HL Deb 19 December 1974 vol 355 cc1310-27

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I must say that I feel very diffident about making a second speech in your Lordships' House within a period of 22 hours—the more diffident since, 22 hours ago, I said what I wanted to say in just about 13 minutes; and now what I have to say will take probably twice as long. This is not because this Bill is controversial, because I am sure it will have the broad support of both sides of this House, as it did in another place, but its details are complicated, and I feel this House will wish me to explain them carefully and reasonably fully.

The Bill is intended to fulfil three main purposes: first, to extend the scope of mandatory awards under Section 1 of the Education Act 1962, secondly, to extend the scope of the 1962 Act to provide for students attending the six long-term residential colleges of adult education in England and Wales and the one in Scotland to receive State awards at full mandatory rates. Thirdly, it is intended to increase from 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. the rate at which grants and contributions may be made in respect of voluntary aided and special agreement schools.

I shall deal with each of these objectives in turn, starting with the extension of the scope of mandatory awards under Section 1 of the 1962 Act. This extension covers three main categories of people; those taking courses for the Diploma of Higher Education; those taking the Higher National Diploma, and, thirdly, students following initial teacher-training courses. First, it might be helpful if were to describe briefly the present arrangements for awards to students taking courses of higher or further education. Section 1 of the Education Act 1962 imposes on local education authorities a duty to make awards to those students taking full-time degree level courses who satisfy a residential requirement and possess educational qualifications which are laid down in Regulations made under that Act.

These qualifications are two "A" level passes or their equivalent. At present students following courses of initial teacher training at colleges of education are eligible for awards from their local education authorities under arrangements approved by the Secretary of State under Section 2 of the Education Act 1962—this is the discretionary section. These awards are to all intents and purposes mandatory, but they are not legally so. Then, awards for students taking other courses of further education are made under Section 2 of the Education Act 1962 and are entirely at the discretion of local authorities.

I come next to the Diploma of Higher Education. The need for this clause of the Bill arises in the first place from the introduction of the new two-year Diploma of Higher Education courses. Schemes for the introduction of these courses are in preparation in the colleges and many are expected to start in September 1975, when the provisions of this Bill are intended to come into effect. The necessary Regulations will be laid before the House in due course. The Dip.HE is intended to serve both as a qualification in its own right and as a stepping stone to a degree or other qualification. I hope that it will prove attractive to students who are unwilling to commit themselves from the outset to a teacher training or other degree course. I regard it as essential to the success of the new Dip.HE courses that students following them should be eligible for mandatory awards as provided for in the present Bill.

I come secondly to those taking the HND, because outside bodies, including the student organisations, have made strong representations that the HND should receive parity of treatment with the Dip.HE in respect of awards. The HND is similar in level to the Dip.HE and, although it has a lower minimum entry qualification (that is, one "A" level or equivalent, instead of two), many entrants to it have more than this minimum requirement. There are at present about 17,000 students in England and Wales on HND courses, excluding overseas students. Of these, about 14,000 are in receipt of awards from their local education authorities, although not all receive the level of grant which they would receive if their awards were mandatory. I have always regarded the HND as an essential component of the further education system. It has characteristics which clearly distinguish it from all other courses with one "A" level entry requirements. It is closely geared to the needs of industry and is validated under national agreements by joint committees on which the Secretary of State is represented, thus enjoying a status and prestige which other qualifications, such as college diplomas, do not share. I do not consider that support for it can any longer be left entirely to the discretion of local education authorities.

Another reason for bringing HNDs into the mandatory system is the serious risk that demand for HND courses would fall off if they were not to attract mandatory awards once Dip.HE courses attract mandatory awards. This could have the effect of seriously reducing the supply to industry of suitably qualified manpower at this level—a risk which is quite unacceptable. I hope, therefore, that the extension of mandatory awards to cover both Dip.HE and HND courses will be regarded as very much in the national interest, and it also bears witness to the seriousness with which the Government have taken the Labour Party's commitment to the extension of the mandatory awards system.

I now come to teacher training awards. Your Lordships may well ask why it is necessary to provide for students following initial teacher training courses to be given entitlement to mandatory awards when they already receive awards which are in effect mandatory in practice. Among other reasons why it is necessary to do this, we thought it right to take this opportunity to give the present practical situation full legal backing. We felt this was the more necessary since the extension of mandatory awards to Dip.HE students who might then go on to teacher training might leave some local education authorities in doubt whether the present practice of, in effect, mandatory awards for teacher training courses would apply to those who had already completed their Dip.HE. So the Bill accordingly provides that awards for students following teacher training courses should be brought within Section 1 of the Education Act 1962, and thus made mandatory in form as they already are in practice. This rationalisation, I am sure, will be widely welcomed.

I now come to a point about educational qualifications for mandatory awards. At present Section 1 of the 1962 Act makes eligibility for a mandatory award dependent on educational qualifications which are prescribed by the Secretary of State. These of course are at present two "A" levels or the equivalent, as I said earlier. The Bill removes this requirement except for courses designated as comparable to first degree courses. That is to say, acceptance after this Bill is implemented for a course leading to a first degree, a Dip.HE or HND or initial teacher training qualifications, will be regarded as sufficient evidence of educational suitability for the course. One reason for this change is that it would be anomalous and unacceptable for a student with one "A" level to qualify for a mandatory award on gaining entry to an HND course but not to do so if he exceptionally gained entry to a degree course.

More generally, the change will benefit many students, including a number of mature students, who are accepted to study for a first degree although they do not have the formal educational qualifications required for a mandatory award. The great majority of them, I must add, do in practice get discretionary awards of equal value from their local education authority; but the Government consider that this ought to be made a matter of entitlement. The Government, in consultation with universities, colleges and the CNAA—and, in the case of the HND, through the medium of its representation on the joint committees—will continue to keep a close watch on the qualifications of students entering higher education, to ensure that the abolition of prescribed educational qualifications is not abused. Rather different considerations apply to courses designated as comparable to first degree courses. These are courses where there is not the safeguard of university or CNAA validation to ensure that entry standards are maintained. For students wishing to take these courses, therefore, eligibility for a mandatory award will continue to be dependent on prescribed educational qualifications. These will continue to be two "A" levels or their equivalent.

I turn now, my Lords, to awards for mature students taking courses at the long-term residential colleges, which are made at present under Section 2 of the Education Act 1962 and are, therefore, entirely at the discretion of local education authorities. While my Department has asked authorities to give particularly sympathetic consideration to applications from those who have obtained places at these colleges, we know that some prospective students have been unable to take up these places because their authorities were not prepared to support them.

The provisions in the Bill will enable a system of State awards to be introduced by the beginning of the next academic year at mandatory rates for students attending long-term courses of liberal adult education at the long-term residential colleges. There are six of these colleges, including Ruskin College, in England and Wales and a seventh—Newbattle Abbey—in Scotland. The colleges are independent institutions which offer a major channel of second-chance education to men and women who have in most cases left school without academic qualifications at the minimum leaving age, and many of their students are able to go on to new professional or occupational training or to universities as mature students.

The Russell Report on Adult Education recommended that when the necessary legislation could be introduced in Parliament, students accepted for courses at the long-term residential colleges should receive mandatory awards. For the Government's part, we wish to ensure that those who seem most likely to benefit from a second chance to progress up the educational ladder by attending a long-term course at one of these colleges should not be debarred from doing so because they cannot obtain a discretionary award.

However, there are difficulties about making the awards mandatory within the terms of Section 1 of the 1962 Act, and we have therefore chosen instead to make provision in the Bill which will enable the Secretary of State to make State awards—not in themselves mandatory although at mandatory rates—under a scheme to be administered by my Department for students who obtain places on long-term courses at these colleges. The Bill does not specify the length of a course that will qualify for such an award. This is within the discretion of the Secretary of State, but our intention is not to make awards available to students attending courses of less than one academic year.

My Lords, if this Bill becomes law, it is our intention that the State awards scheme should be introduced by the beginning of the next academic year, and the necessary regulations will be laid before the House in due course. Students on two-year courses who will not complete their courses at the end of this academic year will also be entitled to apply for a State award. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland intends to introduce a similar scheme under his existing powers in respect of adults resident in Scotland who obtain places at the adult colleges there, or in England and Wales.

Finally, I turn to the provision which increases the rate at which grants and contributions may be made in respect of aided and special agreement schools. The 1944 Act brought into being, as a complement to the provision of county schools by the local education authorities, an agreed system of support for voluntary schools. The new system then offered voluntary schools a choice between two kinds of status. Aided status implied a grant to assist the voluntary body with the expense of providing the premises of the school and maintaining the fabric in good order. It involved a continuing financial contribution by the voluntary body and, in recognition of this, the voluntary body was to play a leading part in the appointment of the school's governing body and was allowed to provide denominational religious instruction in the school. Controlled status involved relief from all financial responsibility, with a corresponding diminution of the part to be played by the voluntary body in running the school.

The new system has worked very well and it has succeeded, as your Lordships will appreciate, in removing religious questions from the forefront of educational controversy. The scale of its success and its acceptance can perhaps be gauged by the fact that there are now about 9,000 voluntary schools, catering for something like 2 million pupils. There are about 5,000 aided schools—roughly 2,500 provided each by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church—with nearly 1.3 million pupils. That is more than 15 per cent. of the total number of pupils in maintained schools in England and Wales. However, the 1944 financial arrangements were not, and could not be, final in all their aspects. In particular, it has been necessary in succeeding years both to extend the scope of the assistance given to aided schools and to increase its amount in proportion to the contribution of the voluntary bodies. The grant, originally fixed at 50 per cent. in 1944, was raised to 75 per cent. in 1959 and to 80 per cent. in 1967.

Over recent years strong representations have been made both to my right honourable friend and his predecessor by the Central Joint Education Policy Committee, on which are represented the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Free Churches. These representations have been made about the financial difficulties confronting their schools. They have incurred over the years, and will go on incurring, heavy debt charges in order to play what they and the Government have considered to be their proper part in basic school provision. Over and above this, they have, like everybody else, suffered severely in recent years from the effects of the unprecedented increases in building costs and interest rates, coupled with the extra capital expenditure which they have had to incur arising from new educational developments, such as the raising of the school leaving age and the reorganisation of secondary schools on comprehensive lines, in which the Churches have co-operated to an extent which we all find highly gratifying. They also wish, quite properly, to make a Church contribution to the increased provision of nursery education where this is possible.

For all these reasons it is clear that their outgoings are bound to rise still further, quite apart from the aggravating effects of continuing inflation. Therefore after careful consideration and long discussion with the Churches, my right honourable friend came to the conclusion that an additional measure of help was justified and that the only effective and equitable way of providing this help was to increase the grant rate from 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. He announced this decision in another place on 30th July last and was gratified to find that it was welcomed by the Opposition and the Shadow Cabinet. My right honourable friend recognises, as did his predecessor in 1967 when speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill which raised the grant rate to its present level, that such an increase must inevitably raise doubts in some minds about the future of the dual system. It is essential that in return for the important rights they enjoy in the running of their aided schools the voluntary bodies are seen to be making a real and substantial contribution to the expenses of the schools. In his judgment, which he hopes will be generally shared among members of all Parties, a contribution of 15 per cent. towards new building and repair work can be seen in this light. It represents something between £4 million and £5 million a year, compared with the £6 million to £7 million which the present contribution of 20 per cent. represents.

My Lords, even with this additional aid the Churches will still have serious financial problems confronting them, but of course they are not alone in this. My right honourable friend is only too well aware of the difficulties which face local education authorities in providing and keeping under repair the schools for which they are wholly responsible. We have every reason to hope that the new grant rate will provide a satisfactory and durable basis for the continuation of the present dual system and will enable the Churches to continue to play the part that both they and the Government would wish them to play in the public system of education.

Finally, I come to the financial implications of what is proposed in this Bill. It is not envisaged that there will be any significant increase in public expenditure arising from extending mandatory awards to the Diploma of Higher Education, the amendment of the teacher-training grant arrangements and the amendment of the law relating to educational qualifications.

The cost of extending mandatory awards to students taking HND courses depends mainly on the number of students now supported from sources other than their local education authorities, who might decide to take advantage of the mandatory award. It is estimated that there are about 3,000 such students in England and Wales. If, say, about half of them received local education authority grants under the new arrangements, the additional cost might be about £700,000 in the academic year 1975–76.

The cost to the central Government of providing State awards for students at the adult colleges is estimated to be of the order of £500,000 in a full year. This would be offset by a reduction of some £400,000 in expenditure out of local funds, resulting in a net additional cost of the order of perhaps £100,000 in a full academic year and about two-thirds of this amount in 1975–76. The cost of increasing from 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. the rate at which grants and contributions may be made in respect of aided and special agreement schools will lead to increased expenditure at an annual rate of about £1.5 million.

My Lords, I have now described the provisions of the Bill and its financial implications. It is a modest Bill, a short Bill, but an important one—important to those for whom it seeks to extend and provide educational opportunities; important too, my Lords, for the country as a whole. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Crowther-Hunt.)

1.32 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, on a tremendous gallop. The tip from the end of the stables represented by the Liberal Benches was 30 minutes; the jockey gave himself 26 minutes—possibly to fix the odds—but he actually did it in 22 minutes. This is very good form and it may arise in part from the fact that of course it is a gallop towards home.

Turning to more serious matters, the purposes of this Bill are in most respects very welcome, because they are generally generous and just; marginally generous, it is true, because we are in straitened times, and not entirely just as I shall seek shortly and very quickly to tell your Lordships. The extension of mandatory grants to students in higher education is logical and not costly, and were that all that could now with justice be done it would perhaps suffice. But such is not the case. We accept the noble Lord's evaluation of the function of the DipHE and the HND courses, and the status which they deserve and the financial structure which he feels should be put upon them.

But I would remind the noble Lord of the current campaign which is supported in most political arenas for awards for women making equal contribution to be equal. These are the avowed, if distant, goals of all political Parties. Why, therefore, do we not now see the Government taking firm, confident and not very expensive steps in that direction by abolishing discrimination against married women in the matter of student grants? I refer to the retention of the spouse's contribution—and its retention, at that, under very odd circumstances. We already have it on the authority of a Minister in another place, that students who marry when already in receipt of grants at the rates appropriate to single persons will continue to receive them at the same rates after marriage. Therefore there is neither logic nor charity in denying support at a similar rate to female students who have become married before their courses begin, rather than during them. Indeed where we are anxious to attact married women into under-recruited professions, this seems to be perverse as well as unkind.

The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, who is, I am sure, as anxious as other noble Lords in his Party to bring about the equality of women which he promises—I am referring to page 25 in his Party's Manifesto—will, I fear, plead poverty in excuse for this omission. Will he therefore, please, at the same time confirm my suspicions that to bring in this modest but equitable reform, which would be widely welcomed among the student body—and a very responsible section of the student body at that—would not cost much more than £1 million a year, as opposed to the £30 million which might be the cost of abolishing parental contributions, and say that this is a step to which he is prepared to give his early and serious consideration.

The noble Lord mentioned that some students were excluded from the six long-term residential colleges for lack of discretionary awards from local authorities. One wonders whether there would be any women similarly disbarred by the lesser, but not inconsiderable, disincentive of the spouse's contribution. In that context, I will also take up his remark that there is no limitation of the grant to courses of a fixed length. Though it is not intended to give them to courses under a year, which I naturally approve, I wonder whether in the interim between now and the Committee stage we might just reflect on the phenomenon of the professional student and the very long course, and whether there might be some terminus ad quem to a grant.

The proposals to increase the State contribution to voluntary-aided schools from 80 to 85 per cent. is most welcome. It is not often that we on this side of the House can with pleasure take one corner of the protective mantle of State intervention, and assist noble Lords on the opposite side of the House to draw it a little further over the shoulders of individual choice and private corporate activity, and it is a great pleasure to assist them so to do. What would increase the pleasure further, and relieve much anxiety at many governors' meetings, would be if Her Majesty's Government agreed that the drafting of the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill does not prevent them from taking, and actually enables them to take, a further step which, at present rates of inflation, may become urgently necessary before many months are out, and indeed before this Bill itself becomes fully effective. There are schools which the noble Lord and his right honourable and honourable friends plan to swallow sooner or later into the comprehensive system. One can understand their reluctance, therefore, to make significant additional capital expenditure on their behalf during the time remaining to them of independence—a time which must seem to them rather short.

With inflation growing as it does, and eating up buying power as it does, in exactly the manner described by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, voluntary-aided schools and schools such as direct grant schools will be in a particularly difficult position quite soon. On the one hand, fuel, salaries, repairs, renewals and every other commodity become dearer by the month—almost by the day—but, on the other hand (and this is peculiar to them) their governing bodies, their old boys' associations, their old girls' associations, their parent-teacher associations and their fund-raising bodies of all sorts are faced with the possibility of a not too distant closure, and the feeling that it all may not be worth it.

Whatever noble Lords opposite may think of the teachers who teach the children in the selective system, and whatever the hostility with which the noble Lord's Party may regard the parents who send the children there to be taught, I defy him and them in common humanity to regard the children who are so sent and taught as enemies of either the State or of a particular political philosophy. I hope, therefore, that he may be prevailed upon to use this Bill on their behalf to ensure that in the difficult years before the final transition of these schools from one system to the other the pupils do not suffer educationally, through a lack of funds stemming from the dire convergence of inflation on the one hand, and political uncertainty on the other—and, I might add, administrative uncertainty as well.

I hope I have not kept your Lordships too long from home. My course was shorter; I hope that my gallop was no less swift. I hope that at Christmas the noble Lord the Minister of State and his right honourable friend will both find at least 5p in their Christmas puddings, and that so encouraged they will loosen not only their belts but their purse strings in aid of the married women and the children who, with the aid of this Bill, they could do so much to help.

1.40 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of ROCHESTER

My Lords, I have no wish to delay your Lordships unduly, but I am sure someone from these Benches must acknowledge, not only for the Church of England but for all the Churches of our land, the considerable help that Clause 3 of this Bill will be to all those bodies who are partners with the State in maintaining aided and special agreement schools. We are grateful to the Government for this help, as we are to the Leaders of the Opposition Parties both here and in another place, for supporting the Bill so wholeheartedly.

My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to reassure your Lordships that the Churches—and I know I am speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, and the Free Churches as well as for the Church of England—are anxious to fulfil their obligations in bringing all schools up to standard, and to continue their partnership with the local education authorities in the organisation of primary and secondary education. But the cost of doing this, as the noble Lord the Minister has already reminded us, has risen considerably, not so much because of reorganisation and the new opportunities that that sometimes brings, but much more to the simple fact of inflation, in particular the enormous rise in building costs. The extra £1½ million to which the Minister referred as being the estimated amount necessary to provide for capital and maintenance expenditure on aided and special agreement schools, in the present inflationary situation, will still leave Church people having to give more in the future than they have given in the past for these purposes.

As an illustration of this, I would mention two secondary schools in my own diocese, the extension of which will cost over £½ million. Even with the increased grant this will mean that the diocese has to find £78,000 for these two schools alone. Nevertheless, I assure your Lordships that notwithstanding all other additional burdens confronting us, it is our clear intention to respond to this generous gesture by the State, by endeavouring more earnestly to fulfil the obligations on our side of this valuable partnership. We accept that this increase is an expression of confidence by the present Government in the dual system. I would assure the noble Lord the Minister that for our part the continuing partnership in the work of education is one we prize highly, as it enables the Church to make a distinctive contribution to the national educational programme. For this reason, above all others, I express gratitude for the provisions of this Bill, and trust your Lordships will speed it on its way.

1.43 p.m.

Baroness WHITE

My Lords, in this general atmosphere of Christian charity, I should like to extend my thanks also to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, for having introduced, as he said, a short but important Bill. I do so more particularly on behalf of the residential adult colleges. As the noble Lord said, they are to be brought within the ambit of this measure, although only a few months back we were extremely apprehensive that his Department, while swallowing a fairly sizeable camel in the shape of a very large number of Dip.H.E. and HND students provided for in the Bill, seemed to be straining at the gnat of residential adult colleges. However, we are delighted to learn that wiser counsels have prevailed and that these colleges are now to be included. This is very much appreciated.

My Lords, I have a special interest because I am the Chairman of Coleg Harlech, not quite so well known outside the Principality as Ruskin. It is one of the longstanding adult colleges. I believe that we may possibly have some measure of gratitude owed to the Lord President of the Council who, on several occasions, has been to Coleg Harlech where he is a most welcome guest. I have reason to suppose that he may have had some part in persuading his ministerial colleagues that it was really absurd to leave out the residential adult colleges.

The method found to suit the proposals for mandatory grants to the peculiar circumstances which prevail in the adult colleges, in the sense that they neither have entrance qualifications of a formal nature, nor wish to have them, is an ingenious scheme. I think it should work very well. Of course, it means that the students will be receiving grants directly from the Department, and this will mean severing the connection with the local education authorities. To the many education authorities who were extremely generous to those students we are very grateful, and we shall regret not having the same direct connection with them. On the other hand, there were other education authorities which were far from generous. It was not only the students who suffered. Year after year, come the end of September, we still very often have not known how many students would be coming into residence a week later, because we have not known whether they were going to get any award at all or, if they did, whether it would be too little; whether the students were able to take up the place offered to them depended on whether they could obtain other sources of finance. This was all very unsatisfactory. I am delighted that this has now been brought under the scheme of State awards at mandatory rates, which was a recommendation of the Russell Committee, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt.

My Lords, I am afraid, however, that having expressed the warmest gratitude on this score, I must join with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in expressing grave disappointment with regard to the treatment of married women. As I understand it, it is true that if a woman marries during her course of study, she may continue to receive a grant as though she were single. This is to discourage what used to be called "living in sin", as being plainly more profitable. But in that case, the grossest injustice is now being committed to a woman married before she started her course of study. There seems no logic in this. I would hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, may be persuaded to think again on this matter, because the way in which married women have been treated under the grant scheme has been a grievance for a long time. I would hope that this Bill would be an opportunity to put right what I regard as a basic injustice. Apart from that, we are grateful for the Bill.

1.48 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a short and galloping debate, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am glad this modest but important Bill has been broadly so favourably received on all sides. May I, therefore, gallop quickly at the end to deal briefly with the various questions raised.

My Lords, may I start with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about, as he put it, discrimination against women; it was put slightly more delicately by the noble Baroness, Lady White, who was making the same point about the justice of the spouse's contribution. I should like to make two or three points on this. First, it is true to say that there is no sexual discrimination in the spouse's contribution. It applies equally to the husbands of women students and the wives of men students, so in that sense there is no discrimination.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell me then, what is the discrimination against? Is it against tardy marriage or non-precipitated marriage, because I can see no other principle which is involved?


My Lords, I was going to comment on that, and say there are a number of anomalies in this area, which I have already said publicly in another place that I am rather unhappy about. I want to have a look at these, but I must warn this House that there are important financial difficulties in this area which will not make it easy to produce what a number of noble Lords would regard as justice.

The other point I want to make here is that if the Government decided to abolish or amend the arrangements for the spouse's contribution this could be done by amendment to the Regulations which govern this; legislation would not in fact be required. It is a separate issue which really does not arise from the consideration of this Bill and I do not therefore in that sense think it is appropriate for the current debate.

Coming back to what I said a moment or two ago, there are number of anomalies in this area which I am having a look at to see whether, without any further expenditure, I can do something about certain aspects which I personally find a little difficult to defend. Having said that, I do not want to raise any hopes unduly because there really is no money available at the moment, and also the fact of the matter is that the introduction of the spouse's contribution was a crucial factor in the balance sheet when we managed to increase students grants and grants to women also, as from the beginning of this academic year. But I am having a look at this area and I hope something may happen, but I really cannot promise very much. I am looking at some of the anomalies.

On the second point that the noble Lord made about the long term students, the noble Lord was suggesting that while we were saying in the Bill that the mandatory grant would, in effect, be available to the student in the residential colleges following a one-year course, the implication was that it might be available for those who might follow a ten-year course. I do not think that would in fact happen, but I am very ready to have a look at that and to deal with it at the Committee stage if indeed there is such a danger.

On the third point which the noble Lord made about the plea to do something in this Bill for the direct grant schools, my reply here must be that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is well aware of the financial position of these schools but he has made his own position clear. As he said in another place in June of this year, he does not propose for the time being to make any change in the rate of grant, and that is the position.


My Lords, may I seek clarification of that? All I am asking is, am I right in thinking that this Bill does not debar him from coming to their rescue should the situation I describe arise at the end of the time being, whenever that may be?


My Lords, the point is that this Bill is really about something quite different. It was not intended to, and does not in fact, cover direct grant schools. It is really intended to deal with a different problem, a problem which has had broad support from all sides of this House. and is nothing whatsover to do with the direct grant schools.

I was grateful to the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Rochester for his very kind remarks which are much appreciated by the Government. It is nice that we are doing things in this Bill which have the broad support of all sides. I was equally grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady White, for the nice things she was saying in expressing the gratitude of the residential colleges. Therefore, with this Bill enjoying such wide support in this House, I very much commend it to your Lordships.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I put this to him. He was saying this has nothing to do with the direct grant schools. Does he not consider that a little unfortunate, in the light of the fact that the direct grant schools take a very considerable proportion of pupils from the local education authority?


My Lords, the position about the direct grant schools is in effect as stated in the Labour Party Manifesto. It is the policy of this Government to end the direct grant school system, and considerations about how to implement this particular decision and policy statement are now urgently taking place.

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