HL Deb 14 March 1980 vol 406 cc1331-95

11.32 a.m.


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.]

Clause 28 [Day Nurseries]:

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 282: Page 26, line 15, leave out from ("may") to end of line 21 and insert ("appoint to the staff of a nursery school, or a primary school having one or more nursery classes, additional teachers who, in accordance with arrangements made by them in that behalf, shall be made available to any day nursery.").

The noble Baroness said: As we start on Clause 28, I should like to say that we on these Benches are very pleased to see this clause and we welcome it. It shows that both parties co-operate as this clause is identical to that in the Labour Bill which fell. In moving Amendment No. 282, I may say that we feel that unless the primary school from which the staff are taken has some additional staff, that school is going to be inadequately staffed and the children will suffer. The Notes on Clauses, on page 57, say: Where a school provides teachers under the clause there may well be a need to appoint additional teachers for the school. It would not be right if arrangements under the clause resulted in a reduction of the staff/pupil ratio in a nursery school or class".

As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said yesterday, when not supporting our amendment about nursery schools and the duty to provide them, day nurseries, play groups and so on would become even more important. I think that as children will be in the day nurseries until they are five, very probably they will need some education from trained nursery staff and not have to rely entirely on the care staff who are normally in day nurseries. I hope that this very uncontroversial amendment will have the support of the Committee.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, when I first saw this amendment I was slightly puzzled that the noble Baroness should have put it down because, as she said, Clause 28 is a copy of the clause in her Government's Bill of 1978. Therefore, it seemed to me that it would be unexceptionable. But I now recognise there is a further point that she is trying to make about the employment of teachers in day nurseries.

The clause as drafted does not in any way prevent additional staff from being appointed to nursery schools and classes with a view to their working in day nurseries. This is permissible under the clause. It also enables existing staff (that is, nursery teachers already employed), provided that they are agreeable to the arrangement, to be deployed so as to share their time between the nursery school or class and the day nursery—something with which I think we are all in agreement. We all wish to see greater flexibility in the use of resources for the under-fives. If the noble Baroness's amendment were to be carried, the very flexibility that we should like to see would be impeded; because the amendment would require that the additional teachers taken on for the purpose shall—and I repeat, "shall "—be made available to any day nursery. We believe that teachers may willingly work for part of their time in a day nursery, and for the rest of the time in a school or nursery class;and there is a professional justification for such an arrangement.

It is important for nursery teachers to have a firm educational base to enable them to exchange ideas with other nursery teachers and to keep in touch with the latest developments in nursery education. I believe this to be a view that would be shared by teachers and that they would prefer this to a longer-term appointment in a day nursery. I hope that with that explanation, the noble Baroness will not press this amendment. I think it is restricting the rather more flexible arrangements that we should like to see rather than making it easier for there to be this interchange.

Baroness DAVID

While I cannot accept that if these teachers were appointed, any particular one would always be going to a day nursery—for I imagine that there would be flexible arrangements—in the light of what the Minister has said, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [School and further education regulations]:

11.39 a.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 283: Page 27, line 28, leave out ("educational").

The noble Lord said: Clause 29 empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations on a number of matters. In particular, in subsection (1)(d), he can make regulations about the keeping, disclosure and transfer of educational records about pupils". It is understandable that he should be given that power and one can see that it is desirable in certain circumstances to disclose or transfer records, and to pass on as a child moves from one school to another the records of its academic attainments so far. It is also desirable to keep a check on the possible disclosure of such records. Why is this restricted to educational records? "Educational "could be interpreted, perhaps too narrowly, as referring simply to academic prowess. In that case, that would mean that there would be no rules made by the Secretary of State about the disclosure or transfer of records concerning the behaviour or the health of a child. If, on the other hand, "educational "means any record kept in a school, in that case that word is not necessary in the clause. If you put it in the clause, it implies that there are some kinds of records kept by a school about which the Secretary of State could not make any regulations. What records would they be? There is no need for the word "educational "in this clause at all. I beg to move.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he is referring just to education? There are records with regard to family histories—for instance, in the pastoral care sections of the school—which might be very hurtful if they were disclosed to a great number of people. I should like to know whether he is referring to those records as well.


The noble Baroness has put her finger on the point that I am seeking to make. Are records of that kind educational within the meaning of the word "educational "here? That is what we want to know. If it is held that they are not educational, then the Secretary of State cannot make any rules about whether they should be disclosed, or whatever. If "educational "covers them, at any rate that is clear. If the word "educational "is taken out of this clause, then, as I understand it, the Secretary of State could make regulations about any records kept in a school including records of the kind that the noble Baroness has in mind. Therefore she is joining with me in asking for clarification and, if necessary, the removal of the word "educational "from this clause.


Clause 29(1)(d) is intentionally restricted to educational records;a corresponding restriction appears in an existing regulation—Regulation 8 of the School Regulations 1959—which relates to educational information about pupils and not to broader matters. It is generally agreed that some record of a pupil's educational progress is necessary, and the Government believe that there should be a large degree of openness between schools and parents. Indeed, the educational records kept on school-children will usually consist almost entirely of the information that is made available to parents in term reports and at parents' evenings and the like. A small number of cases may arise, however, where notes may be kept relating to noneducational matters which should only be dealt with on a confidential basis: these might refer, for example, to suspicions that the child is being neglected or ill-treated at home or is otherwise at risk in some way;and, in such cases, the need for confidentiality is primarily in the interest of the pupil. There is also the question of respecting the confidentiality of professional, medical, psychological or social work reports many of which will not in any case be the property of the local education authority.

I trust that in the light of these considerations the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment, which would otherwise constitute a major extension of ministerial power, for which I do not think there is any justification in this matter.


I should like to get this clear. That means that with regard to records about a pupil, which might be of a highly confidential character, the Secretary of State has no power to make regulations ensuring that confidentiality is observed. That seems to follow. I am rather disquieted about that.


I find myself, for once, agreeing with the Government on this amendment. I think that the word "educational "is necessary. If you do not have it, non-educational comments are usually dangerous.


With great respect, I think that my noble riend is agreeing with me. I am very much concerned—and that is why I raised the amendment—that these noneducational records, to which my noble friend referred, should not be bandied about. 1 want the safeguard that this clause would imply: that the Secretary of State can make regulations as to whether or not they should be disclosed. The regulations cover the keeping, disclosure and transfer of the records. If my amendment is accepted, the Secretary of State would be able to lay it down that confidentiality must be observed about these records. If the word educational "stays in, apparently he could not give any ruling or instruction. If a local authority chose to be careless about it, there is nothing the Secretary of State could do. I am more disquieted the more this argument proceeds.


I hope that the noble Lord will not press this amendment. The position which this clause sets out is the position which has obtained for a very long while. Are local education authorities and schools not to he trusted in any way at all regarding these matters? Are we to give the Secretary of State a power which has never been possessed by a Secretary of State to interfere in this way? I hope not. The arrangements that have obtained have worked extraordinarily well and therefore I see no reason to extend the power of the Secretary of State in this matter.

Viscount SIMON

Can the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, before he replies, explain further what he said about non-educational records not being the property of the local education authority? The records are there;I am not clear what is implied by the statement that they do not belong to the authority. If that means that they have no right to disclose them, then that is the answer that we are looking for.


I venture to suggest that the historical position may not be entirely satisfactory. If the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, feels like pressing his amendment, I personally will support him, as I hope some of my noble friends will. What my noble friend Lord Bellwin is saying confirms the substance of the point behind the amendment.


May I, as one who has used these records practically all my working life, say that I support the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potter-hill. It is good practice on the part of doctors and social workers to treat various documents with confidentiality. It does not really need legislating for because it is the good practice of doctors, social workers, pastoral workers and teachers to regard confidentiality without making particular rules and regulations about it which in some peculiar cases might tie them down.


If you do what is done here, which is to single out educational records and give the Secretary of State special rights to deal with them, the indication inevitably is that he does not have those rights in relation to anything else. I seldom dare to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who has been in this business for a great many years and knows more than most people about it, but I think that he is wrong here. The fact that some loophole has not been abused is not a reason for not closing it. I think that the noble Lord ought to consider this again to see whether there is not a real point here.


We are in the odd position that apparently the local authorities are to be trusted completely regarding the confidentiality of non-educational records, which may well be of a highly confidential character, but apparently are not to be trusted with such information as what marks the child received at the last school examinations. It seems very odd that the Secretary of State should have power to direct them about confidentiality of educational records in the narrow sense of education, but no power to direct about disclosure or transfer of much more confidential information.

If we accepted the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and trust the local authorities, then I would not have thought that paragraph (d) was necessary at all. I still regard as odd—and nothing that has been said makes me change my mind about this—that the Secretary of State should have this power where it is least necessary for purely academic records and not have it where it might be more necessary. I trust that the noble Lord will look at this question again before the Report stage.


Surely there is a very good reason for singling out educational records, that it is in the interests of parents to ensure that they are fully advised relating to the progress of their child in a particular school. If that is not done, the parents will have a real grouse. It is perfectly reasonable to say that this must be done.


I am grateful for the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. Yet, at the same time, there clearly is some uncertainty here. It might be wise on this occasion to consider the matter between now and Report. That we undertake to do.


I should like to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 29 shall stand part of the Bill?

11.50 a.m.

Baroness DAVID

May I ask a question of the Minister before we finish with this clause? Subsections (4) and (6) give very sweeping powers to the Secretary of State and regulations are mentioned in both cases. I should like to know where the regional advisory councils come in—this is particularly to do with subsection (6)—and how much consultation there will be before these regulations are made.


In contrast to some other clauses in this Bill, it is clear, even from the nature of the short discussion we have just had on this clause, that noble Lords are in general agreement with its purpose, namely, to provide the Secretary of State with powers to make important regulations covering schools of further education in the light of the Government's proposal to repeal the existing very general power in the Local Government Act 1974.

Moreover, the opportunity has been taken, as the noble Baroness the Minister of State explained during Second Reading, to specify in the enabling powers now proposed what the regulations should cover. Care has also been taken to make the clause sufficiently flexible to permit the making of regulations on the keeping and disclosure, as well as the transfer, of educational records, should this be thought desirable in due course. I think I can say we have had a useful short discussion on this point, prompted by amendments put down by noble Lords opposite.


I am grateful to my noble friend for saying that the sensitive question of records will be given further thought. There are two further points to be borne in mind in this reconsideration: the first is the right of the parents to information—the reasonable right—and the second is the legitimate interest of the child. These two things in certain circumstances may be seen perhaps to be clashing, but such circumstances would be very rare.

The Earl of SWINTON

If the Government are going to reconsider this matter, there is one further point that I should be grateful if they would look at, and that concerns what I would call the rather transient population of some school children. In my own area there is a large military camp at Catterick Garrison and we sometimes find that before we get their records, both on education and on health, children arrive and then leave because their parents have been stationed elsewhere. There is sometimes a borderline between the two where you have a child who may be slightly deaf or have visual difficulties. There is little one can do about that if the records listing those difficulties arrive after the child has gone elsewhere. I do not know whether it is interdepartmental, with the educational authorities themselves, with the Army, with the liaison or even with the National Health Service, but it does happen, and if the Government are looking at certain aspects, perhaps they would look at that as well.


As we are to have a look, then of course we will certainly take cognisance of the point made by my noble friend.

Baroness DAVID

I was not referring to subsection (1) but to subsections (4) and (6) and I was asking, as regards the rather sweeping powers which seem to have been given to the Secretary of State, what was the position of the regional advisory councils.

Baroness YOUNG

This is a very good example of where there has been a general power before and now that that general power will be repealed by the Local Government and Planning Bill now in another place, the Government arc seeking to put back the powers in a rather narrower form. This raises a lot of issues, including the one that we have just discussed and the one raised by the noble Baroness. The answer is that there will be consultation on all these matters with the relevant bodies before the regulations are laid. I do not think there is any cause for the Committee to be suspicious in any way. The powers have existed before, for a very long time, as I understand it, and because they are being repealed by another Act they are coming back in this Bill in a more restrictive form. In a sense this has given your Lordships the opportunity to raise detailed points which have probably passed unnoticed in the past under a more general power.

As my noble friend Lord Bellwin has said, of course we will consider all these points if there is something further which needs elucidation. It is very valuable to have had the discussion, but I should not like the Committee to feel that there is something sinister about this. On the contrary, I think it is probably clearer than it has ever been before.

Baroness DAVID

I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Provision of education at non-maintained schools]:

11.55 a.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 284: Page 29, line 9, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns the powers which local authorities have to send children to fee-paying schools, and the Secretary of State has a sort of supervisory power over this which would disappear as a result of this subsection. One can easily think of good reasons why a local authority may decide to do this. A child may be in need of special education which cannot be provided for in any other way, or the child's parents may be abroad or unable to look after it and it may be desirable, for that or other reasons, to provide the child with boarding education that cannot be given within the State system.

It is quite proper that local authorities should have these powers, but the use of them can often mean that much more is spent on the education of one child than on the average education of children for whom that local authority is responsible. I think this is a serious matter that ought to be kept under review, and the Secretary of State ought to know how local authoities use this power and the extent to which the use of it varies from one local authority to another, and to ensure that it is used for its proper purpose and that it does not amount—as it could in some cases—to a kind of educational favouritism. I should think it would have been wiser, therefore, to keep the law as it is and not to make the alteration proposed in this subsection.


This amendment seeks to leave on the Statute Book the power first provided by the 1976 Act for the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring that LEAs exercise their powers under Section 81(b) of the 1944 Act only in accordance with arrangements approved for the time being by the Secretary of State. Section 81 of the 1944 Act required the Secretary of State to make regulations empowering LEAs to provide assistance of various kinds to enable pupils to take advantage of any educational facilities available to them without hardship to themselves or their parents. These kinds of assistance were: to defray such expenses of children attending county schools, voluntary schools or special schools, as may be necessary to enable them to take part in any school activities;to pay the whole or any part of the fees and expenses payable in respect of children attending schools at which fees are payable;to grant scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries and other allowances in respect of pupils over compulsory school age, including pupils undergoing training as teachers.

At the same time, Section 100(1)(c) of the 1944 Act required the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for the payment by himself: for the purpose of enabling pupils to take advantage without hardship to themselves or their parents of any educational facilities available to them, of the whole or any part of the fees and expenses payable in respect of children attending schools at which fees are payable". This was the provision under which the Direct Grant Regulations were made. Thus the 1944 Act provided quite explicitly both for provision enabling pupils to attend independent schools to be made in a number of potentially overlapping ways and also for that provision to be made regardless of the availability of maintained school places.

Section 81 of the Act contained no provision requiring an LEA to obtain the Secretary of State's approval for their arrangements made under that section. That was imported for the first time by the Labour Government in their Act of 1976. And it was imported purely for party political reasons;there was absolutely no other justification for this imposition of a requirement not thought necessary or appropriate in 1944 or at any time since. It has had a brief and unhappy stay on the statute books and Clause 30(3) will remove it, restoring the position to what it was prior to 1976. I am sure that my noble friends will be as anxious as I am to reject this amendment and so restore to LEAs full statutory protection for their discretionary power to assist with the provision of education at non-maintained schools.


The noble Lord does not seem to have any sense of answering an argument. He just reads us a set piece each time. I am reminded of the story of an American politician who went round making speeches in the company of his aide-de-camp. On one occasion the speech did not go down very well and he said to his aide-de-camp:" What do you think was wrong there? "The aide-de-camp said: "Three things. First, you read your speech;second, you don't read too good;and third, what you got wasn't fittin' to read". I am sometimes reminded of that story when I hear the noble Lord. I gather that his argument against this is that the Secretary of State's powers were introduced for a purely party political reason and apparently, for an equally party political reason, he proposed to take them out again. I am not very much encouraged by his answer.


Perhaps I might make one comment, as I was in some sense, in this House, responsible for the 1976 Act. There is not the same necessity for this power for the Secretary of State under a Tory Government as under a Labour Government. When we had certain councils which were deliberately trying to twist conditions in order to reduce the comprehensive and increase the fee-paying side, there was a very strong case for it.


As regards the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, in another place at another incarnation I might have put it a different way, but here I will not do so. I need not make any comment on it. It does not merit any comment. The fact is that the 1976 Act was a nasty little piece of legislation which, when brought to light, highlighted, as we are doing today, only shows that it is very necessary that we do something to get rid of it. That is precisely what we are doing.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Provision of clothing for physical training etc.]:

12.3 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 285: Page 29, line 23, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: With one eye on the clock and having regard to your Lordships' state of health at the end of a rather arduous week, I think that it may meet the convenience of the Committee if I move Amendment No. 285 and at the same time speak to Amendment No. 286. Section 31, subsection (1), deals with the question of PT clothing for school children. Up until now it has been the Minister, as I understand it, who has made regulations specifying the clothing to be supplied and now, perfectly sensibly, that is going over to the local authorities so that they can make their own list, as it were, of the PT equipment which can be supplied.

Subsection (2) deals with the question of provision in further education for young people over 18 who are now called adults. That subsection says that no longer shall the parents be liable to make payment, but the young person concerned. Perhaps I may speak to that for one brief moment. All of us are very keen that young people of the age of 18 should be encouraged as much as possible to work off their energies in PT rather than in other directions, which some of us note with some sorrow, especially in the courts. In those circumstances—and I bear in mind that under the present regulations this PT kit is loaned;that this provision gives the power for it to be acquired, with the young person concerned made to pay for it—I am wondering whether this is a very sensible provision.

All of us can imagine the situation where the young person of 18 is still not earning, and therefore to make him a liable person may indeed put the local education authority in a difficulty. I can well understand the alternative being given to the local education authority in its discretion, and having found out the question of means, to make either the young adult, if I may so call him, or the parents responsible for the cost, but I cannot see the purpose for the first time of making parents not responsible and the young adult certainly responsible, whatever the situation may be in regard to his employment or otherwise.

As I have said, while moving Amendment No. 285 I am going to talk about Amendment No. 286. All of us are obviously concerned about the position of school uniforms and the cost that may arise in regard to parents having to purchase them. Many of us feel that it is a good thing to have school uniforms. This is a matter which is debated among those who are concerned with education, but we need not go into that debate today. We are merely dealing with the question of the provision of them and the financial implications.

If local education authorities are to deal with this matter, your Lordships may think it is absolutely right that the Secretary of State should keep some watch on the way things are developing;namely, whether in a local education authority, in some cases, the provision of the clothing is so expensive that one ought to consider the situation, and, secondly, to see whether the poorest are being properly cared for in regard to the supply of this clothing and the provision of finance.

That is why it is suggested that a very harmless but I think useful new clause should be inserted after the clause dealing with the provision of clothing;namely, it shall be the duty of every local education authority to make a report, including specifically the matters referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) which deal, as I have just said, with the highest cost of the clothing and with what is being done in regard to the poorest families or those which have the most responsibility because of the number of children they have. It is in that sense that I beg to move my amendment.


Referring first of all to Amendment 285, there is not a great deal to say on this. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, a modest measure in line with the Government's general philosophy of giving local education authorities greater discretion to run their own affairs and to remove or relax unnecessary controls by central Government. It will enable an authority to take its own decisions about what PE clothing to provide for pupils at schools maintained by it and the conditions under which the clothing will be provided. One could talk at greater length on it, and, if pressed, no doubt, I will, but I fear this is one of those narrow areas where there is not a lot either way. We are so anxious, as we have tried to stress all through so many of the clauses in this Bill, to give the local education authorities that much greater discretion to do things. If it should prove to be, in the course of time, that these things are not done for whatever reason in a proper way, one would always look not just at this but at anything else of the kind.

On the points made with regard to Amendment No. 286, I sympathise very much with the basic argument which the noble Lord made. Who would not do that? But what we are suggesting here yet again is taking steps to take Government out of being involved in, one might say, pettifogging requirements which, as in this case, are very much out of date and in fact no longer in practical use. To add some new requirement upon them would be again contrary to the same basic point I made earlier;namely, the wish to give them opportunity to be more than local education authorities. In any case, what would we do with this information if we had it? That in itself is very questionable.

Under Clause 8 the Secretary of State is taking power to make regulations requiring authorities to publish information about schools and about their policy and arrangements in respect of any regulated matter, and therefore the Secretary of State will already have power to ensure that this information is available to parents I think that that is the thrust of the amendment—the requirement for this information to be made available. I do not think I am misunderstanding or misreading it. If I am, I am quite sure the noble Lord will tell me so.


I think it is absolutely excusable that on Friday of this week noble Lords' speeches are made and are not necessarily understood. Therefore, I make no complaint whatsoever when I remind the Minister that the first point I made is one that he has not dealt with at all. That is the question of charging adults over the age of 18 for the supply of this uniform instead of, as is the present position, charging the parents. I understand perfectly—I think we are all a litle tired—that the Minister may not have understood that that was the reason I gave for my amendment.

In regard to the second matter, he certainly dealt with the point which I made;but I wonder whether he would not agree that it is absolutely essential, from a general information point of view, that a Secretary of State, who I am sure has a heart in regard to what is happening when the price of uniforms is going up and all clothing is going up to amounts which some parents find absolutely exorbitant, should at least have collated reports. I am not asking for needless statistics but reports which show what are the most expensive uniforms in our maintained schools, what are, in fact, the provisions that are being made in regard to a category—not all categories—which has been specially selected as possibly covering the poorest families and those with the most numbers in them. One would have thought that that was something which the Secretary of State himself would want to have so that he could keep a watch on these matters and, if necessary, make appropriate regulations if he thought fit.


I will try to answer in a little more detail the points which the noble Lord, Lord Mischon, makes. The purpose of subsection (2) of Clause 31 is explained in the booklet, Notes on Clauses, on page 65. To summarise: subsection 5(3) of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1948 empowers a Secretary of State to make regulations authorising a local education authority to provide clothing for physical training as specified in the regulations for school pupils and further education students. The current regulations—The Provision of Clothing Regulation 1948—authorise the provision of sports footwear, shorts, jerseys and the like, but the regulations only allow these items to be provided on loan.

The effect of Clause 31(1) is that authorities will be empowered to provide such items of PE clothing as they think fit without being authorised so to do by regulations, and in future authorities may wish to provide clothing otherwise than on loan and in circumstances in which payment would be appropriate. The payment provisions of Section 5 of the 1948 Act relate only to payment by parents, notwithstanding that clothing may be provided for grown-up students. This has always been anomalous but it has been a theoretical anomaly since PE clothing has, as I have said, only been provided on loan and free of charge.

Since the position may well change and some items of PE clothing may be provided on terms under which they become the property of the recipient, with a charge being made for them, this present theoretical anomaly could become a real one. Clause 31(2) removes the anomaly by providing that where clothing is made available for an adult any payment shall be made by him rather than by his parents. Of course, the powers extend not just to school children but to any adult education class. For example, parents could hardly be liable for the debts of 40-year-olds or more. The proposed amendment to omit Clause 31(2) would perpetuate the anomaly, as I say, and it is for this reason that we seek to reject it.


I dare not try your Lordships' patience too much. I can only say that we are talking about an Education Bill. I, in the course of my not too successful education, learned the art of precis and I hope I said in three sentences precisely what the Minister said this clause means and what the present practice is. My question still remains unanswered, but I do not want to test your Lordships' patience any more.


I will make just one further comment; namely, that the regulations made under the Act empower the local education authority to recover only such payment as the authority thinks the parent could pay without financial hardship, and I would have thought that really was sufficient to satisfy the noble Lord.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 31 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 286 not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Recoupment between education authorities]:

12.17 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 287: Page 30, line 4, after ("secondary") insert ("or further").

The noble Lord said: Here we are dealing with an important provision relating to recoupment between education authorities. I am taking it for granted again at this hour that all your Lordships know of the situation which exists in regard to recoupment;namely, the supplying authority in regard to education is able to recoup from the authority where the student may reside. Again with your Lordships' permission, while moving Amendment No. 287 I am going to speak to Amendment No. 289 and also to a further amendment which I believe I am right in saying is Amendment No. 295.

The first amendment seeks in subsection 1(1) to include further education with primary or secondary education in regard to the recoupment provision, and if that amendment is acceptable to your Lordships that will mean that subsection (3) is unnecessary because the only difference between subsection (3) and subsection (1) in regard to financial provision is that in subsection (1), dealing with primary or secondary education, there is an automatic right of recoupment, whereas in subsection (3), on further education, it is only recoupment where the other authority has consented to the making of the provision of the further education so far as the supplying authority, if I may so term it, is concerned. What we are saying, in endeavouring to persuade your Lordships to accept this amendment, is that in regard to primary and secondary and further education, where the other authority where the student is resident has consented to the provision by the supplying authority, then the supplying authority can automatically recoup. We are paying them on precisely the same basis—primary, secondary and further education.

I hope that I can deal just as briefly with one other situation, which is a little complicated. In the London area—again, I should like to use shorthand English to cover the Greater London area, together with certain contiguous areas—the present situation is one which I believe is called the "free trade "situation. That means that, without any other formalities at all, a student can go along to any of the institutions in the area and get his education quite automatically, without the necessity for any recoupment provision at all. That is extremely useful, as your Lordships can well imagine. It means that, quite apart from being able to select a specialist institution which the student may find very advantageous, so often he goes to it immediately after work and chooses the educational institution near his place of work, rather than having to go back to his own residence and choosing one in that locality. That is a situation which works very well.

There is a difficulty about the interpretation of subsection (8), which deals with that position—and, as I said, I am trying for the sake of your Lordships to take all these points in one speech. It is not just a question of my having doubts as to whether or not that position in regard to free trade still remains if subsection (8) stays part of this Bill. It is a doubt which was expressed in Standing Committee D on this Bill. When this point was raised, Dr. Boyson said as follows, at columns 2140 and 2141 of the Standing Committee Official Report—and I ask for your Lordships' leave to quote him— All I can say is that I am advised all round that the Bill makes no change at all, nor is it intended to make any change to the question of recoupment in London. I think that it has been misunderstood by certain people. Bills are complicated, as we saw in the debate which we had earlier tonight. People are often suspicious of the intentions of various clauses, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. I claim innocence. That is where the light of judgment falls. The Government are as white as driven snow. The Bill does not intend any change, nor will it bring any change. Because of the complications of interpreting, I can quite understand that people have misunderstood it. The association that wrote to the honourable Member was not the only one that misunderstood it. We have been in contact with chief education officers about it". Then Mr. Graham said: I can understand the Minister saying that it is not intended to make any change. I was going to say 'if it turns out', but the Minister then said 'and it will not bring any change'. I understand also that the Minister was so advised. Against the background that, in effect, it is merely a tidying-up or rationalising subsection relating to those Acts, am Ito take it from the Minister that the fears of my authority are unfounded?"— to which Dr. Boyson replied: The answer is, Yes, as I understand it. I cannot claim eternal truth, but, as I am informed, 'Yes'."—[Official Report, Commons, 4/2/80.]

What with claiming the colour of white and various angelic qualifications, and making the spiritual claim to eternal truth, I do not regard Dr. Boyson's reply as being very clear or certain. So that the uncertainty remains today, especially as I observe that in the publication Education dated 7th March this clause is referred to in an article under the heading "Adult". This is the paragraph which I should like, with leave, to read to your Lordships, which shows how difficult this is and the misunderstanding that is arising all over the place about the situation in London, and the interpretation to be placed on subsection (8). At issue is Clause 30(2)"— it was then Clause 30(2)— in the Government's Education No. 2 Bill, now at committee stage in the House of Lords, which allows local authorities providing an adult education course to claim recoupment costs from the home Authority of an out-county student. But if the home Authority does not consent to pay the cost, the recoupment is to be determined by the Secretary of State. This clause appeared to override the principle of free trade ' within Greater London laid down in the 1963 Local Government Act. The London Association for Continuing Education had protested that the clause would allow Authorities to refuse recoupment and could lead to adult education fees doubling or trebling as protective tariffs were set up in the 20 Outer London boroughs. At last week's meeting, Mr. Peter Batten, principal of Sutton College of Liberal Arts, said that he had received a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr. Neil Macfarlane, claiming that the Bill would not alter existing arrangements for recoupment. Although LEAs could opt out of paying recoupment (Sutton and Bexley already have refused to reimburse the ILEA), the providing Authority could ask for a direction from the Secretary of State in order to secure payment. But what Mr. Macfarlane had not said was that Authorities would have to ask for a direction on every single individual case—involving a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape. And even then there was no guarantee of DES support—quite the reverse, in fact. Mr. Peter Clyne, assistant education officer (community education) with the ILEA, said that Inner London had already submitted several individual cases to the Secretary of State even before the Bill was passed, and in each case the DES had supported the home Authority and not the Authority demanding recoupment. So much then for the Government's enthusiasm for free trade".

All I really seek from the Minister is a categorical affirmation and a clear assurance in regard to subsection (8), that the situation in the London area remains as it is;namely, that there is free trade in further education in exactly the same way as now exists. As I said, I have spoken to all three amendments, but I shall be moving them separately. I now move the amendment which is in my name. I beg to move.

Baroness DAVID

May I just add one point before the Minister replies, because there is an anomaly. As I understand it, as the Bill stands, 16, 17 and 18-year olds have an absolute right to go over the border for secondary education in another authority. Presumably, at sixth-form stage they can go to a school. But 16, 17 and 18-year-olds who want to go across the border to a further education establishment do not have that right, and it seems to me that that is very unfair.

Viscount SIMON

I just want to say at this stage that the object of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is the same as the object of some amendments which are down in the name of my noble friend Lady Seear, which we shall be moving later. It is a little difficult to see how these two sets of amendments will work together and we do not want to cause trouble to the Committee. So far as I can see, the only substantial difference between the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and of my noble friends is that he wants further education, as well as primary and secondary education, to have a right to cross borders, but in each case provided that the originating authority agrees, while we want to have border crossing whether the originating authority agrees or not.

12.30 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

We are dealing with two situations which I shall attempt to explain. The first relates to Amendment No. 287, which seeks to apply the recoupment proposals to further education. The second relates to the situaton in London. To deal first with the amendment, Clause 33 applies automatic recoupment for students at primary and secondary schools. It is part and parcel of our arrangements under Clause 6 for allowing parental preferences. Therefore, if parental preference is for a child to attend a school in another authority and all the conditions have been agreed and accepted, there is automatic recoupment, instead of the rather complicated difficulties that one can encounter if this is not automatically the case. Clause 33 is essentially to be taken with Clause 6. It will extend parental preference.

However, the Bill does not deal with higher and further education. Clauses 6 to 8 apply to primary and secondary education. The answer to the first question put by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is that the recoupment proposals do not apply to further education because further education is not being considered within the context of the Bill. That is why it has been left out. Therefore the Government cannot accept the amendment, because it would widen and extend the Bill's purpose and would put something into Clause 33 to which there was no earlier reference.

I now turn to the London government question, which I shall attempt to explain. As I understand it, the situation in Greater London, where there is cross-border traffic and recoupment, is governed by what are called the "free trade" provisions of Section 31(8) of the London Government Act 1963. Under that provision no local education authority in the Greater London area can refuse to take a student from another such authority or from one contiguous with Greater London on grounds of residence, irrespective of whether the home authority consents or not. This is the "free trade" position and it means automatic admission for those who are applying. On the other hand, the receiving authority cannot insist on recoupment. For this the student must obtain the Secretary of State's formal ruling to that effect in each case—a most laborious process, with literally hundreds of individual cases referred in the last year or so.

There has been a great deal of pressure from contiguous authorities for a stop to be put on this drain on their students, and also from ILEA for some measure to oblige the contiguous authorities to repay without recourse to the time-consuming process which I have outlined. Any move, however, to introduce compulsory recoupment in the rest of the country would encourage London to step up this pressure but, on the other hand, it would be bitterly opposed by the authorities sending pupils into central London.

The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is that the Bill makes no alteration at all to the position as it is. The subsection does not in any way amend the law, as is made clear in the Notes on Clauses on Page 70. It is merely consequential on the transfer in this Bill of provisions from other legislation. The London Government Act makes no provisions relating to recoupment, only to admission. This Bill introduces automatic recoupment for schools but not for further education. The London position remains exactly as it is.

I have had discussions about this matter, and the trouble is that there has been no agreement between the different authorities as to the right thing to do. It is clearly desirable for there to be free admission into London for students. On the other hand, it is difficult for London not to have automatic recoupment. That, of course, puts a great responsibility on the authorities sending the students. I feel that the Government cannot move on this area until there is a much greater measure of agreement than we now have. I have not had an opportunity to read the article in Education, but I understand that it is misconceived and that the position is as I have indicated it.


I am much obliged for that explanation on subsection (8), which relates also to Amendment No. 295. When we reach that amendment I shall take appropriate action. However, in regard to Amendment No. 287 I am afraid that I must ask the Committee to divide.

12.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 287) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 99.

Amherst, E. Collison, L. Grey, E.
Amulree, L. David, B. Hale, L.
Aylestone, L. Davies of Leek, L. Hall, V.
Balogh, L. Derby, Bp. Hampton, L.
Barrington, V. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Elwyn-Jones, L. Henderson, L.
Blease, L. Foot, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Gaitskell, B. Kaldor, L.
Bowden, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Brockway, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Kirkhill, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Gosford, E. Leatherland, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.] Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Rochester, L. Strabolgi, L.
McGregor of Durris, L. Sainsbury, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.[Teller.]
Melchett, L. Simon, V. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Mishcon, L. Stamp, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Oram, L. Stedman, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Abinger, L. Gowrie, E. Monson, L.
Adeane, L. Gray, L. Morris, L.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Greenway, L. Mountgarret, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gridley, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Alport, L. Haig, E.
Ampthill, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Newall, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Norfolk, D.
Bellwin, L. Halsbury, E. Northchurch, B.
Belstead, L. Hampden, V. Norwich, Bp.
Bessborough, E. Hanworth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Burton, L. Hatherton, L. Onslow, E.
Cathcart, E. Headfort, M. Porritt, L.
Chesham, L. Henley, L. Reigate, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hill of Luton, L. Renton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Home of the Hirsel, L. St. Davids, V.
Craigavon, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. St. Just, L.
Craigmyle, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Sandford, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Ilchester, E. Sandys, L.[Teller.]
D'Arcy de Knayth, B. Ironside, L. Selkirk, E.
Davidson, V. James of Rusholme, L. Sempill, Ly.
De Freyne, L. Kimberley, E. Spens, L.
Denham, L. Kinloss, Ly. Suffield, L.
Derwent, L. Kinnoull, E. Swinton, E.
Drumalbyn, L. Lauderdale, E. Trefgarne, L.
Effingham, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Trenchard, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Long, V. Vaizey, L.
Elton, L. Lothian, M. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Loudoun, C. Vickers, B.
Exeter, M. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Vivian, L.
Faithfull, B. Lyell, L. Waldegrave, E.
Ferrers, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Westbury, L.
Fortescue, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Wolverton, L.
Galloway, E. Margadale, L. Young, B.
Gibson-Watt, L. Masham of Ilton, B.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 288 not moved.]

12.44 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 289: Page 30, line 6, after first ("authority") insert ("and that other local education authority has consented to the making of that provision.").

The noble Lord said: Before asking for the leave of the Committee to withdraw this amendment, may I seek some clarification from the Minister? I did not quite understand her reference to the fact that further education is not being dealt with in the Bill, because Clause 33(3), with which we have been dealing in these amendments, begins: Where any provision for further education is made…". May I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to have a separate Bill in regard to further education if, as the Minister says, further education is not covered by this Bill?

Baroness YOUNG

The position is that the Government do not have in mind another Bill on further education. The misunderstanding arises because Clause 33(3) is taking account of the new provisions for the sharing or pooling of expenditure by local education authorities on advanced further education. These provisions are made in Clause 34. This is one of the provisions which comes out of the "capping the pool "—a shorthand expression—procedures.

It remains true that automatic recoupment for further education remains exactly the same. There is no change in regard to further education under this clause of the Bill. The recoupment provisions, therefore, for non-advanced further education remain basically unchanged, since there are no changes in the duties of the providing authorities comparable to those in Clause 6(5)(a) concerning compliance with the wishes of parents of children from outside the authority's area in respect of admissions to schools.

I hope that has made the point clear, but if the noble Lord is still concerned about it, I will, if he would like, either write to him or be happy to discuss the matter with him before the Report stage.


I am most grateful for that last indication. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 290 not moved.]

The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Aberdare)

Next we have to consider Amendment No. 292. The amendments are in the wrong order, and therefore the next amendment before the Committee is Amendment No. 292.

[Amendment No. 292 not moved.]

Viscount SIMON moved Amendment No. 291: Page 30, line 16, after ("education") insert ("or adult education").

The noble Viscount said: This is the first of three amendments put down by my noble friend Lady Seear who, most unfortunately, is unable to be here this day. The first two amendments, Nos. 291 and 293, run together. They have only two points in them. One is that with further education we wish to include adult education. I am afraid that I am not very clear where the line is drawn but I am told that there are categories of education which are properly described as further education and adult education. Our feeling is that the arrangements in this clause which apply to further education ought to apply also to adult education.

The other point is substantially the same point as was made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in the amendment upon which we recently divided. I do not propose to press this amendment because, in the light of the Committee's decision on the noble Lord's amendment, obviously we want to think again, and perhaps to think again together, before we come to the Report stage.

I think it is important to do something in this direction. The sort of case to which the noble Lord referred has also been brought to my notice. May I remind the Committee that it is the case of a young man living in one area who goes to another area for an apprenticeship and gets day release, and for his day release courses naturally would like to go to a technical college adjacent or near to the factory where he is doing his apprenticeship. As I see it, unless there is some recoupment provision, the technical college near the factory may say, "No, we will not have this man;he does not come from this area". It seems to me that it would be very unfortunate if this were to be the situation. The area where he is going for his aprenticeship might be miles away from his home. Between now and Report we should like to examine whether or not there is some way in which we could get over what I think is a very real difficulty. Having made those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.


The noble Viscount has not yet moved it.

Viscount SIMON

I apologise. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

I hope that I can show to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that in fact his amendment is unnecessary. The effect of it would be that as adult education is part of further education, whatever recoupment provisions apply to further education automatically apply to adult education. In this sense, therefore, his amendment does not add anything to the present situation.

Perhaps in answering the point which he made on the second amendment I might at the same time answer the point that the noble Baroness, Lady David, raised on an earlier amendment about 16 year-olds. It is the same kind of point that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, is raising and I think the answer is to be perfectly frank and to say that there is an anomaly between 16 year-olds in a secondary school and 16 year-olds in further education, which we recognise There is indeed an anomaly with the whole group of the 16 to 19 year-olds. As I have explained to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, this Bill does not deal with further education and therefore the case raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about the apprentice would be outside the terms of the Bill but if we were to attempt in this Bill to correct the whole of the further education recoupment problems it would be a major undertaking of immense complexity.

At the present time the working party under my honourable friend Mr. Macfarlane is in fact looking into the whole question of the 16 to 19 year-olds over a whole range of issues. At present it really is premature to legislate and the truth is that there is no agreement among local education authorities themselves. I hope that that further explanation answers not only the question raised in regard to this amendment but also the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady David.

Baroness DAVID

I am glad that the Minister has recognised and admitted the anomaly and I hope that perhaps she will think about how it can be remedied.


I hope we shall accept that it is an anomaly. For 30 years I have tried to get "free trade "for the 16 to 19 year-olds but the authorities did not agree and there were cogent reasons why they would not agree in certain cases. But I think the case cited by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, would probably be dealt with because in a situation of that kind the student would apply to the local authority for permission to attend the college near his place of work as being much more convenient and one would hope that in such a case the local authority would say that it was entirely reasonable and that they would pay recoupment though they did not have a general agreement.

Baroness YOUNG

Perhaps I may just say to the noble Baroness, Lady David, that we are of course looking at this matter. That is exactly what the working party under my honourable friend Mr. Macfarlane is doing. They are looking at the whole question, along with other matters in connection with the 16 to 19 year-olds. We recognise that it is a prob- lem and we are hoping to find a solution, but it is not easy.

Viscount SIMON

In view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 293 and 294 not moved.]


had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 295: Page 31, line 6, leave out subsection (8). The noble Lord said: In view of the explanation given by the Minister, I shall not move this amendment.

Clause 33 agreed too.

Clause 34 [Education expenditure and rate support grant]:

12.54 p.m.

Lord WYNNE-JONES moved Amendment No. 296:

Page 32, line 7, at end insert— ("(5) The Minister shall not make regulations under section 34 of and Schedule 6 to this Act before he has consulted an Advanced Further Education Commission as set out in subsection (6) below. (6) An Advanced Further Education Commission shall be set up, consisting of not less than 25 persons whom the Secretary of State shall appoint, after consulting bodies representing local authorities, governing bodies of further education institutions, principals of such institutions, and teachers and students in such institutions.").

The noble Lord said: In the absence of some of my noble friends I wish to speak to this amendment. This is an amendment to a clause which deals with the rate support grant which is paid to local authorities in connection with educational matters, and a very substantial amount of this is spent in the field of advanced and further education. Consequently, for a number of years there has been a system of dealing with the allocations to authorities because there has been set up a central pool out of which an allocation is made to the various authorities. In this allocation inevitably one gets a good deal of variation in what takes place. The variation does not depend upon the way in which the allocation is made but rather upon the way in which the demands are made upon the rate support grant.

The amendment suggests, as we see, that on page 32 at line 7 of the Bill at the end there should be inserted the following two further subsections: ("(5) The Minister shall not make regulations under section 34 of and Schedule 6 to this Act before he has consulted an Advanced Further Education Commission as set out in subsection (6) below. (6) An Advanced Further Education Commission shall be set up, consisting of not less than 25 persons whom the Secretary of State shall appoint, after consulting bodies representing local authorities, governing bodies of further education institutions, principals of such institutions, and teachers and students in such institutions."). This has been referred to and in fact the noble Baroness, the Minister, referred to it a few moments ago as the "capping of the pool". That is the proposal which has now been put forward: that the pool should he capped. I regard that expression as a euphemism. It is not so much a capping of the pool as in part an execution and in part the introduction of a drain in order to lower the level of the pool. The consequence is that now throughout the country we have a large number of institutions which are going to suffer a very considerable cut. We are often told that these are not cuts and all that has happened is that the expenditure has been held back to what it was before. But in the case of these institutions this amounts to an actual cut and, if I may give an example of this from an institution with which I am well familiar, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic have been told by the local authority that, in view of this so called "capping of the pool ", they will be expected to cut their estimate for next year by £1.6 million on a present total expenditure which comes to something of the order of £11.5 million. This sum when worked out comes to round about 10 per cent. and in fact if one looks at the average throughout the whole country one sees that it comes to something of the order of 10 per cent. But when it is analysed one finds that about 70 to 80 per cent. of the expenditure of such an institution is expenditure which they cannot possibly reduce. They have no means of reducing it.

For example, at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic the principal estimates for next year came to £15.9 million, of which approximately £3 million was not expenditure funded by either the local authority or the State but came in the form of research grants made to the institution by other bodies;therefore it is not a burden on State funds in the ordinary way. But of this total amount of £15.9 million, a sum of £10.6 million goes in salaries, and one cannot reduce the salaries. In fact, whenever there is another award the salaries go up, and there is no conceivable way in which the governing body of the polytechnic can reduce the expenditure on salaries. I am sorry;there is one way, and that is by not filling posts. They have been told by the local authority that they must not create any redundancies but they may avoid filling posts. This, of course, is perfectly possible. No one complains about being asked to do that, unless it is enforced in an absolutely rigid way, in which case any post that falls vacant, however important it may be, may not be filled. That would be ridiculous, but sometimes this is done.

In any case, they estimate that next year of their £10.6 million on salaries they would probably be able to save £400,000 by not filling posts. That falls far short of the 10 per cent. So what have they to do? They look around at other ways in which they can save money. They find they can reduce the expenditure on equipment and furniture from £359,000 to £100,000 by virtually not buying any necessary furniture or equipment next year. Then they look at other things like repairs and alterations to buildings, and they reckon that they can reduce that from £303,000 to £203,000. So it goes on.

In times of emergency one realises that things like this can be done, have to be done. But anyone who can throw his mind back, either to the time of the last war, or back to the year 1931, when there were the May Commission cuts, will realise that what you can do one year without disaster becomes very difficult to do a second year and probably becomes virtually impossible to do a third year. You can stop painting all your buildings;you can do without your plumbing alterations;you can do without a lot of things over a short period. But the longer the period the more disastrous it becomes and the worse the ultimate effect. If I may recollect, I was a young lecturer in the university in 1931, and I remember that the first thing we had to do was stop purchasing a whole lot of periodicals. This happened to practically every university library in the country. The consequence was that at the end of the last war an enormous application went in to the University Grants Committee from all universities in order to buy back copies of periodicals because they found themselves completely out of a whole lot of them. You can do it for a short time, but the result can be very serious.

The purpose of this amendment is that instead of having an arbitrary way of so-called "capping "—what I would call executing—the pool, I suggest that there should be set up a body which would be able to look at these matters in a much more careful way. That is the proposal, that there should be an advanced further education commission. Such a commission would be in a position, rather like the University Grants Committee, to look at the situation with regard to all the local authorities and their expenditure in the field of further education and be able to make recommendations as to how anything should be dealt with. Having spent 40 years of my life teaching in a university and having been associated for 10 years now with the polytechnic, I would be the last person to suggest that there arc no ways of saving money. There are;there are several ways of saving money. But the way adopted by this sort of method is thoroughly bad;it does not take into account the detailed academic requirements in different places. I am convinced that we would get a better result in carrying out any policy by having a body of this type set up.

One of the things which one must remember about further education and higher education is that continuity in the operation is vital. It is no good swinging from one way to another. It is just as bad to get a sudden expansion, if I may say so in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins;a sudden expansion can have as dangerous effects upon any educational system as a sudden contraction. I am sure the noble Lord would agree with me on this. The point is that we must have a method of preserving sensible continuity and ensuring that the type of cut which is now being forced upon local authorities, and through them on to polytechnics and bodies of further education, is seen to be serious and wrong. Therefore, I wish to move this amendment, that an advanced further education commission should be set up. I beg to move.

Baroness DAVID

I should like to add my voice in support of this amendment. The proposals of the Oakes Committee had a good deal of support, although there were some reservations. The national body which is suggested is not exactly like the Oakes proposals in detail, but we feel very strongly that there should be some body comparable to the UGC. I hope that whatever body is set up will have some sort of links with the UGC so that provision of higher education over the country is looked at as a whole and not in two completely separate departments.


An amendment on the same lines, and with obviously the same intention of preventing the Secretary of State from making regulations relating to the predetermined AFE pool until he has consulted an Oakes type national body, was debated very fully in another place. It was made clear then when the Government came into office that, with the general agreement of the local authorities, a stop had to be put on the completely open-ended nature of the pool for advanced further education. The noble Baroness, Lady David, herself drew attention during the Second Reading of the Bill in this House to the need for this, although I accept that she raised it in a slightly different context, when she quoted from the speech on 20th February to the Association of Principals of Colleges of the Parliamentary Secretary to the DES. He said, the Committee will recall, If non-advanced further education had been subject to expenditure restraints while advanced further education remained unrestrained, there would be a clear temptation for the colleges to concentrate on the latter at the expense of the former". If we had waited for the legislation which would have been needed, as it was in the previous Government's ill-fated Education Bill, for establishing a national body on the lines and with the functions recommended in the Oakes Report, we should still be a long way from capping of the pool, as it has come to be called. The term may not be to everyone's liking but everyone will now at least know that it is. That has now been done for 1980–81, with the limit of £375 million, subject to the passage of this Bill. It is easy to argue, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, did, that the capping has been in effect a crude exercise, but speed was essential, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out during Second Reading, the formula used was agreed upon with the local authorities.

The Government are, with their agreement also and the involvement of other interests, moving forward to the use of more refined procedures for the future. For the long term this is not a matter that can be rushed and we must get it right. However, I should emphasise that my colleagues in the DES have an open mind on the question of a national body. They are not for or against it as such, whatever form it may take, but by accepting this amendment as drafted at present I suggest that it would be quite premature to legislate now for any particular form of the body.

I was extremely interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said about cuts and the rectitude or otherwise of having a limit in this way. I should like to tell him, from not inconsiderable experience in this area, that it is jolly well about time that we had a limit, and I think that it is very necessary that we should do so.


I hope that the Minister will forgive me for interrupting. I did not say that there should be no limit—I certainly did not mean that.


I apologise to the noble Lord. I was about to comment on his observations in respect of there needing to be or needing not to be cuts in the totality of what is being given to the polytechnics or to advanced further education in this way. In effect, it is the same as saying that there ought or ought not to be a limit, but I shall concede, not in the way that I put it previously.

Baroness DAVID

The point is not that the expenditure should not be looked at and possibly reduced, but the way that the cut is arranged between institutions. We arc objecting to the arbitrary nature and the crude method of making the cuts.

1.13 p.m.


I think that I fully understand that point and I wish to deal with it when answering some of the points that were made by the noble Lord. He quoted the instance of Newcastle Polytechnic which I think he said had the problem of how to cut down its expenditure of £15.9 million for the coming year. He said, "There is no way they can reduce expenditure on salaries He then went on to talk about not filling posts. However, that is exactly what we can do and what we must do when the circumstances make it obligatory that we do so.

If we do not accept that there needs to be a cut in that type of expenditure—only because the country cannot afford it and not necessarily because of its basic desirability—then we shall never get anywhere with dealing with inflation. In fact there are many areas in which one can save money. The noble Lord never mentioned the bureaucracy that exists just as much in establishments of further education as in many other such avenues. One of the basic problems in this country is the attempt sometimes to make cuts by trying to cut away at the heart of a service without wishing to cut away the bureaucracy that sustains it.

Therefore, I do not have the slightest concern at all that we should be stressing this point and emphasising it again and again in other places, in the same way as we are doing here—and as I suspect we shall he doing here on many occasions in the future. However, the noble Lord also said that we could do this one year, but we could not go on doing it because in the second year it would become difficult. It is quite true that, as one prunes an organisation, it becomes more difficult to go on doing it each year. However, I could quote authorities to him that have done exactly that for several years and all that they have become is more efficient authorities. If one measures their levels of services, one finds that they can stand up very well with others who may not have done the same. If I seem to be "going on a bit "about this matter, I apologise, but I feel very deeply on this point.

Coming hack to what is proposed in the amendment, I suggest that it is, as I said in my original observations, not before time and indeed very necessary. I think that the situation can be illustrated by quoting a figure which shows that the £375 million referred to for the coming year is the same level in real terms as was given for the period 1978–79. The general traditional over-estimate—and that is the point, "over-estimate "—by local education authorities in bidding for the pool is some 9 per cent. overall. I can also tell noble Lords, that every year when I used to be responsible for the estimates in the Leeds City Council, one of the first questions that I always asked was: "What do you think we might get back from the pool this year? There was almost invariably an over-estimate. Occasionally we had to wait a couple of years before we knew that figure, but the fact was that there was nearly always a comeback because everyone seems to over-estimate what they will need from the pool. That is the situation. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment, otherwise I must ask the Committee to reject it.


It is not a question of any objection to the capping of the pool—I think that that has been generally agreed by the local authorities, by the teachers, and by all concerned—but that it was regarded as part of a package deal that, in addition to the capping of the pool, there would be this Commission which would make sure that the maintained sector of further education did not deteriorate. That is the real point. It should by a body much like the UGC which would do for the maintained sector what the UGC does for the universities. That is all that is being asked—no more. I cannot see why the Government cannot accept the amendment. If they cannot accept it today, perhaps they can undertake to look at it again during the Report stage. It seems to me that there is not a big gap between us. We have accepted that the pool must be capped, but we are saying that there should be this body to look at this particular sector and ensure that, as a consequence of the capping, it does not deteriorate.


I agree that we are very close on that matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has suggested. I thought I said, and I shall repeat what I thought I said;namely, that I should emphasise that my colleagues —yes, I did say it—in the DES have an open mind on the question of a national body. I have said it before and I gladly say it again. They are not for or against such a body at present, but we consider that it would be premature at this moment to accept this amendment—which would make it at this moment—to legislate for any particular form of the body. In effect, we are not saying that we should or we should not have such a body: we think that it is a real possibility—indeed, it is more than that;it is a likelihood. However, we want to look closely at the form that it should take so that we get it right. I should not have thought that there was much difference between us so far as that goes.


I was suggesting that the Government might look at the matter between now and the Report stage.


The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has attributed to me certain ideas and remarks. I do not hold those ideas and I do not think that I made those remarks. I certainly did not say—in fact I deliberately said the opposite—that no savings could be made. I pointed out what savings could be made. I pointed out that not all these savings could go on being made year after year. If the noble Lord thinks, as someone who played an important part in a local authority, that it is wise policy not to make repairs to buildings for a number of years—if that is what he meant—then it must have been a very strange local authority that was able to put up with that sort of thing for a period of years. I said that a number of savings could not be made, except on an emergency basis, for one or, at the most, two years, but that there were many areas where savings could be made;and that the purpose of setting up a body, such as this advanced further education commission, would be that it would look at the matter carefully and decide how any restriction should be carried out.

No one who has had anything to do with the field of advanced further education inside polytechnics and bodies like that would for one moment say that every one of them is run perfectly or, indeed, that any one of them is run perfectly. We all agreed that there should be, not an unrestricted pool, but a pool that was controlled. It is absurd to continue to have an unrestricted pool, although in my opinion it was very good to start them off with an unrestricted pool, otherwise they would never have got their money. However, it seems to me perfectly clear that sooner or later we must set up a commission of this sort.

I accept the statement from the Government Benches that they are thinking about it. Of course, the noble Lord made the remark that they were neither for nor against it, which reminds me a little of the remark about sin, that he was not committed one way or the other. However, it is important that this should not be put aside and simply left to a long-winded, tedious commission to find out whether or not they should set up such a body. I suggest to the Government that it is an important and urgent matter. Hoping that noble Lords on the Benches opposite will accept the urgency of the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Definition and registration of independent schools]:

1.23 p.m.

Lord MORRIS moved Amendment No. 296A: Page 32, line 39, after ("under") insert ("subsection (1) of").

The noble Lord said: Noble Lords will have realised that this is a purely drafting amendment. The mere fact that it is also incredibly boring does not detract from its importance. The burden placed upon the Registrar of Independent Schools to keep a register falls squarely within Section 70(1) of the Education Act 1944. Noble Lords will see that Clause 36(3) refers only to Section 70. The effect of this amendment, of course, will be to put this position right. Noble Lords will also have seen that in Clause 36(3)(b), and in subsections (4), (6) and (7) of Clause 36 the style is entirely consistent with the effect of this amendment which stands in my name. I am merely and respectfully worshipping at the altar of precision, clarity and consistency of style in drafting. 1 beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has said, this, in fact, is a rather technical drafting amendment, but I understand that although the noble Lord is perfectly correct that the independent schools, whose exemption from the requirement to register is being ended, will be added to the register of independent schools kept by the registrar under Section 70(1) of the 1944 Act, there is nothing to be gained by specifying the subsection as well as the parent clause. There is no other register mentioned elsewhere under Section 70 and, therefore, there cannot possibly be any confusion as to what is meant. I am not a lawyer. I hope that my noble friend will accept this. However, if there is anything further, perhaps he would like to talk to me about it before the next stage of the Bill.


It is always a delight to talk to the noble Baroness, and in view of what she has said, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 36 agreed to.

Lord VAIZEY moved Amendment No. 297: After Clause 36, insert the following new clause:

"Special education

".—(1) Section 10 of the Education Act 1976 (pupils requiring special educational treatment) shall with the exception of subsection (3) come into force on 1st September 1980.

(2) Subsection (.3) of the said Act is hereby repealed."

The noble Lord said: This is an amendment which is tabled in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Darcy de Knayth and Lady Masham of Ilton, and myself. The Committee will remember that Section 10 of the Education Act 1976 was inserted in this Chamber in order to reverse the pre-supposition of the 1944 Act that children in need of special education should be ascertained as being in need of special education, and special education should be required for them. Section 10 reversed that presupposition and said that children who had any kind of handicap should, wherever possible, he educated in ordinary schools. Since Parliament passed that Act, the Warnock Committee, which was then sitting, has reported and has accepted the substance of what is now the law, although the law is not operative.

In view of the many and very valuable assurances that the noble Baroness on the Front Bench has given us during the course of these debates, I do not wish to move this amendment, but simply to say that we shall be keeping an eagle eye on her to ensure that her enthusiasm for the Warnock Bill remains as high as it now is.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he would not mind moving the amendment and then withdrawing it.


I beg to move.


I should like to speak very briefly and ask the noble Baroness two questions. When the new Bill dealing with special education is introduced, can she assure us that Section 10 will be implemented'? I have not given the noble Baroness notice of my second question, but I should be extremely grateful if she can find out the answer and perhaps write to me before the Report stage. It is something which also cropped up at the same time in the Education Act 1976. It is about amending the Standards for School Premises Regulations 1972 and the Further Education Regulations 1975, because during the Report stage of the 1976 Act I withdrew an amendment which tried to ensure that school buildings would be made accessible for the handicapped. This was in order to try to close the loophole which exists in Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. I withdrew the amendment because the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, gave me an undertaking that these two regulations would be amended and that design guidance would be issued. Although it is perfectly true that design guidance has, indeed, been issued—and it is a very good booklet—as far as I can discover the regulations have not been amended. If they have not, I wonder why not, and if there is some difficulty, is there anything that we can do about it in the Bill on Report'? I am very concerned because if the regulations have not been amended, it means that the two episodes which we hailed in 1976 as quite a breakthrough in the education for the handicapped have so far been abortive, because Section 10 has not yet been implemented and the regulations have not been amended. I look forward very much to the reply of the noble Baroness.

Baroness YOUNG

Perhaps I might deal first with the second question asked by the noble Baroness. I understand that because of technical difficulties it was not possible to amend the Standards for School Premises Regulations 1972 and the Further Education Regulations 1975 in the way envisaged by the then Government. However, my department has issued guidance on the access of disabled people to educational buildings and I shall write to the noble Baroness about this;should we wish to discuss this before the Report stage, there will be an opportunity to do so.

On the second point raised both by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, I think that we have had one very long debate on the whole principle both of Section 10 and the handicapped. I have given all the assurances that I can give about a future Bill. The whole question of Section 10 and all that it implies is something which we shall have to set out in some way in the White Paper, and when the White Paper is published I hope that perhaps the noble Baroness, or some other Member of your Lordships' House, will give the House an opportunity to debate it so that we may take the views of your Lordships' House on this matter. I think this would be a better way of proceeding than to deal with it at this stage in the Bill. I hope that with those assurances my noble friend will feel able to withdraw this amendment.


We warmly accept the assurances of the noble Baroness and will also take the opportunity, as soon as the White Paper is issued and has been digested, to raise the matter. We can then have a thorough debate. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for all her help. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.31 p.m.

Viscount INGLEBY moved Amendment No. 298: Insert the following new clause:

" Parental rights regarding sex education

.—(1) It shall be the duty of the head teacher of any school at which sex education is being or will be given—

  1. (a) to give notice in writing of that fact to the parents or guardian of any child to whom sex education is being or will be given;
  2. (b) to explain fully to the parent or guardian the nature of the sex education and to make available all books, visual aids and other material which will or may be used in the sex education;
  3. (c) to give notice of that fact to the governing authority of the school and give them such information relating to the sex education as they may require.

(2) The head teacher of a school shall perform his duties under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) in relation to a child who is receiving sex education, as soon as practicable;and
  2. (b) in relation to any other child, at least one month before the sex education begins;
and the head teacher shall perform his duty under paragraph (c) of that subsection as soon as practicable.

(3) After receiving the information specified under one or more of the provisions of subsection 2(1) above, a parent who wishes to withdraw his child from a proposed or existing course of sex education may give notice in writing to that effect to the head teacher, who shall then ensure that the child does not attend the course of sex education.

(4) In this Act "sex education "means any teaching or instruction (by whatever name called and whether or not forming part of another course of teaching or instruction) which is intended to or does transmit knowledge about sexual intercourse between human beings or about their sexual behaviour.".

The noble Viscount said: In moving this amendment, which is similar to one tabled but not discussed in another place by Mr. George Gardiner, the Member for Reigate, I would say that this is an important, sensitive subject best done by parents if they are willing and able to do so, but if it is to be tackled in schools then I feel that parents have a right to know the kind of sex education that it is proposed to give to their children.

The amendment would make it compulsory for the headmaster to inform parents in writing of the nature of the sex education which is to be given. He would explain it fully to them. He would make available the books, visual aids, and so on that were to be used, and this he would do at least one month in advance of starting the sex education. This would be only making legal what is already the best practice. Then the parent or guardian, if he felt that the kind of sex education proposed would be harmful to his child, would have the right to withdraw his child in the same way as he already has as regards religious education.

A mother living in my own area of North Yorkshire spoke to me recently. She was concerned because in the RE period a young male teacher handed round a questionnaire to her 14-year-old daughter and to the other 14-year-old girls, which said, "Have you had sex with boys?" They got together and decided that they would all answer "Yes "to this question. I submit to your Lordships that this is a very unfortunate happening and one which ought not to be encouraged.

There are certain books circulating which treat sex in an entirely neutral way. I have in mind in particular the one I hold here, Make it Happy, by Jean Cousins. There is a paragraph on page 103 dealing with bestiality which says: Some people feel sexually attracted to animals. It is not against the law to kiss, masturbate or be masturbated by an animal". This book is said by its publishers to be used widely in schools, and has the recommendation on the back of it from Dr. Peter Jackson of the National Council of the Family Planning Association, who says: This is a book that should be in every teenager's library".

There are certain pressure groups who are anxious to get in on sex education in schools, such as the Family Planning Association, and another one known as Gay Teachers, who are seeking to get into sex education in schools in order to promote their teaching that homosexuality is both natural and normal. I feel in these circumstances that parents have a right to know what is proposed in this field, and to withdraw their child if they consider it is going to be harmful. I beg to move this amendment.


I do not think we shall speak from this Bench with any sort of united voice. There is no party policy about this. I personally have to say that I am rather impressed with what the noble Viscount has said. I think that the circulation of books of the kind he referred to, with the quotations he made, is absolutely horrifying. I just want to leave that on record.

1.36 p.m.

The Earl of HALSBURY

I gladly support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ingleby, and I added my name to it. The Bill is a convenient vehicle in which to introduce this amendment into Parliament, although the Bill generally speaking is concerned with the administration of education rather than its content. Those engaged in sexual education are a mixed bag. Some of them are highly responsible, dedicated people, but, alas, infiltrated from time to time by extremely unpleasant types. We know what infiltration can do. From time to time the repercussions of a scandal, like a jumping cracker, still explode in the public domain, starting with permissiveness at Oxbridge and softness at the Foreign Office, and ending with treason based on sodomy. We know the whole unfortunate history of it, and that is what comes of soft attitudes in Ministries towards undesirable people. I have a word for these: the phthoraphiliacs of this world. That is the same root as was used in the indictment of Socrates for corrupting the youth of his city. Although what followed was judicial murder, the nature of the indictment is still a grave one.

There are people who get a sexual kick in talking about sex to young people and adolescents, and one needs some sort of an assurance that these people are not enfranchised to enjoy their perversion in the context of the schools where we send our children. Of course they never tell the children the whole truth of the matter. They never tell them that sex is part of an enduring relationship, but only part, between two people. They use the deterioration of our language to talk of it in terms of "having sex "as if it were something that you had like a bun or an ice cream, or a drink of beer. They begin and they end with the mechanics of orgasm, no matter how procured. They never tell their clientele what being jilted means to a teenage girl;what being deserted when pregnant means to a teenage girl;what are the psychological as opposed to the clinical concomitants of abortion;what infection by VD, which is on the increase, means to a teenager.

However, this is neither the time nor the place to go into that at length. We are at the tail end of the Committee stage of a most important Bill which has gone on for many days, and I am concerned only with the right of parents to be assured that the delegation of authority to manage their teenage children's sex education is not handed over to potential perverts.

May I just add a couple of quotations to what my noble friend Lord Ingleby has told you about. I am not exactly sure from whom these come, but from the clique, the ménage, associated with the Brook Advisory Bureau. Whether they are Lady Brook's words or come from some of her hangers-on in the field of sex education, such as the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, I do not know, but there comes the first quotation: Giving parents a choice is dangerous.". Here is a mother whose body has bowed at the birth of her child, whom she has nurtured as her number one priority for 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 years, and all of a sudden she is to be told that if she manages the sex education of her own child that will be a danger to it. The second quotation reads: From birth to death it is now the privilege of the parental State to take major decisions in what is best for the child.". What sort of plastic-based, chromium-plated, computerised affection do we suppose we shall get out of that kind of parenthood? I am not interested in these dehumanised aspects of what is or what is not convenient. We are sensitive to people's religious needs in the field of education and allow those to be provided for. I do not think we can divorce sex education from religious education;one cannot have sex education given on a secular basis while religious education is being given on a totally different basis. They must not come into conflict.

Therefore, for all those reasons, I support the amendment and beg the noble Baroness the Minister to be sensitive to what we are talking about and not to be, as Ministers easily can be, the impotent tool in the hands of their department. I urge her to take her department by the scruff of its permissive neck, give it a good shake, make sure it remembers that it is a servant and not a master and that it is there to serve the interests of parents by educating their children and not pushing parents and children around for its own administrative convenience.

1.42 p.m.


I apologise to the Committee for intervening, which I have not done before, in the deliberations on the Bill and for doing so on this part of the measure. I do so because about 42 years ago I was one of the founders of the National Marriage Guidance Council in this country. It is true to say that a good deal of the work done in schools in this field today is done under the aegis of the National Marriage Guidance Council, who deal with it, as the noble Earl rightly said, as part of a permanent and enduring relationship. It is because of that, if I may be permitted to say so, that I know the mind of the noble Earl and the noble Viscount on this matter. We met when I was a Minister in the department and discussed various matters, and there was a great deal of common ground between us. However, I am wondering whether the amendment will really deal with the situation. It says: It shall be the duty of the head teacher of any school at which sex education is being or will be given to do certain things. It says nothing at all—and it cannot say anything at all—about the competence of the headmaster to prepare such a syllabus. We are in a kind of no-man's land which is full of trip-wires and mines when dealing with this subject and trying to condense it into a reasonable amendment which is not too long.

I often question the competence of the people who pretend—" presume "is a better word—to give this instruction, which is often given as sex instruction rather than sex education, and there is a tremendous difference between instruction and education. I believe it can be done only by people who are competent to do it, and your Lordships may ask what I mean by "competent". I mean people who are temperamentally suitable to do it;and let us face it, many of us who are associated with it would not even claim to be tem- peramentally suitable to do it. They themselves must be tested in some way to see whether they should be let loose on a lot of unsuspecting young people. The divorce rate in this country is now accepted as being in the region of 170,000 a year. I remember in 1939 writing articles for the Press drawing attention to the serious breakdown in marriage and family life because there were 7,000 divorces a year, and we cannot deny that the sex relationship plays some part in it.

On this, the fourth day of the Committee stage, I do not want to go on at length on this subject, but I am wondering whether it would be possible for something to be done between now and Report to see whether the department could, or would, assume some responsibility for preparing some sort of syllabus which would be acceptable to people like the noble Earl and the noble Viscount and others who are very concerned about this question. What we must understand very clearly is that there must be a common syllabus approved by people competent to pass judgment on the validity of the syllabus—to set down the conditions which are necessary—before we let loose a large number of people to undertake this activity, many of whom would not be temperamentally suitable to do it and a large number of whom would not have the competence to do it other than at an instructional, not an educational, level.

We must see very clearly who is to have the responsibility in the schools to do it. Not all teachers—I can say this because I have had to discuss this matter over the years with teachers—want to do it. Many of them have said quite honestly, "I am not competent to do it". It frightens me—this is not a criticism—to think what will happen if we put the onus on a headmaster and he does not feel disposed to do it. What will he do? He will put it on the shoulders of somebody who says, "I will do it ", without questioning that person's competence.

I say honestly to the Minister that I do not know what to suggest. This is something which has defied solution over the years, and I am therefore wondering—the noble Baroness may say it would not be fair to put this on the department—whether she feels that some useful purpose might be served by talking about this (albeit, it may have to be a superficial discussion) between now and Report to see whether she could come forward with a suggeston as to whether the Department of Education and Science could give some advice and lead in the matter.

I make no suggestion;I must leave it to the noble Earl and the noble Viscount to decide whether to pursue the amendment. However, if it goes in the Bill we shall have established who will do it, whether or not they are competent, whether or not they are temperamentally suited, and we shall have no guarantee that the person concerned, namely, the head teacher, will be able to do it. I should like to see the matter discussed a little more and the provision made a little more watertight.


I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that not all teachers may be suitable persons in this context. However, I think the amendment has slightly more merit than he is prepared to admit. I say that because the amendment protects the rights of parents as well as the rights of governors and managers of schools. Four years ago in a primary school we had an experience of this type with my eldest son. In that case, looking at the amendment, paragraph (a) was not satisfied in that no advance warning was given to parents of the particular lesson; paragraph (b) was not satisfied, about explaining fully …the nature of the sex education and …books and so on;and paragraph (c) was not satisfied in that the managers of the school, of whom I was one, were not informed. When we complained to the headmaster, he very grudgingly admitted that he had been at fault. I believe that, in the interim, and before we arrive at some perfect state of affairs, the amendment will be very useful and helpful, and I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will feel able to accept it.

1.50 p.m.


We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for his constructive suggestion, because this is a unique subject. At the moment religion is the only subject which is dealt with in legislation as part of the syllabus. Sex education has its own special problems, but I do not think that the amendment, as it is at present, will do at all. I start with subsection (4) in my criticism of it. It is true that in a great many schools now much sex education is carried out under other subjects. Whether it be dealt with under religious education, current events, biology, or geography—in dealing with such matters as world population—there is a very wide spread of what may now be called sex education. In some schools, and in some of the best schools, a very great deal of satisfactory sex education is given without the subject ever being taught as such. The proposed clause rightly pays attention to that, but if there is a situation such as I have mentioned, and there is special treatment for a syllabus for all these subjects, it becomes absurd that the matter should have to be treated in a particular way.

I am very attracted to the idea in subsection (1)(c) that the governing authority should have a say in this matter. I am always intrigued by, and on the whole in favour of, the view that syllabus matters should not be entirely the domain of teachers. I know that this is an unpopular thought, not least with teachers, but I believe that there is much to be said for citizens having their say, and the possibility of dealing with the matter through the governing authority is a way forward which we might explore if the noble Baroness accepts the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I emphasise that like the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, I do not speak for my party on this matter—this is a purely individual suggestion—and I suggest that there is a case for proceeding in the way that the noble Lord, Lord WellsPestell, has proposed.

The Lord Bishop of NORWICH

I am sure that all your Lordships are very grateful for the patience of the noble Baroness in sitting this out to the very end. Those of us who wish to support the amendment must be encouraged by the way in which it has been received at this very late stage of a very long week. There has also been cautious encouragement from the noble Lord who has just spoken and from the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who has made what I regard as the important point of the difference between instruction and education. I note that in the carefully worded amendment before us the phrase is "sex education". This clause has both positive and negative overtones to it. The fact of giving the children the facts has I believed opened the door to a good deal of unhelpful sexual instruction, because the facts are so hard to describe well. When all is said and done, one could take, as a fairly simple, but rather beautiful, example the violin and violin playing. In that instance one could say that the facts consist of the drawing of the hairs of a horse across the entrails of a pig, and one could I suppose in this way describe the way in which a violin (so to speak) works, yet one would not even be beginning to describe what a violin is in the hands of Yehudi Menuhin, playing a great composition of Mozart's, according to the player's disciplined skill and the patterns of the composer. So in a sense sex education is a very delicate and a very difficult matter even to consider in the way of instruction.

Yet there seems to have been growing up in a number of major debates in your Lordships' Chamber over the past two or three years a certain consensus that we should be helping positively the next generation of boys and girls by trying to ensure that sex education is given in terms of sensitive and unselfish relationships, of real love, of a sacramental expression in love of a lasting relationship, within the continuing discipline and patterns of marriage which I believe, and which I think many noble Lords who may not take a very strong religious stance believe, to be a vital social cohesive force. There must also be considered the actual gift—and I believe it to be a gift, from the early days of man's history —of marriage, as a social and cohesive gift, in addition to the deeper emphasis of Christian marriage with insights of unselfish love and a lasting relationship.

I believe that the clause is not afraid of sex education. That is why I consider it to be a positive one. We have come a long way from the time when people were afraid even to speak about sex education, and when it was very difficult to find young teachers who were able in a sensible, practical and positive way to speak to children about this whole area. Certainly children in school get plenty of general thoughts on sex, and I believe that we have a certain responsibility to respond in terms of the clause to help the development of our children in every way—both socially and religiously, as well as directly educationally and intellectually.

I am also glad that there is suggested in the clause openness in regard to parents. I know that ideally parents should be the best instructors of their children, but those of us who are parents know that at various stages of the development of our children there are periods when children and parents appear to be on different sides of a fence in relation to sex education. Difficulty is encountered, and one is very glad that there is openness amongst teachers, parents, and children. Since the clause provides that openness, it also makes it possible for sex education to be seen to be given within a truly responsible marriage pattern of lasting relationships, and it avoids the lovelessness and the unhealthiness relating to some of the points which the noble Viscount made. I hope that we give favour and support to the clause.


I do not think that anyone who knows me would ever describe me as a puritan—certainly not in matters of this kind. Whenever we have debated in your Lordships' Chamber subjects such as homosexuality, abortion, or censorship I have consistently taken the liberal line—liberal with a small "1 ", that is. I have never been a fan of Mrs. Mary Whitehouse, nor, I regret to say, of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, where topics of this nature are concerned. I am certainly not one of those surprisingly numerous people who contend that family planning clinics and family planning associations are clandestine agents of Soviet subversion, whose aim is the undermining of the moral fabric of our society.

Nevertheless, despite all that, I have the most enormous sympathy for the amendment, for two chief reasons. One is that it extends the area of parental choice, which is surely something which we must all earnestly desire. The Conservatives in particular ought to be going all out to support this aspect of the matter, as it is undeniably part of their philosophy.

The second reason is that, although I do not subscribe to the communist con- spiracy theories, as I have just said, there is no doubt, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, pointed out, that there does exist within the realm of sex education a small clique who seem to have a crusading zeal to encourage teenage children to start sexual experimentation at a younger and younger age. For that reason, if this amendment is pressed to a Division I shall have no hesitation in going into the Division Lobby in support of it.


I find myself very much in support of the purpose of the amendment, but I walk with the noble Lord, Lord WellsPestell, on procedure. It seems to me that this is an area very much like religion, and what happened there was the gradual emergence of agreed syllabuses, prepared carefully with appropriate groups of people involved. Frankly, I should have thought that local education authorities and the schools themselves would greatly welcome the emergence of some kind of agreed syllabus in an approach to this problem. If, therefore, the noble Baroness the Minister finds it possible to initiate anything of that kind, I am certain she will have a very great measure of support.


I confess to some hesitation with regard to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that this amendment be delayed until an agreed syllabus is devised. I do not deny the desirability of some consensus in this respect, but from my acquaintance with the literature I would have thought that it might be the Greek Kalends until a syllabus acceptable to the majority were elaborated. In the meantime, there are these horrific tendencies, doubtless on the part of a small minority, which are prevalent and of which examples have been quoted this afternoon. To me, the important part of this amendment, which may or may not be capable of legal improvement, is the suggestion that where deliberate sex education is given parents should be advised and should have access to the type of education contemplated. That seems to me to be a subject which brooks no delay.


If I may for a moment intervene on this matter, I am sorry I was not in the Chamber when my noble friend was speaking. I do not wish to go into any of the details of this, but having thought about sex education all my life and having worked for the Family Planning Association and others, I have long thought that there is one thing that we might still do, and that is have a committee (I do not want to use the word committee ", but an association) of religious leaders, of psychologists—I mean psychologists like a woman called Doctor Wendy Greengross, who was involved in a programme on the radio called, "If you think you have problems ", which went into all these aspects of sexual education for both grown-ups and children—and of teachers. A body of that kind ought to be set up to look into this matter again. I do not think we have come to the end of our thoughts or our feelings about this, because even in this generation, parents are far more ignorant than their children about sex.


With your Lordships' permission I should like to correct one thing which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said;I think he may have misunderstood me. I was not suggesting that this matter be deferred or delayed until there had been an agreed syllabus. This is going to take too long. What I did suggest was that perhaps between now and Report stage it might be possible to get from the noble Baroness the Minister some idea of whether the department would be prepared to consider setting up a committee that would deal with the matter quickly with a view to getting a form of agreed syllabus. If the noble Baroness says it cannot be done, then my noble friends could put this amendment down at Report stage.


The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, with whom I had the misfortune to disagree earlier in Committee, took me a long way down the road of his argument, albeit that I did not share his starting point in religious beliefs;and I felt that his argument was very compelling for the acceptance of this clause, with one very important exception. He described the situation, with which I am sure many of your Lordships will be familiar—the situation especially in adolescents—where the child is, as he put it, on the opposite side of the fence to the parent; where communication breaks down, perhaps due to no one's faults. In that respect, I for one could not support subsection (3), because it is just at that point, perhaps, when the child and the parent are apart, at which the child needs guidance and instruction by a responsible and dedicated teacher—and, for all that one has heard of horrifying tendencies, I am sure most of your Lordships would agree that the vast majority of teachers go into this area with great responsibility, and many with great dedication. But it is just at that point that I would submit to your Lordships that the parents should not have a total and absolute veto;and on that ground I could not support the new clause.

2.7 p.m.


I must regretfully take a contrary view in regard to the right of withdrawal. I am not going to argue that this amendment as it stands is satisfactory. But it has already performed a considerable service. It has elicited a useful debate and I think the proposals put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, are particularly worthy of study. Yet the real sanction is the right to withdraw children. That is already the sanction in regard to religious education. There are humanists who will not expose their children to the stories of the birth of Christ just as there are parents who will not expose their children to agnostic or para-Christian interpretations. The parental sanction is, and must be, the right to withdraw.

It would not surprise me if my noble friend the Minister, whose heart is large and warm but who is also a staunch defender of her department and has stood up to the bowling of this Committee in a fabulous way this week—I would not be surprised to find that she brings us an argument presently (I hope I am wrong) to say that it is administratively untidy or inconvenient to school curricula to permit a right of withdrawal. Such an argument is easy to understand, if I may say so with respect, from her permanent advisers, whose integrity of course nobody would call into question. But civil servants and Whitehall generally go for what is convenient, what will save trouble, what does not offend public taste—something continually debased by con- cessions to it—what I choose to call the easy way out. It will be argued that if you accept the parents' right of withdrawal of their children from sex education or instruction that may crop up in a science course, biology course or even a geography course about aborigines and anthropology, you are upsetting the whole thing. So I should like to address myself to this argument. It is bound to surface sooner or later.

If the right to withdraw is resisted merely on the grounds of the awkwardness that it will cause to the curricula that is saying that the machine of the curriculum is more important than its content. This is what has been said one way or the other over and over again for years: that you must not disturb the running of the machine, the organisation of the transport or whatever it may be. It is always the machinery, the structure, that must not be upset;exceptions are inconvenient. It is the argument—and I hope that it is not going to be used, but I have the fear that it will be—that mere organisational convenience takes precedence over the ethical and moral decencies of civilised living.

Do not let us disguise the significance of the general subject to which we are addressing our minds. This, as has been said from both sides of the committee, is not one of politics, and still less one of administration. It is one of fundamental family decency and in particular it relates to the protection of nature's built-in—and I say "nature's "built-in—sense of shame;the shame that separates us from the animals. And it is family life that nurtures that sense of shame.

I was glad that my noble friend Lord Halsbury quoted from the Chairman of the Brook Advisory Centres because I believe that that quotation needs to be repeated. He said: From birth to death it is now the privilege of the parental state "— what a term—the 'parental' state to take major decisions on what is best for the child". That very quotation, and the philosophy implicit in it, goes to the heart of the matter that we are discussing. We know well enough that some agencies, in their endeavours to influence young people about sex, do divorce sex from love, do ridicule marriage by the rather degrading reference to stable relationships". We have even had that term used by Mr. Patrick Jenkin when applauding one of the publications of the Family Planning Association. The very term is intended to be an insult to marriage as an institution. Some of these influences mean to debase the very instinct to blush. The man who blushes is not quite a brute. And as Jonathan Swift wrote: I never wonder to see men wicked—I wonder to see them unashamed". Anatole France wrote of education: An education that does not cultivate the will "— never mind about organisation and all that;and the will is something that we are talking about in sex education— is an education that depraves the mind". And Ilya Eherenburg wrote not long ago: Knowledge has outstripped character development and the young today are given an education rather than an upbringing". Perhaps the greatest misfortune of our time is that in getting rid of false shame we have killed off so much real shame as well. My fear about the likely handling of this matter between now and Report stage is that there may be a temptation on the part of the administrators—and because of them of the Administration—to resist the right of withdrawal by confusing ends with means.

2.13 p.m.


Very often in your Lordships' House we talk about human rights. We are now discussing one of the most fundamental human rights of all and I feel that that is hardly the subject for a quick decision on an amendment which has been before us for a few days. On the other hand, I feel there is a need for a statutory commission to be set up to inquire into the whole question of sex education. It is not a matter to be decided after a few hours' consideration. The right reverend Prelate talked first about sex education and then about playing the violin. In my younger days, I had many lessons in the playing of the violin and I made many public appearances in that capacity. I never had any lessons about sex education. In fact, in so far as the bulk of the population is concerned, nobody, man or woman, boy or girl, has had any form of instruction on the question of sex. Parents, as a rule, do not instruct their children on the question of sex. Mothers, I know, sometimes tell their girls "Be careful, be careful! But there is no basic instruction in sex for young people.

I think therefore there is something to be said for passing this duty over to the teachers in our schools. But are all those teachers sufficiently responsible to impart the necessary instruction? I remember in my school that there was a master who certainly was not so—and I emphasise that very definitely. On the other hand, in many girls' schools, you have teachers who, in Victorian days, used to be described as "maiden ladies ";and I doubt whether they are properly qualified to impart instruction to their girls. Furthermore, in imparting this instruction in schools, let us bear in mind that there is always some risk to the teacher. One never knows what mischievous boys or girls are going to say about what their teacher said, what their teacher did and what their teacher showed them. It is very risky indeed to give this duty to teachers alone. The school medical officer—and there is a medical officer associated with every school nowadays—should be given the responsibility of imparting this instruction.

The final question that I want to ask is this: at what age does this amendment suggest the instruction should be given? I know that there can be many arguments for raising the age or for bringing the age forward. Personally, I am in favour of bringing the age forward as far as possible. This is such a wide question that I feel that, rather than to attempt to make a decision at this moment after an hour or two of discussion, we should have a statutory inquiry into the whole question of sex education in schools.

2.15 p.m.


I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Wells-Pestell and Lord Alexander of Potterhill. Even this debate, short as it is, has shown how complicated is this subject. Anyone who has taught in, or who has been responsible for running, a school knows that it is one of the most tricky of subjects. Very few subjects on the instructional side, or the practical side, are so linked with the emotions. There are very few subjects in which it is more difficult to find teachers who are really competent to teach.

One may have the greatest sympathy with the objects of this amendment—and I have;because I think some pretty awful things manifestly go on under the name of sex education—yet I think it would be wrong after such a short and superficial consideration to try to write something into this Bill. I think there is an enormous amount to be said. I know that we have had the administrators and such people "shot at ", but there is a very great deal of knowledge and wisdom in the DES. Her Majesty's inspectors must have a very great knowledge of what is actually going on in schools of all kinds regarding sex education.

I would not be quite so pessimistic as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, about the time it might take. It might take time to get an agreed syllabus. I doubt whether in fact we would ever do that because the type of work done varies more than with many subjects according to the age and background of the pupils. But I think it will be possible to get documents that would be of practical help to those running the schools, whether governors, heads, or teachers in the classroom, if we set up some kind of inquiry into sex education in the world today. As regards the world today, of course it is a platitude to say that it is different, but I sometimes wonder whether we realise how different it is today from the world in which many of us grew up, as regards knowledge and exposure to all kinds of influences, and so on. We all know that.

I should like to support what the noble Lords, Lord Wells-Pestell, and Lord Alexander of Potterhill, have said and ask not that we should pass this amendment—admirable though it is in intention—but that we should call for something more considered in the way of a survey of the field.

2.22 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

The whole Committee will be very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, for putting down this amendment and giving the Committee an opportunity to discuss this subject. It is clearly one of great importance. May I say right at the beginning that I have very great sympathy with the aims of his amendment. I share the views which have been expressed on all sides of the House about the importance of the right kind of sex education. By that I mean that the matter should be treated sensitively. I believe that it should be discussed within a moral code, and those of us who are blessed with a happy family life have so much to be thankful for that the experience of it is something that we ought to pass on to children. I share very much the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, that the book that he described is deplorable, and I do not think it helps children at all. This is my personal view about it and I think it right to say this right away to the Committee.

This is not a political matter nor indeed an issue on which the Government collectively have a view. It is not that kind of a subject. In what I say I hope the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will not feel that I am being a weak Minister. Perhaps I suffer from these defects;but this is a difficult subject and I should like to try and take the noble Earl through the practical problems that there are. Nor do I hope that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale will feel that I am just falling back on administrative convenience, because that is not something in this context which I should like to do.

There is a difference between religious education and any other subject in the school syllabus. The noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, came to see me and we discussed with him and his colleagues who also put down this amendment their views about it. The difference on religious education is of course that this is the one subject which every school must teach by law one period a week. The school religious education syllabus is based on an agreed syllabus which has been determined under the provisions of the 1944 Education Act locally in consultation with representatives of local interests. Head teachers are indeed already encouraged to consult and take account of the wider interests of parents and others in sex education. It is quite different from religious education.

If you are a Roman Catholic, a Quaker, a Jew, or someone who does not subscribe to the agreed syllabus, you are entitled to withdraw your child from this one compulsory lesson. Therefore religious education is quite different from other subjects. One of the difficulties about sex education is that in many schools—I do not know how many or whether it is most schools—it does not appear a subject on the timetable. Sometimes it is covered with a general series of lessons on what are called personal relationships. Sometimes it comes up as part of a biology lesson or, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said, it comes up under many guises in different lessons. It may come up by way of discussion about some matter in English literature or something like that.

Therefore in the reality of the situation, it would be very difficult for parents to know precisely when this might come up and to withdraw their children if it was not something specifically on the syllabus. However, I have taken a careful note of the wish of a lot of people to follow up Lord Wells-Pestell's suggestion, which was echoed by the noble Lords, Lord Alexander and Lord James and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, that we might be able to go further this afternoon and that I should give an undertaking that either the department would intervene in the formulation of a standard syllabus for sex education or we would set up some working party on it.

I ought to say that this is a matter we would have to consider carefully. I know that is a standard departmental answer. Those who have been in education departments know very well that the British education system is a devolved system in which, whether one likes it or not, education Ministers do not have power to tell schools what they should do, and it rests on the relationship with local authorities and, quite particularly, with the teachers. If it was to be thought that we were laying down a syllabus they would teach, we should find ourselves in difficulties right at the beginning, particularly if it was a departmental working party, and therefore one would have to look at it very carefully.

I have looked into the question, since I saw the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, about the role of the inspectorate in the matter of sex education. As I understand it, the inspectors might observe, in the course of a school visit, that sex education is being dealt with in a way which most ordinary parents would find offensive: the teacher might, for example, be using books or films which many people could regard as objectionable. The inspector will usually discuss the matter thoroughly with the head teacher. He would want to know whether there had been consultation with the parents of the children concerned. If he was not satisfied with the discussion, it would be open to him to take the matter up with the local education authority. But at the end of the day he cannot prescribe particular books or films himself. That is the position, and I think it right to state what it is.

Under the Bill we have been discussing in the course of this week, the provisions, particularly on school government and the requirement that there should be two parents on a governing body, give an opportunity for parents to find out what schools are doing by way of sex education, and to express a view on it. It has been put to me that a lot of parents would be reluctant to do this because they would feel that if they criticise the school perhaps their children might suffer as a consequence.

I find it sad if this is the case. It has always seemed to me in life that there is never any point of joining a committee of any sort if, when you get there and your opinion is sought, you do not say what you believe to be right in the matter. If you are going to be fearful at the start of it, there is not much point in becoming a school governor at all. It is very necessary to encourage responsible parents to take up these opportunities and take this opportunity of looking at questions such as sex education.

I realise that this falls very far short of what many Members of your Lordships' House have been asking for this afternoon. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, will be prepared to withdraw his amendment, because it is something that would be so new and so big, and to attempt to put it into the Bill at this stage would not be conducive either to the sort of thing that he wants to see or indeed, if I have taken the collective feeling of the Committee, that the Committee want to see.

I should like to reflect on this debate and to read it again. If there is some way forward which would be possible, I should like to have the opportunity, perhaps on Report or at a later stage in the course of the year, to discuss this matter. I cannot make any promises at all this afternoon except to consider what has been said, but I hope I have said enough to help your Lordships to realise that I believe this is a matter of great concern and importance to parents and that it is a subject on which parents have a right to full information as to what is going on. I hope that, at any rate within our proposals for school government, parents will take up this right and use it, so that we get the kind of home and school cooperation which we should all like to see, on this matter as on others.


May I thank the noble Baroness for her very sympathetic and helpful answer to my noble friends and myself who put down this amendment. I was pleased to hear her recognise the great weight of opinion which was expressed, supporting the principle of this amendment, though I would be the first to recognise that all supporters did not support all parts of the amendment and there were quite a number of qualifications. Nevertheless, there was no doubt that the whole Committee feels that something needs to be done about this matter. I would emphasise the point which the noble Lord, Lord James, made, as ever with his great widsom, that some of us do not realise how much the world has changed in recent years, especially in this respect. if we think back to the 1944 Act—we heard the noble Lord, Lord Butler, reminding us yesterday of its origins—we realise that this sort of problem of sex education scarcely existed in those days;but today—my word!—it is with us, and something has to be done to regularise it.

I am sure that, while it is ideal that parents can best take care of sex education in an atmosphere of love and protection in the home, there are undoubtedly many homes where that will not happen, and therefore schools have a "long-stop "responsibility. Something has to be done to ensure that this is done safely, sympathetically and properly in the best possible way. Therefore, while at the end of a very long week of this Committee stage, when the noble Baroness has handled the affairs of the Committee so marvellously well, the last thing my noble friends and I wish to do is to press this matter to a Division now, I think we should say to her that your Lordships would be very concerned if they did not see something included in this Bill before we part with it on Report stage or if we did not get some solid undertaking on rational action that is going to be taken in the future.

The noble Baroness's point that the new constitution of the governors will bring parents on to the governing bodies is a valuable one, but it will not go anywhere near meeting what we are up against. We must deal with the syllabus—I am sure the noble Lords, Lord James and Lord Alexander, are right there—in this immensely sensitive field in a context of devolved education authorities where the noble Baroness, even if she wished to, cannot tell the teachers what they should teach. Therefore I am sure that an agreed syllabus is the right way to go about this. How soon it can be done I do not know;but it is in this spirit of expectancy that I say to my noble friend: "Thank you very much for what you have said ", and it is with a lively sense of favours to come that I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Repeals.]:

The Duke of NORFOLK moved Amendment No. 299: Page 50, leave out line 17.

The noble Duke said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 299.

Baroness YOUNG

The Government accept the amendment.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with the amendments.


My Lords, we have come to the end of a very long week—perhaps the longest and most tiring week in the history of the House of Lords. For that I must apologise to your Lordships because I must accept the responsibility. But it has also been a quite exceptional strain on the staff of the House, and throughout this week they have looked after us, not only without complaining but with constant cheerfulness and never-failing efficiency. I should like, on behalf of your Lordships, to express our gratitude to them.