§ 3.18 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Baroness Young)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—Baroness) Young.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]1207
§ Clause 23 [Transport: England and Wales]:
Lord MORRIS had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 238A:
Page 21, line 15, leave out ("they consider") and insert ("are").
§ The noble Lord said: I am grateful to my noble friends on the Government Front Bench and to Her Majesty's loyal Opposition for the expeditious way in which they have handled previous clauses to the Bill and for so arranging our affairs that this most puzzling, unhappy and contentious clause may be considered by your Lordships while you are your normal, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed selves. I believe it would be a great mistake if I or any of your Lordships were to make a rod for the back of one's cause by speaking to the general principles of the clause rather than speaking specifically to one's amendment. I shall try to resist speaking to the general principles of the clause until we come to the amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, which reads, "Leave out Clause 23". However, should my noble friends on the Front Bench feel it right and proper to enlighten the Committee at this stage with any proposal that they might have in mind, then perhaps much intellectual and lingual energy might be saved. Failing that, I hope that my noble friends agree that my respectful suggestion meets with their approval.
§ Baroness YOUNG
Perhaps it will be the wish of your Lordships today to debate the principle of Clause 23, and I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Morris that at this time he should not press his amendment, and that other noble Lords might agree not to move their amendments in detail this afternoon, but of course to speak to them, and then we can move immediately to the principle of Clause 23, and take this on the "clause stand part "debate.
With regard to my own amendments, both those of principle and those that are necessary as paving amendments, should like to do the same: that is to say, not to move them this afternoon but to write them into the Bill at Report stage, for which I shall put down identical amendments. If, as I hope and confidently expect, Clause 23 is agreed to, I 1208 would reintroduce the amendments on Report. If that is convenient to your Lordships' Committee, I suggest that we move to the "clause stand part "debate.
§ The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Aberdare)
I understand that Amendments Nos. 238A to 260Z are not moved.
§ [Amendments Nos. 238A to 260Z not moved.]
§ On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ The Duke of NORFOLK
I hope that all noble Lords are quite clear about what is happening. This arrangement has been agreed upon by the noble Baroness and by the Opposition Whips. The only thing that I have been unable to do is to tell the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, exactly what is happening, which think he understands, and I hope that he will speak very soon after I have done so.
I believe that Clause 23 should not be part of the Bill. I am the first person to agree that there should be great economies, much retrenchment and reform, and that education should take its share. We all know that our country is at present in need of some very serious measures to cut what we spend, and in no way do I feel that we should not look at every detail. However, I think it is quite wrong that v e should think of saving in the way proposed £20 million to £30 million, which is about¼per cent. of what is spent on the education Vote of £8 billion. I say £20 million to £30 million; it was £32 million, but I believe that to implement some of the matters to which the Government have agreed will cost quite a lot of money, and in terms of what the Government are now proposing I do not believe that the saving will be much more than £20 million. The attempt of the Government is to suggest that we should charge for transport, and that means that they are to break promises that have been made to two groups of people; they are to revoke promises made to people in general of free transport beyond the three miles walking distance—I want to he quite clear about that—and there are two groups which I believe will suffer quite unjustly because of this.
1209 The first group is the people who live in the rural communities; and many of them live beyond the three miles distance. Many village schools have recently been closed down on the express promise that there will be free transport for children to the next village. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who cannot be here at the moment because today he is ordaining some of his curates, but who will be coming later, has told me that a third of the schools in Norfolk are Church schools, and he is most distressed that the promises made in connection with the closing down of these schools will now be completely ignored.
I say to the Government that if they persist in this proposal, they will find it very hard to get agreement on closing down any more village schools. The villagers of England have written to me and to all your Lordships, and they have in no uncertain terms explained how they agreed to closures on the express understanding regarding transport, and they cannot believe it possible that we should straightaway allow the promises made to them to be ignored. Once bitten, twice shy; they will not allow any more schools to he closed down.
The second group which is to suffer so much is the denominational schools. These schools came into being on a statutory basis under the great Butler Act of 1944, and naturally they have very wide catchment areas. In many cases they were sited so as to be most convenient for the local population who are members of the particular religion, and by no means were they sited on the basis that there would not be free transport. In many cases a single school, designed to serve three or four towns, has been built in, say, a small village because it was a convenient place to which to bus the pupils. If the situation had been otherwise perhaps three schools would have been built, but only one school has been built, for the reason I have given. At first, in 1944, the denominations paid 50 per cent. of the capital cost. Then, as your Lordships well know, it was reduced to 20 per cent., and it is now 15 per cent.; and naturally the denominations who built these Church schools built as few schools as they could and relied upon bussing to them.
Naturally, I am speaking for the 1210 Roman Catholic denominational schools; the bishops and the cardinal have asked me to speak explicitly on them. However, I have had many letters from, and many conversations with, the bishops of denominations other than my own, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, will be speaking later about schools of his denomination. To my mind the most excellent of the denominational schools that I know of are those that are now called Christian schools, and already I have heard about four or five of them. There is one at Redhill, which is shared by the Church of England and the Church of Rome; it is a joint Christian denominational school. Another one is at Richmond, and another one is at Torbay. There is one at Monk's Kirby, and there is one in Wales at—I hesitate to pronounce the name of the place—Llanelly; I see the noble Lord nodding some approval for my Yorkshire attempt to speak this language. Anyhow, that is a thriving inter-denominational school. If I might revert to the language of the barrack room, where I have spent 30 years of my life: roll on these Christian denominational schools; and I should like to see them perhaps later become a way of school life in the Province of Northern Ireland.
I am making these points to try to show to your Lordships that in no way am I speaking for a selfish, sectarian Roman Catholic attitude. I am speaking about Church schools, which serve a great proportion of the country, and which give extra support to family life, on which I believe our nation depends for so much of its own integrity.
The Government have made many moves to try to ameliorate the situation, and I am very grateful for those moves. I am very grateful that straightaway, before any stage of this Bill, it was announced that any family on family incomes supplement or on supplementary benefit would automatically have free transport over the three-mile limit of walking distance. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness that, in the middle of the debate on this Bill, she has given the assurance that a flat rate will be charged by the county councils: that there should not be a rate dependent upon the distance; there should instead be a flat rate in general. Then, of course, we all know 1211 that it is up to each county council to decide, when the powers are transferred to them, how much they should charge. At the moment, some county councils say they are going to charge nothing, but how long is that going to be so? Other county councils are going to charge £1; and notably Kent—and I have had an immense correspondence from Kent—are going to charge £2.50 per pupil per week; that is, £5 for the two children who are going to have to pay.
The third thing that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has done from the Government Benches is to say that the first two child pupils will have to pay but the third and others will be able to travel free of charge. I should like just to look at this in more detail, and see what it really means. If you take a family of Tom, Dick and Harry, that means to say that Tom and Dick will have to pay, and Harry will go free. But what happens when Tom finishes schooling? Harry then has to pay. What happens when Dick has a bicycle accident, say, and is unable to go to school for six months? Harry will have to pay. What happens if Tom gets a scholarship on the assisted places scheme? Again, Harry will have to pay. And what happens to the fourth son, Alexander, as I shall call him for the sake of this example? By the time he gets to school Tom will certainly have left and Dick might have left, so Alexander will have to pay. I do not believe this concession of paying for only two is all that very much. I believe it is rather a shallow concession, in fact.
It will certainly be an absolute heaven for the bureaucrats. Can you imagine working out whether or not Harry is going to get his travel free, and working out whether or not the family goes on to supplementary benefit? Can you imagine how the bureaucrats will collect the money from the children at the bus stops? I see them, as I drive up to London, waiting at their collecting points. Can you imagine how it is all going to be collected? I do not believe this is a very sensible concession.
I have received—I have written down "hundreds of letters ", but it is thousands. I have received letters from all over the kingdom. I have received over 2,000 or 3,000 signatures. Every letter I have 1212 received, except for three, say how much behind me they are in what I am doing. One of the three came from an old lady in Cumbria—and I notice the noble Lord, Lord Peart, paying great attention at the mention of Cumbria. She said that when she was a child she had to walk four miles to school, and she thinks it would be much better for the modern youth to walk six and not be so wet. Another letter said that if less money was spent on the children and more money was spent on beating them, there would be less trouble at football matches. I am simply showing that there are only three out of (shall I say?) 3,000 people who have sent their signatures in to me who have said that they are in agreement with the Government's proposals.
I know that many noble Lords want to speak and that it is going to be a heavy evening. I am moving that we reject Clause 23, which imposes the charge for transport; and I would remind your Lordships (which is perhaps impertinent of me, being a very new Member here) that this is a revising Chamber. Its essential duty now in our constitutional set-up is to revise; to give the country and the other place a chance to think again. What happened when Clause 23 was made part of the Bill in the other place? The Government had a majority of only 23. There were 13 Conservatives who voted against it and 16 Conservatives who abstained. I move that we allow the other place to have another look at it, and that we delete this clause from the Bill.
§ Baroness YOUNG
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervene at this point to explain at the start of this debate the Government's proposals on transport, and the reasons for them. As there are many of your Lordships in the Committee today who were not in the Chamber when we had a debate on the Bill at Second Reading, I will briefly set out the present position on school transport. Under the present law, a local education authority in effect need provide transport only between home and school for a pupil of compulsory school age who attends the nearest available school and whose journey exceeds the statutory walking distance, defined as two miles for the child under 8 years of age and three miles for the older child. It is a 1213 requirement of the present law that when such transport is provided it must be provided free.
May I therefore particularly draw your Lordships' attention to two aspects of this. The first is the question of the denominational schools, and it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that there is no mention of them. The denominational schools are referred to in what is the manual of guidance, and it may therefore be helpful to the Committee if I now quote from that. On transport, the manual says in paragraph 22 that the Minister would regard it as reasonable if authorities adopted working rules which, in the generality of cases, limited their liabilities as regards the provision of transport to journeys not exceeding five or six miles for primary pupils and about ten miles for secondary pupils. Local education authorities were, however, free to adopt lower limits. The guidance related to upper limits that would be regarded as reasonable, and it was recognised that in sparsely populated areas, or where the relevant population (for example, denominational cases) was scattered, the reasonable upper limits might be higher; but the manual does not say that they should be.
Secondly, I am sure it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that there is no mention of special schools. The Committee may be interested to know that in fact children travelling to special schools are transported free, and that in 1978–1979, out of the £125 million spent on transport, local education authorities spent £30 million transporting children to special schools. It is true that should an authority fail in its duty, the Secretary of State has a power of direction to a local authority under Section 55 of the 1944 Education Act if he considers that an authority is acting unreasonably. In fact, this power has been used on only four occasions: in 1946, 1947, 1950 and 1951. I make these points to illustrate that the record of the local education authorities in relation to school transport since 1944 is a good one.
Why, therefore, did the Government consider charging for transport at all? I will not at this stage go into the important economic arguments because I have no doubt that in the course of this debate other noble Lords will do so. I will 1214 only say that the Government decided that savings must be made in the education budget and decided that the savings must come from the non-educational part of that budget; namely, meals, milk and transport. The Government wished to preserve the basic fabric of the education system and, in particular, the teacher numbers; for we believe that good teachers are central to the maintenance of educational standards in our schools. It was the Association of County Councils who asked us to give the local education authorities a power to charge for home-to-school transport if we wished them to make the kind of economies for which we asked.
This was not altogether surprising, as the cost of free transport is an open-ended subsidy paid for by taxpayers and by ratepayers. The cost of school transport has doubled between 1969–70 and 1978–79 from £67.7 million to £128.4 million. We know the reason for this: it is the ever-rising world price of crude oil. But, translated into local education authority terms, your Lordships may be interested to know that in Kent—and I have no doubt that we shall hear a great deal about Kent before the afternoon is out—the transport costs are now £140 per annum per child receiving free transport; and the authority estimate that next year the average gross cost will be £150 per annum per child. In Gloucestershire, the local eduation authority estimate that they spend £145 per annum per child on school transport. Whether we like it or not, these are the facts of the 1980s.
The third reason why the Government considered charging for transport is that the present system is inequitable. The difference is that those living on the far side of the three-mile limit have free transport for their children while those living just within the three-mile limit must pay the full economic cost. Those living just within the three-mile limit may include many Anglican families, many Roman Catholic families, many Jewish families and many families from ethnic minorities, many of whom are poor and disadvantaged and at present receive no help at all from the transport subsidy because they happen to live within the arbitrary three-mile limit.
The question of charging for free transport is not something which has 1215 recently arisen. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, when she was Secretary of State for Education, considered the question in 1972. Your Lordships will be interested to know that the last Labour Administration considered the position and, in October 1975, put out a consultative document to local authorities in which they proposed:to empower local education authorities to arrange transport to and from school wherever in their view circumstances or needs warranted it at a uniform charge fixed according to prescribed principles".The object of this proposal was twofold. The last Labour Administration felt (as we have discovered) that the present system was inequitable and that if there was to be a subsidy it could be better distributed. Secondly, they thought that they should hold the total amount of subsidy level, because (quoting again from the document):authorities' expenditure on school transport is increasing at an annual rate of 20 per cent. to 25 per cent.".They discovered that, of course, we have an open-ended subsidy on free school transport.
Furthermore, the former Minister, Miss Margaret Jackson, answering a question in another place on 20th June 1978 said:I accept that entirely; and it is our hope that the proposals which we shall put before the House will contain the basis of a scheme which will enable all children to travel to school for a reasonable sum and perhaps even for the same sum".The last Administration never brought in this scheme. It is not the same as that which we are proposing. The point to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention is this: the last Administration proposed the scheme because they recognised that there was an open-ended subsidy and recognised the inequitable distribution of the subsidy as it is—two points which I think all noble Lords will recognise this afternoon.
I turn now to my amendment. Because of the great concern expressed in another place when the Bill was in Committee, my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State moved an amendment to the effect that the charge to be levied could he only a flat-rate charge. This means that the charge cannot be related to the distance travelled—and this is designed particularly to help those 1216 in rural areas who may have to travel 10 or more miles—nor to the type of school the child attends; and this is designed particularly for those children at denominational schools, whether Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Free Church or any other. Because of the great concern expressed in this House at Second Reading, we are bringing in a further amendment, which I have tabled for your Lordships to see and which I have undertaken to re-table on Report, to limit the charge to two children only in a family.
To summarise the position, this means that the local education authorities still have a duty to make arrangements for the provision of transport, or otherwise, as they consider appropriate. They cannot make a charge for families on supplementary benefit or on the family incomes supplement: that is, the poorest families, whether in work or out of work. The local education authorities can make only a flat-rate charge not related to distance and not related to the type of school that the child attends. If my amendment is accepted, they may make a charge to only two children in the family. Furthermore, all discretionary powers to remit charges for children attending special schools. for any particular family reasons that the local authority may know of, remain. And, as I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, the record of the local authorities in this regard is a very good one.
Finally, I ask your Lordships to consider very carefully life in the 1980s and the problems with which we are confronted today. I ask your Lordships to realise that what we are suggesting is, we believe, fair; is of help to families and is of help to the denominational schools—and noble Lords must weigh very carefully whether they feel that those interests will best be served by supporting today the exclusion of this clause—and, we believe, will make a more equitable distribution between those who live in the towns and those who live in the country.
May I therefore re-emphasise that under the Government's proposals no family is going to pay an economic charge for transport nor indeed a full cost charge. All that is being asked for is a contribution to the charge of being transported from home to school. A large national subsidy still remains. In 1980–81 1217 this will be £100 million in total. The Government estimate that 80 per cent. of this total will go on subsidies to the shire counties and that, as a generalisation, this works out at £100 per child receiving free school transport.
There will thus be no question of this being in any sense against those living in the country. But the Government must consider three important facts. They must consider, first, all the people and their duty in their overall economic policies to revitalise the economy, for unless we are collectively better off as a country, no individual will be better off as a person, We must recognise the needs of all our people—those who live in towns and those who contribute directly by their taxes to the rate support grant, and all those who contribute through their rates to the cost of rural transport. They must look after those in the rural areas. This we propose to do by retaining a subsidy for transport with safeguards for families. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will consider carefully what I say and will recognise that in doing this we believe that for the education system it will be seen to be fair and will preserve and enhance our educational standards in our schools.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord BUTLER of SAFFRON WALDEN
Before taking part in the debates on the Education (No.2) Bill, I went to visit the Secretary of State, the noble Baroness, their leading officials and draftsmen, together with my old friend Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd who was once Minister of Education. I went to do that partly out of what I supposed was good manners; but I went also in order to indicate to my friends—if I may call them so—that my objective in taking part in these debates was not, so to speak, to attack the Conservative Government. When I said that, I saw a faint smile cross the serene face of the noble Baroness. I believe that gave a moderate degree of satisfaction. May I say, in passing, that we all admire the way that the noble Baroness has stood up to the long hours and the way that she has dealt with her very complicated problems. We admire her conduct in our House very much.
§ Lord BUTLER of SAFFRON WALDEN
What reason have I to oppose the Government? Only recently the leader of the party to which I have belonged for about 60 years had a great success in France. The French have discovered for the first time since Joan of Arc that it was possible to be a woman and a statesman. I notice that none of the French Press—not even Le Canard Enehainé, to which I am a subscriber—made this allusion, so I hope that they will take this copy from me in the House of Lords. The right honourable lady also made a very good speech in England. She has had a very difficult time.
I also support the Government's foreign policy which my close friend Lord Carrington has carried so far to such triumphant success. I also shall be having to support—whether I like it or not—the Government's economic policy which is shortly to be put before us in a Budget and which is so ably defended by my noble friend Lord Cockfield in your Lordships' House.
Let us just get rid of this: there is no question of my doing this for small political reasons. I am doing it because I am convinced, after a lifetime of service to education, that this is the only course that I can pursue. As the Committee will hear as I proceed with my speech, it is the only advice that I can give the Committee. I told the noble Baroness that I was not going to attend most of the Committee stage—and I was jolly lucky !—because I did not want to oppose her other clauses; but I said I would speak and oppose this clause. Later, when we get to the very difficult question of nursery education, although I may speak, I shall not vote against the Government motion.
The position therefore at present is that we are faced with a demand by the Government for economies. The first problem I have to face, and the first decision I have to take, is whether I can honestly disband and remove the whole of the meals and milk service to which I attached so much importance nearly 36 years ago, and which I introduced. I decided to vote in favour of the Government's economic measures for a saving of no less than £200 million, against my own will and to indicate that I was trying to help the Government with economies. That was not fully recognised at the time; and, since that date, I have had endless 1219 insulting letters. I have even had letters from catering firms who stem more annoyed than the children. At any rate, I have voted for the Government and I have supported £200 million worth of economies. I do not think that that is bad.
Now we come to the question of between £20 million and £30 million. I made the audacious suggestion that perhaps we could postpone the assisted places scheme, which is to cost about that amount, and spend the money here on transport; but I am sorry to say that that view of mine was misconstrued in certain of our more public journals. It has not been accepted by the Government, and so that goes; the Government have not accepted it, and I did not oppose their assisted places scheme. However, when we come to this £20 million or so, I have not only had letters, as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk has had, from mothers and fathers; I have had letters from education officers; I have had many letters from education authorities (which is important) and I have answered and cross-questioned many of those education authorities up and down the country.
I have come to the conclusion—and I am backed by several papers that I have with me—that there is going to be grave extravagance and waste of money if we accept the Government's amendment which the noble Baroness moved. One authority told me that they are going to have to employ 200 more people; another authority informed me that they were going to have to employ 400 more people. Another authority said that they would have to learn to use a computer. Although I come from Cambridge University, I do not understand computers.
The result is that the expenses—and I have checked this with some of my predecessors in office—are going to be very great. I doubt, after all this excitement of trying to hive off the two eldest children and get the right ones out of the family, especially in view of the complications suggested by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, that we are really going to save all this money. When I come to the more important part of my remarks about the principles that lie behind my speech, the Committee will see that I doubt whether on 1220 economic grounds this proposal is going to be worthwhile.
My objective is what? It is not political. It is to retain the continuity of national policy regarding education throughout the greater part of this century. When I spoke on Second Reading I was able to say that the vital clauses reserving to the Secretary of State powers—particularly Section 99 of the 1944 Act, to which the noble Baroness referred, and the other section to which she referred—have seldom been used. But they illustrate that the pillars of the settlement of 1944 have been preserved by this Act. The noble Baroness has already acknowledged this.
It seems very peculiar, but this question of transport was, if not an integral part—as I said in my Second Reading speech—at any rate a vital part of the concordat or settlement of 1944. Why was that? It simply was that the denominations and all those partners involved in that settlement were given that assurance that their children would be taken to school. I agree with some things that the noble Baroness said. The three-mile limit derives from 1870 and the Act of Mr. Foster. If I were summoned to a conference one day to look at it I would not mind taking part, provided my noble friends on the other side of the House and the denominations and local authorities were brought into it. But at present it is the law of the land, although it dates from 1870. These extra charges are going to upset not just the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, who might perhaps be held to represent the Roman Catholics, but also the Anglican community, the Free Church Federal Council and the National Union of Teachers.
With all those people I made a settlement—some were laymen and some Were churchmen—and the fact is that this was agreed. I would not disagree with the noble Baroness when she says that we must live in 1980. I would not disagree if it were not for a further fact; and that fact is that she referred to the guidance paper in 1950, which I have fortunately taken the trouble to have with me. She referred to the reorganisation; and it was exactly in that period of reorganisation after my settlement—some years after—that extra promises or undertakings were given by the local authorities that fares would be paid. I have that here in writing on boundless 1221 pieces of paper. I also have it in endless letters from local authorities. There is, therefore, a double pledge; if you say that the first one is a bit old-fashioned, you still cannot get away from the second one.
The noble Baroness referred to the manual of guidance. It so happened that the local authorities behaved so well after its publication that it was never called into evidence or ever used. I must say here that the local education authorities, on the whole, have behaved with extraordinary gallantry towards denominational schools and towards the conduct of their affairs. It is this reorganisation about which, for example, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lancaster has written to me saying that he only agreed to the reorganisation in Lancashire, provided that the right of transport remained. That is only 10 years or so ago; and so there is no doubt that there is before your Lordships, and certainly before my own conscience, what amounts really to a double pledge.
The noble Duke said that he had received many letters. I spent many years in another place and for six unhappy years I was leader of the House of Commons. We were never allowed to bring in our suitcases, bags or trunks, but if I had brought in all the letters I had received I should have had to bring in a cabin trunk and I was told at the door that was out of order. Therefore, I cannot read to you what I might call the more "juicy portions "of the the letters I have received; but the letters are all from mothers and fathers except for one, the very serious letter that I have referred to from the local authorities. They come from Northamp-tonshire and endlessly from Kent. The villages around Romney Marsh, which I happen to know, and the villages round Ashford, have sent me declarations signed sometimes by 800 parents. In one case in Kent there was one signed by 8,000 parents, and the whole place is inundated with disorder.
What I want particularly to mention, so that it cannot be said that I am talking from a denominational point of view, are the village colleges of Cambridgeshire. I was a great supporter of Morris, the brilliant education architect of Cambridgeshire, and I have the honour of being the only person living who has had to make speeches at the opening of two 1222 different Cambridgeshire village colleges. I do not mind telling your Lordships that it was by visiting one that I first got the idea of the Education Bill.
Those colleges are in a state of great disarray. They were arranged for by Morris and it was obvious that children had to be brought into them from the surrounding small villages and transport, in cases of above three miles, had to be provided, with the result that there was a "let-down "feeling and a feeling—not at all denominational but a lay feeling—that this charge of the Government's is wrong. I have had letters also from Leicestershire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon and Gwent, and I could go on indefinitely describing the extraordinary national feeling of uprising against this clause.
I remember only two instances in my 50 years or so of public life—36 years in another place and 15 years here—when I have had so many letters: one was concerned with the Hoare-Laval pact and the other was the Suez expedition. In neither case did I have to fill a cabin trunk but only perhaps a small valise. It just shows the state of disarray in the country on this occasion. I will say to the noble Baroness that it may be wrong, but the fact is that, though she made really an excellent intellectual speech, this is not entirely an intellectual matter. Politics is not all intellect; politics is largely a matter of the heart, and people are feeling this deeply all over the country. One reason why that is so is that the rural areas are feeling neglected. They are losing their shops and post offices; they are having to drive to a town to get the ordinary necessities of life. And the sad thing is that rural villages—somebody said Nonsense ", but I have lived in a village in various parts of England during the whole of my life, in Gloucestershire, Essex and in another county, and I know this to be true. It is very regrettable but it is true.
I want to say now what I think is the really important thing. That was said in the article in The Timestoday—that my settlement in 1944 is not a chapter of history that it would be to anyone's advantage to reopen. It really would not, and I will tell your Lordships why. The real problems of education were stressed in the debates in 1902. Those 1223 debates were so venomous that Balfour, as Prime Minister, had to push out his Education Minister and take the Bill himself. Even then he only just got it through and lost the Conservatives so many votes that they did not return to office for many years afterwards. That was before the settlement was made.
Winston reminded me of it and said, "You are going to push me back to 1902." He said, "I loved it—the dogfight was splendid; the best I ever had." Then he said: "But I don't want that when I am Prime Minister, and I am going to confront you with two friends—or I think they are enemies—and I want you to come in in the evening and have a drink." I happened that evening to be at Eltham Palace negotiating with the apostolic delegates some of the details and I trundled in in the black-out in my tiny little car and arrived feeling very frightened as to whom I should meet. When I got into the room, Winston said: "Those are your enemies; there is Lord Salisbury and there is Lord Selborne." He asked them: "Do you agree with Rab? "and Lord Salisbury said with his inevitable lisp, "Wab is wight, and he has saved our Church schools." Do you know why? I had negotiated with William Temple—I suppose, up to this stage, one of the great Archbishops of the century and a man whose book Mens Creatrix, in our schoolday language of divinity, is certainly the most beautiful I have ever read. He told me he had 2,200 Church schools that he could not pay for and he had to take a few aided schools from me and send the rest of his pupils quite happily into the ordinary school system.
Our negotiation was succesful and Lord Salisbury, who led your Lordships' House in a way I had never seen it led before and who spoke, I think, better than any man I have ever heard in this House, immediately said that I was right. Lord Selborne was so pleased that he offered to take my Bill through your Lordships' House. Winston was desperately disappointed and he saw he would have to accept it. I believe that Lord Salisbury's son may be with us today and, if so, I hope he will speak.
I have not really very much more to say. I cannot match every detail and 1224 every point of the noble Baroness: perhaps I could if I took up all these papers but I do not want to take up too much of your Lordships' time. I have tried to tell people that the study of education demands just a little bit of intellect and a great deal of hard work. It is excessively complicated; really it is one of the most complicated subjects I have ever tried to handle. But when your Lordships make up your minds I would say to those of you who are Cross-Benchers that you do not want to take a step this afternoon by retaining this clause which will create or maintain any bitterness in the settlement which we created between the Churches and the State. I ask you to think of that.
And to noble Lords who sit loyally, as I have done for so many years, to support the Government, I would say that the Conservative Party has always been strongest when it supported the rural areas. It had terrible disasters after the Repeal period and the Corn Laws. Disraeli made himself into a country squire and bought Hughenden, and they all believed that he really was a country squire. As Prime Minister, the great Lord Salisbury was a purely rural leader. We come with a great jump to Baldwin and Mary Webb, and all that he talked about the country and his magnificent speech on England at the St. George's Day dinner—the clutch fires at night, when the forager comes home".That was true Conservative rural policy and philosophy. I believe that we should not accept this clause. I feel, I am sorry to say, like Martin Luther: "Ich Kann nicht anders." I can do no other. I ask noble Lords to do no other.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Baroness DAVID
We on these Benches will be supporting the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler in opposing this clause. Before I actually get down to the clause, I should like to clear up one or two things the Minister said about the last Government. She said that they, too, were anxious about the costs of transport in the country and the present situation. I think everyone has thought for some time that it was rather ridiculous to have the two-mile limit and the three-mile limit. It is perfectly possible to make 1225 some adjustment to that but this Government have not done that in this Bill.
The last Government sent out a consultative document, but as a result of that they did not take any action. They put forward a Bill in 1978, but there was not a clause like this in it. They realised that it would certainly not he right to take any step such as this Government have taken, that is, to charge some people to get to school and not others.
Now to get down to this clause. Since the passing of the 1944 Act it has been the right of every family in the country, whether they live in the heart of a city or in a village in the dales—I have an interest in this as I have a grand-daughter who has to go from Dentdale to Kirkby Lonsdale to get to school—to have their children educated entirely free, whatever their income. This clause demolishes that right. Not only does it do that. If this Bill is passed, the Government will be guilty of a breach of faith, in fact several breaches of faith, as regards the agreement which the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has talked about between the State and the voluntary schools and also the agreements with local authorities which he mentioned. It is also a breach of faith towards a great many parents who have had to put up with the closing of their village schools. Whether or not it was put in writing, the understanding was, I am quite sure, that if their village school went their children would be taken free to the school to which they had to go.
Inevitably, there will be the general destruction of village life and rural communities which the noble Lord, Lord Butler, mentioned. I, too, have had hundreds of letters and I had one yesterday which put the point extremely well. It said:Such a clause, concocted by people with little foresight, and no contact with the reality of the situation, nor any consideration of the implications of such action, is so obviously very unfair to those living in country communities and could well be a contributing factor towards the general depopulation of the English village—a sad loss".Now, about hardship. After April 1st, 400,000 children will no longer have the free meals which they had before. This is particularly had for families who are just about at the supplementary benefit level. Some of the amendments which were put 1226 down to the previous clause, No. 22, and to this clause, tried to improve the situation and no doubt we shall come to those at the Report stage. The Government have already made a saving of £200 million or so on meals and milk. That is a very big saving. Now they are going on and they want so much more—a saving of £20 million. As other people have said, what will be the cost of administering this extraordinarily complicated affair? A very great many people are going to be upset, not just the poor, but those who are in a higher income bracket. I have had letters from people who are clearly quite well off as well as letters from those who are very poor indeed. A great many of them say that a little tiny bit on the income tax would have prevented this having to be done.
I am also particularly anxious about the 16 year-olds. They have not been talked of a great deal, but we want 16 year-olds to continue their education. Almost inevitably they will have to travel some distance to get to a further education college or a technical college; or they may want to join a sixth form college or a sixth form in an 11 to 18 school. They will probably have to travel quite long distances—l2 or 15 miles or more—and I am quite sure that they really are going to be put off and that their families are going to be put off if they have to pay. We are going to lose a tremendous potential for the future if a large number of 16 year-olds decide not to continue their education. That will be an inevitable consequence if this clause is passed.
Then there are the practical difficulties. What is going to happen when a child arrives with no pass and no money? What instructions are going to be given to the bus drivers? And what about the families who just do not have the money to hand out that day? I had another letter on this theme a few days ago. It states:—agreed we all have to cut back etc, etc, but where oh where is one supposed to find extra money for this new astounding piece of government decree. And what is more important what happens when we just cannot find it? Will it be an offence resulting in prison sentences if the charges are not paid?".People are extremely worried about what is going to happen if they do not have the money to pay. I understand that already 12 counties are not going to charge. Eight counties have not made their decision, 1227 unless this has happened in the last day or two, so this saving of £20 million is going to be even less, presumably. About one-third of the counties are not going to charge, so it seems most unfair that the remaining ones should do so. If they decide they have got to charge to make the savings it will be a great shame. Owing to the feeling of people who are appalled by the Government's actions in bringing forward this clause I wish the Government had decided to think again and to with-draw it. Very strong feelings—really rebellious feelings—have been expressed all over the country, I should say, judging from the letters that I have received. The noble Baroness said that this was a fair scheme. I should say that that was what it demonstrably was not. Some families are going to have to pay to get their education and some are not, and that is not fair.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. Would she not agree that that is precisely the position as it is now? Children living in towns within the 3-mile limit have in some cases to pay 70 or 80 pence a day to get to school, whereas others go free.
§ Baroness DAVID
The parents may choose to pay. One can get three miles. On a bicycle it is very easy to get three miles although it is very dangerous. That is one of the troubles about the charges. The children will probably be forced more on to bikes and to walking in order to save money, and I believe the traffic dangers are going to he considerable. This was not the case, of course, some time ago when there was very much less traffic. In fact. there was very little indeed in 1944, because petrol rationing was still going on, but what is going to happen as a result of this clause will he appalling.
Again, I say that feeling is very strong throughout the country. I have received some very moving letters and I want to finish with a short quotation from one of them. This is a letter in which the spelling is not very good, but the care that the writer clearly feels for the children and her longing for them to have a good education show clearly, as does her outrage at the fact that they are going to have to pay for two children. She finishes: 1228You and your fellow peers, Lords and Ladies. are our last hope. so. please, for the sake of our children and therefore the future of this country, HELP US.".I hope that noble Lords will help people like that woman and a great many other families in this country by voting against this clause.
§ Viscount SIMON
After the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, those of us who believe that this clause should be eliminated from the Bill have very little left that we need say. But I want to refer to one or two points. I listened with great care to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and I want to mention some matters briefly. When she introduced the Second Reading the noble Baroness said that the Bill did not radically change any of the main principles of the Act. I should have thought that the provision of free transport was very much a main principle of the Act. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, made this point clear. He put it in his usual very fair way when he said it was not an integral part of the settlement but it was a vital part. I am not quite sure what the difference is, but anyway it is clearly a basic principle of the Act.
To that extent, I feel that the noble Baroness was quite unintentionally misleading us when she said at the beginning of her Second Reading speech that the Bill did not affect any of the vital principles of the Act. Today she gave us a much fuller argument in favour of the clause than she did earlier. On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Butler, specifically asked her to give her comments on the points he had raised, and most especially about the position in rural areas. The noble Baroness began her speech by making a few short references to this subject and then she went into something of a tirade against what the Labour Government had done when they were in power. As I reread her speech I thought that at the end she would surely come hack to rural transport. but she did not come back at all and I felt she was really avoiding the issue. However. I cannot say that to her today because she gave us a very full speech about the Government's feelings.
I found it curious that the noble Baroness several times talked about an open-ended subsidy. Is this a subsidy? It is part of the cost of education. One 1229 cannot educate children unless one gets them to school. Then the noble Baroness said that the present arrangement was inequitable as between certain parents. I agree about that. It is true that if the parent lives within the walking distance, as it is called, of the school, he has to pay any cost there is in getting the child to school. I have had letters from people who said that it would only be fair if those who lived outside the walking distance paid at least a proportion of the cost up to where the walking distance began, but I think your Lordships will agree that administratively that would he quite impossible.
The noble Baroness said she did not feel that there was much inequity between town and country. I confess that I have looked at this Bill rather particularly from the point of view of the rural areas, where this clause is going to bite so terribly heavily. In the conurbations the schools are not, generally speaking, so far away. I cannot but think that there is really a degree of inequity.
§ Baroness YOUNG
This is such an important matter of principle that perhaps your Lordships will forgive me for raising it again. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, says that there is not much inequity in towns and that the schools are quite close—that there are many schools in towns and it is not very far to go. The fact is that an enormous number of children living in towns today have to travel two miles or more and the full economic cost of town transport is very great. It can be 50p, 60p or 70p a day for a two-mile journey.
§ Viscount SIMON
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has made a good point. My reaction to that is, let us remove the walking limits and pay for everybody. The point has already been mentioned and it has been brought to my notice that the administrative costs of what is proposed in this clause are like to be very considerable. I have had information from two counties, both of which suggest very substantial increases in cost. I am sure this has been taken into account by the noble Baroness but I think it is a point that your Lordships should bear in mind in voting on this issue.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I did not like to 1230 interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Butler, when he quoted those authorities who were going to employ up to 300 people, but I hope that before the debate is over he will name those authorities, as I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, will name the authorities to which he is referring.
§ Lord PARRY
Since the noble Viscount Lord Simon, has been interrupted I should like to ask him whether he would not agree, or to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, whether she would not agree that one substantial difference between the conurbations and the rural areas is that, though the service may be expensive, it exists. In many rural areas there is no alternative to get a child to school.
§ Viscount SIMON
I am sure we shall return to this subject. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asks me to give her some particulars. I am not going to quote figures. I have not got any figures and if I had them I should need to check them. I have not had time to do that. If she wants to know the two counties whose problems have been brought to my notice I will tell her that one is Kent and the other is Cumbria, but I have no reason to suppose that they are unique in that respect.
We have some amendments down, and in facing this problem I differ from the noble Baroness, Lady David, only in that she expressed either the hope or the expectation—I am not quite sure which it was—that we should have an opportunity to discuss these amendments later. I very much hope that we shall not have an opportunity of discussing these amendment later, because the object of this discussion is to lead to a vote which will eliminate this clause from the Bill. I hope many noble Lords in all parts of the Committee will support that view.
§ 4.29 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of LONDON
I trust that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will not think that those of us who are critical of this clause offer our criticisms in any carping spirit. For many of us it is a deep matter of conscience. We greatly admire the skill, expertise and knowledge with which the noble Baroness has steered this Bill during the long hours of the Committee stage. Many 1231 of us share the Government's desire to cut down public expenditure as much as possible and to eliminate waste. We recognise that the Government have done their best to meet some of the criticisms of this particular clause, both in stating the requirement of the flat rate and also making it that there shall be payment for the first two children only. All this we recognise. I should also like to thank the noble Duke for what he said, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who has spoken to us with such immense authority in these matters. They have mentioned the element of the voluntary aided schools of the Churches and their concern over this matter.
I should want this point to be approached in rather a different way. At any rate, from the point of view of the Church of England schools, we do not claim any particular privileges in this respect. On the other hand, we recognise that the 1944 Act was a concordat, an agreement, between all the parties that were concerned with education, especially in the dual system. And as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has told us, it was part of that concordat and understanding that children should be got to the schools where they wished to receive their education, if outside the three-mile limit, without payment.
The noble Baroness, with a rather dark and threatening look towards these Benches, asked whether we thought that it would really be to the advantage of the so-called denominational schools if this clause were to be rejected. We do not look at it in those terms. We look at it in the terms that the 1944 Act was a concordat, an agreement, and we ask that the conditions of that agreement should be observed.
For myself, I see two profound issues involved in this clause. One is the issue of justice. Is it right that, because children happen to live a rather long way from a school, their parents should have to carry what may be a very considerable expense in getting them to school? The noble Baroness has said that the present system is illogical, because if you live within the three-mile limit you have to pay, whereas if you live outside the three-mile limit you do not have to pay. It seems to me a rather strange use of logic to say that 1232 therefore justice shall be restored by everybody having to pay. I should much prefer, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said, that logic should be restored by none of the parents having to pay for children to go to school.
My other fundamental anxiety about this is one that has already been mentioned. I have always understood that it was one of the great prides of this country that, for those parents who wish their children to be educated free, that education shall be freely available to all of them. I cannot believe that it is credible to say that, if you happen to live outside the three-mile limit, therefore you should get free education so long as you pay for your children to go to school. That seems to me to be a complete negation of the vital principle that, if parents desire for their children free education, they shall have it. It is therefore with great sorrow that I shall have to vote against this clause, simply because I believe that it offends all the elements of one's conscientious approach towards education in this country.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Lord THORNEYCROFT
May I perhaps express a slightly different view from some of the speeches which have been delivered so far? The whole House must have listened to the speeches of the noble, Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler, with respect, with understanding and with sympathy. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, speaks with a wide knowledge of the problems of Catholic schools, and also a deep understanding of the countryside. With the noble Lord, Lord Butler, I shared office, defeats and triumphs over many years, and, I think like everybody else, I always listen to him—particularly, perhaps, on this subject—with deep respect. 1 hope that the House will, however, listen to me with a little sympathy, too.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Butler, would agree with me, but, as I reflect over the years, it has always seemed to me that this great country of ours has consistently failed to achieve great things through its timidity in facing small ones. I remember that 20 years ago I was in a Cabinet with the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and I resigned then over what was contemptuously described as a matter of £50 million. My colleagues explained 1233 to me, with the eloquence and the sympathy that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, used today—he was just as good 20 years ago as he is today how small the sum, how grave the injury. It brought tears to one's eyes to listen to him saying how we should face these things. But I did not accept his view then and, rightly or wrongly, I left that Government and colleagues, whom I held in respect and affection. Five years later, the sum had grown from £50 million to £500 million. That was the gap that they were arguing about five years later, after my resignation. Today, the figure is £5 billion. I accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, about the importance of continuity of policy, but I am bound to say that the noughts are joining on very fast as we proceed along our way. We have continuity, but it has been a downhill progress.
That is why, today, I should like to speak about a little of the backcloth—I hope that the House will forgive me and I shall not talk for long against which these arguments are being conducted. That is why we are talking about these things at all. That is why we have a nation deeply in debt—so deeply in debt that the interest on the debt alone would pay for the whole of the education service. That is the measure of our failure so far. That is why we are faced with inflation soaring upwards, and interest rates at desperately high figures. I think that we ought, therefore, to face the realities.
Of course, arguments such as this are not just about money. They are about children, they are about parents and they are about families. Of course they are. But if you ask where the damage is being done to children, to families and to homes today, it is not in the transport to schools. It is in the bitter impact of inflation on that scale; it is in the prices that go soaring upwards; it is in the mortgage rates that face young families.
Let us have a certain sense of proportion as to where the real damage is being done. And that damage does not affect just Catholics; it affects everybody. It is not confined to the rural areas; it is right across the country at the present time. So it is against that background that the Government have to contain expenditure. I think it is important to say that and to agree with it.
1234 There is no alternative course open to Her Majesty's Government, save to embark upon a desperately difficult and controversial exercise to contain expenditure. It is simple for noble Lords opposite, who do not believe it, but I shall not embark upon what they might do. They left us with expenditure commitments of £4 billion and no money there to pay for them. That is the background to what we arc engaged in. Whatever noble Lords opposite may think, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, knows that and agrees with it. He supports, and says that he supports, the Government in that policy. I have not the slightest doubt that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, would also share completely the view of general policy which I am taking. Therefore the Government have to cut. If they are looking at expenditure, one enormous field is local government expenditure—an enormous field, about one-third.
The local government authorities say, "Yes, of course we must participate in that exercise, but would it not be possible that we ourselves should be allowed a little choice as to where we cut and what we do? "That is not so amazing or unreasonable a proposition. Not the whole of this country is exactly the same. Devonshire is not the same as Tyne and Wear; Gloucestershire differs from Cumbria. The noble Baroness said that some authorities would not cut at all. They will not, my Lords; but are they to be given no choice in matters of that kind? Is it wholly unreasonable to give the locally elected education authorities some capacity to decide what the interests of their constituents really demand? So they are given not a directive but an option.
§ Lord THORNEYCROFT
No, I would rather not give way because I possibly could not face the cross-examination. Well, if the noble Viscount really wants to—
§ Viscount SIMON
Could the noble Lord, because of what he was saying, extend it in his mind to local authorities' having discretion to break a promise that had been given by the Government?
§ Lord THORNEYCROFT
They have a discretion, within guidelines clearly laid down. They cannot charge anything; the terms are clearly laid down as described by the noble Baroness from the Front Bench. But it is nevertheless a discretion. I, too, have had letters, and I have had letters like those of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. Like him I will not read them, but they are from local authorities who say, "Please do not turn this discretion away. In our particular area we believe it better to make a modest charge in this field than to attack the quality of education". That is a perfectly fair view to take. If you do it this way, giving the option to local authorities, then I think it may better serve the interests of the children and the families in those areas.
The difficulty about cuts has always been the same. Almost everybody, faced with the situation that confronts us now, will agree in broad principle with the cuts, but they will oppose the individual cuts concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Home and I, Lord Butler, Lord Eccles, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—we have all seen it. We have all been through it, probably most of us on both sides, both in spending departments and in the Treasury. This is the universal case. In principle everybody agrees: in general the individual person or group says, "Cut us out; let others make the sacrifice".
I would say this to my Lord Bishop: I am not very happy at the Anglican Church saying, "Cut us out". It is all right; there are matters of conscience involved; but many times in this world and certainly in the Anglican Church people have occasionally made a little sacrifice in order to fulfil the duty of conscience. This is not a wrong thing to do; it is not a wrong thing to say to people that, however worthy the cause, we have moved into a world where people will have to subscribe a little more for what they want it to do.
I believe they do accept it, and as I look hack over the long years that I have watched in this country it is not the people I am afraid of, it is their leaders. The causes of decline are not in the audiences we address; they arc on the public platforms. They are not in the congregation: they are in the pulpit. It is we who have to make the decision as 1236 to whether we have the courage to say to people, "You will all have rather less than you desire, or think that you deserve." It takes courage to say that. And yet, if we fail to say those things the alternative is clear: we continue to drift slowly downwards. For Heaven's sake, let us find some courage to say that all of us will have to have rather less than we hoped for. If we have that courage we may end this continual retreat.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTER-HILL
I hope we shall return to discuss Clause 23. If I believed, as apparently the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, believes, that this clause would cure inflation, I would support it most wholeheartedly, but I do not think it will. I do not think we are discussing merely the problem of the voluntary schools. I do not think we are even discussing merely the problems of education. I believe we are discussing the future of rural England.
Let me start with the question of integrity, of undertakings. When the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, became Minister of Education, I well remember the first decision he made, which I regarded then and which I still regard as the most important single decision made in the making of the 1944 Education Act a reality. I refer to Circular 283, if my memory is right: the question of rural reorganisation which had been provided by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, hut which we had not found it possible to implement until that stage.
I, among many others, worked very hard in selling rural reorganisation. I wonder whether, if this clause had been operative then, we should have been going to parents in the rural areas and saying, "These all-age schools arc not really good enough; we are going to build you a nice secondary school. Of course, if you have two children going there it will cost you, in Kent, £5 a week". I wonder whether the parents would so readily have supported rural reorganisation. For myself, if this clause goes through I shall feel that we sold rural reorganisation on a false prospectus; I shall feel a sense of guilt.
However, I go beyond that. My concern is with the future of the villages. School numbers will fall by a million 1237 and perhaps more in the next five or six years. Inevitably, the pressure on the closure of village schools will be very great in any event. This is inevitable. But let us speak of the young couple who are getting married now. If they are planning a family, will they set up home in the village, in the knowledge that in due course they may have to pay £4 or £5 a week to send their children to school? Or will they try to find a place nearer the said school, the secondary school? I should have thought they would be wise to do so. What they saved on transport would enable them to pay their mortgage.
This means that in due course, as the years pass, there will be no children in the village; the closure of the village school will be inevitable. This is the reality. I hope, therefore, that we shall not look, as was suggested, at this merely in terms of voluntary schools; we should look at it in terms of all schools. We should also look at it in terms of the integrity of the Government and the integrity of those of us who some 20 to 30 years ago "sold to the country rural reorganisation. Furthermore, we should look at it in terms of the future of rural England. I hope that the Government will not think that it is a sign of weakness to give up this clause; it will be a sign of courage—of courage to recognise that they have made a misjudgment. I hope that they will show that courage.
§ Baroness TRUMPINGTON
My Lords, there has been great talk of courage this afternoon. Believe me, it takes a lot of courage for me to stand here, five weeks after I was introduced to your Lordships with my two supporters, the Lord Butler on the one side and the Lord Thorneycroft on the other. Little did I then think I would so soon have to make a choice between the two! The reason I have stood up is to put a question. Local authorities have been asked to cut their departments from a manpower point of view, and indeed they have done so. It is my experience that when you create new measures you create new departments. I should be grateful if my noble friend Lady Young would explain to me how she envisages the collection of these charges to be made without increasing the manpower of local authorities. If she can do so it will make my task—which of my noble friends to support 1238 when eventually I go into the Division Lobby—much easier.
§ Lord SOPER
My Lords, if I bring to your Lordships' House the authority of the Free Church Council and share it with Lord Taylor of Blackburn, it is not because I regard this as an ecclesiastical issue. I hope that we shall not be deluded into thinking that this is a question as to whether it is proper for schools to be voluntary or State supported, or whether they should be ecclesiastical schools. There are those in your Lordships' House who approve of the one system while there are many who disapprove of it. The reason why I believe it would be totally improper to retain this clause in the Bill is on other grounds.
I will not rehearse the points which have been made so aptly already—the breach of faith whereby many people have been seduced into the comfortable belief that for any time within the recog-nisable future their children will be bussed or transported to school free. There has been a breach of that faith. Although it is of no particular consequence, I do not remember a time when I have received so many letters from ordinary people, particularly rural people, who feel that this is a breach of confidence and something which should not be undertaken by a reputable Government.
Secondly, I believe that this is an impoverishment of true education. There is nothing so disastrous as to consume the seed corn. That is a terminal condition, and we are not in such a condition of desperation as to move to such terminal requirements. One thing which has not been said but which I believe needs to be said in clear tones is that there is at the moment a poverty trap. This point was referred to by my noble friend the Baroness when she was talking from the Front Bench. I do not know how many, but we know that there are 2,300,000 families which are only just above the level which would entitle them to supplementary benefit. The simple and unassailable point is that if they are required to make the kind of extensive and very large payments that are envisaged, the result will be that they will be brought within that poverty level but will not be eligible for the receipt of those benefits which other people enjoy.
1239 There are two other matters to which I should like to refer. I will be very brief. I believe that there will be a general impoverishment of the education service, on the ground that the co-operation of parents and others in the curriculum outside the ordinary four- and five-day week will be seriously impaired. There are many people who now can just about pay the amount of fares required in rural areas to give to their children not only the opportunity of free education but those embellishments which belong to extra-curricula activities and which are of very great worth in the general education process. They will be very seriously impaired. I have had letters—I can quote them almost by the dozen—from people who say that they will be no longer able to sustain that increase in expenditure, in view of the proposed Clause 23.
May I say one other thing before I sit down? What has not been mentioned in your Lordships' House this afternoon is the question of truancy. It runs now in some areas at about 24 per cent., I believe, and I am quite confident from such evidence as comes to my notice that it will be vastly increased if this clause goes through. You cannot expect people to be educated if they are not there. It will he an added incentive to truancy which now runs at a very considerable rate.
This is a bad clause. It offends my conscience such as it is, and it offends the sense of propriety and decency among people who have trusted in an Education Act but who now find it traduced. If it is carried through, I believe that far from saving money—which is the primary consideration—it will impair the service. Far greater benefits are to be discovered in a better education than can be culled immediately from a reduction of public expenditure. Therefore, quite apart from the question of the denominational school, I hope your Lordships will regard this as a had clause and will toss it out.
§ 4.57 p.m.
My Lords, in considering this clause I put to your Lordships the premise that if one looks to the language one will find the truth. I believe that my noble friend Lady Young has seriously misled herself or, rather, has seriously been misled, in that she said in her earlier remarks that the local education authorities still have a duty to provide 1240 transport as is appropriate. I understood her to say that this was a duty under the provisions of the great Butler Act of 1944. That is not so.
If one looks at that Act and the relevant provision, which is Section 55, one finds that the test has been completely changed. The wording is precisely the same, except that the test is not as they—not the Secretary of State, but only the local education authority—consider appropriate. The test under the great Butler Act of 1944 is the test of necessity—what they consider necessary. This has to be read in conjunction with Section 39 of the Butler Act where there is a different test in the case of parents who do not send their children regularly to school. The test there is "… no suitable arrangements have been made… to and from school". This clarifies Clause 23 because it was quite clearly decided in the case of Surrey County Council v. the Minister of Education that the test was under Section 39(2) of the 1944 Act.
What I want to be made absolutely clear is this: under the new Bill, will that test be precisely the same? Will it be the test of necessity? Will it be the test of suitable arrangements—which, by the way, is a statutory defence? And the test of that is whether the parent, not the local authority, thinks the arrangements for transport to and from school are suitable. I make this point because I believe that it is very important.
My noble friend Lord Thorneycroft stated very clearly that the discretions within guidelines are still there in the new Bill but he failed to mention that these guidelines have been changed and that under this Bill the test for the provision of future transport has been changed. I beseech your Lordships to follow the noble Lord, Lord Butler—and indeed, my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk who opened this debate so eloquently—through the Lobby.
§ Baroness WOOTTON of ABINGER
I only wish to make two remarks in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. The first is that the letters which have been referred to and have been received by my noble friend Lord Soper and by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and also by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. were not written from the pulpit, they were written from the congregation. 1241 The other thing I wish to say is that it ill becomes a Government to say that everybody must do with a tiny bit less when in their first Budget they gave back to people with over £10,000 a year gross £1,560 million in income tax.
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
I wish to intervene, with possibly the shortest speech that will be made this afternoon, to say that what the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, said seems to me to be conclusive and it was endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. I wish just to add my endorsement for one not very good reason; just as Lord Alexander had a very great deal to do with the local authority response to the compact made in the 1944 Education Act I had a very small part to play because for seven years I was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, from 1945 to 1952. I will not trouble your Lordships with any detail. But it seems to me absolutely true that there is the danger of a breach of faith, not with the people who are alive today but with the people who in those years first agreed round the table with the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and Chuter Ede and William Temple and people that we have now lost, and with the education authorities without whose collaboration in the following seven years we should not be where we are today.
It is a fact that, as an old Permanent Secretary, I thought that the Act meant what it said and that in fact schools that did reorganise, and local education authorities that took the trouble to go to reorganisation, were doing it on the basis of a compact which would last as long as the 1944 Act, and that was that transport (within certain limits) was free. I have no doubt at all that some people would think that they had negotiated and acted under a false prospectus if what is proposed is done today—in all good faith and for reasons that I for one, at any rate, deeply applaud—and if this Bill is not amended by the deletion at this stage of Clause 23, with the consequence that we shall have time to think, and the Government will have time to think, of what they will put in its place.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Viscount RIDLEY
I rise to support the Government and I apologise for the 1242 fact that I was unable to take part in thus most important debate on Second Reading. There have been one or two misconceptions which were referred to in that debate and I should like briefly to refer to them again today. First, as we all know, the less well-off arc protected in this Bill and I think it is absolutely right and proper, but we must be reminded of it. Secondly, many people seem to think that this Bill will make charging for school transport compulsory. There is no question of that. It is making it possible for local education authorities to make such charges if they want to. I speak as president of the Association of County Councils, which position I have the great honour to hold and I am much fortified by the presence of my noble predecessor Viscount Amory to support me.
What local authorities want to have is the freedom to decide in which areas economies may have to be made which will do the least harm to the service of education which they have built up and of which they arc so very proud. We have heard a great deal this week about the freedom of local government. That is the freedom which we are seeking in the Bill. There are indeed wide variations in the decisions so far of county councils as to whether or not to make charges. If a council makes an unpopular decision, then the electors will make it quite clear to them in the 1981 county council election what they think about it. I noted in the Second Reading debate that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said he had voted Tory. If he voted Tory in a general election, I think he was breaking the law; if he votes Tory in the county council elections next year, then I can assure him that we shall need his vote because we want every one we can possibly get.
I find it ironic because here we have today the Labour Party up in arms about free transport; in my own authority the Labour Opposition have made repeated efforts—they have fought and fought again —to get such charges introduced. They think it is more egalitarian to do so and preferable to some of the other economies which we are forced to make. The next misconception is this: that transport is now free for everybody. That is not so. The parents of a child of secondary school age who lives a fraction under three miles from the school is now paying very heavily 1243 for the full economic cost of transport. It is not possible always to walk 2.99 miles to school. I do not think many people would find the advice given by the noble Baroness, Lady David, to get a bicycle very acceptable on dark, foggy nights and crossing a motorway. I think there is a better way. There are people now who are much worse off than they would be if Clause 23 were passed. Local authorities have powers to negotiate with transport undertakings certain bus routes and so forth, and that is one of the things which I think could be done if we retain Clause 23.
Arrangements could be made for a flat charge for every child of secondary school age who attended school, no matter how far away he lived. That would get rid of the arbitrary three-mile distance, which I think the whole Committee agrees is a nonsense in this day and age. It is only possible, however, if we can arrange for the charge to be spread over as many people as possible and thus it can be acceptable to the majority. I should have thought that I was advocating the very finest socialist principles and that I might have the support of the other side of the Committee when I suggested that. My own authority have started to explore this, but they feel that without Clause 23 we cannot really go very much further.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, referred to the concern for rural areas, and indeed I think we should all echo that concern. Many people have come here specifically to do so today. I come from the county which is the least heavily populated in the whole of England and therefore we know very well what it is like, but I think the problem of transport in rural areas is much more important than what we are talking about now. Your Lordships debated this subject a short time ago in a very interesting debate. What we need in the rural areas is not subsidies for school children but subsidies of a major nature for everybody in rural areas—old people, young people, middle-aged people, everybody. That is more important than a subsidy for a small percentage of school children, who certainly must be helped along with everybody else; but that is a subject that I will not go on with.
This afternoon we have had mention 1244 of denominational and Catholic schools. Of course, we know that the distance which a Catholic child may travel is longer on average than that which the Protestant child may have to travel, so that the Protestant children have to some extent been subsidising the Catholic children for all this time. We thought it was since 1944, but the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, now says that it is 10 years. It must be so; if we are all paying equal rates, then some people are getting their transport cheaper than others. I am not objecting to this subsidy; I am only saying that it should be recorded as a fact, in the same way that the urban child whose parents are paying rates and not paying anything for transport is paying to sub-sidise the rural children and this cannot be wrong.
I want only to make one more point. The whole debate, which has been a marvellous one, has been about the question of free transport. There is nothing in this world that is totally free and there is no such thing as free transport. I missed the Second Reading debate because I happened to be in one of the Third World countries and met a chap there who said he was chairman of a parent/teacher association. He said, "We've just got a marvellous new arrangement. The Government will provide the teachers if the parents provide the buildings and all the other accessories which education needs". I wonder if we are quite so badly off in this country as we might have thought we were. I beg to support the Government.
§ 5.1 I p.m.
§ Lord ROSS of MARNOCK
What we are debating applies equally to Scotland as to England and Wales. In actual fact, I want to save some time and trouble for your Lordships because I am prepared to accept the decision we take on this clause as applicable to a later Scottish clause. I feel myself very privileged indeed to take part in a debate on education, and to do so after the noble Lord, Lord Butler. I was not fortunate enough to be in the House in 1944, but no man has played a greater part in the reorganisation and progress of education in England and incidentally, on overspill, in Scotland as well.
I think we should be very ill-advised just to brush aside—as a result of some 1245 question about people in the towns who are just under the two-mile or three-mile limit having to walk—or throw away this whole principle. It just is not good enough. I am part of a continuity of 20 years of educational supervision in this House. It started with Viscount Muirshiel, Lord Glenkinglas and went on to Lord Campbell of Croy, and myself. From 1956 until 1976 we were the Secretaries of State for Scotland.
The reorganisation of secondary schools, the changes in respect of primary schools were made by us. I wonder how many rural schools we closed down amongst the four of us in all that time. In every school we closed down, the pledge was given about free transport to the next village. It is still being given by the present Secretary of State, I am perfectly sure. If the Government are concerned about saving money, surely they appreclate that, if this is taken away or is likely to be taken away, then the closure that would save them very much more money in respect of certain schools will not take place.
The other point I am concerned about is this. The last rural school that was closed in my area was closed when I was not Secretary of State, but I was there and I took an interest in it. I heard what all the officials said, I received reports of what the Government had said. The school was also the community centre for the village and when it closed part of the village died, but the closure went through and the pledge was given that there would be free transport.
That guarantee is no longer there, and it applies equally to secondary schools. We reorganised secondary schools and, to take an instance, we built the urban valley which consists of the old lace-. making towns of Darvel, Newmilns and Galston. Instead of having three schools they decided to have one. You can imagine what local jealousies there were as to where that school would be sited. It was sited at Galston on the Loudoun Estate in the country, but it meant that the people from Darvel had to travel, the people from Galston and the people from other villages around, from Fenwick and elsewhere, had to travel.
The whole concept of the siting of these secondary stools was based upon 1246 free transport and was only acceptable on the basis of free transport. I spoke about another school the other night, and the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, seemed to think I was talking about the Highlands. I was talking about Ayrshire, Auchinleck. He surely knows where Dr. Johnson's very great friend, Boswell, came from: Auchinleck. The buses collect the children from all the mining villages and all the rural villages in the area, and I could name them all. Without free transport that very fine secondary school will just have no life, or if it has life then there will he impoverishment for a considerable number of families all around. Farming children and the children of miners, are just the right mix you want in a secondary school. The idea was right; education of this kind of case depends entirely on free transport. The people of Scotland feel that way.
I do not know whether the noble Earl has appreciated just exactly how things have changed since early February when they were discussing this in Committee in another place. The Minister gave us the information that there would be no change in central Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, the Grampians, Highland, Lothian and Strathclyde, which decided that they would not put on a charge. But Tayside, Orkney and Shetland were undecided. Then he said that the Borders looked like having 10 pence per journey, that is £1 a week. He will know by now that Tayside, Orkney and Shetland are no longer undecided, having refused to charge. The Borders have also refused to charge, and on the day when the Borders were considering this they were also considering the closure of, I think, another six country schools.
Things are tied up, the life of the countryside is tied up, in this. I was very glad when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Butler, talking about negotiations in respect of voluntary schools. You know we are a puritan lot and a Presbyterian lot in Scotland, hut we solved this problem in 1918 when all these voluntary schools became ordinary public schools with certain guarantees to the Anglican and Roman Catholic communities. But this means that, even in a city or a town where there are not the same number of secondary schools—there may be only one in Kilmarnock—the Roman Catholics have to travel great distances to get there. 1247 So it would certainly be a breach of faith to them in respect of this if we suddenly decided that we were going to charge and make their life much more expensive.
The more we examine the kind of amendments that have been put down to try to assuage us, the more difficult this becomes. The noble Baroness was quite right in the question she asked. The figure I have for Strathclyde is that the administration will add about 5 per cent. to the cost of the transport—and that is not calculating the latest changes in respect of the division of the family, the first two paying and the rest going for nothing.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft was wrong when he resigned and he was equally wrong today. He told us that we as a nation have great problems to face. We agree with him. This nation must face these problems, but it will do so best when we get leadership that presents us with something that unites us. It is obvious that this divides us and will divide the nation. There is no feeling of unity arising from what is happening here. This is the kind of thing we should not be faced with at the present time, so let us forget it and get down to the task of finding something that unifies the nation in order to face the difficulties before us.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY
I intend to compete with the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, in making a short speech in the debate this afternoon and I think I can sum up my attitude to this difficult problem in half a dozen sentences. It is not a decision I have found easy to reach. I am in favour of giving local authorities this discretion because I believe that if local government is really to be local government, the democratically elected members should have this kind of responsibility. If there is a criticism that it will lead to lack of uniformity, I agree that is likely, but that is a price I am personally well prepared to have to pay. Having said that, I think that to make a charge is a major change of policy, not I believe a breach of faith, because very few Acts of Parliament can remain unamended in changing circumstances for ever. But it is a change of policy that I do not find I am keen on.
1248 I remember 40 years ago, when I was a member of a local education authority, we were carrying out a policy of closing village schools, and I remember that at that time we were able to assure parents that their children would be brought in from the villages at the expense of public funds.
So this proposal does involve a major change of policy, in the light of changed circumstances and the absolute necessity of economies. If, therefore, the authorities are to be given this power, I would hope that they would be allowed to look at every possible alternative economy and if they can find some alternative way of saving the money they would then be free to make no charge at all or, which I would much prefer, the absolute minimum that is practicable. Personally, though I can see some merit in the assisted places scheme, which we have approved, on financial grounds I would rather forgo that for a few years than impose any severe additional burden on parents living in rural areas, when such parents already have to accept reduced public services owing to remoteness. So my decision to support this clause this evening is because I want democratically elected local authorities to have the widest possible discretion for decisions in local matters.
§ 5.23 p.m.
I want to say just a few words with regard to one of the minority religious sects in this country. I need not declare an interest; I think everybody knows precisely whom I am talking about. Let me say at once that it would be a tragic thing for the denominational schools in the Jewish community, as indeed has been pointed out in regard to the other denominational schools, if a clause of this description were accepted. On the advice and the understanding which has been in existence for so many years these schools are being built in places to enable attendance by as many as possible of the people who believe sincerely and without any hesitation in their children being trained in a religious school. If this clause were to come into force it would negate so much which has been done on the clear understanding that this is important. It is on that understanding that the necessary arrangements have been made. This clause is something which it is impossible to understand.
1249 It is not a question only of finance; finance in this respect is a minor question compared with the other expenses. I see this as a question of principle which involves religious people to whatever denomination they may belong. The training of children in their particular religious morals and ethics is something which is of tremendous benefit to the world as it stands at present. I have said here once before, and I think it is well worth repeating, that the difficulties we are facing, with violence and attacks upon religious and moral ethics are something which we ought to take into consideration when we are dealing with the subject of education in our own country.
I earnestly appeal to the noble Baroness, and I have a great admiraion for her; I think she really does not appreciate what a serious thing it would be if these schools had to be closed. With regard to the other denominational schools and the general situation, of course I entirely agree with those who have spoken against the clause, and I do not propose to repeat the well founded arguments which have been used on both sides of the Committee. But I am earnestly asking her: please do not give any trouble or difficulties to those who believe in the ethics of religion, because its violation is one of the most important things against which we have to fight at present.
§ 5.25 p.m.
I rise to say a very few words in the briefest possible manner. I say them not only on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches but also personally. I must declare an interest as chairman of the Countryside Commission, a body charged with the duty of doing what it can to preserve our countryside and its natural beauty. I am much concerned about the plight of rural economies in many areas. I believe that there can be no viable and attractive countryside unless the economies upon which the people who live in the countryside depend are thriving and vigorous.
Secondly, I am concerned with the increasing number of problems which our nation's most important industry, agriculture, has to face. I also believe there can be no attractive countryside unless there is viable and profitable agriculture. 1250 In the light of that it really does seem to me to be desperately unwise to make it very difficult for some agricultural workers to get their children to school, particularly bearing in mind that if some of those agricultural workers become unemployed they will get not only free school meals and free school transport but a lot of other things as well. What this clause would do, I believe, in the long run could be very damaging to a resource for which there is an ever-increasing demand and which is in ever reducing supply—namely, the countryside.
§ 5.28 p.m.
We have heard some memorable speeches this afternoon from people with much greater authority and experience in education than myself. We have heard mention of various points of principle and we have heard points of down to earth facts or probabilities. On the points of principle, we have heard of the discretion which noble Lords have insisted must be left with the local education authorities, and I would not dissent from that as a general principle. We have also heard during this debate, today and last Monday and Tuesday, about the question of equity, and equity is at the level of the children. If there has to be a choice, and I believe in this case there has to be, between discretion and freedom of choice of local education authorities to interpret this clause in the way they will—some one way and some another—and equity, making certain that no children suffer as a result of the inability or unwillingness of their parents to pay, or their decision to send them on their feet to school, give me equity every time.
The second point of generality I would mention is this. I have had nothing like so many letters as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk or the noble Lord, Lord Butler, but I have contacts with many secondary schools all over the country and I have had quite a lot of correspondence from them. In regard to some of those schools the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross, is very apt and apposite. The schools I have in mind—and I could furnish the noble Baroness with the details if she wishes—are schools serving housing estates on the fringe of urban areas, in the context of industrial development. Those are schools which still have a considerable 1251 residual element of rural children. They are serving also, therefore, villages at distances of anything up to seven or eight miles from the schools. The pride of those schools is that they are beginning to produce a unity between the urban children, particularly those displaced from such places as London, and the really rural children. The opinion of the headmasters in three of those schools is that the effect of this clause, if it passes into law, will cause disunity because there will be inequity between one group of parents and another, which will be accentuated at the focus of the individual school.
My third point is small but nevertheless important because it affects individual children. The noble Lord. Lord Soper. referred to truancy. Headmasters have emphasised this point to me. They have spoken to me of their concern about control. Children will be leaving from their villages to go to school, many will arrive late, and some will not arrive at all. In bad weather children will arrive wet. Obviously there is the consideration of children's health. All these considerations operate to the detriment of education and of individual children, and they are important points. I have nothing else to say, except to point out that, as will be obvious to all your Lordships, I intend to vote with the noble Duke for the deletion of this clause.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield)
My contribution is in no sense of the word a summing up or winding up of the debate. It is just another small Scottish input which probably would have been more appropriate after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, but for a short while I was deflected from intervening. It is not perhaps inappropriate that I should intervene at this juncture because noble Lords from Scotland will appreciate that part of my ministerial responsibility embraces the Highlands and Islands. There is no part of the United Kingdom which more enjoys, if that is the right word, a more fragile economy than that beautiful, comparatively unspoilt, but sad part of the United Kingdom. At the same time there is no part of the United Kingdom which does not merit more greatly, and which in fact enjoys, the Government's concern 1252 and aid in seeking to preserve its way of life.
I rise with diffidence and a little trepidation in face of the immense experience and distinction of such speakers as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, of whom I have been an ardent fan, unknown to him, since his younger son and I shared a dormitory at school. I particularly remember an occasion when the great man came down to the school. Incidentally, that younger son is also a member of the present Government.
I wish to deal with the subject of the countryside. I do not question the bona fides or motives of those who have written saying how worried they are about the effect of this provision on the countryside and its welfare. Nevertheless, there has been, and still remains, considerable misunderstanding about how these proposals might affect the scale of provision of school transport. For example, I understand that the National Farmers' Union circulated a brief to certain members of this House drawing attention to the effect on rural families of the possible withdrawal of transport. Even perhaps among your Lordships there may be some misunderstanding. However, I do not know whether that applies to the noble Lords, Lord Parry and Lord Simon.
The duty to make arrangements for the provision of transport is no narrower under these proposals than it now is. The only change of substance is the power to charge. Where no public transport is available, a local education authority will be under just as strong an incentive to provide transport as it is now by virtue of Section 39(2)(c) of the 1944 Act. There is virtually no change in the relevant provision. The only change of substance is that, instead of having to provide the transport free, the proposals would allow the authority to charge for doing so.
A great deal has been said about the fact that at moments when rural schools have been closed undertakings may have been given about school transport thereafter. The noble Lord, Lord Ross made much of this point. There is nothing in the Bill —and this applies to both countries—to force authorities to renege on undertakings given to provide free transport. It will be at their discretion to continue to provide free transport. Indeed, in 1253 Scotland—as Lord Ross got round to saying, in a slightly convoluted way—all 12 regional authorities have decided to provide free transport. In the exercise of their discretion—a discretion which I venture to suggest is a good one—they have decided to make savings, because savings will have to be made. In effect, they have adjusted the priorities in their spending programmes. They have determined that free transport is sufficiently important to justify its continued provision, and in the case of Scotland the £2 million savings will be found elsewhere. I hope that disposes of the argument that in certain places there will be less transport.
§ Lord GALPERN
Why, then, do the Government still persist in putting forward Clause 25? Why not drop it if it will have no effect?
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
If the noble Lord, Lord Galpern, does not understand why there is need for economy in this country, far be it from me to turn this into an economic debate. Of course, there will be economies made, and in a moment I shall come to the scale of them.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
The noble Lord has made an intervention. He will have the right to speak in a few minutes and no doubt will do so and tear me to pieces. The next matter relates to the difference in the dependence of rural families on school transport in comparison with their counterparts in the urban areas. Again, there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding. On Friday, my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk spoke on the radio programme "Today day when normally I have the sod of Scotland under my feet, but because I was working this Bill was unable to do so. The noble Duke said, in effect, that urban people do not have to pay anything at all. Many speakers in this debate have exposed the fallacy of that point of view. In some cases they may have to pay very much more than the urban dweller. Therefore, the reality is rather different.
As regards charges, although in England and Wales about 750,000 secondary pupils travel free because they live beyond the three-mile limit, it should be pointed 1254 out that another 500,000 live in the two-to-three mile band and have to pay. National travel survey data for 1975–76 suggested that half the children who live two to three miles from school travel by bus. Thus, a significant number of children in the urban areas will have a substantial fare to pay—generally speaking, more than the charges envisaged by local education authorities. That is the fallacy of the thought that in some way as a result of this clause rural children will of necessity be worse off than their urban counterparts. If there is equality of sacrifice I suggest that it is in this clause. There is another "smallish "matter with which I should like to deal and which perhaps my noble friend would prefer to leave alone when she comes to wind up. It is a matter which I know the noble Baroness, Lady David, and a number of other noble Lords, raised. I am referring to what happens if the child loses his money and therefore cannot board the bus. That remark gives rise to a number of matters.
At present, of course, children already travel on public transport and pay fares. They use season tickets and it will, by no means, be something new for the majority, at least, of the children in our population to have to travel by public transport. I understand that in the rural areas a substantial part of the school transport will be provided in the form of a school bus, or perhaps a hired car or some such vehicle if the numbers are small. It will inevitably be a vehicle hired by the authority and operated by one person. In those cases I suggest that it will be virtually certain that no money will pass, on at any rate a daily basis, and that the child will have in his posession a pass which will have been purchased or bought from the local education authority. The driver will surely recognise the child—this is a purely practical point—and if the child has lost his pass I cannot conceive that any such operator of the vehicle in those conditions would say, "You cannot come aboard. "
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
Is the noble Earl aware that in Scotland, under another fiddling Act. the driver of the bus is also responsible for the child's mother, who may be carrying a bottle of whisky? This is an absurd brief!
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
Unless they arc travelling to a designated football ground, I do not think that whisky comes into the matter. We have had quite enough of that. Whisky or no, I do not believe, especially in a rural community, and in the rural community that I inhabit, that a harsh and unconscionable view will be taken of a child who does not have his money or his pass. My noble friend Lord Ridley spoke, I was about to say, from the grassroots of the local authorities, but to say that would be very rude: he spoke from the pinnacle of the local authorities. The local authorities will no doubt give guidance to the operators on how such matters arc to be dealt with, and I should have thought we could have left that to their good sense.
The final matter that I should like to deal with has been touched upon by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, who, from his own experience in his own locality, spoke about the children of such persons as agricultural workers and miners who, if a charge were to be imposed—which it is not contemplated in Scotland might be badly off. I do not think that the children of miners are likely to be in the very worst financial position. I do not say that in any pejorative sense, but they are not too far from the top of the earnings league.
However, as regards farmworkers, I have looked into the matter and I hasten to say that I am talking at this stage on an English basis. If one looks at the 1979 new earnings survey, updated from its April 1979 base to a November 1979 base which was occasioned by an earnings increase, one sees that the average earnings of the average farmworker came to just below £70 per week. That lies beyond the family incomes supplement range of £55 to £65. On that basis the vast majority of farmworkers would be beyond or outside the safety net which applies to families in that particular situation so far as family income supplement is concerned and the benefits which are available. About 17 per cent. earn less than £55 and, if they are married and with children, are eligible for family income supplement and therefore would benefit. I do not say this in any other sense than that the spectre, if that is not too strong a word, of a large number of the rural inhabitants 1256 not being able to afford even what are contemplated to be fairly modest sums which would be demanded by the local education authorities for transport in these circumstances, is pushing the matter a little far.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, who has immense experience of these matters —holding the position that he does—slightly gave one cause to think that this might be something which was over-onerous on a sector of the population which we are all agreed is by no means well off. I hope that my remarks have shown that, in fact, it would not have the effect which some, at least, have said.
As I said at the beginning of this intervention—which has gone on for longer than I had originally intended—my noble friend will sum up. However, I would ask noble Lords, especially those who have the welfare of the countryside at heart—and a great many arguments this afternoon have been based on that—to consider the options which are open to the Government and the way that the matter has been put. Savings must be made and they must be made somewhere, and I suggest that this is the least painful and probably the most appropriate method of so doing.
§ 5.47 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of ROCHESTER
The only excuse for a second speech from these Benches is if one does not speak for the Church of England, but for those whom it seeks to serve. I am concerned with this matter as a community and social matter rather than as a denominational issue. I am concerned about the burden that will be placed upon those who are just above the family income supplement qualification and from whom I feel I have no right to demand the sacrifice that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, expects of me.
The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, referred specifically to Kent where the proposed charges are to be among the highest in the country. In the neighbouring diocese of Canterbury, where the Archbishop has yet to arrive, the Synod passed an emergency resolution on Saturday referring to this matter, and especially to the discriminating effects of any such charges upon rural communities and upon families with low income. 1257 Your Lordships will notice that there was no reference to Church schools at all, but to the effect upon rural communities and indirectly to the divisive consequences of introducing these charges.
A new school was built 10 years ago in one part of Kent. The site was deliberately chosen away from a centre of population and the assurance was given that transport would be provided. There are 950 children attending that school and 800 of those 950 are "bussed "every day. In a school in my own diocese for which there is considerable competition for places, 568 children out of 930 are "bussed "every day and the headmistress is concerned about the divisive effect which these transport charges will have. She says that undoubtedly there will be parents who will be able to pay them, but the school will become more and more like the rest of the Church of England and just middle-class. That is what she is concerned about.
I cannot believe that it is the firm intention of this Government to alienate deliberately not only the rural communities of England but the religious communities—Anglican, Roman Catholic and Free Church. I hope that even at the eleventh hour the noble Baroness will be prepared to admit that the Government have misjudged this issue and will think again.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord STEWART of FULHAM
I have listened carefully to the arguments that have been advanced during this debate in favour of the Government's clause. It seems to me that they can be summarised under three heads with the resounding slogan—equity, liberty and economy.
I come to equity. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, spoke of the inequities of the present arrangement, but the only way in which she proposes to remedy those inequities is by imposing disadvantages on sections of the population who at present do not suffer from them, in order to preserve equity between those and other sections. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London pointed out, justice is hardly done by imposing further trouble on those who are not yet suffering the full injustice.
As to the inequity imposed by the 1258 present rule about walking distance from schools, that, of course, is preserved in subsection (6) and in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Without considerable administrative difficulty, I doubt whether we could get away from it completely. However, it cannot be said that this clause really improves equity. To some extent it imposes a disadvantage on people who are not already suffering any disadvantage, and that is all we can say.
Then there is the argument for liberty, with the Government saying that they will give local authorities freedom to charge or not to charge. The question of how much freedom local authorities ought to have is always arguable. In education we have taken the view that local authorities ought not to have freedom as regard the essentials. For example, we do not allow them to decide for themselves what the school-leaving age is to be. However, what we are discussing now is the physical possibility of children getting to school without the danger of increased truancy, danger to health and ceaseless worry on the part of parents as to whether the money can be found. I do not think that that is an educational area where one ought to accept that each local authority can please itself. I am afraid that those who will come off worst will be the poorer inhabitants of countieswhere the majority are quite well off; the majority will be quite happy to save the rates and not to bother about the poorer minority living in their area. That, generally, is the result that we shall achieve. I do not regard it as a result to be dignified by the name of liberty. This point was very powerfully argued by my noble friend Lord Hunt.
I come to economy. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycorft, made a clarion call to us all to realise the grave state of the nation, and said that it was imperative that we do something about it. My noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock pointed out that the amount of economy may not be as great as one imagines by the time it has resulted in preventing the closure of schools and by the time some of the administrative difficulties imposed by this clause have been met. I accept that if one dislikes a particular cut in Government expenditure, one is under some obligation to suggest alternatives. I am indebted to 1259 the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, for suggesting that at the very least we could postpone the assisted places scheme before we start on this economy.
The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, spoke of the bureaucracy of local government. There is another bureacuracy as a field for economies more wise than this, and that is the gigantic bureaucracy in the National Health Service which was built up by a previous Conservative Government. The Government ought to have a bash at that before they take steps not simply to cut away bureaucracy, but to deprive a great many people of a real and necessary service.
I think that we could all accept that when the Government are searching for economies they ought to preserve a reasonable balance between the different services that the Government provide. The Government have already had their own way over an economy of £220 million for England, Scotland and Wales on milk and meals. In addition to that, do they want to bash education again? That is not a reasonable way to plan Government economies.
The noble Lord, Lord Thornyecroft, spoke passionately of courage and sacrifice. I shall say no more on that part of his speech than that I did not find particularly convincing or impressive the picture of the inflexible courage with which he would vote to impose sacrifices on people of extremely modest means. I deliberately use the phrase "extremely modest means "because the very poorest are, of course, protected in the Bill, though, again, that involves more bureaucracy and something which the Government have usually said they dislike bitterly: narrowing the gap between the standard of life of people who are in work and those who are receiving supplementary benefit. That will be the effect here. The Government are producing another example of the poverty trap.
It seems to me that the arguments for the clause under the headings "Equity", Liberty" and "Economy" do not get us very far. They do not get us far enough to justify the meanness of this clause and the damage that it will do in areas immediately outside education. People who have much better knowledge of the 1260 countryside than I have spoken of the damage the clause will do to the countryside. My attention has been drawn to one particular point. There are a number of small rural bus services which survive because they can build their finances on the school bussing contract. If people start living nearer schools in order to cut costs, some of those services will go out of business. However, as I have said, there are many noble Lords who know the countryside better than I, and they have made the case very plainly about the damage that this will do to rural life. In addition they have drawn attention to the breach of faith towards those who consented to reorganise on the clear understanding that transport would be available.
The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said "Of course, we are not telling local authorities that they must break faith; we are merely allowing them to do so". We may fairly ask, "What do the Government want them to do?" Are the Government really coming to us and saying, "We think that we shall save £20 million by not spending on school transport hut, of course, if the local authorities decide to go on spending on free transport after all, nobody will be more delighted than the Government". Is that really the Government's position?—because that is what followed from the noble Earl's argument. Therefore, the arguments advanced in this debate to justify the clause do not outweigh the injustice and meanness and the injury to the countryside and to our national life which this clause will involve.
§ Viscount MONCKTON of BRENCHLEY
In rising to speak I shall be brief and to the point. The only justification that I have for speaking is that I am here, elected by some higher body than the other place, and because in the history of this place it has always been the hereditary Peers who are more in touch with the feeling in the country than those in the other Chamber. Those of us in this position are absolutely clear about the feeling of the vast majority of the people of this country, and it is against this clause. I come from Kent and all these letters and telegrams that I am holding are from Kent. Kent—the worst county of all in this respect—plans to charge £2. 50 for each secondary school child, 1261 for the first two children only. I have listened to what Members high up in my party have said, and I have never heard a better way of losing votes than by giving support to this clause. I intend to support my noble friend the Duke and I hope that many of your Lordships will do the same.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Viscount ECCLES
I am in some difficulty over this clause. Four years ago my village school —a Church of England primary school—was shut down against the wishes of the whole village. We received verbal assurances that the children would travel free to Ludgershall, and I expect the Wiltshire County Council to remember that. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has said that when I had the duty to push the reorganisation of elementary schools in rural areas as fast as I could, we gave some assurances to the rural areas that as the new schools were built transport to them, on the three-mile limit basis, would be free. I do not remember doing that, but it is quite likely that we did so. I doubt whether it could be found written down anywhere, but it is quite likely that local authorities gave that sort of assurance.
Having said that, noble Lords might think that I am bound to vote against the clause. However, I think that there is something to be saved out of this clause. In the first place there are real anomalies and unfairnesses in the way in which the transport system works today. How can we give local authorities a chance to smooth those out? The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, who knows much more about it than I do as chairman of the County Councils Association, said what I am sure is true, that there are some beneficial reforms that could be carried out if the freedom was given to local authorities.
Then I would go on to say that I do not believe that the local authorities, or many of them, are going to charge under this clause. I think the savings would be insignificant so far as money is concerned. But that then gives us another reason for having the clause—or rather, it removes a disadvantage to the clause; it is that we have to find other economies. The £200 million from milk is something, but it is not enough. I must ask your Lordships to glance at the education 1262 budget. Ten years ago Government expenditure on education was £2.. billion. In 1978–79 it was £8. 9 billion taking England, Wales and Scotland together. Out of that £8. 9 billion about £7 billion, or perhaps a little more, is spent in partnership with the local authorities
Partnership with the local authorities is the cornerstone of the 1944 Act When the local authorities were consulted—and we would not get many economies if they were not consulted they said that they could do something under transport I now believe that with the opposition that your Lordships are showing—and which I believe will mean that the clause will be severely defeated, but I hope not—they will take notice of that, and they will feel that if this economy cannot be obtained, where else do they go? They must go somewhere else, and it is our responsibility
We are not looking at this clause in isolation I agree with my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft that we must look at it against the background of our national finances; with a borrowing requirement month by month, huge sums, enormous rates of interest, it is impossible to defeat inflation If we cannot defeat inflation, no more advances in any social services will be possible for years Therefore, we really must look at their budget
When one looks at their budget—I am talking now of the £7 billion—what is the outstanding item there? It is teachers' salaries It is interesting that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, on Second Reading said that we ought to look at the teacher pupil ratio. He said that the ratio had improved every year for 10 years, the quality of education had not improved, and now the school rolls were falling. He went on to say:… a marginal adjustment in that ratio would save much more money than will be saved under the terms of this Bill and would not necessarily do any harm to the education service "—[Official Report, col. 1097; 25/2/80.]Coming from that powerful quarter we ought to take notice of that advice.
Teachers' salaries in 10 years have gone up from 37. 7 per cent. to 46. 1 per cent. of the total expenditure. In money they have risen front £700 million to £3,500 million. It cannot go on. If they have this year, for instance, a 15 per cent. increase in salaries, £525 million, that is 1263 four times the total cost of transport. These are the magnitudes that your Lordships must look at.
Here is the real predicament of the country. If wages and salaries in the public sector go on up as they are now, then there is no hope whatever of stopping a decline in the fall of money and a decline in the quality of our education service. The right thing to do—I hope the Secretary of State might consider it, although the noble Baroness says that he will not—is to consult with the local authorities to cut 10 per cent. off the teachers' salaries bill—that is, £350 million—and then to spend £100 million of that on training and recruiting highly qualified teachers, which is what the schools really want. If you do that operation we should be improving education and we should be talking about figures that made sense.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Baroness MASHAM of ILTON
I should like to say a few words, as I had an amendment down to this clause. I should like to speak first on a few points on rural England which have not been mentioned. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that if this clause was deleted children from rural areas would be better off. Has the noble Earl ever ridden in a school bus early in the morning on the Dales of Yorkshire or on the hills of Perthshire? The children very often come to school feeling sick.
It is no advantage bringing up children in a rural area. They do not benefit from after-school activities. They have to go home at 3. 45. They cannot go back. They cannot use the school libraries. They cannot play games on Saturdays. It is very expensive to take them to the town so that they can go to art galleries, and galleries for further education. The rural areas, as has been said, need help and support.
I am a Roman Catholic, and I should like to say—and I have no fear in saying it—that we in the rural areas are worried. We have very few priests. If the Christian churches cannot recruit children from the schools who are taught Christian beliefs, then we shall have no priests for our children. As it is, we have a priest who has to come 40 miles to visit our local church.
1264 The rural areas have many problems. I should just like to mention the handicapped children. There is no safeguard for them in Clauses 23 and 25. The noble Baroness mentioned children who were handicapped and who went to special schools, but the modern way of thinking is that where possible they go to normal schools. There is no safeguard; and, as many noble Lords have said, maybe local authorities will not put a charge on now, but what about the position in five years' time? I shall say no more, but for such a small saving of money it seems ridiculous to encourage so much bitterness which this clause will engender throughout the country.
The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES and FOOD (Earl Ferrers)
I think we are getting somewhat out of order. The noble Lord did stand up to speak and it is the usual courtesy to hear a noble Lord if he wishes to speak.
§ The Earl of LONGFORD
May I suggest to the acting Leader of the House that it is quite often the custom in this House for noble Lords to show in a mild, gentlemanly sort of way when a moment has been reached when everybody seems to want to have a vote. They simply call "vote ", and there is nothing wrong in that.
I would not dispute that at all, but from the noise that was emanating it was not at all clear what was being expressed.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Baroness MACLEOD of BORVE
As unfortunately I was not able to take part in the Second Reading, may I make one suggestion. This follows the statement that this country has been fortunate since 1944 to have the Butler Education Act. However, since then we have had the Welfare State, and a great many other alterations in the whole way that society and our children are brought up today. I support the Government's suggestions 1265 in Clause 23 because I want to make it more equitable for all the children in this country—and that is children living in the towns and in the country. As we know from the clause, there will he a flat rate wherever you live; to go to school, each child will pay the same. I suggest that that flat rate should apply not only in the country but in the towns as well. We have heard that some parents have to pay 70p per time to get their children to school in the towns, and I know that that is correct. I suggest that there should be a flat rate not only in the country, but that the Government should establish the ceiling at which that flat rate should apply. In other words, we should not be led astray by the red herring from Kent, where they tell us the county is to apply fares which will cost £140 per child. If the Government laid down 20p per fare, for two children that would be only L2 a week, £1 for each child, and if they did that for the town areas as well, then all children would have the same advantage and, some noble Lords will think, disadvantage.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
We have had a long and very important debate this afternoon and I wish to say at the outset how greatly I have appreciated the sincerity of everybody who has spoken, particularly my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk and the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and I accept, too, that others feel very deeply about this matter. I will deal immediately with two points. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumping-ton, asked me whether, if there are transport charges, that will lead to more administrators. Clearly, if transport charges are imposed there will have to be somebody to administer them, but we should keep the facts straight. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, has not told me from where he got the figure of 300, but we have no evidence of any local education authority contemplating employing that number of people. If it was Cumbria, which was referred to in the Guardian newspaper, they are proposing to employ three full-time staff with some extra part-time hours in secretarial assistance; that hardly makes 300. Kent, I gather, are going to employ two extra full-time staff in each of their 14 divisional offices.
§ Baroness YOUNG
Yes, 28. I am saying that by the time the local authorities have paid the extra administrative charges, which I accept, they will still make a saving, and I believe one must accept that.
Secondly, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, to whom I always listen with the greatest respect for her knowledge about the handicapped, asked what would happen to the handicapped. Not one local education authority which is contemplating charges intends to make a charge for taking handicapped children to school. They never have done and I have no reason for supposing they will alter their policies in this regard; and, believe me, they can, and I am referring to handicapped children going to special schools.
§ Baroness YOUNG
Yes, to special schools, because they have a discretion and they can be trusted to use that discretion, which they have always used. There is nothing whatever in the 1944 Act which compels them to take children to special schools, except over the three-mile limit, and they have always done so and I have no reason for thinking they will not do so in future.
§ Baroness YOUNG
We are now getting rather wide of the mark; I really just wanted to talk about handicapped children. I would commend to your Lordships the very important speeches made by my noble friend Lord Ridley and the noble Viscount, Lord Amory. All that the local authorities have asked for is power to make a charge if they believe, in their local area, that this is the right place in which to make the savings. That is what we are talking about. It is not a duty to charge; it is giving local authorities the option to charge if they believe it is the right thing to do in their authority.
1267 I turn to the major question of a breach of faith. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said about the concordat in 1944 and what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said about what I think he described as a concordat in the 1950s, when secondary all-age schools were reorganised into comprehensive schools for those living in rural areas. But—and I am quite certain that the representatives of the Churches here today would be the first to agree with this—the Churches have not always regarded this as something completely unalterable. They, for example, asked first of all if Governments would increase the proportion that they would pay of the capital costs of the schools. In 1944 the Churches paid 50 per cent. of the capital costs; later, that was decreased to 25 per cent. and today it is 15 per cent. of the capital costs. They felt it was all right to look at the proportions between the Church and the State and nobody has grumbled about it, and every Member of your Lordships' House should know that at every denominational school the whole of the running costs are paid by the ratepayers and taxpayers and 85 per cent. of the capital costs are paid by the ratepayers and taxpayers. It is right; I support it and I am not questioning it. That is our part of the bargain which we have kept and continue to keep, and I hope the Churches recognise that.
Time and again during the discussion on the Bill on Tuesday night I and my colleagues argued for the denominational schools, argued through and through on small details, because we are keeping our side of the bargain. And I must say, it is not very helpful to accuse us of a major breach of faith, because I do not believe that that is the case. Indeed, I say to the right reverend Prelates, the Lord Bishop of London and the Lord Bishop of Rochester: I listened very carefully to what you had to say and I accept that the Churches have a point they wish to make. But may I tell you I am disappointed that your representatives did not make this point when I met them in July?
I had meetings with the Churches—with the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church—and, to be perfectly fair to the Roman Catholics, at that time they made the point that they were worried about transport charges. At no stage, however, 1268 have the Anglican Churches raised this point. They may not have liked it, but at least they acquiesced in it; and in the way one conducts public business one assumes that that is what they thought. At no time have the right reverend Prelates written to me about the subject. At no time did they offer to come and see me, despite the fact that I know my right honourable and learned friend offered to see them. I suppose that once we are in this sort of position it is good to bring up the case now, but it is not a matter which was raised in another place, and I must say it is now being raised as a last gasp.
I come to the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. They recognised that when the Labour Government were in power as the last Administration they looked at the question of flat rate charging for transport. That would have meant, had they carried it out, a charge for everybody, fixed at a flat rate, whether they were in the country or in the town. So I say to them: do not talk to me about charging for rural people. You did not put it into the 1978 Act because you knew the General Election was coming and it might be unpopular—
§ Baroness YOUNG
—so you left it out. Yes, you may well laugh now. You criticised me at Second Reading, and said how much the country had had to save on education under the Conservatives, and I was able to show—
§ Baroness YOUNG
No, you may not at the moment—and I was able to show that the Labour Government cut far more in 1975–76 than the Conservative Government are contemplating doing in the two years between 1978 and 1980. We are back again. I say to noble Lords opposite: You may vote against us, because that is your political decision, but do not pretend to us that it is because you are supporting the rural lobbies or the Churches. When you were in power you would have done it, had you had the courage, but you lacked the courage; and it is always the case when the chips are down—you will fight us when we are left to clear up the mess.
1269 I have not finished yet, because I am not afraid to say what I think to be right, nor to speak the truth as I sec it. A number of noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Redeliffe-Maud—spoke from their long experience, and said "Oh, we mustn't save on transport. When I was in the Department of Education and Science between 1945 and 1952, and when I ran the AEC for so many years and reorganised local schools in the 1950s, I gave a promise on school transport." I am sure that they did, and I am sure that they mean every word of it. Probably—and both of them have said so at different times —they believe in economies. How nice for them! They will walk through the Division Lobbies against me tonight, and as they go back to their retirement homes I hope that they will think of the Minister who has been left to clear up the mess—
§ Baroness YOUNG
Goodness me! I have upset the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek—because the truth of the matter is that no one has an alternative policy to this.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was very honest. He said, "I agree that it is wrong to charge for transport. We shouldn't actually charge for transport for anybody." The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said the same. That is their policy; and good—at least they have stated what it is. Of course it would enormously increase the cost. Nevertheless that is their policy, and they would rather have increased subsidies over transport than anything else.
The noble Lord, Lord Butler, and I think the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said that they would abolish the assisted places scheme. Actually if we abolish it, it would save £3 million in 1981, and we are asking for a saving of £20 million. So it is hardly going to cover the cost—
§ Lord BUTLER of SAFFRON WALDEN
Will the noble Baroness please quote me correctly? I said in my Second Reading speech that the amount would gradually rise, and that the original proposal of the Government was for £50 million. It was greatly to my surprise to find that in a Bill involving economies 1270 —about which the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, has spoken so nobly—there should be an inclusion of £50 million reduced from £55 million; otherwise let us leave the assisted places scheme alone.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I quite agree; I shall take the noble Lord's advice and leave it alone, except in this context: it would not reach £55 million for five or six years; and it would not even reach that—it could be brought in by order of the Secretary of State. We would not get the savings that we are looking for in 1980–81—which is what we are discussing—by abolishing the assisted places scheme. Another noble Lord—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—said that we would do better to save on the National Health Service. As he probably knows, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is in fact expecting to reorganise it to get rid of one tier. So the savings will be made. However, we are not in any event discussing that budget, but rather the education budget.
Time marches on, and I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft how much I appreciated his wise words. I should like to couple them with something that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said to me. He said, "Have you got a heart; because you need a heart in politics?" I have a heart as big as Lord Butler's heart. I have a heart as big as Lord Alexander's, and even as big as Lord Soper's. I care very much indeed about this country—and I shall tell the noble Lord why I care so much. When his great Act of Parliament was going through I was only 17, and I did not take a great deal of interest in politics, but I was old enough to be thankful that I was one of the survivors of the Second World War, because a good many of my friends had died in it. I became interested in politics because I wanted to do something for my country. I thought perhaps that it was something I should interest myself in. I believe very much in making this country strong again; because in 1944, despite the terrible deprivations of the war, we were still one of the greatest and most powerful countries in the world.
I find depressing the state we are in now, and I should like to cap it by a small anecdote of my own. When one of my 1271 daughters while out shopping in London saw a Japanese girl mop up with a pound note the ice-cream that she had spilt, I realised that our country has fallen a terribly long way. I believe that in this Government we are trying to put the country on its feet again, and in so doing we must take painful decisions which I personally do not very much like doing.
§ And I have a heart. I have a head, too—and you need both in politics, and you need both for the good of the country.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 112; Not-Contents, 216.1273
|Abercorn, D.||Elton, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Merrivale, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Exeter, M.||Middleton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Faithfull, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Amory, V.||Ferrers, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Armstrong, L.||Gainford, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Avon, E.||Galloway, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Gisborough, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Glendevon, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Bellwin, L.||Gowrie, E.||Redmayne, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Greenway, L.||Renton, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Gridley, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Romney, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Harris of High Cross, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hatherton, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Burton, L.||Hill of Luton, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Hives, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Holderness, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Strathspey, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Inglewood, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Cockfield, L.||James of Rusholme, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Kimberley, E.||Swansea, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kinloss, Ly.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Kinnoull, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Croft, L.||Long, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Loudoun, C.||Trenchard, V.|
|Daventry, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Luke, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Lyell, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Digby, L.||McFadzean, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Dudley, E.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Westbury, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||Mancroft, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Mansfield, E.||Young, B.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Margadale, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Boston of Faversham, L.||Crowther-Hunt, L.|
|Alexander of Potterhill, L.||Bowden, L.||Cudlipp, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Boyle of Handsworth, L.||D'Arcy de Knayth, B.|
|Alport, L.||Bradford, E.||David, B.|
|Amherst, E.||Braye, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Brockway, L.||Davies of Leek, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Davies of Penrhys, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Bruce of Donington, L.||de Clifford, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Burton of Coventry, B.||Denington, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Butler of Saffron Walden, L.||Derby, Bp.|
|Bacon, B.||Byers, L.||Diamond, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Chitnis, L.||Donnet of Balgay, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Chorley, L.||Dormer, L.|
|Birk, B.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Dowding, L.|
|Blease, L.||Clwyd, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Collison, L.||Esher, V.|
|Blyton, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.||Evans of Claughton, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Craigmyle, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller,]||Rochester, L.|
|Foot, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Rugby, L.|
|Gage, V.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Ryder of Warsaw, B.|
|Gainsborough, E.||London, Bp.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Longford, E.||St. Davids, V.|
|Galpern, L.||Lothian, M.||St. Just. L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Lovell-Davies, L.||Savile, L.|
|Gordon-Walker, L.||McCarthy, L.||Seear, B.|
|Gore-Booth, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.||Seebohm, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Mackie of Benshie, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Goronwy-Roberts, L.||McNair, L.||Segal, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Semphill, Ly.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Gray, L.||Meston, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Greene of Harrow Weald, L.||Mishcon, L.||Sidmouth, V.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Simon, V.|
|Gregson, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Snow, L.|
|Grey, E.||Monson, L.||Soper, L.|
|Haig, E.||Morris, L.||Spens, L.|
|Hale, L.||Mountgarret, V.||Stamp, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Moyne, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Hampton, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Newall, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Noel-Baker, L.||Stone, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Norfolk, D.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Headfort, M.||Ogmore, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Onslow, E.||Swaythling, L.|
|Henley, L.||Oram, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Oxford and Asquith, E.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Parry, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Peart, L.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Pender, L.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Perth, E.||Underhill, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Peterborough, Bp.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Ingleby, V.||Petre, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Phillips, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Jacobson, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Weidenfeld, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Plant, L.||Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]|
|Janner, L.||Plowden, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Polwarth, L.||White, B.|
|Kahn, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Wigg, L.|
|Kaldor, L.||Rathcreedan, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Rea, L.||Willis, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Redcliffe-Maude, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Reilly, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Rhodes, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Wise, L.|
|Lee of Asheridge, B.||Robbins, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Lee of Newton, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.||Wynford, L.|
|Lever of Manchester, L.||Rochdale, V.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Rochester, Bp.||Young of Dartington, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Clause 23 disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Lord ROSS of MARNOCK
May I ask the Government what their intention is in regard to the Scottish clause?
§ Lord PEART
Could we ask about the Scottish clause now? What is going to happen? Scotland is especially anxious, and my noble friend is asking the question.
§ Baroness YOUNG
Is not the correct procedure now for the Deputy Chairman to put the next amendment?
§ The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
Amendment No. 260A, to insert the new clause after Clause 23—or after Clause 22 as it is now.
§ Several noble Lords: No.
§ Baroness WOOTTON of ABINGER
I am told that the next one is Amendment No. 279. I had not heard the intervening amendments withdrawn. Are they withdrawn?
§ Baroness YOUNG
May I repeat the decisions that were taken at the beginning 1275 of these Committee proceedings? It was agreed that all the amendments would not be moved and that we would debate on the question, Whether the clause shall stand part? We have now taken a decision on that. The other amendments, therefore, are not considered at all because the clause has fallen. We now move to the next amendment.
§ Baroness WOOTTON of ABINGER
That was my impression. The next amendment after Clause 23 is 260A. I call Amendment No. 260A, which I had originally called—the Duke of Norfolk.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Duke of NORFOLK moved Amendment No. 260A:
§ Insert the following new clause—
§ "Amendment of s. 551(of Education Act 1944
(. After section 55(1) of the Education Act 1944 (Provision of transport and other facilities) there shall be inserted the following words—
Provided that such arrangements shall ensure that transport is provided to enable pupils to attend at schools at which the authority are satisfied that parents by reason of religious or other convictions reasonably desire such pupils to attend because of the religious instruction given or not given therein and provided also that no school within walking distance fulfils these requirements and that the schools are within a reasonable distance".").
§ The noble Duke said: May I say, before I move this amendment, that I am very conscious of what happens to Dukes of Norfolk who oppose the Government. I sincerely hope that when I get out at the Monument station they do not take me on to Tower Hill, as they did my ancestors. Amendment 206A is the amendment which I wish to move and it requires a little technical explanation. Up to now, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has said, there was ministerial direction in the Manual of Guidance on Choice of Schools, which was issued in 1950 and which made it certain that there was free transport for denominational and other schools; and it was not a statutory declaration in the Bill of 1944. The amendment I now move seeks to make this a statutory obligation on the county councils, put there by a statute of this Parliament, to make them provide transport to the denominational schools. That is the sole purpose of my amendment. It was never a bone of contention because, 1276 owing to the fact that the ministerial directive was always honoured and agreed, there was never any problem. Now that this Education Bill before the Committee is handing so much down to the county councils and, so to speak, ending ministerial authority in so many ways, I want this amendment to be added on to, your Lordships will notice, the 1944 Act. I beg to move this amendment to be added on to the 1944 Act.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I ought to make it clear that the Government cannot accept this amendment. What the noble Duke is proposing goes far beyond what the 1944 Education Act says is required. He is also committing the Government to further expenditure which, for the reasons I have already enumerated, we are unlikely to acquiesce in—nor could we do so. The terms of the noble Duke's amendment include the words:… to enable pupils to attend at schools at which the authority are satisfied that parents by reason of religious "—which is understood—or other convictions…What does he mean by "or other convictions "? Does this include people who want to send their children to single-sex schools? Does it include the Muslim minority in our midst? If so, what does it mean for them? Clearly, if this is going to be included in statute form he would have to define all of this. Simply as it stands, it is not acceptable.
Furthermore, as I have already indicated, it goes much further than the 1944 Education Act. Whatever one may or may not think about the discussion that we have just had, I hope that, having taken the decision, we will decide to go back to what the 1944 Education Act said—no more, no less. I, for one, am prepared to accept that in that spirit; but I cannot, for the Government, accept that amendment.
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTERHILL
One of the virtues of sitting on the Cross-Benches is the capacity to vote with the Government and against the Government from time to time as one may feel it reasonable. I strongly supported the noble Duke on his previous proposition. I could not support him on this because I simply do not believe that it is necessary. 1277 I believe that the local education authorities will honour the obligations they undertook in 1944 and, therefore, that this amendment is unnecessary. Indeed, I think it might be almost undesirable as tending to provoke a particular issue rather than to leave it as it has always been administered, and as I believe it will continue to be administered, to the satisfaction of the voluntary schools.
§ The Earl of SWINTON
I put my name down to this amendment, but may I counsel my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk not to press it? I put my name to it because I did not want it to be thought that it was a purely Roman Catholic affair. I do not see a plethora of reverend Prelates in the Committee to support it; so I do not think my Church is entirely behind it. I have one slight objection to what my noble friend, Lady Young, has said in reply on the question of expenses. Much was made of expense on the last debate, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. It is my view that this Bill is nothing but expense, a lot of it unnecessary. That is why I voted against the Government, and I am not ashamed to say so. I spent long hours of the night before last on this beastly appeal procedure which puts enormous expense on the local authorities. Therefore, to be coerced into coming here to support the Government in order to keep expense down seems to me to be unnecessary. This Bill is so expensive in many ways—I am not referring to just the assisted places scheme—that the Government ought not to stress this particular point. I ask my noble friend not to press the amendment.
§ The Earl of LONGFORD
I supported the noble Duke on the last amendment, and I am in favour of this one. May I suggest to the noble Duke that he withdraws this amendment today and if by the Report stage it seems desirable, after further discussion, he can bring the amendment forward again. I should have thought that one victory against the Government in one afternoon was almost sufficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1278
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Transport: Scotland]:
§ The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
Amendment 261, Viscount Simon.
§ Viscount SIMON
Before I move this amendment, is it in order to ask the Government what they propose to do about Clause 25?—
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
If I may interrupt the noble Viscount, it will be appreciated that because of the intervening amendment I could not rise to my feet. It had to be dealt with. The Committee have clearly come to a decision as to what they consider to be right and proper so far as the last clause dealing with the question of school transport was concerned. In the circumstances—and one rejoices, if one may, that the House of Lords is able to take an independent view of the Government of the day—the Government do not think that it would be either profitable or proper to continue the debate on that part of the Bill which applies to Scotland. I suggest therefore that the matter is now put. Perhaps the noble Viscount and others who had given notice of their intention to move amendments would not do so. We can then come to the end of the clause.
§ [Amendments Nos. 261 to 273A not moved.]
§ Clause 25 disagreed to.
§ Baroness YOUNG
If it would be for the convenience of the Committee, as it is now five minutes to seven o'clock, before we start on another subject perhaps the House might be resumed during the Committee's dinner break. I beg to move.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to: House resumed.