to allow it to go to the Committee stage.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to intervene before he goes on from that point. May I ask him to deal a little more fully with the view that his Party now takes in this matter? I think he would agree there are two issues. First of all, there is the general attitude adopted by the noble Lord and his friends and by myself and my friends to the continuing use of corporal punishment in schools. I detect there is little between us on that point. I have thought also there was not much between us regarding the way in which the decline of corporal punishment is furthered and carried on. The noble Lord's right honourable friend said in 1968 that this is best left in the hands of local education authorities, governing bodies of schools, and teachers. He quoted others besides his right honourable friend Mr. Gordon Walker on their general attitude to corporal punishment, but he did not tell the House, and it would be helpful for the House to know, whether the view of his Party has changed on the way in which further change is brought about.


I must say I am very surprised at the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I do not know whether he was talking or listening to something said by his noble friend Lord Aberdare, but in point of fact I thought I had dealt with this subject. I did not quote at length from what a number of people in my Party said. I quoted specifically from what Mr. Edward Short wrote in 1971. That was the only quotation I gave, and I said that this was indicative of the developing attitude within the Labour movement. I do not think any of your Lordships believe that this is—and again I will repeat what I said before—a keen Party issue. I regret it if I did not make myself clear, and in case I did not, I hope the House will allow me to repeat myself. In view of what the noble Lord said, I very much regret that he appeared to be making this matter a strong Party issue. I do not think we shall do the cause of education any good if we tackle a subject like this in that kind of way. I am surprised he should intervene at the point where I was merely emphasising that I thought this Bill ought to go to Committee for consideration of what it proposes in detail. I have reason to think that there is movement of opinion with regard to this matter. I have discussed it with a number of people who are professionals in the service of education. I am impressed by the fact that more and more of them are feeling that corporal punishment serves no really useful purpose, and that the challenge which exists to-day in regard to the maintenance of discipline requires other methods. It requires the kind of supportive help that the noble Lord himself indicated.

My Lords, I said I was not going to speak for long, and I shall conclude by trying to justify what I said just now about the movement of thought in this matter. I have been privileged—and I enjoyed it—to work for a great number of years with the old London County Council and with the Inner London Education Authority. I thought it would be useful to know what their attitude might be with regard to this Bill. Because it would be quite wrong, I cannot pretend that they thought this Bill was perfect in all that it offers, but I think I can say that the chairman of the Schools Sub-committee of the Inner London Education Authority has considered representations relating to this Bill from officers, and has expressed the view that he agrees with the broad aims of the Bill—that is, without accepting all its details. My only point there is that there is an excellent case for this Bill to go to Committee stage and for the House to have an opportunity of examining its provisions in detail and reporting back. For myself, may I make it clear that I support the general principles of this Bill. I believe it is very timely that we should look at the matter in the kind of way that consideration at Committee stage would permit.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, would he clear up a matter for me? The noble Lord made reference to authoritarian education, which he went on to condemn. Do I assume from his comments that he thinks chastisement in school is in itself indicative of authoritarian education?


My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Peddie did not take the point. I was quoting the words of Mr. Edward Short.


And supporting it?


I think in point of fact it would be as well if the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, replied to the questions. But may I say with regard to the use of corporal punishment in schools that it is indicative in many cases of far too great a strain on the teacher. There are far too many teachers who have learnt to rely on it. There can be no question that a great many teachers are able to live their lives and do their work without resorting to the cane. In my opinion, there is no case for the continuing use of corporal punishment in our schools; the need is for the introduction of supportive resources so that the teachers who now have to resort to corporal punishment can achieve better results without it.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the number of speakers I will try to be brief and admit from the beginning that I really put my name down, not because I claim to be an expert on the subject but because I strongly support the Bill which the noble Baroness has proposed to us this afternoon. I was brought up in a family of educationists. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred to the Government's being kept informed of the situation in schools by the inspectors of schools. My mother was the first woman ever to be an inspector of schools, and that was in the 1880s, or perhaps 1891, and when I was a boy in my family, which I am afraid was some 60 years ago, it was always assumed that corporal punishment was a degrading anachronism, and I have never felt that I needed to take any other view. My real amazement—and I am sure it would be to my mother's amazement—is that this subject is being seriously debated in 1973.

However, that being said, I really was rather amazed at what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said. He welcomed the fact that corporal punishment is gradually —very gradually— being "phased out", as I think the present expression would have it. The noble Lord looked forward to the day (whether he will live to see it I do not know) when it may have been completely phased out. He favours the end of corporal punishment. At this stage he does not tell us what the attitude of the Government is towards it but he did enumerate some of the Government's objections to it. I can fully understand a Government in the fourth year of its office not wanting to get too far ahead of public opinion, and I am quite sure that that would refer to any Government. It is not merely a habit of the Government in power at the present time. But I think there are times when we in this House, at any rate, independently of who is governing at the present time, should express a strong opinion, and if we feel, as I think the majority of us do feel, that it really is time that we came face to face with this problem, we should say so in no uncertain terms. In other words, we should, if necessary, put this matter to the vote and give a resounding majority in favour of the Bill, after which it will be for the Government and the rest of us in Committee to see whether, on balance, it is the right time and the right way to introduce this measure. But if we feel what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said he feels about corporal punishment, let us be in no uncertain mood and say what we feel.

The only other points that I might have made have, not at all to my surprise, already been made by the noble Baroness, who has marshalled all the evidence to show that there is little or no evidence in favour of corporal punishment. The two arguments we tend to hear are, first, "Well, I was brought up with it, and it never did me any harm". I think that is about the most egotistic statement that any person could make. My answer to it is, "My dear old fellow, you don't realise what harm it did! "The development of the stiff upper lip is liable to be accompanied by the development of a similarly rigid mind. The other argument, which I consider to be much more serious, is this: "All right, if you were a schoolmaster and you had to deal with some of the boys that we have in our schools in the East End of London" —or wherever you like—"who are really almost vicious bullies and so on, what would you do?" I find that a much more cogent argument and I can easily see people being led into the view that corporal punishment is the right thing. In that connection I can only say that the evidence is against them. If that boy went just so much further and got himself into the hands of the police and then into the juvenile courts, into a borstal, and so on, he would find himself at once in a situation in which corporal punishment has already been abolished. So why it should be allowed for the school teachers, I do not know.

I have been reading a very interesting book on the medical treatment of prisoners and I came across something which I ought already to have known (but I am always doing that): the minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, a resolution adopted in 1955 by the first United Nations Congress on the prevention of crime and treatment of prisoners: corporal punishment and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences". Those are minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. It seems to me that corporal punishment is a degrading punishment, and if that resolution is good enough for prisoners it should be good enough for children. Therefore corporal punishment should be ruled out.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, I find the noble Lord, Lord Platt, easy to follow because he has made many of the points that I had proposed to make. This is a very short Bill and a clear one, and it demands short speeches. So far it has had them, and I shall try to conform. There is a long list of speakers, most of whom I think are here to express solidarity with the noble Baroness, and that really is the only reason why I am on my feet. It never occurred to me that she would leave out any argument, nor do I think she has done. I should like to repeat two of the arguments in a rather different form and to make one severe and one mild criticism.

To deal with the two arguments first, there are only two arguments in favour of corporal punishment as a part of education. One is that you cannot maintain discipline without it—and that is untrue. I think there is enough evidence in what the noble Baroness said to make it perfectly clear that it is untrue; that although there were (I think she said) in one term over 8,000 cases of boy caning in Edinburgh, there is none in many other parts of the country. It is perfectly clear that many institutions can run with total discipline if they have proper leadership. So I absolutely reject the first reason. The other argument advanced in favour of corporal punishment is that it is a tough world and it is much better for children to be brought up tough. This, of course, does not hold water at all because it does not involve penal action. If beating is an essential part of the toughening of children, then all children should be beaten as a regular thing. That was Dr. Johnson's view, I think; and, if I remember correctly, it also appeared in Gulliver's Travels. But it is not now the general view, and in spite of the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that this might in the long run be what the Secretary of State thinks, I do not really believe it is. So neither of the two arguments in favour of corporal punishment in schools holds up.

I have one severe criticism to make of the Bill as it stands. My noble friend—I am sure absent-mindedly—has included imprisonment as a possible punishment. If I may say so, this is ridiculous. I know she has done it in order to give people who are charged the opportunity of going to a higher court, but it will not do. The one thing we must not do is that. We are dealing with the teacher who, faced with an hysterical class takes the natural action, which is to strike the child. We are trying to make the teachers behave in a way which is less than purely animal, and I think if they do behave in that way the sanction of public arraignment before a court and punishment by a fine is quite enough. So I shall certainly move an Amendment to that provision, and I am certain that my noble friend will accept it.

This brings me to the only serious argument and one which the noble Lord, Lord Platt, has already raised. When I was in the Army abroad I remember hearing from my wife of a party of children coming down to be evacuated and of absolute hysterical bedlam. A friend of ours who was with my wife went in and stopped the thing in two minutes. When she came out of the room my wife said, "What did you do?" and her friend said, "I took the two noisiest ones and slapped them." I think we have got to do without this sort of action, but it is absurd to pretend that it does not sometimes work. Torture was a very effective way of making some unwilling people reveal facts. Yet we manage very well without it, and I think we must be prepared to manage very well without this particular form of punishment. My final point is that I think the noble Baroness's analogy between sport and teaching will not hold water, and I wish she had not used it. Having said that, I would say that there is no doubt whatever that this Bill must be given a Second Reading. There may be small points to alter within it, but I hope very much that we shall criticise it, improve it and end by making it work.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, I am speaking in this debate in order to give my support to this Bill. This is more a matter of standing up to be counted than of contributing to arguments. Arguments have been very well put by other people and will be very well put by other people. I have taken a very long time to come round to the view that the use of corporal punishment in schools should be forbidden. The world has changed, social conditions have changed, and I shall say a brief word about that in a moment. I think the time has come when it should be forbidden. Most people seem to be assuming that it is all a question of the time, whether the time has yet come, and I think that is the important point. I also want to say that it seems to me to be one of the very few questions that ought to be decided at one blow in Westminster. I know that the teaching profession is not yet ready for the abolition of corporal punishment. I think we have a very great secret in this country in our educational efforts, in using the powers of the teaching profession to make the schools as good as they are, which in many respects, almost all respects, is very good indeed.

The noble Baroness said a word about the professional aspects of this matter. I should be most reluctant to feel that we were in any way going back on our general attitude, where we rely to a tremendous extent on the good sense and imagination, the resource and the humanity of the profession. But I do not think this is a matter for local option. If the world is so changed and we have reached a stage when society just will not have corporal punishment for children in schools and similar institutions, it is a matter for society through its own central institutions to decide this and to decide it once and for all.

May I make one or two very brief reflections. I was for a time, and a critical time, a headmaster of a large State school. I never acquired the status, the skill or the character of a very professional headmaster, because I had spent all my life as a university teacher. But I had to face up to many of the questions facing a headmaster. It was at the time when fathers had not yet returned from the war, when there was a great deal of very strange behaviour by the young in schools, in the streets, on the buses, in the trains, everywhere, and where schools were expected still to play a great part in improving this behaviour. I remember that when I was a child my father was a village schoolmaster, and in those days, of course, he was part of the law and order system of society of the village; he was expected to be able to control the way in which the young people behaved all over the village, in the town and, of course, in the school playground, and he was supported almost without question in using rough justice to do this. The rough justice method in his case did not involve very much corporal punishment —indeed, so far as I remember, very little indeed. But he was able, if necessary, to face up physically to boys much larger than himself because he was regarded by the whole social system as part of the law and order and discipline of the place, and everybody was behind him.

One must remember that in those days schools were expected to be able to deal with large numbers of things which the courts and police were more than happy to leave to them. Also with the universities, notably the residential universities in the small towns, with very large numbers of young people, the courts and the police were more than happy to leave a great many of the disciplinary problems to the university, to the college, the agricultural college, the school and so on. Nobody questioned that this rough justice method did not do a great deal of harm and was of enormous help to law and order.

But now, of course, this is quite impossible nobody can use this method at all. Some universities were very slow to see this coming. It has come in my lifetime. It came at a tremendous pace during the period when I was working in the administration of a university and its discipline and its education. Rough justice was out. Nobody was willing to accept anything except what was called natural justice, which meant that a thing had to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt against any individual person. The universities or the schools that went on trying to play their part in this disciplinary matter soon found that they got bitten. Public opinion was no longer behind them.

Similarly, in loco parentis is out. Everybody who is a university teacher, anybody who is a schoolmaster, knows that. It is out from the point of view of the children; they do not think there is anything in it at all. It is out from the point of view of the parents. One of the most impressive things, if one gets parents together and asks them, is that they will tell you that this sort of thing is no longer possible. Anyway, parental discipline is very different from what it was, and to have other people guessing what parental discipline is and trying to be in loco parentis is just not possible.

I have one other reflection. I quickly came to a conclusion, so fat as corporal punishment was concerned, that nothing important could be achieved by corporal punishment in any circumstances. I think this is accepted by the vast majority of teachers—and probably all teachers. In these days, the big things, whether for the individual or whether for a group or the mass, cannot be achieved by corporal punishment, and the world is a better place for that fact. Similarly, no school teacher would any longer think that corporal punishment is required or that they should use corporal punishment, or even be allowed to use it as a positive weapon in education.

Schoolmasters used to think that you could make children try harder by rapping them over the knuckles with the cane. They used to think that you could make them attend by a little painful corporal punishment—as the noble Lord said, not doing a great deal of harm, but painful and drawing the attention of the pupil and making the pupil try harder, and so on. Nobody any longer believes that. That has all gone. Teachers have other ways of doing these things and they know perfectly well that the old way had no effect. Therefore, inside the classroom corporal punishment is not necessary.

One is very reluctant to dream of moving faster than the opinion of teachers as a body, and there are without doubt very difficult circumstances in some schools where there is a good deal of violence in the neighbourhood, in the streets, perhaps in the homes, and where life is very difficult indeed for teachers and the public feel immense sympathy for them. The public think it absolutely marvellous that a young woman or young man can control a classroom of 50 children without going off her or his head from time to time. They have all the sympathy in the world with teachers, and when teachers say that it is very difficult to do without this punishment they are apt to sympathise with them. Similarly, if children gang up against a teacher, or a large boy or a large girl uses his or her weight against a small teacher, the "old Adam" in all of us as a public sympathises with the teacher and says that somebody ought to be hit over the head, or smacked on the bottom. But we all know that corporal punishment does not solve the problem and will not protect the teacher. It is out of line with the whole approach that we now have for dealing with such misconduct. Nobody believes that corporal punishment will do any of these things.

Corporal punishment—and this weighed with me for a very long time—is a simple punishment; it is over quickly, it does not last very long and it does have a certain effect. It has the certain effect without needing to be really painful, because the vast majority of people do not like pain, even if it is not very great and is sharp and soon over. So it does have a certain effect for small things in small ways. But that, too, has gone. Clearly, we no longer feel that that is an acceptable punishment. I have not tried to marshal the arguments; they were much better marshalled by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. I have tried to offer one or two reflections from a little experience which makes me feel, first, that the time has come to banish corporal punishment and, secondly, that this should be done by a central piece of legislation.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, my own experience of corporal punishment was not only painful but unpleasant. I went to one of the schools that I think the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, mentioned, where larger boys beat smaller boys. Whether this did me any good or harm I am not in a position to say, but I found it extremely painful at the time. What I found more unpleasant was when I became a bigger boy and had to beat a smaller boy. I did it once and found it so distasteful that I never did it again. I believe in the theory that it must be right to end corporal punishment. In an ideal situation there would be no need for it at all.

Here I should like to quote from an interesting circular which was rooted out for me and which was sent out by the Board of Education over seventy years ago. It was on punishment generally: If discipline were perfectly efficient, punishment would be unknown, for the result of efficient discipline is to engender the good habits which render punishment unnecessary. Order, diligence and obedience, which are only maintained by frequent punishment or the dread of it, do not constitute discipline. Indeed, the infliction of punishment is, to some extent, a confession of defeat by the authority that inflicts it; for the object of discipline is to prevent commission of faults. No punishment which excites the emotion of terror in a child should ever be employed. In an infants' school, no punishment should be permitted which causes bodily pain. In schools for older children, corporal punishment should be discouraged as an ordinary expedient in boys' schools, and altogether in girls' schools. That, as I say, went out some seventy years ago.

I am afraid that I must disagree about the practice of corporal punishment. Here I would refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, said about practical points. I am afraid that in true life things are different, and I can think of cases where it may be both expedient and necessary to use corporal punishment—for instance, where a teenage boy assaults a female member of staff, or there is excessive violence and aggression. The noble Lord, Lord Platt, mentioned bullying, and this is another case where it may be necessary. You may well have an older child bullying a younger one. I feel most strongly that this bully may well have problems at home and in the environment that he comes from which are the root cause of this bullying. It must be absolutely right that the first priority is to concentrate on a long-term cure for these problems. In order to do this one must concentrate all the professional skills available. There is the child guidance clinic, the child psychiatrist, and the educational psychologist.

But surely if it is right to do this, may it not also be right, for the sake of the victim of that bully or the protection of another small child, that that bully should receive at the time a short, sharp shock, not so much as a punishment but as a deterrent to stop him from doing it again? Who must make that decision at the time? Surely it must be the teacher or teachers involved. They know the circumstances, and they know the children involved. My own educational authority has always left the question of corporal punishment to the heads of the staff. They are one of the people the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, mentioned. I am sure that this is the right thing to do. After all, the teacher is a professional and has the skill and knowledge to know when corporal punishment is necessary and desirable. In my opinion to pass an Act of Parliament is not the right way to go about ending corporal punishment in schools. As a comparative newcomer to your Lordships' House, I feel that it is somewhat unfortunate for me that I should be the first to get up and oppose this Bill, and I hope that your Lordships will bear with me. I am against the Bill very reluctantly, because I should like to see an ideal state where corporal punishment was no longer necessary. But that ideal state is not here yet, and it cannot be induced by an Act of Parliament.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. First there was a crescendo of hope as he spoke of his sympathy and his support for the decline in caning that was taking place, but that dwindled away into a diminuendo of disappointment when he stood on the brink and refused to take the plunge and back the Bill. I am sorry also that he tried to introduce Party politics, even though in a gentle way. This is not Party politics. I am not making a Party political speech; I am standing here to-day virtually as a political eunuch. I support the Bill. Even though it deals with many other kinds of institutions and establishments I shall confine what I have to say to the ordinary schools that boys and girls attend. I shall not deal with prisons because obviously they are not covered by the Bill, and anyhow I have never been in one. I shall not deal with borstals because there is not now any corporal punishment in borstal institutions. I shall not deal with remand homes, where there actually is corporal punishment today. Perhaps I ought to say that I spent the first few years of my life at a reformatory school. That was not because of any juvenile misdeeds on my part but simply because my father was the music master and bandmaster there, and we lived in a house in the grounds. I expect that the attitude of that reformatory school to corporal punishment has changed in the intervening years, just as it has changed in the community as a whole.

Now, my Lords, what are the questions to which we have to address ourselves? The first, I think, is whether it is possible to abolish corporal punishment. My noble friend Lady Wootton has given instances of countries in West Europe which have done that. I will go a hit further eastward and add Poland and Soviet Russia, and a bit further Eastward, for what the argument is worth, and add Egypt and Israel as well. Of course, there is an increasing number of individual schools in this country, both primary and secondary, which are abolishing corporal punishment, sometimes because of influence brought to bear by the authority, sometimes because of the personal will of the headmaster, and in none of these cases has there been any ill effect. On the contrary, the effects have been good; and it is generally recognised that there is a decline—a steady decline, but a growing decline—in the use of canes in the schools of this country.

The second point to which we have to direct ourselves is whether corporal punishment is cruel. I do not want to exaggerate. I would not suggest that a single, moderate stroke on the hand with a cane involves grave physical cruelty, but it does considerable psychological harm to both the boy and the teacher, and it does much to destroy human relationships between the two classes. We also have to bear in mind that from time to time we hear of cases where punishment has been inflicted in a very sadistic manner, and we cannot afford to take the risk of that kind of thing happening in our schools.

The third question which we have to ask is whether corporal punishment is effective. I do not think it is. First of all, it causes a boy to regard his teacher as an enemy; secondly, it does not cure his misconduct, but often makes it worse; thirdly, it sets the boy out to try to defeat the teacher at every turn, and that is why we find that it is the same boy or the same group of boys who are frequently punished time after time. My Lords, it would be futile to deny that in some of our schools there are boys who are defiant and who are violent, but to try to cure that by using violence against them is only to make matters worse; and the tougher the boy the tougher will be his reaction.

On this question about the effectiveness of corporal punishment, I have a few recollections from my own school days, which began just over seventy years ago. In the top class of the school, because our teacher was a member of the senior staff he was frequently called out of the room. As soon as he left there would be hubbub, and in the midst of that he would return. "Hands up", he would say, "all those boys who have been talking". Not a single hand would be held up. "All right", he would say, "come out Leatherland". I ask your Lordships to testify to the fact that the caning of me did not cure me of being talkative. There was in that same class another boy who was nearly as talkative as I was. He was Stanley Evans, who later became the Member of Parliament for Wednesbury. It did not cure him, either. Perhaps that was a pity, because if he had not been quite so talkative about featherbedding farmers he might have risen to one of the highest positions in this State.

It would be wrong to think that the opponents of corporal punishment are people of a soft, namby-pamby disposition. There must be discipline in schools. I am a fervent upholder of discipline. I suppose that dates from the time when I was a 20-year-old company sergeant major in France in the First World War. But discipline has to come from the mind: it cannot be imposed physically. Any attempt at physical punishment leads to the child losing his respect for the teacher. There are many alternative forms of sanction which can be used, and these are used by teachers in our schools every day. There is detention; there is the deprivation of privileges; there is banning from school outings, the imposition of extra work and the imposition of additional responsibility on some of these children—because the old theory of the poacher turned gamekeeper still has some merit in it. There can also be a note to the boy's parents.

My Lords, if I may digress for a moment from the school to the home, I remember that I was only very rarely accorded corporal punishment at home. Other sanctions were employed. I was made to practise on the euphonium for an extra half hour a night nearly every day of the week, but whether that was more of a punishment to the neighbours than it was to me I do not know—and before any noble Lord says it let me say that that is how I learned to blow my own trumpet.

There are still further methods of remedial treatment. There are the school psychologists, who can do much to help a boy who is really unruly. There is the school welfare officer, who can make inquiries at home and find whether the cause of the trouble resides there, as it so very frequently does. And if we have a boy whose bad conduct at school is due to the fact that he is treated harshly at home, then that boy, more than any of the others, needs to be able to find a friend in his teacher at school. Then again, the transfer from one school to another, with new companions, a new atmosphere and a new environment, often works wonders with an unruly boy. There is also the kind of treatment that young offenders get from their probation officers. More and more of these remedial treatments are needed. More and more teachers and smaller classes are needed, and I am quite sure that they would make a very great difference to the conduct of children in the schools. We hear from time to time about what are called "blackboard jungles". I think the newspapers and television sometimes do more harm than good by the undue publicity that they give to these schools. They convert these young hooligans into public martyrs and heroes. We have to remember that this jungledom, where it exists, does so in schools where caning has been the custom for years and years past. I am not convinced that corporal punishment is the remedy. It does not cure youngsters; it only makes them worse. It sometimes represses inclinations which later burst out in another way—in the streets, or even at the universities—to the detriment of society generally.

I do not want to detail in any elaborate way what has happened in the primary schools of the Inner London Education Authority. That experiment has been a success. So also has there been success in secondary schools throughout the country where the headmaster and the governors, on their own initiative, have decided to ban the cane. But I will give one quotation from a report of the Inner London Education Authority, which says this: Various sanctions other than corporal punishment are in use in secondary schools, and a number of heads claim that they are every bit as effective". The head of one of the London comprehensive schools says: Since abolishing corporal punishment we have had a more peaceful and friendly place". My Lords, I do not want to speak about the Borough of Cardiff, which abolished corporal punishment and then restored it; nor about the fact that large numbers of teachers still want to retain the cane, although that number is markedly reducing. All I want to say is that a wind of change is blowing through our society on this question of punishment. We need to give more attention in all sections of our society to the need for cultivating more self-discipline, and the schools in which our rising generation are being trained should be in the lead and not lagging behind.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, since your Lordships are used to hearing me speak on education as a spokesman of the Liberal Party, I think I should say that, like the other two Parties, the Liberal Party nave not a definite policy on this matter. We have declared ourselves definitely against corporal punishment in primary schools and schools for the handicapped, but we have not gone further than that. I should like, as a personal reservation, to say that I am not one of those who rules out the use of physical force in all circumstances. I am not, for instance, a pacifist. I think that sometimes the intellectuals in our part of the world tend to rule out the physical and to rely too much on the intellectual. But I am a member of the Bernard Shaw School. "If you strike a child", he said, "take care that you strike it in anger. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven."

A parent may well spank a child when he or she is annoyed and irritated beyond endurance. But it is very important that this is seen to have nothing to do with education. Beating has nothing to do with education. Here I would say that I reject entirely the doctrine of in loco parentis. It is not just that I think it inapt as applied to this question; I think it is entirely wrong. Teachers are not substitutes for parents, and they should not be. This doctrine may have had some force when many people who were concerned with the forming of our laws sent their children to boarding schools and maybe thought of the boarding school as a natural place for that doctrine to be exercised. In a boarding school it is possible that this doctrine has some place; I do not believe it has otherwise. For most of us who send our children to day schools teachers are people whom we respect, and whom we engage, or whom the State engages on our behalf, to teach our children; to educate them. And, as I have already said, beating has nothing to do with education.

We are told that in respect of some schools if the power to administer corporal punishment were taken away the educational system would break down. Where that is true, my Lords, if it is true (I do not necessarily accept that it is, particularly bearing in mind the view of the London teachers), the educational system has broken down already, and this fact should be recognised. There is nothing to be said for using a cane to prop up a system which has already collapsed, and which already is not educationally worth while. That merely conceals the problem. We are told that beating is disappearing. I am delighted to hear it. But this has one particular result which I think we ought to consider and to which I would draw the attention of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton.

The beating that still continues should be offending us because a greater pro- portion will be beating by sadists. There are a few sadists in the teaching profession, just as there are in your Lordships' House and in any gathering of people, or any profession you like to mention. However good is the educational profession—and it is good—it cannot be denied that a greater proportion of beating by teachers will be done by a few sadists that are left; and the greater proportion will be applied to the children who most need some other kind of treatment. The occasional slap, the occasional beating, may not do most children much harm. I am sure that it did not do the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, any harm. The people to whom it does harm are the really sad cases, the bad cases, and this is exactly where it should be abolished so that we may help those people and those cases in the best possible way. My Lords, I repeat that beating has nothing to do with education, and I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I will not promise to be brief because I find that those who do generally make the longest speeches. So much has been said against corporal punishment, that I feel I should make one or two remarks in its defence; not from any desire to ill-use the defenceless young, but merely from the viewpoint of keeping discipline. For some years I taught in a school where corporal punishment was used regularly. It was used only by the headmaster or by the housemasters and it was used only for really serious offences. I think that is what should be, and what generally is, the case to-day.

A great deal has been said about what harm corporal punishment does both to the boy and to the master. I cannot say what harm it does to the master, because I never actually beat a boy myself, not being a housemaster. But once I was responsible for having a boy beaten. If the provisions in the Bill had been law at that time I should have been fined a very lage amount of money, but fortunately they were not. The boy and I remained the greatest of friends for the rest of his time at school. The punishment ran off him like water off a duck s back, and he did not turn a hair. That was the case with most of the boys. Corporal punishment was there as a possible extreme punishment. Every boy—I speak only of boys' schools because those are the ones of which I have had experience—goes through a period when, out of a spirit of adventure, or of wanting to get the better of his teacher, he will try to see how far he can go. He knows perfectly well that if he goes too far he will eventually probably suffer two or three strokes of the cane. But that does not stop him and he does not resent the punishment when it is administered because that is the standing rule.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has just said—he said it three times—that beating has nothing to do with teaching. Of course it has not. But on the other hand one has to maintain discipline, and that is becoming more and more difficult in schools nowadays. Children are becoming more unruly and less willing to listen to older people and accept their guidance. It is becoming very difficult for the schoolteachers. I think that if corporal punishment were to be abolished, there would be a grave danger of even worse punishments coming in. I am referring to things like mental cruelty. For instance, there is nothing that can hurt a young boy, particularly if he happens to be a rather sensitive type, more than biting sarcasm. Such sarcasm may well be the only weapon the schoolmaster has. I should be sorry to see a wide use made of it, and much more sorry than I am to see the very reserved use, as at the moment, of the cane, which I think is now in a position much like that of the nuclear weapon, in that it is there purely as a deterrent, and nobody wants to use it except in extreme cases.

Therefore, my Lords, I am afraid I cannot support this Bill. To ban the use of the cane would lower the standards of discipline. I have spoken to innumerable people who have achieved great eminence in their various professions and asked them whether they were beaten at school, and they have said, "Yes" I have then asked, "Do you feel that it did you any harm?", and invariably the answer has been, "No, not in the least." So I cannot see that the holders of the view that the use of the cane does permanent harm to the boy have any evidence whatever on their side. Granted the sparing use of the cane and the confining of it to only the headmaster or the housemaster, I sincerely hope that it will still be retained.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I hope to follow the admirable practice of making an exceptionally brief speech. I have not a great deal to say, as almost everything that can be said on this subject has already been said. But I, like a number of others, am here to demonstrate solidarity with the noble Baroness in our total agreement as to the desirable nature of this short Bill. May I express one word of disappointment, in that the noble Baroness has not been able to marshall a single one of her sister Peeresses to speak on the Bill. There must be a very profound psychological reason for this.


Lady Loudoun is on the list.


My Lords, I apologise. I should say one of them. I expected them to be here in large numbers to support the Bill, but no doubt there is some explanation which the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, may provide when she comes to reply. The only things I want to say about the Bill are these. First, the major argument used in its favour is that it is a necessary instrument to protect teachers against the more extreme form of juvenile ruffianism. This of course is an attractive argument and there may be an element of truth in it. But I think the way to look at it is: Is this a sufficient benefit to compensate for the undoubted detriments and dangers which are involved in the retention of corporal punishment? It is really a question of weighing on the scale on one side the fact that there may be some danger in relation to the exceptionally depraved, violent, agile, vigorous youths, as against the physically weak and inadequate teacher in terms of being able to resist violence, and that therefore it may be necessary to resort to this expedient to deal with that situation. I should have thought that in those circumstances there were many other expedients that could be used, and that in any event, on balance, the very undesirable psychological, sexual and moral features involved in its retention overwhelmingly outweigh this particular argument. I cannot think of any other argument in favour of its retention.

My Lords, there can be few of us who are not extremely uneasy about the retention of corporal punishment. I think there can be few of us who will not he extremely gratified—and, in their hearts, even those who have expressed a contrary view—if we do sweep away this thoroughly degrading and disagreeable practice. There would have to be very strong arguments indeed in order to retain it. My own view is that if to-day we give this Bill a Second Reading, we can have a look at some of the obvious deficiencies in drafting, which, if I may venture to say so, can be quite easily repaired in the Committee stage. I should like to add a word in favour of what my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge has said. I, too, hope that the noble Baroness will agree to remove the sanction of imprisonment. This seems to me to be quite unnecessary, because if you have an extreme case where a child is badly injured by an assault, then the rest of the criminal law is perfectly adequate to enhance the penalties that have to be imposed. But it seems to me that to give the notion of martyrdom to schoolteachers in relation to a controversial subject such as this is undesirable at the moment the change is being made.

My next comment is in relation to the Government's argument when they were solicitously and rather ingeniously inquiring what change had occurred in the social climate since it was last decided not to make this particular improvement. I can only say that that is an argument which would abort every progressive measure that one can think of. There is never a change in the social climate. The world remains sad, mad and bad. But the fact remains that we can make it a little better by seeking to ostracise practices that we regard as sad, mad and bad. One could reduce this particular argument to total absurdity by saying that you would not increase the penalties or the precautions against larceny until there was clear evidence that that practice was abated. There are so many absurdities demonstrated by that argument, if I may venture to say so, that it ought not to be persisted in.

I would invite the House to give this Bill a Second Reading, and let us perhaps attain an ultimate end when we have removed a practice about which many parents are uneasy, which affects parents' choices of school and which in relation to maladjusted children, and where the schoolteacher has no apparatus for determining whether the child is maladjusted or not, is an absolute monstrosity. My final observation is this. One of the worst arguments in relation to observing this particular practice is that it is a hideous social alibi. The other day I had the misfortune to go and look at the slums of Glasgow. If you would consider adding to the deprivation of children brought up in those slums the fact that the consequences of those slums are brought down on them by way of physical punishment, I do not think you would need to think twice about a Second Reading of this Bill.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to preface my comments on this Bill by paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, whom the whole House knows as one who possesses a deep sense of humanity, sincerity, and infinite courage in her willingness to challenge established conventions. However, I would not go beyond that, and I certainly would not pay tribute to her judgment in sponsoring this Bill. I have listened carefully to the debate, and in a number of the speeches there has seemed to be an indication that this Bill is presented as a means to curb sadistic corporal punishment of innocent children. That is a most misleading concept, because there is little, if any, evidence that vicious maltreatment of children in schools is universal. This is no more true than the recent case (which I believe is before the courts) of a teenage scholar accused of breaking the jaw of his teacher indicates a universal desire on the part of scholars to break the jaws of their teachers. But of one thing I am certain: if that young man arraigned before the court is found guilty, he will not be punished by a fine of £250 or a year's imprisonment, or both, which is the penalty indicated in this Bill.

Let me make it quite clear that all of us here would join in condemning brutality of any kind, and the law as it exists now can fall heavily upon the shoulders of any teacher who is guilty of vicious maltreatment of the children under his care. I join with every Member of your Lordships' House in condemning the wanton infliction of pain upon children. But this Bill does not seek to eliminate the wanton infliction of pain upon children; indeed, it goes out of its way to recognise the right of parents and guardians to inflict chastisement upon their children or upon those who may be in their care. This House will remember the many recent cases of appalling cruelty inflicted upon children. In particular, there was one dreadful case where a subhuman individual battered a child to death in the home.

There is just as much justification for dealing with the prevention of chastisement in the home as there is in the schools. I would ask your Lordships to examine precisely what this Bill seeks to do It seeks to end reasonable chastisement in schools, but recognises the rights of parents, guardians and their spouses to inflict pain. I repeat what I said a few moments ago: that there are just as many cases of cruelty in homes as there are in schools. Of course there have been in the east, and there will be in the future, isolated cases where sadistic individuals—teachers or not—inflict pain on others. We all know of the psychosexual relationship that may exist between the beaten and the beater, but such cases can be dealt with under the law as it stands at the moment. I myself regard as most unfortunate the implication behind the gibe that only teachers and prostitutes can wield the cane with impunity. I think that comment was, to say the least, most unfortunate.

As to the absence of chastisement, what could it mean? Do we believe that the only penalty, or indeed cruelty, that can be inflicted by a teacher is contained within the employment of a stick? If there is any teacher with sadistic intentions, believe me, my Lords, he could, if he so wished, inflict far more pain upon a youngster by psychological means than ever he could by the employment of a cane: the sarcasm, the humiliation, the gibe, can inflict torture upon a youngster which is far greater than any pain caused by a cane across his hands. Therefore I consider this Bill nonsense, to say the least, because it makes no contribution at all to the idea of eliminating what might be considered to be torture or cruelty within the schools.

One or two of my noble friends have asked: has reasonable chastisement done harm? The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, asked: has it ever done good? Other noble Lords have referred to their own schooldays and I will make reference to mine. I went to a council school in the City of Hull; it was a tough school, in a working class area, where the stick was frequently applied. I remember the teachers in the school vividly. There was old John Pullan, the head master: a strict disciplinarian, a gentleman and a man whom every single scholar admired; Dicky Bainbridge: a young sportsman who played for the local rugby club, who was always willing and ready to apply the cane if need be. So I ask the question, did he create fear? No, my Lords; he created respect. There was young Mr. De Lacy; another young sportsman, also ready with the stick—but to suggest that everyone of the kids at that school was fearful of those teachers would be unadulterated nonsense—I repeat, nonsense. Every one of us respected those teachers. There was no cruelty whatsoever in that school. But I will tell you what it did not do: it did not demoralise or brutalise. It did create a healthy recognition of the relationship between misdemeanour and punishment.

I happen to have here—though I shall spare my blushes; I am not going to read it—a letter on the cheap notepaper provided by the Hull Education Committee and headed "St. Paul's Boys' School", written by the headmaster, John Pullan. I may say that I am very proud of that document. I have received many documents in my scholastic career, but none of them has given me greater pleasure or pride than that letter. It makes reference to me—and, as I said before, I shall not read it—in glowing terms. I should have been one of the good boys. I can assure all your Lordships that I had my full ration of stick when I was at school, but the discipline also earned me a testimonial of which I am proud. To think that the boys of St. Paul's School went in fear and trembling or were terrorised is nonsense. I could quote the names of some of those old boys from that school in a working class area. They have been not only a credit to that school, but to the City and to the nation as a whole. Therefore I suggest that the Bill is totally unnecessary. There is adequate protection in schools, because it is not possible for a teacher to inflict wanton pain without the rest of the staff knowing about it, without the scholars knowing about it, and, very quickly in these days, without the local Press knowing about it.

If I wanted a final argument to condemn the Bill, I would quote from the brief that has been handed out by the National Council of Civil Liberties. These words appear in their final paragraph and is the argument they advance in support of the Bill: Hopefully, abolition will encourage teachers to demand, and Government and local authorities to provide, better facilities for difficult children and the reduction of class boundaries. Now we all agree with that, I am sure; but are we suggesting that we should put this sort of pressure on school teachers as a whole, who—goodness knows!— work under enough difficulties as it is, merely to obtain some other objective that is not indicated in this Bill? That is not an honest way of going about it. Certainly we want smaller classes; certainly we want better facilities; but the implication here, in my opinion, is a slur upon the teaching profession—an absolute slur upon the profession itself. In consequence, on that ground alone, I would ask this House to reject this Bill entirely and completely.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, as we progress towards the perfect State, which we all strive for, however ineffectively, so rules multiply. There are things you can do, things you cannot do: so we multiply rules. Laws: this is our business, and here is a new law: no more stick, and even a smack on the bottom will become a criminal assault. At one time beating was for anything and everything. I am sure not that many of us could say that we have never received corporal punishment—not just the stick, but punches from older brothers or dear friends, pinches from sisters, and even scratches from cats. We have accepted those as part of growing up. That is not only so in regards to the past; it applies also to-day. People seem naturally to beat their children and to punch each other. This is regrettable, but it is a natural reaction, whether it arises from anger, fear, or even joie de vivre.

The respect for authority, based on fear, which has kept people in order since time began, has diminished in recent years. A change has taken place which we welcome. When the Beveridge Report was first published we knew that it was going to change society, but we never realised how much. With the arrival of the Welfare State, including, of course, the National Health Service and other back-up services, the character of society started to change; and, in theory anyway, one is supported and protected from wanton harm from the cradle to the grave. We have now that changed society, and the problems of to-day's society cannot be solved by yesterday's solutions.

Corporal punishment—that is, the stick, administered by the teacher—has already gone from the classroom but not the guiding smack of the teachers or the punches and kicks of classmates. Authority in the classroom is based on mutual respect and common interest. Rules are found out, rather than enforced. Surely today's child learns through the experience of give and take, in contact with others, by making mistakes, being a nuisance, misbehaving, even by being rude to adults. He learns that rules and standards of behaviour enable him to live in harmony and at ease with others. All authority in the school, as in society, is questioned, and if it does not come from respect it does not exist. Here the Mace is carried into the Chamber in front of the Lord Chancellor as a sign of his authority, not because he is going to hit anyone on the head with it: in the same way I feel that a headmaster must be allowed to keep the authority of the cane.

A policeman cannot control a riot with a stern eye or the air of authority; he carries a stick and has the right to use it. A stroke of the stick may bring misbehaviour, especially anti-social behaviour, to a halt, if only in the classroom, enabling the child to continue in school and the classmates to continue to study uninterrupted. The alternative is the streets. A child, unwanted at home and at school, a life that might have been saved, is lost. The final deterrent in a school is the headmaster's wrath: do not defuse him. This is a negative Bill; it takes away the headmaster's right to deal in the way he thinks best, and puts nothing in its place to help him, or the child.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I was beginning to think that I might have been in a minority in my views until I heard my noble friend Lord Swinton and the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, and now the noble Countess who has just sat down. It gives me heart to go on with what I have got to say. My qualifications are simple. I was an extrovert, bumptious, naughty, rebellious boy, and suffered accordingly, from my parents and at school, in the old-fashioned way. I do not know whether it did me good or harm. At one stage I think I was so beaten that I think it did me definite harm. I also, of course, at one stage administered punishment to my juniors at school. Looking back, I think I did it very unwisely and sometimes excessively, and I am glad that that practice is now disappearing. But now, as a father and grandfather, inevitably I have a good deal of experience in observing the upbringing of the young, and I am opposed to this Bill, opposed to it for almost every possible reason.

First, as has been shown by many noble Lords who have spoken, as time has gone on the use of formal corporal punishment has largely diminished, and will, of course, continue to do so. Secondly (this is a point which has not been made, although the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, touched upon it), I believe that it is wrong to suggest that parents or guardians are better able than teachers to judge when to strike a child. Emotion is more likely to overlay a parent's judgment, I believe, than it is to overlay that of a teacher. What is more, to box a child over the ear, or give it a jolly good shaking, can actually injure a child, which a cane, or a tawse does not do. Incidentally, I refer to the tawse, which the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, mentioned, because of course I am Scottish, and it is the usual instrument of instruction (if that is the right word) in the schools in Scotland. It is a very much more sensible instrument, incidentally, than the cane. When I speak of parental reaction to naughtiness in a child, I know from my own experience that one can be carried away by emotion. A teacher is not so affected in the same measure. Take, for instance, the way in which a mother or a father slaps or shakes a child that runs across the street. The child is struck, probably, because the parent is so utterly relieved at seeing it safely across. Another cause of trouble is that children sometimes turn up very late for meals or very late for bedtime, and often they are chastised by parents or guardians out of sheer relief at seeing a kid safe again. For that reason, too, I think the Bill is at fault.

Thirdly, my Lords, while I agree that there are ruthless and even cruel teachers —and the same, of course, applies to parents—they are in a very great minority. That minority is decreasing, I believe, as the years go on and the standard of training improves. The majority of teachers are better able than almost any parent to judge whether a crack of a whip is needed; and the fact that treatment for the maladjusted child, to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, referred, is now much more readily available saves problems of that sort. One must remember that one of the teachers' troubles is that at the end of the scale there are too many parents who utterly fail to instil any sort of discipline in their children when they send them to school. That is something which must be borne in mind. The problem is much more complex than the tenor of this Bill would suggest. Indeed, when I decided to speak, I sought the advice of a well-known authority who has been the headmaster of three well-known schools. I have a letter from him which expresses views so closely in accord with mine that I propose to quote it to you if only to save time, because his writing in dealing with the matter is so succinct.

He, for instance, grieves for what he calls: The abdication of responsibility by parents and teachers, and the cowardice of adults lest they are thought to be 'illiberal'. There are those who, appear to think it the task of parents and teachers to allow young people to run violently down steep places, and then to stand by to pick up the pieces at the bottom (at whatever the social cost)'. I think the latter point should be borne in mind.

He quotes from another teacher in another place, and he goes on to say: Now, as to corporal punishment … may I list sonic points? First, premises. (1) Love and concern are essential whenever sanctions teachers or parents use."— that was the point which was brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie— (2) The conscience grows effectively with the growth of the young, in body as in spirit. (3) As Bridges says in The Testament of Beauty, the job of man is to effect in his young the conscient passage from the "must" to the "ought". An over-dose of "ought", too young gives moral indigestion. Too long prolonged "must" breeds moral insensitivity". Every young person matters desperately, differs widely from others in him/her-self. Nothing calls for greater delicacy and skill in adults concerned with young people than to fumble after the graduation from "you must" to "you ought" at varying ages and stages because they are all different from one another.' He turns to corporal punishment and says: I am against 'pompous', 'judicial', and delayed use of this. But I know it to be true that while there are some children … for whom in no circumstances would it be appropriate "— this was the point brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman— there are others, especially the jolly extrovert and disobedient, for whom it is kinder than detentions, etc.,". That is the point which noble Lords have brought out. He goes on: People say that it is not 'effective'. What do they mean? You could hang men for poaching—effective no doubt! But? We schoolteachers are not out to achieve total conformity or obedience. Good God! What sort of a school would that be? We aim to contain high spirits in reasonable and kindly bounds, not to quench them. In an ideal world, sanctions would not be necessary. But we do not live in such a world. With many schoolboys, sarcasm, humiliation, the removal of affection by an adult whom they admire, may be far more cruel than three or four with a slipper—and, because they breed hostility, less effective. Of course everything depends on the relationship of the child/adult, and children are very perceptive about motivation. But a vicious or sadistic adult can hurt a young thing in many other ways and much worse than physically. As Sir Henry Sidney wrote to his young son Philip at Shrewsbury, 'Remember, a hurt given by a word goes deeper than one given by a blow'. No one could call Sir Philip Sidney 'a brute'". The head master went on to say: What real reason is there to remove one weapon in the armoury of good teachers and good men? Bad teachers and bad men will find plenty of ways of hurting young people (I suppose because they enjoy it) without beating them, and hurting them worse by sarcasm, removal of affection, public deriding, what you will. None suggests for a moment that corporal punishment for the young is a panacea —only that in some cases it is (a) the wisest; (b) the kindest way of emphasising disapproval without making the young person feel and look either a Charlie' or rejected. My Lords, I will not continue reading the letter, but those are wise and kind words. This is the important way to approach the Bill of the noble Baroness. I particularly agree that to be effective corporal punishment must not be pompous, judicial or delayed. Physical retribution should be swift and have an aura of inevitability about it. In my view it is utterly cruel—and I repeat "utterly cruel"—to let a young human go out into the world without knowing in his or her heart that to the end of their days life will exact retribution for being sheer bad, crooked, or being just silly.

I have a daughter who, after her third child had started school, decided to take a diploma and now is a card-holding teacher. I have discussed this Bill with her—and I am sorry that the noble Baroness is not in her place at the moment. My daughter's comment was: Dear Barbara Wootton! so good, so kind, but so much so that she thinks everybody can be made good and kind because she is. I wish that were so, my Lords; but it does not work out that way. My daughter brought out the point which has been mentioned in the debate that one has to realise that there are tough schools in tough places. This is quite a problem to the teacher. There are families where violence in almost every form is an everyday part of the children's life. School without a strap in the drawer would be utterly unreal to such children. This is an angle which my daughter knows from her own experience and which I had not appreciated. If you can obtain a copy of to-day's issue of the Scotsman you will find an interesting letter in it describing the problem of violence in the classroom, referring to a father who is a schoolteacher and to his two children, who are both teachers, all suffering violence at the hands of pupils in one week.

What we need is not Bills like this one but concentrated effort and expenditure to improve the position of teachers, to let them know that we trust them, to ensure that parents understand and accept that their duty to civilisation is the upbringing of their children. The letter from which I have quoted brief extracts also emphasised the importance of the association between the parent and the teacher, which I know is a difficult matter in secondary schools with large classes in busy areas.

I should like to pour scorn and obloquy on the monsters in the film world and, to some extent, in the media, who produce films like the Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs. One university has made compulsory viewing of these things part of one of their courses. Can you believe it? This debate will have been well worth while if it establishes for ever that if we would like to see physical violence eliminated in any form, the first step is to eliminate wickedness. But I oppose the Bill as it stands. I feel that the matter should be left, as my noble friend Lord Sandford pointed out, in the hands of the local authorities to use their judgment. They are the people who have to face the problem of staffing the schools. I should like to see something done to tackle violence on television and on films. I should like to see our education system broadened in one respect. I will quote from an eminent professor of physiology who at one stage was my guardian. I have been reminded by his daughter that he said: Man is an animal whose existence depends on his being a member of a community. Education is too concentrated on developing the individual without training the individuals to be responsible members of their community. That I believe has an important bearing on this right of the teacher which exists to-day of administering punishment to a child—not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, said (and I agree with her) that a cane is no assistance to learning, but it may well be an assistance to education. My Lords, force still remains the ultimate sanction of all law; and much as we should like to see it abolished it still remains so. But let us hope and pray that the use of it and the necessity to use it will decrease, as it must. At the same time, I do not feel that I can vote for this Bill.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, much was said by the last speaker about which I could find an appreciation, and even a limited degree of agreement. He made reference to the absence of my noble friend Lady Wootton, apologising for doing so, and in effect said: "Poor Barbara Wootton. She thinks everyone can be cured by kindness." I hope I quote correctly. I cannot reply for the noble Baroness, but everyone who has heard her speak to-day will know that she can speak very well for herself. Indeed, there are very few subjects under the sun on which she cannot also speak for me. My reply to what was said would be that of course we do not think that everyone can be cured by kindness. Those of us who have for many years taken an interest in matters such as penal reform know that there are insoluble cases. We know that even among young children there are children who seem to be born with the gift of evil. We know that the little blue-eyed girl in the witness box may be a mythomaniac and a pathological liar. We know that we can proceed in such cases only by trial and error, and that some of them are going to finish up in Broadmoor; and some used to finish near the scaffold.

However, I remember that "Nye" Bevan used to say that the first thing to do is to ascertain your principles. Politics does not always permit you to apply in full your principles. There are pragmatic reasons, there are experiences, which limit their immediate or their complete application. In this matter only two principles are involved, one of which I think goes by default. Generally speaking, most people are now in favour of children. This was of course not so in the eighteenth century. Indeed, it was constantly said that Britons were the one people who beat their children.


It still is said, my Lords.


My Lords, it may be surprising to hear that among those who said that was a mass-murderer named Stalin; he said it to Lady Astor with contempt when she went over to teach him how to run Russia.

The real principle in this case poses the question: "Are we in favour of violence?" I am not in favour of violence. It is the most dangerous thing in the world to-day. It is infectious and it can become endemic. Although I do not regard this aspect as anything like the gravest aspect, I say that from one point of view it is serious and requires considering. The one point of view is this. If one says: "Well, I am against violence in general but I must make exceptions", where do you make your exceptions? On tiny children? At a school to which they are sent by compulsion? Is this really where one wishes to found one's approval of violence?

I believe I disagreed twice with the noble Baroness in her brilliant opening speech. One case was when she referred to the pain, which I do not think matters quite so much as the fear, the humiliation. The humiliation may be the most serious aspect of all. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, said that what I would call (I hope it is not offensive) pachydermous children were not greatly hurt by this. That is probably true. It is the sensitive, it is the possible genius, who may be hurt. I lived for a little time on a gun-site where as a lance-bombardier I was actually in charge, contrary to the regulations. We found that men of all classes could gather together there—except the one man who could not mix because he was something of a minor genius. His passion was for music. All his war-time life was almost antagonistic to his own isolation, to his own genius, to his own desire to think for himself. This happens to young children. No one in this debate has said that anyone is going to be cured by corporal punishment. It may deter children. It may of course drive them into concealment. It may drive them to deceit. But nobody has really said that thrashing a child is beneficial. It has merely been said that, on the whole, it is going down, and it will go down, and so on.

In these circumstances, I think the proposals in the Bill are quite unexceptionable, with one exception which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. I agree entirely with what he said. I have always constantly disagreed with what I call the "Mrs. Ramsbottom mentality". Those of your Lordships who recall Mrs. Ramsbottom will remember that she was in an agony of emotion; her son had disappeared down the lion's mouth and she felt quite rightly that something had got to be done. The idea that someone has to be summoned is on the whole rather anathema to me. I am not sure that the provisions of this admirable Bill will really need any special sanction; but certainly I think the argument put forward for four months' imprisonment is really unsatisfactory and ought to be reconsidered. Subject to that, my Lords, I found myself in complete agreement with every word the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, had to say, and I see no reason to repeat what he said. Because if I express myself further I might express myself too strongly and drive away support, I will content myself with what I have said and resume my seat at this moment.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships' House for not being present at the beginning of the debate. I was prevented from coming here earlier by having to attend a Statutory Committee. I am sorry for many reasons that I missed part of the debate, particularly because I imagine there has been a great flow of reminiscence from noble Lords who have brought to your Lordships' House memories of their past and of the undoubted beneficence of corporal punishment. In fact, I met a noble Lord who was so stirred on this subject that he was anxious to testify to the efficacy of corporal punishment. He wanted to show us scars he bore honourably of chastisements long ago inflicted upon him. I assured him that your Lordships' House would take those as seen.

May I address myself to the general principle, which is simply this. There is no solution to the problem of discipline in schools which involves in the long run reliance on assault and battery of children. I entirely agree with Mr. Crosland who, when he was Secretary of State of the Department of Education and Science, said, on December 19, 1967, "The practice of corporal punishment should be dropped in our schools"; and he hoped that "the local authorities, the governing bodies of schools, and the teachers themselves, would all use their power and influence to achieve this end."

There is one rider that I would add to that general principle, and I add it because I was a member of the Public Schools Commission. That body had the distinction of producing a report which won monumental disapproval from all the interested parties concerned, and was approved by no one at all. Nevertheless, I think that certain paragraphs in the report were wise; indeed, they may even have had an influence in the public schools during the time they were being gestated and the report was in the process of being written.

The paragraphs to which I refer were the ones which dealt briefly with the question of corporal punishment in boarding schools. There is a particular point to be made here. In day schools corporal punishment can be checked by parental opinion and by public opinion; if there is some abuse going on it very easily and readily comes to light. Whereas in boarding schools the problem is much more difficult. It is not at all easy for boys to complain of corporal punishment being inflicted upon them because, since it is a school convention, to complain against it is a most difficult and dangerous thing for any boy to do. It is important also to remember that in our public schools the local authorities cannot intervene on behalf of a boy; nor indeed, very often, can the parents. The only recourse they have is to take the boy away.

There was one further point that was referred to in the report of the Public Schools Commission. It went on to say that although in general terms the members of the Commission disapproved of corporal punishment they could not declare that the independent schools must abolish it, because it was still extant in the maintained schools in this country. But they did point out there was one practice that should be abolished at once, and that was the beating of boys by boys. It is said to be disappearing in public schools. For years the public schools were criticised for permitting this practice to continue, and the members of the Commission were unconvinced by any of the defences they heard. They asked why, if it was in practice dying out, it should not be abolished. One headmaster made a statement with which the members of the Commission associated themselves. The headmaster said, "It is worse for those who inflict this punishment, and for those who watch it being inflicted, than for the boy who suffers it." I do not think that corporal punishment inflicted by boys on boys is used in the independent schools as it was in the 1950s. It is probable that that practice is diminishing. It is certain that in many schools it has already been abolished. But I think that the Public Schools Commission were right when they said that they could not recommend that any boy be sent from the maintained sector on any kind of grant to an independent school in which that practice was still condoned. I would at this point ask the Minister whether there is not a possibility of the Secretary of State bringing some pressure to bear on independent schools for a declaration of intent on this matter. I think it is a matter which it is perfectly proper to raise with the Headmasters' Conference.

I have spoken of the general principle; and the general principle is all very well. But what are we to do in our maintained schools when the violence of boys —and indeed the violence of some girls —is increasing all the time?—for increasing it is. And let there be no doubt about the matter: it is not increasing because of the number of immigrant children in our schools it is the white children rather than the black who are responsible. Indeed, it is sometimes the middle-class children rather than the working-class children, the nine-year-olds as well as the 14–16-year-olds who are the wreckers and disrupters in our schools. And faced with this rising violence is it any wonder that teachers and the National Union of Teachers are against the abolition of corporal punishment? To them it seems the only effective defence, perhaps their last defence, against this rising tide. And I suggest that we should not this evening pass general principles and leave the teachers in the front tine without any concern for them. It is very important to maintain discipline in schools, and our teachers, just as much as our children, need our support and need our encouragement.

How can we resolve this problem? My Lords, I speak with great diffidence on this subject because one needs a great deal more experience of what life is like in maintained schools than I have, and I do not think that the enunciation of general principles is enough. I think we need to have some new thoughts about schools; and some of these new thoughts may be rather strange. We have to recognise that we face the problem of the ineducable—the ineducable at the age of puberty. We have to recognise that there are totally alienated children; we have to recognise not merely the delinquent child but the fact that he often comes from a delinquent family. The first subversive thought I want to air is about the school-leaving age. I am sure that everybody in this House believes that it was right to raise the school-leaving age, but I ask myself whether it is not necessary to have second thoughts about how the raised school-leaving age is actually enforced.

Is there not a way of releasing from school children who palpably cannot stand it or understand its purpose, shall we say, after the age of 14? Things have changed since the days when the raising of the school-leaving age was an absolute essential in the advancement of the disadvantaged child or the working-class child. Things have changed because to-day we have a number of "second chance" institutions—and I am glad to see the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, in the House because she was the founder of one of the greatest of our" second chance" institutions, the Open University. If there are these institutions which give a second chance to those who have dropped out, in the early stages of their life, then perhaps we should recognise that it is not absolutely necessary in all circumstances to compel children to stay on at school. It should be a question of opting out on the advice of the teachers of the school, instead of, as it was before the school-leaving age was raised opting in. That is the first thought that I put forward.

The second thought is whether we ought not to consider having special schools for children who are deeply and emotionally disturbed. It is not true that the emotionally disturbed child, the tough destroyer of order within the school community, will naturally be converted by the angelic children around him. Therefore I ask myself whether we should not think more of having special places where such children can be helped and possibly adjusted to their environment. Such a policy assumes that the local authority must accept responsibility for all children. The great difference between the independent schools and the maintained sector is that if there is a thoroughly ill-disciplined boy at an independent school the school has the perfectly easy recourse of saying that he can no longer remain a member of the school. But in the maintained schools, it is impossible to sack boys. That is a difference which must always be borne in mind by those who are facing the problem of ill discipline in the schools.

That is why I maintain that we ought to believe in a new kind of school which does take care of the children who really are wrecking the lives and opportunities of the majority of those in the same class at school, who are perfectly prepared to accept the ordinary school rules and regulations. I think that you will need specially-trained teachers who will identify and isolate for special treatment the emotionally disturbed and the violent. I do not doubt that there will be teachers forthcoming who will be willing to teach in such schools. We have had dedicated teachers in the borstal institutions and in those institutions which deal with physically disabled children. I repeat that I do not doubt that teachers will come forward to work in such special schools. What is very hard is to expect the ordinary run of teachers (and at times they are very young teachers) to work in urban environments in which the schools are at the mercy of very violent children.

I hope that we shall not burke this problem; that we shall not fall back on the fact that this country is peculiar and that we need never consider what is happening in other countries. The list of other countries in which no corporal punishment takes place is enormously long. It is we who are peculiar in maintaining it in our schools. At the same time, we have to consider the different social structures of these countries. There is a spectrum of countries to be observed. At one end are the very highly disciplined schools, in the U.S.S.R.—a discipline which is produced by the whole nature of that State but where observers note how tidy and orderly and strictly disciplined are the children in the schools; though at what cost that discipline is achieved is another matter. At the other end of the spectrum is the U.S.A. where often in the schools in large cities all semblance of discipline has gone and all semblance of education has also disappeared. We must recognise where we stand in this spectrum. In certain of our cities we are nearer to the U.S.A. than to the U.S.S.R. Having taken note of that difference, we must ask ourselves what we are doing about it.

As I understand it, the argument behind this Bill is that we should abolish corporal punishment in order to make the teaching profession face the problem of ill discipline. I myself wonder whether this is not a little premature, whether it would not be wise for the Government to investigate this as a matter of urgency —for we cannot go on much longer ignoring this problem. We need not set up a heavily-weighted Commission which will take two years to produce a report. All we need to do is to investigate the large amount of research that has already been done on this problem and finally to come forward with recommendations which would entail in the end the abolition of corporal punishment. I put that to the House because I think it is too much to expect the teaching profession at the moment to accept the abolition now, immediately; but, on the other hand, I think they must accept that a terminus ad quem must be fixed, a terminus ad quem which must depend on their being convinced that certain measures will be taken after the investigation by the Government to meet the problem of growing violence in many of our less-advantaged schools, thereby eliminating the need to retain corporal punishment.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I shall try to be brief. Like a noble Lord who spoke earlier, I did not come here intending to make a speech on this subject but, as it were, to stand up and be counted. If I now stand up and am counted out in five minutes I shall try, in those five minutes, to make clear why I find this a difficult subject to explain why, if it comes to a vote, I am inclined to vote in favour of the Bill. I believe that a great deal of what has been said does not really concern the issue here to-day. There are three questions which have arisen. The first is: ought corporal punishment to be discouraged? On that I think that everyone, including the noble Lords, Lord Ferrier and Lord Peddie, would agree that it ought not to be encouraged. But that is not what we are discussing. The next question is whether it should be prohibited by law. The third—and here I am in complete agreement with the noble Lords, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge and Lord Hale—is whether it ought to be prohibited by law with penalties, including imprisonment and very heavy fines. I shall not say anything about either the first or the last of these questions; but will give the reasons why I believe that, on the whole, this Bill, with certain emendations, is timely.

Almost all the arguments produced at the beginning of the debate, arguments influenced by a climate of opinion very different from that prevailing now, were based on the fact that corporal punishment is an anachronism, is outdated, is not in accordance with the feeling of the times and, in fact, is against the stream. In most cases, I do not regard that as a good reason for voting for a Bill; and I often regard it as an excellent reason for voting against it. I believe that the matter we are now discussing differs from some of the other highly emotional subjects that we have debated, in that the whole attitude towards corporal punishment of any kind, be it execution, beating, making somebody walk on tintacks, or what not, is affected by the climate of opinion in a way that certain other issues are not affected. That came out very strongly in Lord Peddie's speech which I found very impressive. He made a devastating defence of a type of headmaster who existed at Eton before any of your Lordships were born. I was at Eton, where corporal punishment was practiced, and I was in a House in Keate's Lane. Doctor Keate was the celebrated headmaster who flogged a whole Confirmation Class which came to him, and when he discovered that they were a Confirmation Class, he flogged them again for not pointing it out. His pupils all respected him enormously and in their old age often went back and called on him in much the same way as Lord Peddie looks back on and honours his own headmaster. It may be that it was right in those times and in those circumstances to believe that this was a good way. Doctor Keate was faced with problems very like those of many teachers in schools now. At one time he and one other master dragged in the whole school to flog them for something—and was admired for it.

The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, made an extremely impressive speech and pointed out—as have many others before him, including the excellent Mr. Joyce who was once a master at borstal—that there are occasions when a short, sharp shock can make all the difference in the right direction. That is so; but I think there are many occasions in which it can, with the best intentions and with no question of sadism and unwanted children, have a bad effect in the wrong direction.

May I give one example which perhaps could not be called corporal punishment and which certainly would not be affected by this Bill because it was the case of a parent, but I think the story is substantially true. It concerns a former Member, now deceased, of your Lordships' House who was taking his son and heir aged eight or nine out shooting with him (as my father took me) with the idea of introducing him to the joys of shooting. The boy had not heard a gun go off in quite such close proximity before, and after jumping an inch or two into the air committed the unforgivable offence of almost putting his hand up to his ear. This action horrified and distressed his father who, after sharply exclaiming in a very audible voice" I'll teach any boy of mine to be gun-shy!" proceeded to discharge both barrels of his gun within two inches of the boy's ear, breaking the ear-drum with the result that the boy was deaf in that ear for the rest of his life. I quote that only because I think it was an example of an experiment in education which failed in its objective. It did not make the boy a keen shot; in fact, something worse happened, in that he developed what one might literally call an ear for music", and later he became a more than com- petent violinist. This outcome so horrified his father that I believe for the rest of their lives they were not on speaking terms—or I suppose one should say "speaking tubes". That is an extreme example of how, with good intentions, things do not always work out as one would like them to.

I see that I have exceeded the five minutes that I set myself and it would be quite inappropriate for me to continue and to make some of the points that I should otherwise have made. I will only say that as well as an Amendment which I believe may be made on the matter of imprisonment and which I shall certainly vote for, I am not very happy about the Title of the Bill. It has been pointed out before that it is not concerned with the full protection of minors. I do not think it was meant to be. I do not think anyone will blame the noble Baroness for not trying to protect minors against damage by fire, hail, Bishops, deacons or any other adversity. The Bill is only a limited attempt to protect them in certain circumstances from being beaten by a limited number of people. But it does not, of course, protect all minors, because there is a limited number of minors—I suppose one should call them "minimuses"—who are too young to be included in the Bill at all. That point might possibly be raised in an Amendment to the Title of the Bill, but now is not the moment to stress it. I apologise to your Lordships for speaking longer than I intended to.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in complete agreement with the intention of the Bill and I also welcome the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I hope that whatever happens to this Bill, the Government will take the advice proffered by the noble Lord and will look carefully at this matter of the retention of corporal punishment in schools. When he spoke earlier the Minisler referred to the decision of his right honourable friend in another place that the matter should be left to local education committees and heads of schools, but I want to suggest that this is invariably the sort of formula that is put forward when we in the United Kingdom do not want to face something, when we want to run away from an issue which may be embarrassing or likely to divide the community. I do not think this is an issue that we can run away from; I think it is one that we have to face, although I suspect that the noble Lord, the Minister, when he replies, will not give the Bill a great deal of encouragement.

What surprises me is that we in the United Kingdom can hold fast to the belief that corporal punishment is very desirable when most other countries in the world abolished it a good time ago. As we were told, Poland abolished it something like 190 years ago. But even if we think their way of life is so vastly different from ours, there are numerous countries to-day which share our particular basic philosophy and our particular outlook and they decided tens of years ago to abolish corporal punishment. It surprises me that a nation which considers itself to be enlightened should take this atittude. In fact we are enlightened: we have perhaps done more for our people than a good many other countries. Yet, in spite of our enlightenment and our desire to do what we think is right, there are many people—and quite a number in your Lordships' House—who are prepared to support the continuance of corporal punishment.

The Plowden Report, which has been so much in evidence today, said: We believe that the kind of relationship which ought to exist between teacher and child cannot be built up in an atmosphere in which the infliction of physical pain is regarded as normal. It is really on that passage that I want to base my remarks.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, may I say that what he is saying is absolutely in contradiction to my own experience. The boys of the school where I taught were all devoted to their housemasters and to other masters—with a few exceptions, naturally—and it made no difference at all to their feelings for the masters.


My Lords, of course I must accept what the noble Lord has said. He is speaking from experience; I have never taught children and young persons. I have only taught much older people and the question has not arisen. But the noble Lord's experience is not the experience of a good many other people in the teaching profession.

What I wanted to go on to say is that the retention of corporal punishment in schools means, in my view, that each year we put a large number of academically trained teachers into a cultural setting which is much more in keeping with the Middle Ages. I believe that caning is a middle-class concept of discipline and quite out of place with and far removed from modern thought and modern methods of teaching. Progress in understanding the wants and needs of each child is much more important, and I believe that there are many teachers today who want to understand what the young people are really thinking and feeling but who are seriously hampered by the lack of adequate school buildings and far too few teachers. It is our present educational system, with its classes of unmanageable size, which makes it very difficult for the right kind of relationship to flow from teacher to pupil and back from pupil to teacher. Many teachers today are working in conditions where perhaps they feel they cannot do anything else. I think we must take into account the deprived backgrounds of a large number of our children in schools today which provide the greatest obstacles to learning and present the spearhead of trouble and difficulty. Allowances have to be made for this all too frequent situation. Fortunately for us, we have a growing number of schools in which there is not only a good teacher/headmaster relationship, but a really good and effective teacher/pupil relationship. I believe that this has resulted in the decline of reliance on the use of the cane in recent years.

I was chairman of the board of governors of a school in London for ten years. It was patently clear to me, and to others, that teachers who have a real concern for their pupils acknowledge that caning is not the answer. It can be the easiest way out of a situation; it can be a means of dealing temporarily with that situation. It can also be an excuse for not doing anything really constructive. The real answer is to enable teachers to have the time to go properly into the reasons for the misbehaviour of a pupil. This is being done by a large and growing number of head teachers, who uncover all kinds of difficulties and frustrations. Some schools already have on the staff a teacher who has been specially selected and trained to act as a pupil counsellor. A great deal has been done by such counsellors to help the difficult, wilful and disobedient children.

To look at the problems of the antisocial child objectively is time-consuming, but the schools in which it is being done to-day—and there is a good number—find it worth while in the long run. Where that has been done, the abolition of corporal punishment has not created the disaster that so many people in the community, and perhaps in your Lordships' House, thought it would cause. It was abolished by the head master of Rising Hill, a school in one of London's most difficult districts, proving that the argument for the retention of corporal punishment in tough areas is no longer valid. Many of your Lordships will know the difficulties which occurred in Rising Hill school a few years ago, but that problem has been overcome. This is perhaps the only point at which I join issue with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who asked, "What are we to do about violence in schools?" I may be doing him an injustice—I hope I am not—but I got the impression that he thought there ought to be effective defence. It is my experience, from the many friends I have in the teaching profession, and from the time when I myself was involved as chairman of a board of governors, that it is the same children who get caned time and time again. Caning holds no fear for them. It is not a deterrent. If this is so—and I believe it to be the experience of a good many people—then I think there is no point whatsoever in retaining a measure that serves no useful purpose.

I would draw your Lordships' attention to the West Riding survey made as far back as 1961. This survey found that behaviour was best and delinquency least in schools where corporal punishment was used very sparingly. I do not claim that by outlawing capital punishment—


My noble friend means corporal punishment.


My Lords, I must have made a mistake like that from listening to some of the speeches made this afternoon, from which it seemed that some of your Lordships might even want to introduce capital punishment rather than retain corporal punishment. But I do not claim that by outlawing corporal punishment in schools, antisocial behaviour and violence are going to disappear overnight. Of course they are not. Much more is needed.

Our schools need more money. They need more teachers. They need teachers who in some respects are better trained; and, if I may venture to say so, selected more carefully. There is a need for more sensitive supporting services and changes in attitudes and thinking, plus the overriding requirement to look more closely at the needs of individual pupils. It would be a considerable asset to our educational system if every school could have on its staff someone who was not there merely to teach the subjects taught in that school, but who had been specially selected and trained to deal with the problems of pupils. In that way, one could come to understand why there is so much violence, why there is so much wilfulness, and so much destruction. In the last analysis, this misconduct is very often a form of protest against the kind of environment in which many of the pupils live.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, as someone who was a schoolmaster for 28 years, I feel it would be appropriate for me at any rate to express an opinion on this subject, and I will try to do so very briefly indeed. For 12 years, I taught in a school where assistant masters were not allowed to use corporal punishment. I regret to say that my school persisted in what I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is a quite indefensible practice of allowing prefects to beat other boys. Assistant masters were not allowed to use corporal punishment. In any case, with the kind of relationship that I had with my pupils, it would have been unthinkable. Then I became head master of a very large grammar school where discipline had become somewhat difficult (shall we say?), partly as a result of the war. Corporal punishment was used, though not a great deal. For my first year or so I used it myself. But I was wrong. I soon came to regard it as unnecessary, undesirable and, most important of all, ineffective. Though there was never a formal prohibition in the school, the general disapproval among my colleagues, and my own disapproval of corporal punishment, made it obsolete. Thus, my experience and my convictions lead me to support this Bill wholeheartedly.

I ventured on my short autobiographical introduction so that it could not be said that my support was simply based on starry-eyed inexperience. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, has gone. It is in the light of that experience, extending over a number of years, that I should like to comment on one or two of the all too familiar arguments we have heard to-day. In the first place, I would affirm as strongly as I can that I do not believe that corporal punishment can do any good to anybody, certainly no good comparable with its potential and actual harm. The fact that the old phrase (how sick one is of hearing it!) "I was beaten repeatedly and it never did me any harm", should have been quoted so often is sufficient evidence, surely, that whatever else corporal punishment is, it is not a deterrent; otherwise the speakers would not have been beaten so repeatedly. The tough boy in a difficult school—he has been quoted to-day—is often thought of as accessible only through a good thrashing. We have even heard the old stuff about violence, that the way to deal with it in school is to retain the cane. The cane we are told, is the only punishment he fears. With respect, I believe that that is nonsense. As often as not the tough boy has been beaten repeatedly and fiercely in his own home and it is part of his self-image to endure such treatment and to laugh.

The boy for whom the thought of physical pain may actually be thought to be a deterrent and may be a deterrent is the nervous, the physically timid boy, and to him there is surely no doubt that corporal punishment can do definite harm. But, of course, the harm of corporal punishment goes a good deal further than its effect on the frightened child. I am referring to the more subtle damage to the atmosphere of an educative community and to the proper development of the individuals in it when authority has to rest on the infliction of physical pain; as the noble Countess said, the headmaster's symbol being a cane. What a conception of my one-time profession! The truth is that the interest aroused by beatings and the rituals so often associated with them are, we must now acknowledge a good deal more unhealthy than our predecessors knew, or at any rate were prepared to admit. I am not, of course, maintaining that every schoolmaster who canes a boy is a sadist, though some are. What I am saying is that in a school where corporal punishment exists there are dangers of introducing fears, attitudes and sometimes pleasures which are inimical to good education and proper maturity.

A common line of defence is to say, "By all means let such punishment diminish, but let us keep it as the ultimate sanction"—I think the phrase was used in this Chamber to-day—like the atomic bomb. That is, I think, with respect, an extremely misguided view. Serious offences such as truancy or stealing are the very last which should be dealt with by the summary expedient of the cane. They are nearly always signs of some trouble that needs diagnosis and sympathy and help and guidance. If caning is ever justified, I think it is for the essentially trivial offence, such as impertinence or practical joking on a big scale, or something similar, and for such offences there are other far less potentially harmful punishments.

There are two other arguments against a positive prohibition of corporal punishment in schools; we have heard both of them to-day. The first, and it seems to be the Government's view in so far as the Government's view is crystallizing, says that since the use of such punishment is diminishing all the time, we can afford to do nothing and let it wither away. That argument does not satisfy me; first, because if something wrong is going on we surely cannot stop it too soon, and secondly, because I am not prepared to tolerate the pockets of fear and sometimes cruelty that anything short of prohibition will leave untouched. The second argument says that methods of punishment should be left to the professional judgment of the practising teacher. This argument also leaves me unmoved. The operations of every profession, as the noble Baroness said in her opening speech—she said practically everything in her opening speech—are quite properly the subject of judgment by the community when moral issues are involved. I am too jealous of the reputation of the profession to which I belong to believe that it needs the liberty to do something that is, after all, prohibited by a great number of civilised countries in order that it may do its work at all.

Finally, I would say this, and I think here my mind is working on the same lines as that of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, although I do not think I should reach the same conclusion of another Committee. If we prohibit corporal punishment in schools, as I think we should and can, we must make every effort to remove the causes which, in the view of its defenders, make it essential. We must ask ourselves whether we are fair to teachers when we create very large schools in difficult areas, with impossibly mixed abilities, leading to boredom, and boredom is the first step to bad behaviour. We must ask whether we give young teachers enough guidance and support over disciplinary problems, and in my experience we do not. Hitherto, we have not given them enough support of practically any kind. We must ensure that difficult schools and disturbed pupils get adequate help through other social agencies. The use of the cane is often, after all, a reaction of teachers lacking in confidence or special talents or experience, their reaction to behaviour which seems intolerable and to problems with which they simply cannot cope. It is the easy way out, and, misguided, ineffectual and sometimes harmful though I believe it to be, it is, nevertheless, comprehensible enough that some people should take that way. If we abolish it by law, as I believe we should, we must at the same time do our best, by the better training of teachers, by more sensible organisation of our schools, and by giving those schools and those teachers ever greater social support, to deal more rationally and more effectively with kinds of behaviour for which beating is now supposed, so erroneously, to be the right answer.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene, very briefly, not to make any profound remarks; I have come to this debate following on a most profound speech to which we have all listened with great interest. I want to contradict from my own experience what has been said time and again this afternoon. It was said by Lord Morris of Grasmere for the first time, I think, and other speakers have said it—that corporal punishment serves no useful purpose. It was said by Lord James of Rusholme a minute ago, and by Lord Wells-Pestell as well. My experience is somewhat different in my own person. As a small boy I went to one of the great Scottish day schools, and when one was about 10 or 11 one got homework to do. If you did not do your homework, you were told about it, but when it was proved that you obviously went playing games or some other thing instead of doing what you were told, then you received a punishment. I can remember it perfectly well; after the master had questioned you and proved to his own satisfaction that you had not done a single thing about what you had been told to do, he said "Galbraith, come down here and hold out your hand", and you got three or four smacks with what we call the tawse—in other words, strap. It taught you to do your homework, believe me. On another occasion years later, as a midshipman in the Navy, I was told to do a certain duty and I did not do it—not purposely but because I forgot—and I got six over the backside, and it taught me not to forget.

I do not know what kind of schools some of your Lordships were at; I do not know what kind of experience you have had in the world. You may have taught in schools, but, goodness gracious!, you will never maintain discipline, except by men of the greatest character and there are not many of them, without having something to make people know through their own skins that they have to do the right thing or suffer for it. That is my experience in a long lifetime, and I can confirm it further from my own home. I am one of eight children. I have seven children of my own; they have all been spanked; we all love one another, and they have all learned to do what they are jolly well told, and to do it properly.

I will give your Lordships another example in another connection. I was working outside one day when a car drew up and a policeman got out; he was an inspector of police new to me. He came over and had a talk with me, and he deplored several things. One of them was the fact that, going round the countryside and the villages in his area to-day, he would find a boy going wrong. He would try to find the mother and father to warn them, but it was very difficult to find them. The mother was at work, and so was the father, and in the evenings they had a little relaxation, either in the bingo hall or the pub, to use the inspector's words. Then the boy does something really serious, and what happens? He goes to borstal and mixes with all kinds of naughty boys. He probably has his whole character altered for the worse and, as the policeman said to me, "All because you have taken away from us the right to give him a smack on the ear with the back of our hand, or a kick where a kick should be administered." I do not understand this namby-pamby way in which we are going on. We are so soft that I can hardly believe that I live in the same country in which I was brought up. This is to the detriment of the young and of the old as well.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to prolong this debate after so many noble Lords have spoken, but I wish to briefly emphasise one aspect of this problem which has not been made clear from many of the speeches, although it has been well brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Somers; that is, that beating has nothing to do with education. This point must be made very clear. I unreservedly support the object of the Bill in trying to stop attempts at teaching by beating, but it is not possible to lump all the cases for caning under this one heading, because this causes confusion.

I am concerned as to the use of caning as a selective disciplinary measure. There are occasions for which the remedy of caning should not be forbidden. We all know examples—bullying and other cases have been mentioned. I suggest, as the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, has stated, that this is a Bill that takes something from the headmasters. Casual caning, or caning of small boys by older boys, should not be permitted, and I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has already said about this. But we should not deprive a headmaster, or a housemaster, acting in concert with the board of governors or council of management, of the right to administer appropriate punishment for certain offences, but not as a so-called means of education. In some circumstances the alternative would be expulsion, which could be a permanent setback to a career, when the matter could be dealt with by a short, sharp lesson, which causes no resentment. I find this Bill by no means clear about this important aspect of the problem of total abolition of corporal punishment, and for this reason I cannot unreservedly support it.

6.44 p.m.


My Lords, before turning to the issues raised solely by the Bill, I should like to say that I am grateful to the noble Baroness for stimulating a valuable debate, and to assure noble Lords that if I do not mention all the points now—there were many raised in the course of the debate—for instance by the noble Lords. Lord Annan and Lord James of Rusholme—my right honourable friend and I will be taking them up and considering them with care in due course. When I asked noble Lords who put down their names to speak in this debate what line they were proposing to take, many of the supporters of the Bill said, in effect, that they thought, "The time had come". This was the phrase that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, actually used. Therefore, I was looking forward to-day to hearing what it was that had happened, what changes had occurred that, in their view, call for the sudden, sweeping, dramatic change of approach in the use of corporal punishment that is embodied in this Bill. I must say that after this debate, although I now know more of how many noble Lords' minds have been working, I am still very short of firm data and practical evidence of the need for such a sudden, sweeping and dramatic change in our approach to this problem at this particular moment.

Perhaps I should now turn aside to justify the expression, "sudden, sweeping and dramatic". It is a sweeping change. I have already set out, and other noble Lords have mentioned, particular instances where the use of corporal punishment has been forbidden or withdrawn: for example, throughout the whole of Inner London in respect of primary schools; fifteen or more other authorities in respect of infants' schools; and in Northumberland in respect of all their special schools. All the evidence (and there is plenty of it) and indications are that where there has been local consultation about such a proposal, especially with the teachers, this formal change of policy has gone well, caused no trouble, and the use of corporal punishment has ended. But such is not the way of this Bill. The aim of this Bill is to make one comprehensive, sweeping change apply to secondary as well as primary schools, State schools as well as Church schools, independent schools as well as direct grant schools, schools in England, schools in Scotland, schools in Wales, schools in Northern Ireland, and possibly to be imposed on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. There is no scope left in the Bill for any exceptions to allow for the different attitudes and different conditions prevailing in different areas and different types of schools. I do not think that there is any doubt at all that this is a wholesale change in our approach.

It is also a sudden change. I have already outlined the sequence of some of the main events that have led, and are leading, to the decline in the use of the cane in schools. There is the process of formal prohibition by local education authorities over the whole of their areas—the ILEA is a case in point, and the noble Baroness mentioned others. There is the process of formal prohibition by governors and managers; there is the process of prohibition by individual head teachers. The combination of all those processes seems apparently to some of the noble Baroness's supporters to be too slow and too haphazard. But there is plenty of scope for those who feel concerned about the pace of change to seek to influence it and expedite the process. Again this is not the way of this Bill. The aim of the Bill being recommended to us is to abandon this sensible, gradual, flexible process, the one adopted by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in the case of Manchester Grammar School, and instead to arrange matters so that, without any further consultation with the teachers, no further consultation with the local education authorities, no further consultation with managers and governors, this legislation should come into force a little over a year from now on January 1, 1975, which will be much less than a year after any date on which it might conceivably become law. So it is a sudden change.

It is a dramatic change. At present if a teacher finds occasion to cane a pupil he has, against any action for assault, the defence that he was inflicting no more than a reasonable chastisement. As I have said, there are already several classes of establishment, several categories of school, several education authorities, several boards of governors and several headmasters who forbid their teachers to use the cane or physical force upon their pupils, and there are many of us who believe, with the supporters of the Bill, that this prohibition in the use of corporal punishment will become more widespread. But the aim of this Bill is quite different. It does not proceed on these lines. In one move it takes away the defence of reasonable chastisement which teachers have had for so long, and substitutes in its place, for any teacher who raps or canes a pupil, the liability of being convicted of a criminal offence, and being faced on conviction with the heavy penalties set out in Clause 1(4) of £50 or four month's imprisonment on summary conviction, or £250 and one year's imprisonment on indictment. The point which the noble Baroness made about these being maxima and not fixed penalties of course does not remove the liability to receive the maximum if convicted. That, I am sure your Lordships will agree, is a dramatic change, and I have listened in vain for any assurance from the supporters of the Bill that the teaching professions are in any way content with it.

My Lords, I had anticipated that there could be three possible arguments in justification of such a sudden, sweeping and dramatic change of approach. One I had expected, and which we have had, is the argument that caning does positive harm. We have not had any particular instances of it. We have had mention of sadism and brutality; but, my Lords, displays of sadism and brutality would already be caught, because that would be going beyond reasonable chastisement, and the defence that the law already provides would not hold. So there is no need for this change—


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment. Is the Minister seriously suggesting that if a teacher is animated by a sadistic motive and carries out a moderate chastisement that would in any way be discovered?


How it would be discovered and whether it would be discovered would depend on the local circumstances in each particular school and on the particular form of regulation and prohibition which headmasters and governors are applying. The other point which has been made in the case about caning doing harm is that there are other approaches and methods which teachers do, alas!, sometimes use which can do much greater harm than caning—and this is undoubtedly true. Harsh and sustained sarcasm can do much more harm than caning. The Bill does nothing whatever to curb them; and in fact the removal of the possibility of corporal punishment may well induce some weak teachers to use more of these equally cruel and undesirable approaches.

Another argument which I expected to be used, and which has indeed been used, is that there is now such widespread acceptance of the case for the formal abolition of corporal punishment in this country and in other countries, in these institutions and in other institutions, that this Bill would do little more than set the seal on a process which is almost complete. It is certainly true that corporal punishment is already virtually abolished in penal establishments, and I should like to deal with that point. This certainly demonstrates—and the noble Baroness was perfectly right to bring it forward in support of her case—that difficult and indeed wicked people can be managed without recourse to corporal punishment. But, my Lords, prisons are not schools, and schools are not prisons. Prison staff have at their disposal an entirely different régime and a far wider range of controlling sanctions than the teacher in a school. The other difference is that prisons and the like are part of a centrally administered system in which policy decisions are formulated in Whitehall and, after such consultation as is proper for good management, are then applied throughout the system. No part of the British education service—


My Lords, does the noble Lord have in mind that the abolition of corporal punishment applies also to borstals, and that there are boys of 15 and 16 in borstal institutions?


I was indeed bearing that in mind, my Lords, and what I said about corporal punishment having been abandoned in penal institutions was intended to cover that. I am fully aware of that fact. What I am saying is that those establishments have quite different regimes from those in schools, and the staff have a quite different range of controlling sanctions available to them.

I was going on to say that no part of the British education service—the word "British" is important, and I will come back to it in a moment—or, for that matter, the network of local authority community homes; are in the least like the prison service and the system of penal establishments. Both the British education service and the local authority community homes are composed of a very wide variety of sectors, the only common characteristic of which is that not one school and not one home is run from Whitehall; and in many important fields, not least the teaching that goes on in the school from day to day, the direct interference and influence of Whitehall, of central Government, is expressly excluded. So there are a whole lot of highly relevant differences between these two sets of establishments.

The point was also made—in fact it was made by many noble Lords—that we are almost alone among Western European countries in retaining the right to administer corporal punishment in our schools. While this, by and large, is true—and I would not want to question that—I think your Lordships would do well to remember the fundamental differences which exist between our country and our European neighbours, not only in the administrative organisation of our educational system, which is far more decentralised than any in Europe, and certainly than most in Europe, but, more generally, in the whole structure of the social fabric that has shaped our system. I have therefore been at some pains to convince your Lordships how inappropriate it would be for such a change to be effected in the courts by means of one sweeping act of central Government. The Government firmly believe that it is a matter for local and professional resolution.

Now, my Lords, I come to such moves as have been made by local authorities to restrict or abolish corporal punishment. There have been a number of instances in the past year or so in England and Wales, and in Scotland, of local education authorities seeking to impose a total or partial ban on the use of corporal punishment in their schools. We do not collect statistics on corporal punishment, and we do not of course have a comprehensive and definitive picture of what authorities are doing in this field. However, a number of instances have come to our notice, some of which have attracted a good deal of publicity in the Press. My overriding impression from these is that such moves have been effective, but only where there has been genuine consultation beforehand with representatives of the teaching profession, leading to an agreement to co-operate in the change. This Bill would completely short-circuit all this essential process of local consultation.

My Lords, there is one other argument—and we have heard it to-day—and that is that it is here in central Government, in Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster, where matters like this have to be decided. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said quite explicitly that this is a field in which Westminster knows best; and we have heard a good deal from noble Lords about how minds are moving in the Palace of Westminster. But I think your Lordships should have the benefit of the views of the local authority associations, who are responsisble for running this service, and of the unions of teachers, who are responsible for running the schools. In giving your Lordships their views, I should like it to be borne in mind that I am now about to give you a summary of the bodies which are representative of something between 300,000 and 400,000 teachers, whereas this campaign for the abolition of corporal punishment by this particular means at this particular stage has been mounted by an organisation known as STOPP, the members of which can be numbered only in their hundreds.

The teachers' unions and the local authority associations, like many noble Lords who have spoken on both sides of this debate to-day, are in principle opposed to corporal punishment, and are aware that it is being used less and less. They look forward eventually to its complete disappearance from schools—and this is the point on which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and I, and the Parties we represent, are in accord. But—and this is where we part—they do not want to see professional discretion removed; and, like Lady Plowden in her Report, they are quite certain that legislation for a new criminal offence is not the right way to tackle this question. They are very concerned about this Bill because it removes from the teacher his defence of reasonable chastisement and exposes him to the risk of severe penalties, and they cannot see how objections could be removed by its amendment.

My Lords, I have been impressed by the constructive and positive tone which the unions have taken in answering our inquiries as to their attitudes. Some unions, like many noble Lords, have rightly pointed to the present need for a more general examination to be made of the broad problem of maintaining discipline in schools. I welcome comments from noble Lords that we have had on that subject. They have gone on to indicate, as did the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, how irrelevant they feel this Bill is to the central and topical point which is their concern. They have also made the point that the sensible way to proceed to the removal of corporal punishment is to involve the teaching profession from the very outset in any discussions or negotiations leading to this end. I have had no assurances this afternoon that so far this has been undertaken.

They have also expressed alarm at the prospect, which could arise if the Bill became law, of a serious erosion taking place in the concept of the teacher being in loco parentis towards the children in his charge. They do not seem to share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, in this respect. The concept extends well beyond the field of discipline, across the whole range of the relationship between teacher and child. This is not an academic point. It is one of the impressive features of our educational system that the teacher does not confine his interests and his feeling of responsibility for his charges to the narrow confines of his classroom; his relationship is stretching out all the time from the school into the community.

My Lords, I come to my conclusion. Your Lordships' House is undoubtedly the repository of very great wisdom and very wide experience. There is here an accumulation of many skills in many fields, many of which have been deployed to-day. But, my Lords, in dealing with this Bill we need to ask ourselves, as did the noble Lord, Lord Annan, whether we really have the personal, up-to-date, firsthand experience of classroom teaching, for instance in a big inner city comprehensive school, to bring our own personal, unaided judgment to bear decisively on the wide variety of issues that arise in the evolution of this essentially local service and the place of corporal punishment in it. Certainly this Government—and, until to-day, I thought the Party opposite—remains clear that evolution in this sphere should be left—


My Lords, this is a Private Member's Bill.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, would give way? He raised this point while I was speaking. I made our position quite clear. I indicated that there was a developing movement of thought in this field. The noble Lord really must not—as he did when he intervened before and as he has done when he spoke—attempt to give this a Party flavour, a strong Party flavour, that nobody, I think, who has listened to the debate will feel is involved.


My Lords, I do not want to force the Party opposite into expressing their opinion on this matter. I thought it would be helpful to the House to know whether the Party opposite remain of the view expressed when they were last in power, or whether, as I suspected from what he said at that Despatch Box opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, was expressing his own personal view. I will not pursue the matter. If the Party opposite do not want to express a view, they need not do so.


My Lords, I read to the noble Lord what Mr. Edward Short wrote in his book, and I repeated it to him because I thought he might have missed it the first time. The noble Lord ought really to be a little more careful.


My Lords, the House and I were interested to hear what Mr. Short had to say in his book. What I thought the House would also be interested in was to know the official view of the Party opposite about this particular Bill. But, clearly, the Party opposite have not felt willing or able to express that—


My Lords, I really must protest at the line that the Minister is taking. Parties are not expected to have official views on Private Member's Bills, and I think it an outrage—I repeat the word "outrage"—to try to press us to take a political stand on what is a Private Member's Bill.


My Lords, I am not pressing the noble Baroness in the very least. I am saying that I think the House might be interested. The Party opposite have now made clear that they do not want to commit themselves—at least we know that—and we can leave the point.


My Lords, before we leave it I want to make this point. The noble Lord asked me to go out of the Chamber with him. He asked me what line I intended to take. I think he will agree that I gave him a very detailed résumé of the line I intended to take. He at no point indicated that he would be asking me the question he has or would put the point he is making.


My Lords, I do not want to press it any further than that. I say that I think it would be helpful for the House to know that the Party opposite, at this stage, does not want to express a view; and I quite agree with the noble Lords and Ladies opposite that there is no need for them to express a view.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is he speaking for his entire Party?


My Lords, I am speaking for the Government, and perhaps I may now go on. My Lords, it is appropriate, because the next words I have written in my speech are that I am a Minister of the Department of Education and Science. It is in that capacity that I have had the benefit of getting inside several scores of schools in recent weeks. But I would certainly not back changes as sweeping in scope, sudden in application and dramatic in effect upon the teachers as these—even if I supported them—without prior assurances that the local authority associations, bodies of governors and managers and associations of teachers and head teachers had been fully consulted about them and, at the very least, understood their purpose and broadly consented to the new régime that they would introduce. My Lords, it is because this debate has brought me no such assurances of consultation, and because it has brought out no argument that I find convincing for a change now of this kind or to show why the sudden sweeping and dramatic change of approach embodied in this Bill should be introduced, that I must advise your Lordships not to accord the Bill a Second Reading.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and particularly to those who have spoken in support of the Bill. I am grateful, also, for some constructive criticisms which I shall certainly consider very carefully; and I hope that if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading this may lead to some improvement in it at a later stage. I should like to make an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, because I was absent from my place during the early part of his speech. If I have been correctly informed, he quoted his daughter as saying that I thought that everybody could be cured by kindness. Is that right—or substantially right?


My Lords, it is substantially right. My daughter said that, "Dear Lady Wootton is so good and so kind, and thinks that everybody can be cured by kindness."


Perhaps the noble Lord will tell his daughter that, if that is her opinion, she is mistaken. I do not think that everybody can be cured by kindness; it would be surprising if I did after 44 years' experience in magistrates' courts. What I do think is that nobody can be educated by being beaten, which is a different proposition.

I should like now to come to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, on behalf of the Government. I cannot, for obvious reasons, deal with these at length: the House would not wish me to. But I will deal with one small point and then say a little about a more substantial point. The small point occurred in his opening speech, when he said that the Bill could not apply to Northern Ireland because it was to be presumed that, under the new arrangements, this would be a matter for Northern Ireland to determine for itself. My information is that under the Northern Ireland Constitution in 1973 the criminal law is retained with the Westminster Parliament. Perhaps the noble Lord will look into this point at a suitable stage and see which of us is right.

The noble Lord's substantial point is one which I think is widely shared and one that I have heard from many quarters. It is that we should wait until the right thing happens in due course. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is not enthusiastic, I think, about corporal punishment. He was inclined to say that it did not do any particular good, but he was not convinced that it did any particular harm. I think he was well answered at an earlier stage by a noble Lord who said that this argument that, "We must wait; that this is not the moment because we cannot prove the change in the climate of opinion", is one that would stop every progressive movement. And I think it was even more effectively answered by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who said that if a thing is wrong to-day it should be put right to-day, not to-morrow or the day after. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, would have us wait until corporal punishment passes out in due course, and this means until every one of several hundred (I am sorry I do not know the total, but it is at least a great many hundreds) of education authorities in this country are unanimous in wishing to abolish it completely. At the moment, the number of who have got that far can be counted on the fingers of one seriously mutilated hand, and it looks therefore as if we might have to wait a very long time.

My Lords, my real difficulty in answering the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is that I do not use the same English vocabulary. Many times in his speech he used the words "radical", "sweeping", "sudden" and "dramatic" as though they were automatically of a pejorative nature. I am sorry, but I do not share that use of language. Neither do I share his use of language which identifies "sensible" and "gradual". I recognise that in some matters it is important to move gradually—though not when one is rectifying a wrong or putting right an injustice. I recognise that it is necessary to move gradually when changes are to be made that may involve the obsolescence of existing technical equipment which it would be expensive to throw away. In circumstances like that, and others, it is proper to hasten slowly; but not, as I say, on the question of rectifying injustices or putting right a wrong.

But, my Lords, the British have a peculiar addiction to gradualness. My mind goes back longer than Lord Sand-ford's, at least in personal memory, to a

time more than half a century ago when Parliament decided that it was wrong that women did not have the vote. But for 10 years thereafter women between the ages of 21 and 30 continued to be disenfranchised simply because of this extraordinary reluctance to realise the immediate consequences of our convictions. If we wait until corporal punishment dies out of itself, or until hundreds of local authorities are agreed that it ought to be abolished, exactly the same thing will happen. Numbers of children who are now at school, and numbers of children who will be at school next year and the year after, will continue to be beaten for no better reason than that they made the mistake of being born too soon.

7.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents 51; Not-Contents, 67.

Amulree, L. Garnsworth, L. Morris of Grasmere, L.
Ardwick, L. Goodman, L. Phillips, B.
Balogh, L. Hale, L. Platt, L.
Barrington, V. Harmsworth, L. Segal, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Henderson, L. Sharp, B.
Blyton, L. Hoy, L. Stocks, B.
Brockway, L. James of Rusholme, L. Stow Hill, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Kahn, L. Strabolgi, L.
Clwyd, L. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Collison, L. Lee of Asheridge, B. Vernon, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Listowel, E. Wade, L.
Diamond, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. White, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Longford, E. Willis, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Maelor, L. Wootton of Abinger, B. [Teller.]
Faringdon, L. Melchett, L.
Fiske, L. Milford, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Gaitskell, B.
Ferrers, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Aberdare, L. Ferrier, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Ailwyn, L. Furness, V. Newall, L.
Allerton, L. Gowrie, E. Northchurch, B.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Grenfell, L. Oakshott, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gridley, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Berkeley, B. Hacking, L. Peddie, L.
Bethell, L. Hailes, L. Porritt, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rankeillour, L.
Brock, L. Redesdale, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hanworth, V. Rowallan, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Harrowby, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Caccia, L. Hunt, of Fawley, L. Sandford, L.
Coleraine, L. Kilmany, L. Sempill, Ly.
Colville of Culross, V. Kinloss, Ly. Somers, L. [Teller.]
Courtown, E. Limerick, E. Stamp, L.
Cowley, E. Long, V. Strange, L.
Daventry, V. Loudoun, C. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Denham, L. Luke, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Lytton, E.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Macleod of Borve, B. Swaythling, L.
Swinton, E. Tenby, V. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Taylor, L. Vivian, L. Young, B.
Templemore, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion for Second Reading disagreed to accordingly.