HL Deb 25 March 1980 vol 407 cc705-78

Further considered on Report.

Consideration on Schedule 5 resumed:

8 p.m.

Lord AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 43, line 29, at end insert— (" d) to bestow an award on any person in respect of his or her attendance at a course provided by a college or other institution leading to the H.N.C., H.N.D. or T.E.C. qualifications, where that person was made redundant in the twelve months preceding the date on which the course began; and the amount of the award shall be equal to the average earnings of the person over the six months immediately preceding the date on which he or she became redundant.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the last time that we were talking about the question of technicians was at two minutes past six in the morning, when your Lordships may not have been at your best to consider such a weighty and important matter. I am glad to have this opportunity of returning to the subject. I should like to emphasise at the outset that, although your Lordships have listened to several cases of what might be termed special pleading on behalf of musicians, lawyers and so on, what I am attempting to do by this amendment is of a rather different nature. I am attempting to secure that the nation has the benefit of the people who would be sent on these HNC, HND and TEC courses, and thereby the very serious shortage of technicians would, we hope, be partially filled. So what I am talking about is not a provision to benefit a certain class of students by giving them exceptional payments, but to encourage people to take these courses and so to satisfy the needs of British industry.

I am confining the benefit to people who become redundant because, unfortunately, it is a fact of life that in many important industries, particularly the engineering industries, men and women are being thrown out of work by the economic crisis. I mentioned last time the case of the British Steel Corporation which, we all know, has to slim down, probably from its present level of 180,000-odd employees to something nearer 100,000, which is a tremendous loss of manpower and a tremendous waste of the skills and talents of the men involved if we cannot find some way of re-employing them elsewhere, particularly in manufacturing industry. After all, manufacturing industry, whether noble Lords like it or not, is the life-blood of this nation. If we do not have manufacturing industry, then we can forget about the musicians, the lawyers and all the rest of the very worthy objects that your Lordships were talking about a few minutes ago.

This matter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, not so very long ago in a debate which he initiated on the Finniston Report. Engineering Our Future was its title. A few minutes ago on another amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked what kind of people we are going to need in 25 years' time, and his reply was engineers, technologists and technicians. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would come back and make that remark on this amendment, because if we hear someone of his stature who is not an engineer himself recognising the need, then there is hope. If non-engineers, people who have been trained in the arts, and people such as the noble Lord himself, who maintains that he has no particular training although he always speaks in your Lordships' House with great eloquence, can recognise the need to do something for the engineering industry, then surely the Government can see that this is something which is really important.

The Finniston Report was concerned with professional engineers and not with technician engineers, but they felt that the shortage of technicians was of such an acute nature that they said, in paragraph 3.29, that in the absence of a sufficient number of technicians companies were, of course, able to carry on, but sub-optimally with reduced professional engineering input. In many cases, the committee remarked, it was necessary for them to employ professional engineers in jobs that could have been perfectly satisfactorily done by technicians, which is an appalling waste of trained manpower when we do not have enough professional engineers either.

So what I hoped to do was to kill two birds with one stone, as it were, by taking off the unemployment register some people, there because they have been made redundant, who, by definition, have ex- perience of working in industry, and persuading them to go into the courses which I have mentioned for HNC, FIND and TEC qualifications, where the shortages are so acute, by making provision for the Secretary of State to pay them during the time that they were on these courses at the same rate as the remuneration which they had been receiving in the six months immediately before they became redundant.

It is only fair that the Secretary of State should bear this expenditure, rather than the local authorities. For reasons that we all know of, the local authorities are finding great difficulty in meeting their existing commitments. To lay a new burden on them of this nature would be totally unthinkable, but to put it on the Secretary of State would be perfectly right and proper. The Government would thereby be relieved of the expenditure on unemployment benefit, which they would otherwise have had to pay these men and women, and in the long term they could not only look forward to their own earning capacity being enhanced by the training that they had received, but also one hopes that the profits of industry would be thereby improved tremendously and the taxation base of the Government would thus be enhanced.

I dare say that all kinds of reasons will be given as to why we cannot do this. In particular, the matter of costs will be mentioned, as it may be in response to the recommendations of the Finniston Report as a whole. I must say that we are not very good in this country at cutting corners when an emergency arises, and it would be no exaggeration to call the shortage of technicians an emergency, so far as industry is concerned. We are bad at reacting quickly to a foreseen need. There are too many ways of finding the proverbial difficulty to every solution. I hope that in this case the Government will decide to take a first step in response to the very important recommendations of Finniston to enable industry to get the technicians that it needs, and to take a few off the unemployment register at the same time. My Lords, I beg to move.

8.10 p.m.


My Lords, may I support my noble friend on this question, because it is important. Today, I had lunch with two industrialists from East Lancashire and they were very much concerned with the engineering industry. Even though we have an unemployment problem of 7 per cent. in that area, we nevertheless find that there is still a shortage of skilled people going into engineering, especially at OND and HND levels.

We have got to encourage people to do this. The only way in which we can encourage them to do this is by accepting the suggestion put forward by my noble friend. I believe that the only way of encouraging them is by giving them some incentive to take up courses in colleges. There are many colleges that are crying out for students of this particular kind. I am the Deputy Pro-Chancellor of Lancaster University. At Lancaster University we have a very good course for higher degrees, but it is not the higher degrees that many engineering firms require. It is the basics that they require, and the basics are the OND and HND courses. Therefore, I support my noble friend in his amendment and hope that when the noble Baroness the Minister replies she will accept it.


My Lords, I should like to support the amendment which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Avebury. I think I am right in saying that it was only yesterday that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Neil Macfarlane, said that he and other Ministers were constantly disturbed by the discrepancy they found, going around the country, between the number of people who are unemployed and the number of vacancies for skilled workers. I suggest that the Government have a glorious opportunity here to alleviate the problem of unemployment and at the same time to deal with this mis-match within the labour market.

The need to create more wealth for the benefit of the community is something which many on this side of the House have in common with the Government. I hope that in her reply the noble Baroness will be able to say something which shows that she recognises the distinctive nature of this particular amendment compared with some that have gone before and what can be done under this heading for the benefit of British manufacturing industry. much take the point which has been made

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I very by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, about the importance of strengthening the links between education and industry and of producing the numbers of technically qualified people that we need in support of manufacturing industry and the wealth-creating sectors of our society. The amendments before the House are concerned with educational and training opportunities and financial support for those who are unfortunate enough to have been made redundant and who may wish or, indeed, need to retrain for a new occupation.

Let me say that mandatory awards from local education authorities are already available for students taking courses leading to the Higher National Diploma and the Higher Diploma of the Technical Education Council, provided the student fulfils the conditions of the awards regulations. If for some reason a student does not qualify for a mandatory award, or if the course lie proposes to take is not designated for a mandatory award, local education authorities are free to make an award at their discretion.

Direct support for the unemployed is given by the Manpower Services Commission under their Youth Opportunities Scheme and Training Opportunities Scheme. The Training Opportunities Scheme provides training for adults who have been away from full-time education for a total of at least two years after the age of 16 and who want to take a Training Opportunities Scheme course to learn a new skill. It also provides financial support for those who wish to take full-time technical courses in further education of up to one year's duration. Indeed, the training of technicians of all kinds is regarded as a priority area by the Manpower Services Commission. There are also separate arrangements under the Youth Opportunities Programme for meeting the training and development needs of young people under the age of 19. The allowances paid under these schemes are generous and are intended to provide the wherewithal with which a trainee can finance himself for his training; and also to provide a measure of incentive, if needed.

I am very sympathetic to the problems of the unemployed and recognise the importance of the point that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is making in these amendments, but in view of the provision which is already being made by local education authorities, and particularly by the Manpower Services Commission, I do not feel that it would be right to create a further scheme to enable the Secretary of State for Education and Science to bestow awards. I hope, therefore, that on these grounds the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has made a very clear and definite statement about the present situation, but may I call her attention to certain points to which she has not referred. For a number of years I was in charge of a chemistry department where we employed no fewer than 40 technical staff and it was extremely important that they should be properly qualified. The qualification which we were looking for was the HNC. Unless they had the HNC qualification they were ineligible for promotion to higher positions.

Those noble Lords who may not be completely familiar with it may like to know that the HNC is a qualification which on the technical side is not very different from a university pass degree. It is an important technical qualification which allows people to take certain absolutely vital jobs in the technical field, jobs which are of extreme importance throughout the whole of our industry and throughout universities and all training places. I am told— and I should like to ask the noble Baroness if she is able to say whether or not this is right— that if a person is unemployed and enters upon a course like this, such a person loses unemployment pay. If that is true— and I have been told that it is by the principal of a college of further education— it is a very serious matter. It means that a person cannot get the qualification without surrendering the right to receive unemployment pay.

These qualifications are essential, and I am quite sure that the noble Baroness is aware of this. If she is not, I am sure that Dr. Young will tell her how important it is to have in his laboratory people who are well qualified and who have the ability to do this sort of job. If we in this country are serious when we say that we want technically qualified people in order to carry on the jobs which are essential to industry, then it seems to me that we must make available to them the opportunities to get their qualifications. I should have thought that this amendment was a very simple and clear way of guaranteeing that people who want such qualifications can get them and that therefore industry, which requires such people, can get them in the particular fields in which they are wanted.


My Lords, if I may briefly comment on the Minister's speech, she said that mandatory awards are already available for courses of this type, and that is perfectly true. But the student I am talking about in the amendment is somebody who has become redundant in, for example, the British Steel Corporation. He will have to accept a very catastrophic fall in his standard of living if he is to live on a grant as compared with the remuneration he was getting from his employment immediately prior to the date on which he became redundant. If I may say so with great respect, that is not very much of an incentive to somebody of this kind to take an HND course or its equivalent. As for the Manpower Services Commission's schemes which the noble Baroness mentioned— the Youth Opportunities Scheme and the Training Opportunities Scheme— yes, there is a payment associated with the courses that they provide, including the full-time technical courses, but it is certainly not a generous one.

A friend of mine recently went on a TOPS course and was paid about £ 30 a week. He was a single man, without dependants, of course, but nevertheless a payment of that nature will not attract an enormous number of people to take the technician courses that we are discussing. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, has reminded your Lordships, the courses leading to these qualifications are not being filled. There is an appalling wastage of resources in the technical colleges, in that provision is made for a certain number of students who are not actually entering those courses.

If we are to treat this matter as seriously as it deserves, I honestly think that we cannot rely on provisions of a general nature, such as the Oxford TOPS, but we have to single out the education of technicians for the most exceptional treatment to meet the exceptional needs of industry. I dare say that it would not be sensible to press this amendment but to return to the matter when we have an opportunity to discuss engineering education in a wider context. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

8.22 p.m.

Baroness FAITHFULL moved Amendment No. 55: After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:—

A wards for Students in Social work

"There shall be mandatory awards for mature non-graduate students wishing to train for social work").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I speak with some diffidence and I almost feel that I ought to apologise for bringing forward yet another amendment concerning mandatory awards. I only hope that I can be as restrained and considerate as was the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. At Committee stage I moved Amendments Nos. 201 and 202, which were paving amendments to Amendment No. 207, which sought, Mandatory awards for other courses as the Secretary of State shall prescribe by regulations". This amendment is, rightly or wrongly, in more specific terms, as many other amendments have been earlier this evening.

The amendment is put forward primarily in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society— that is, those who are assisted by social service departments and voluntary organisations. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if for one moment I tell you what those duties are. Under the Mental Health Act 1959 social workers are responsible for helping mental patients outside the hospital in the community, and the Jay Report has recommended that many more patients should be discharged from mental hospitals and helped in the community. If that were to be done there would be a great saving of money.

Under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act the disabled are helped in the community and, if the report of the Warnock Committee is to be implemented, social services departments will need to help the disabled children in the community while the school helps them with their education. The elderly are helped under the Health Services and Public Health Acts, and here again many old people's homes are closing, with the idea that people should be helped in the community. Finally, under the Children and Young Persons Acts, children are being helped in the community rather than in custodial care.

I should just like to mention one particular area of difficulty in the work of social workers and that is in the area of battered children. If any of your Lordships have ever had to make up your minds whether or not to remove a child from home, hearing on the one hand the mother saying that she never hurt the child at any time and on the other hand seeing the child bruised and hurt, you will have had to make up your mind which decision to take: to leave the child at home or to remove the child.

In the past few years there has been— I think rightly— a change of direction for social workers. The intention is that they should give a better and more skilled service within the community. That means very skilled work by skilled people who are trained, but not only trained: they must have experience of life and maturity within themselves. By the same token of course it means that the very seriously vulnerable are left in custodial care and therefore the residential social workers also need to have maturity.

I ask two things. First, that the Government should consider widening the range of courses attracting mandatory grants— and I appreciate that those grants for mature non-graduate students would come through the local education authorities— and, secondly, that the Government should encourage local authorities to consider the training of older men and women who are non-graduates, who have gained experience in their early years in other spheres of life. Those who have had personal experience of tending people— married women, men retiring from the Services and so on, 35 years of age and above, would, with training, be of inestimable value. I know that 75 per cent. of students who gain the certificate of training in social work are over 25 years of age and of that 75 per cent., 30 per cent. are over 35 years of age. But I think we need more than that percentage and perhaps I may just say that last year of the young graduates there were 70 less training and therefore 70 fewer grants from the Department of Health and Social Security, which is the department which provides grants for graduates.

The cost of this would be approximately £ 1 million and I maintain (although obviously it cannot be proved at the moment) that it would be cost effective. Perhaps I may give one example. I am the chairman of the Adoption Resource Exchange. Last year we placed 100 handicapped children for adoption. Had they remained in care until they were 18 years of age they would have cost the country £ 2 million. The country has been saved that £ 2 million.

I join with the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder; I know that at the moment the country must not be extravagant, must look to costs and must consider its priorities, and therefore I know the difficulty of the Minister in agreeing to such a proposal. Therefore I hope that, as with barristers, she will give it consideration and thought, if not immediately, at any rate in the long term. I beg to move.


My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I enter the debate on this particular clause, bearing in mind that there are still 51 amendments before your Lordships. Whether we shall get through by 11 o'clock tonight, which I believe is the intention of the Government, supported, if I may say so, by the Opposition, remains to be seen. So perhaps I had better be brief, but I wanted to get that remark in because I think it is important that we should bear in mind the fact that we have another 51 amendments before us.

I want merely to cross the t's and dot the i's of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. This is one of the rare occasions on which we see eye to eye. The only point I want to make concerns the validity of her request. We have a vast field of social services in this country, and whatever people may say about them, many of us on both sides of your Lordships' Chamber are justly proud of the contri- bution that they are making to society every day. But the fact remains that more than half the social service workers are in fact without training. In the main they are young and they are without training and the noble Baroness rightly said that what we need at the present moment are the mature, non-graduate students who have some contribution to make because they are bringing to social work, once they have received the basic training which enables them to understand what it is all about, a great deal of experience of life. Although they may not have done social work before, nevertheless they are often in a position to make objective judgments.

It is on that basis that I think the noble Baroness is perfectly right when she makes an appeal for the mature non-graduate students who wish to train for social work. I realise the difficulties. I do not have to appeal to the noble Baroness the Minister. She herself has had vast experience. I can remember when she was chairman of the Children's Committee in Oxford; I can remember when she was chairman of the Social Services Committee in Oxford. There is no need for me to make out the case for this. I am sure she will be in complete agreement. I merely wanted to support the noble Baroness.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I should like very briefly from these Benches to support as strongly as I can this amendment. In the many years that I worked at the London School of Economics I saw a number of these older people come forward for training. There is no doubt the good candidates take the training extremely well and make very good use of it. The combination of maturity and training means that they can do a first-class job. What is more they stick, they do not leave. The younger trainee works very well for a year or two getting experience and then very often is off, whereas the older woman coming back will stay for the rest of her working life, and that may be 25 years. It is a very good investment.


My Lords, may I add my voice very briefly from the point of view of the courts, because I have had to deal with rather young very immature people who go out at my request to make social services reports. If I had had mature people who were able to talk to shoplifters, able to talk to people with marital problems, I am sure a lot of my troubles would have been lessened, and certainly theirs would have been, too. I would have got very much better reports than I did get from people who did their very best but who were very young and very inexperienced in life.


My Lords, may I add one or two words. I do not think there is any need to add to what has been said so very well by the noble Baroness and others who have spoken. I think the argument is strengthened by the fact that the Association of Municipal Corporations, of which I have the honour of being a vice-president, are entirely in agreement with this amendment. I do not think it needs any additional words of mine, but simply for the House and the noble Baroness to realise that those who are actually in touch with the whole matter are entirely in agreement.


My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. The noble Baroness reminded me a little while ago about the Moorgate disaster. The Red Cross members did not go there in the end to do the first aid that they were expecting to do, but were invited to take charge of the care of the relatives of the casualties in the disaster. By the time the relatives arrived it was after hours and there were no social workers present, so it fell to these mature boys and girls to look after the relatives and to try to help and advise them as to what they should do the following morning, where they should go to find out about death grants, pensions, mortgages and many other things. This was after they had taken the relatives to sort out the belongings of the casualties, the deceased. They then took them to the mortuary to identify the bodies, some of which were dismembered. I feel that this was an example of the support and guidance of more mature people being such a very great help to the young graduates, who, although trained in all these matter, because they are still young are very apt to be emotionally upset when confronted with very distressing cases. I would point out that in social work continuity is of tremendous importance, and the young do like to move around. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to bear these points in mind when deciding on mandatory financial awards for mature students in social service work.

8.35 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this point. I should like to say at the start that I do very much appreciate the valuable work undertaken by social workers, and the points that were so well made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. We have heard a number of experts, including of course the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who speaks from long experience on this subject. The present position about awards for social workers is that students who obtain places on degree courses in social studies— and these course may lead to a certificate of qualification in social work as well as to a degree— are eligible for mandatory awards on exactly the same conditions as students reading for a first degree in other subjects. There is no age barrier for the receipt of a mandatory award, and in fact the award regulations make special provision to pay a higher rate of grant for students who are over 26 years of age and who have been in full-time employment for three to six years immediately preceding the first year of the course. It is true that courses for the non-graduate diploma in social work do not qualify for mandatory awards, but students taking a two-year certificate course may be released on salary if they are already employed by a local authority. Otherwise, they may apply for a discretionary award from their local education authority.

My noble friend Lady Faithful] referred to the Department of Health and Social Security, and they do make awards to graduates taking courses for the certificate of qualification in social work, because a course for post-graduate studies is acknowledged to be the responsibility of central rather than local government. A year or two ago the DHSS did agree to divert resources from elsewhere to provide an extra 200 awards for graduate social work courses. They did so because of concern then being expressed that cuts in discretionary awards would seriously affect recruitment to the profession. In the event there was no demand for this extra provision, and the extra funds could now be made available only at the expense of other equally important programmes. Nevertheless, the initiative of the DHSS does illustrate that central departments of Government take very seriously exactly the kind of concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and other speakers. For my part I have taken very careful note of the points made and of the views expressed, and I shall certainly pass these on to my colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Security.

Particular reference has been made to the need to train mature students. I understand that about 30 per cent. of students studying for the certificate of qualification in social work are over the age of 35, which suggests that mature students are not being neglected. Indeed, I was quite interested to see that the figures show that 75 per cent. of what are known as CQSW students are 25 or over, 50 per cent. are 30 or over and 30 per cent. are 35 or over, which does suggest a rather higher age range than one would expect on other courses. I recognise that this does not in any way meet the point that my noble friend is making in this amendment. I do realise the great interest that has been shown in it from all parts of the House by people who are very knowledgeable in this matter. It is clearly the kind of thing that, if money were available, we should like to do. But at the present time it is no use my making this promise, because we do not feel able to extend the lists for mandatory awards for the reasons I have given on the other amendments. I hope that at any rate on some of the narrower points I have been able to offer an explanation to my noble friend, and that, with this, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.


My Lords, I noted when my noble friend was speaking that she indicated that support for mature students who were employed by local government was available, but she did not mention anyone else. I speak on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which, being a charity, has great difficulty in getting expert, extra knowledge for its representatives in the field who are all of the older generation— many are ex-Servicemen as my noble friend Lady Faithfull has suggested. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will seek to convey to her colleagues in the DHSS that perhaps they might think to extend anything that they have going—and I appreciate that perhaps it must not be more than it is at present—to charitable organisations as well as to local authorities. They work very closely together, they are complementary and they are not in competition. However, the same sort of expertise is needed by both, and I hope that perhaps that could be followed through.


My Lords, I am most grateful to those who have spoken and to the Minister for her understanding of this problem. Who, more than she—as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said—who has been the chairman of a children's committee? I know only too well the financial constraints throughout the country, and having aired this problem I hope that her right honourable friend the Minister in another place will take note of what noble Lords have said. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 [School meals: England and Wales]:

8.42 p.m.

Viscount MOUNTGARRET moved Amendment No. 56: Page 21, line 11, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall have a duty to").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, there are just under 50 amendments or so to go, but I believe that it is important that we should not hurry through something which I feel is of fundamental importance to the Bill. When Clause 22 was last debated in your Lordships' House it was about 6.15 in the morning. At that hour I do not think that many of your Lordships were particularly keen to have a prolonged discussion. I am not sure that the amendments that have been tabled in my name have been really thought through in much detail. I ask your Lordships' permission not only to move Amendment No. 56, but to speak to Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 which are consequential upon Amendment No. 56. The situation is rather complicated—at least it is to me—because I am a bit of a novice in these matters. However, I ask your Lordships to look at Clause 22(1)(a) where we see that it says that a local education authority: may provide registered pupils at any school…with milk, meals or other refreshment". In these three amendments I am trying to impose an obligation upon local authorities to provide pupils with milk if those pupils are aged 8 years and under, and meals, suitable as the main meal of the day on days when the schools are open for instruction". So, your Lordships can see that the three amendments all really dovetail together.

I am very conscious of the need to allow local authorities the freedom to conduct their affairs as they think best in the interests of their locality and also to avoid having too much dictatorial, centralised government. But I feel very strongly that there are times when the Government must lay down certain definite rules. Providing milk for children under the age of eight while at school, in my view, falls into that cateogry. If the Bill were to go through as it stands a local education authority might, for some reason, choose not to make use of the power that this clause at present provides. I think that it would be wrong to permit that eventuality, especially where milk is concerned. It is, and this is well accepted, an essential ingredient to good health.

As far back as 1943 the late Sir Winston Churchill, speaking on the subject of establishing a National Health Service on broad and sound foundations, at one point said: There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies. Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have". I am not suggesting for one moment that children attending school are necessarily babies, but I suggest that certainly up to the age of about eight there is still the requirement for a regular good supply of milk into young children. If people get off the mark in the right way they will be healthy, one hopes, for the rest of their lives; but if one denies them the opportunity, then I think that we shall have much cause for concern.

I am sorry to see that my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden is not in his seat at present, because I should like to remind your Lordships of what he said so well during the Committee stage on 13th March. He said that the first decision he had to take was whether he could honestly disband and remove the whole of the meals and milk service to which he attached so much importance nearly 36 years ago and which he introduced. I do not think that that ought lightly to be disregarded.

It seems to me rather strange that, in 1944 when there was a serious shortage of everything, including food and milk, the Government of the day decided that it was correct to have a clause in the Education Act to ensure that young children received a regular supply of milk. Here we are, 36 years later, with apparently nothing like the shortage that existed then, but we are seriously considering abandoning what I believe to be the principle of good health. I should like to say at this stage that I have no vested interest to declare. I might be a farmer, but I do not have a milk herd and so I am not out to ensure that I have a regular sale of milk. I thought that I would get that comment in.

Another very important point—and I think that it is probably the most important of all—is that I do not seek to suggest that school milk or indeed meals for that matter (we are speaking on Amendment No. 60 as well) should be provided free. I emphasise that point because it was with some concern that this afternoon no fewer than six noble Lords, four of whom sit on my Front Bench, said to me, "Oh, we cannot possibly accept this amendment. There is no money; we must cut down. You cannot have free milk." I said that there was no question of providing anything free.

I ask your Lordships to be kind enough to bear with me for a few moments. I refer your Lordships to subsection (3)(a) where it clearly says that a local education authority: may make such charges as they think fit". As far as I am concerned that will stand. Under subsection (3)(b) a local education authority may remit the whole or part of any charge that would otherwise be made if, having regard to the particular circumstances of any pupil"— and so on. That is fair enough and I wish to leave it. It is absolutely right. There is no question whatever of suggesting that this provision should be made free of charge.

I am very concerned that, if we do have to test the opinion of your Lordships' House on this matter, there may be many noble Lords who are present elsewhere in the House, who have not heard what I have said, and they may come into the Chamber and be under a misconception. I wonder whether my noble friend might not do some sterling work elsewhere while I am here. However, I should like to make that point abundantly clear. In my view there is no question of making it free. If, for instance, a child is provided with half a pint of milk a day in the middle of the morning, at present this would amount to a mere 50p a week, which I suggest is a drop in the ocean in most parents' pockets compared to the expenditures they choose to make in other spheres.

As I have said, provision is already made under this clause for an authority to provide milk free of charge for certain categories of children whose parents clearly cannot afford to pay. Therefore, I can see no reason why the provision of milk should, in fact, cost the Government anything. I am advised by one or two of my friends who are councillors that their respective education authorities would not dream of stopping milk or, for that matter, meals. If that is so, I do not think that by imposing a duty upon them so to do as opposed to a provision whereby they only "may", that will cause any offence or, indeed, hardship. Nor do I think that it will cost them any more if they plan to continue the supply of milk or meals and they choose not to stop it: if there is a duty so to do, in the few isolated cases where a local authority may wish to stop this provision, I suggest that we are talking of a very small amount of money.

Therefore, would it not be right to ask my noble friend Lady Young to take another look at this and ask the Government to think again on it? When the clause was debated during the Committee stage it was about 6.15 in the morning. I apologise to your Lordships for not being present at the Committee stage, but I unavoidably had to be elsewhere. It was probably as well that I was not present, otherwise I would have raised this amendment, and at that hour of the morning I would not have been very popular had I started a debate such as this; obviously, the sitting had gone on for quite long enough.

I turn to the question of meals. Again, there is only the power to provide—they "may" provide meals of unspecified quality and of unspecified quantity. Many children spend most of their day getting to school and returning home. I am, of course, talking of the rural community. I accept that children in urban areas are probably the metaphorical stone's throw from their school and, therefore, that this does not apply to them. However, we should not forget the rural communities. Such children spend a long time getting to school in the morning and back home again late in the evening. It is just not good enough if, having arrived at school, for some reason or another no proper meal of any description whatever is provided for them. They should expect to have a proper meal. It is no good thinking that it is the duty of the parents to provide them with food. Noble Lords may think that it is the parent's duty to provide them with food, but children living in urban areas who might have to go home to lunch, may find that the house is closed; their father would be out at work, as would their mother. The parents do not want and cannot afford to be tied to the home in order to give little Willie a decent tuck-in. They send the children off to school and that is the end of it; they have their jobs to do.

Reference has been made to a provision for local education authorities to provide a place in which children can eat their food. I am sure noble Lords will agree that unfortunately there are times—I hope not too many—when children are sent to school without even a proper breakfast, let alone the possibility of taking anything to fill their tummies during the middle of the day—frankly, that is wishful thinking. As far back as 1944 Section 49 of the Education Act stated quite clearly that meals at school in the middle of the day were to be provided as being suitable as the main meal of the day. Thirty-six years later, with all the difficulties and troubles of the war behind us, I do not understand why we should seek to overturn that principle. I do not believe that it imposes a burden of financial stress upon the local authority to provide such a service, particularly as in the case of milk and in the relevant clause, local authorities have the power to charge people who can afford to pay for the cost of those meals.

There is the question of the child who leaves his home early in the morning, at 7.30 or 7.45, in order to be at school at 9 o'clock. Let us suppose that the local education authority does not take up the power provided at present under the clause as it stands. The child will attempt to concentrate on his education on an empty stomach from the time he arrives right up to the time he leaves school and finally gets home at night. I know what I would do if I were a child at school and had a break at lunchtime and no proper meal; I would go straight to the local shops and get some grub, have some fun and probably not return to school, which would be conducive to truancy. That is the wrong way to treat children. It is not conducive to learning; it is not conducive to good health and, as I say, it is conducive to truancy.

I am sure that many noble Lords will have very good arguments in support of that, so I do not want to cover all the ground myself. I simply want to try to understand why it is that after 35 years of providing a first-class service of school meals and milk for children, we are in danger of throwing it all away, when I am not sure that there will be any saving of any significance attached to it. I believe that we shall incur the wrath of the parents up and down the country, and that we shall be rendering a disservice to the health of those who follow us. Both these things I see as being counter-productive—the former in the near future and the latter in the longer-term. Nor, indeed, do I wish to appear to be ratting on my awn party, because this is not even a minor part of the Government's economic strategy, which I most wholeheartedly support and endorse. However, I believe that it is necessary and can only do good. I very much hope that my noble friend Lady Young will accept this amendment in the spirit in which it is moved. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, for the convenience of the House, may I suggest that we speak also to Amendments Nos. 57 and 58?


My Lords, as Amendment No. 57 is an identical amend- ment, instead of taking up the time of the House on Report, I shall simply move it formally.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would speak now and move it later.


My Lords, I shall speak briefly to it or, as someone has said, forever hold my peace. I shall be brief. We want to insert the word "shall", because if there is a change in the economic climate, we may not have confidence in the judgment of local authorities to provide a service which can be shown to be discretionary when they are under pressure by the Government to make expenditure cuts. It may not be this year or next year, but unless this duty is clearly spelt out in the Bill, we shall find areas of the country which offer no provision at all for midday meals or compensatory grants for schoolchildren. I think that is clear enough without any more talking.


My Lords, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Ross, if he were minded to speak to Amendment No. 73, or any other noble Lord for that matter who has Scottish interests at heart to consider that.

9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add a very few words from the point of view of the dairy industry—the milk industry, if you like—and also because I support entirely the views that have been expressed by the noble Lord who moved this amendment on the subject of milk in schools. I have had a far longer association with milk in schools than anybody in this whole assembly since it was way back before the war that Lord Boyd-Orr, and my husband, made the original inquiries and tests about milk and the value of milk for growing children and came out with the scheme which has been running for years and years known as the "Milk in Schools Scheme". So I support that wholeheartedly.

However, there is one thing today which is different from even then. I do not know whether the noble Lords realise that a national contribution of 2p per pint gains for us an EEC subsidy of 8p per pint. Surely when we are all very worried about the amount of money we spend at the EEC, this is a very good thing indeed. If this goes through and milk is not provided in schools or is provided in a much smaller way, the milk producers will lose 90 million litres of milk a year, which is £3 million over the price of milk for manufacture. I am not in the dairy industry so I speak without any particular personal interest but the £3 million in the dairy industry will be a very severe knock to dairy farmers and will have to be made up in some way, probably by subsidies.

Then, as has been said, the children will lose a valuable source of nutrition and we in the United Kingdom at the moment spend £15 million at the existing rate, and we get £15 million back from the EEC. We also get an additional £60 million which we shall lose, because if we do not have this milk scheme which is being supported by the EEC then we are going to be in a very bad way. In other countries milk is being subsidised quite considerably by the EEC. In Denmark about two-thirds of the children get milk; in Germany I believe they do everywhere, except in Hamburg, and all subsidised by the EEC.

I think we would be doing very severe harm not only from the point of view of the schoolchildren—and I am not going to mention that, since it has been ably dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret—but from the point of view of what we can get for the dairy industry from the EEC in grants. If we do not take this, I think we shall be doing very severe damage to the dairy industry, and I wholeheartedly support what has been said about this and hope very much that the Government will realise what this means to us.


My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Baroness and say that she has introduced a new, real and practical note which we always rely upon her to do in these debates. I am not very hopeful that the Government will take any notice of any of us on this. We all know that Governments only respond to the people using their feet and voting against them. As one of the noble Lords has said earlier, so many of their Lordships are partaking of their own milk supply at this moment that they are not able to be present to hear our arguments.

We come back to the old argument in this clause. Of course, we know that the good local authorities will always provide the milk and the meals, but the moment you give some kind of option like this, those who want to save on it will certainly save on it. I am an ex-teacher and I should like to say that one of the things so often bandied about is that things are better today than they were. Yes, they are, but the fact that parents have more money does not always mean that they arc prepared to spend it either on children's milk or meals. If we are going to have some kind of measurement by which those who are on supplementary benefit or one parent families will receive these things, that is excellent. But I am afraid it will leave a lot of children without the necessary milk or meals because the parents either will not or cannot give them the money. In some cases, I am sorry to say it is because they will not.

The point was lightly touched upon about truancy. This is a very real point and I should like to tell the noble Viscount that urban schoolchildren also have to travel. My bus each morning is filled with children having quite a long journey to school, so if they had to get home in the lunch hour it would be virtually impossible because the lunch hour is not long enough. I think we must dispel this cosy illusion of children able to nip round the corner and have a meal. It is practically impossible now except for primary schoolchildren.

What do we see? Those children will be given what they are given now, they will probably be given 20p to spend on the meal. They cannot get a meal for 20p so they will buy a packet of crisps. I am not sure you can even buy that for 20p now and they will range about the streets getting into trouble. I can tell your Lordships there is more trouble during the lunch hours in our big cities than at any other time during the day, and I speak as one with knowledge of juvenile delinquency.

I would remind the Government yet again that it is a waste of money to give funds to the Home Office to research into juvenile deliquency, while at the same time restraining the amount of money that is available in this connection. So we must make it mandatory on the local education authorities to provide this. I would go even a little further than the noble Viscount and say that I should like to see it free as well. Let us face it; the total amount it will cost is really very little.

If the Minister, when replying, says that the previous Government had some kind of inquiry and then did not act on it because of the General Election. I can only reassure her that, had they acted on it, there were a number of us from behind them who would have spoken against it, because I think it is absolutely vital that schoolchildren should be fed and that they should have their milk.

We are told how healthy children are today. This is one of the reasons they are healthy, and I make a strong appeal—not very hopefully, because I am not quite sure how large our troops are—at least to let us go down fighting for the cause of the children.

9.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that I am right in saying that under Clause 22(2) a local authority has to provide free meals if a family is drawing supplementary benefit or family income supplement. That means that they are earning £3,000 a year. Surely, any parents earning between £4,000 and £10,000 a year can afford to give their children a meal at midday. They can afford to pay the local authority for so doing. If they are so selfish when they are earning that amount of money that they will not do that, I think they ought to be brought to court. I do not think that that would be possible under our existing law, but I think that there should be a law to that effect.

It is far better if it is left to the discretion of the local authority because the teachers (I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was a teacher) surely know the background of the children, the family background, and I should have thought it was far better to leave it to the discretion of the local authority, the administrators, and the teachers. My noble friend behind me said that when we debated this in the early hours of the morning—in fact, the rather late hours of the morning—it was not properly debated. But it was debated for a long time. I was there, and I remember it well. In fact, I will never forget it. The Committee came to a decisive decision then, and with respect to your Lordships I think we are rather wasting our time. I close by saying that I cannot support this amendment.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I think it is time for the CrossBenchers to speak, and especially as I had my name to the amendment. I fully disagree with the noble Viscount who has just sat down. I fully support all the amendments dealing with food and milk, both English and Scottish. First, I should like to ask the Government why there is no safeguard in the Bill that children will not go hungry while attending school? Dealing with food, this Bill as it stands seems to encourage material interests for local authorities rather than safeguarding the needs of children. This just is not realistic. Are our children not the best investment we have for our future?

Over school meals, I can assure your Lordships that there is great concern among teachers, and an ex-teacher has just explained this to us. I have just spoken to my noble friend Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, who has been attending a school governors' meeting at Maidenhead this afternoon. The head teacher at that school did a survey of children at his school who brought sandwiches; seventeen out of twenty-four of the six and seven year olds pack their own sandwiches. They select the food they take to school themselves. This, my Lords, is Maidenhead—an affluent middle-class area.

What happens to the children who find no food in the house? The same headmaster did another survey in another school and found that many of the children did not get one cooked meal from one Sunday to the next. This may be difficult for your Lordships to believe, but this is the sorry state of our modern society, and this is what we have sunk to. Not long ago I attended a study day at a special school near Stockton organised by general practitioners. We were all shocked at the short hours of the school working day undertaken by the children. The head teacher told us that very often the ambulance men who fetched the children had to get them out of bed and dress them while the parents slept off their drunkenness from the night before. The head teacher told us that he had to give these children breakfast. He could not teach hungry children. What will happen to small children who have no food when they come to school and whose parents are not on social security?

I have worked at a borstal for years. I have seen many 15 year-olds coming in with lice and sometimes scabies. Very often they are small and weedy. After a few months of regular meals these boys become fit and alert. I think that most local authorities will provide some sort of food. What is the reason the Government have not written this need into the Bill? Education surely is not just about academic subjects. It should be educating our children to be responsible, well organised citizens, not "sandwich kids", who do not know what a well-balanced cooked meal is. It seems to me that the job of the local authorities should be to try to encourage parents to take up the school meals for their children and to appreciate that that is good practice.


My Lords, it seems to me that noble Lords who have supported the amendment have been speaking, and I have much sympathy with their view, in favour of the provision of milk or meals but the amendment would make it mandatory to have charges. It does not make it mandatory to have meals, unless I am misunderstanding the amendment, and I apologise if I am.


My Lords, I think the changes we suggest would make mandatory the provision of meals, whereas at present, as I understand it, the Bill only empowers a local authority to do it. This is a step backwards in respect of both meals and milk. I was touched by what the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, said about milk. It was her husband, Walter Elliot, who, as Minister of Health, introduced milk in schools; it was one-third of a pint, one penny for those who paid and those who required it and could not pay for it got it for nothing. At that time I was teaching in the Gorbals in Glasgow and I know the value it was to the children in school.

I am appalled that in this day and age, when we are giving butter to the Russians at a cheap rate, we should be denying our own children the benefit of surpluses of milk in respect of which our own farmers must pay levies. Remembering that our dairy farming is based on liquid consumption, I do not know whether the Government realise what is happening to our dairy farmers today. Even dairy farmers in Ayrshire are going out of business, but there will be another time to discuss that. Considering the facts which the Minister gave us in relation to finance from the EEC, it is nonsense not to provide this milk free to all.

However, I want to speak also about the whole question of meals, because the provision of meals is much older in England, Wales and Scotland than the provision of milk. It started way back in 1906 when, prompted by the discovery that youngsters joining the army at the time of the Boer War had had to be thrown out because of their unfitness, a Royal Commission was established and recommended that local school boards, as they were in those days, should provide meals for necessitous children.

We are now going backwards, way back from 1980 to 1906, and I do not know what the Government are thinking about when we are talking of progress. We should speak not about free meals but about guaranteed meals, because there will be those who will get them free and they will not necessarily all be poor; the poverty trap is such that coupled with the changes that are being made, many who are just as poor will be denied what is being given under the clause. During the war it was realised that it was not just a question of dealing with those who were undernourished; we had to try to prevent that undernourishment. It was that which prompted the development of the school meals service.

At that time the take-up of meals was, I think, about 20 per cent. and the Government during the war—and goodness knows, if we are hard up now, they were harder up then—encouraged local education authorities to expand the meals service. We eventually got it up to 50 per cent. and indeed at that time, in 1943, it was expressed that the aim should be a take-up of 75 per cent., going on to make it free. The Tory Government in 1953, and again in 1971, took away the freedom of local authorities to do things as they thought fit. It was in 1971 that the Tory Government introduced the standard scheme. They had tried before on the basis of a model to get local authorities to get things together, but they found that of 35 local authorities in Scotland there were 22 different schemes and there was unfairness all round. The party opposite must live with their past and, in this matter, it is not a bad past; for 11 years there was no change in the cost of school meals, and during that time the take-up rose to its highest.

A Labour Government, as we have been told, increased the charge in 1968. But what the Minister failed to tell us was that at that time we also introduced increased family allowances.

There has always been a relationship between school meals and financial support for children. This is the dilemma that the Chancellor is facing today as a result of the decisions that are being taken now. Saving money on school meals, putting the burden more heavily on families, means that child support will have to be increased. The actual fact is that the Tory Government, from I think 1958, right through until 1964, made no change in the cost of school meals. It was left to a Labour Government to deal with the matter about four years later. I remember arguing about it at the time and drawing attention to the fact that eventually the cost would be greater because an increase in family allowance would be needed. That is what has happened.

Let us look at what is going to happen. Already the uptake of school meals is decreasing, and the children are suffering. I arrived in Glasgow last Friday wondering, because of the snow, whether I would be able to get a train down to where I live in Ayr. Meantime, my young daughter was travelling from Ayr to where she teaches at Auchinleck Academy, because the children were at school, having travelled through the snow. Many of them had left home at eight o'clock in the morning, travelling from Muirkirk and Glenbuck. Glenbuck is where they have a football team called Glenbuck Cherrypickers, or at least they had one. That is where Shankley comes from. We produce good footballers, as well as good men. They do not all come from Aberdeen.

The point is that there are children travelling from distant farms, from Catrine, from Mauchline, from Sorn. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will know what I am talking about. The children from the area in which he lives receive their secondary education in Auchinleck. Children also travel from Drongan, from Ochiltree. When do they leave home? When do they get up? When do they have their breakfast? Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilion, asked, do they get any breakfast? Breakfast will have to be at 7 or 7.30 in the morning. They do not get back home until 4.30 or 5 o'clock at night, and now there is no guarantee that there will be a hot school dinner for them. This is really disgraceful.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has more to answer for than has the Secretary of State for Education and Science, because he has all of the resources of the Scottish Office to play with. We established that the Secretary of State for Scotland can move resources from one department to another, from roads to education, and so on. That cannot be done in the department of the noble Baroness. They are tied to what they have there. I say to noble Lords, you can do many things in Scotland for the benefit of Scotland; you could learn much from us.

There has come from Downing Street a diktat that Scotland has to do the same as England. That is why we are covered in this Bill. Look at it, look at the clauses. There are only two now in respect of Scotland. We were dragged in here for this budgetary purpose of saving money; and this is the wrong way to save money.

The same is true of the Catholic schools. Consider secondary education in Kilmarnock. The children have to travel from as far as Stewarton, from Kilmaurs; they have to travel for miles and miles. I mentioned Kilmaurs; that is where Lord Boyd-Orr was born. So we have history on our side. We have representatives of both sides of your Lordships' House on our side on this one. I say to noble Lords drop this one, as you dropped the transport clause.

Viscount RIDLEY

My Lords, may I ask one or two questions which I think must be asked in this connection? First, is this Bill not about freedom for local authorities; the freedom to provide, within the inevitable limits of the economy, the best education service that they can? They may decide whether or not in certain areas it is best to provide a hot meal. They may prefer to spend their money on teachers, or in other ways. I do not think that the amendment would do anything to help local authorities in the educational field. I do not think that the proposers of the amendment have at all considered what it might cost to provide a hot school meal which in fact may not be required. The waste, the expense which would be involved could be considerable.

Secondly, I wonder whether anyone who says that the school children must have a meal, otherwise they will starve—and we have heard many noble emotions on this point tonight—has considered what happens during the 16 weeks when the schools are closed. What happens on Saturdays and Sundays during the school terms? About half the year there are no school meals—there were not even under the previous Government, for that matter. What happens then to these children who are deprived? Is it necessary that we should keep the schools open for 365 days a year to provide meals? Because that is the logic of the amendment before us.


My Lords, would I be entirely out of order if I—

Viscount RIDLEY

Yes, my noble friend would. I shall be very brief. I apologise for speaking at all, but I think that in her reply the noble Baroness might be able to tell us something which I think we should know. What other countries in the Western World or in Western Europe provide school meals at all, whether they are free, hot, cold or otherwise? I do not think there are all that many, but I think we should like to know.


My Lords, in reply to my noble friend Lord Ridley, there are two possible things at least which school kitchens can do, and which some of them are doing already. One is to provide meals-on-wheels for old people, and the other is to provide meals at a fixed point for lunch clubs, and such like.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mountgarret, in moving his amendment, said—I think I am quoting him correctly—that he had not been here at the Committee stage of the Bill. I think it is very unfortunate that he has not heard the previous debates on this matter, and has not listened to the very serious argument. We come now to a very late stage in this Bill, and I am bound to tell him quite frankly that I am very surprised that he should raise these arguments on a major matter, because if his three amendments are pressed to a Division and are carried, they will of course completely wreck Clause 22. They are wrecking amendments to Clause 22. I understand noble Lords opposite, because they have never pretended that they liked Clause 22 and wished to have it in the Bill. They have, in fact, made it clear that they do not. Therefore, it is perfectly right that, if that is what they believe, then that is what they should say. But I really would ask my noble friends to pause and think what it is that they are trying to do in this particular case.

We have been asked to make economies in the education budget. We all know that the country is living wildly beyond its means, and you do not have to be what I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, described as an ordinary housewife to appreciate that. I should have thought that anybody with common sense would realise that economies have got to be made. We looked carefully at the education budget, and we decided that they would be made in three areas—meals, milk and transport. The House has decided, and the Government have accepted, that there will be no economies in transport. If these amendments were carried there would be no economies on meals or milk as well, and we would therefore be moving economies that local authorities are going to be required to make of the order of £200 million annually. Just pause and think what this is going to mean in terms of teachers, in terms of books and in terms of all the provisions. I really think that some of my noble friends ought to consider these matters very carefully before talking in the terms they have used.

The fact is that school meals cost £600 million annually, which is 11 per cent. of the school education budget. This is (we have had this) on the production of the traditional school dinner. One of the reasons why it costs so much is that it is in fact very labour-intensive. In 1978–79, less than one-third of the cost of the meal was spent on the food; the rest went on salaries, wages and overheads. What the local authorities asked of us—and my noble friend Lord Ridley put this very well—is that they should have the power to provide meals, and not be required to provide a meal necessarily suitable to be the main meal of the day. What this clause does is to give local authorities the power to provide the type of meal that they think is best and to charge for it what they think is right, with two provisos. The first is that they must provide a suitable meal for families on supplementary benefit and family incomes supplement free of charge; and the second is that they must provide a place where families whose children bring sandwiches can eat their sandwiches. But apart from this, they have discretion to provide what they believe to be right.

Experiments in a number of schools with simpler meals, including cafeteria-style meals, in fact show that, as a consequence of changing from having a meal suitable to being the main meal of the day, the take-up is higher; and in almost every case of which I have heard of a school which has changed to this system, more children are eating a meal at school than ate one before. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Ross, may say about Scotland—and far be it from me to speak about Scotland; my Department does not run in Scotland, and even what my noble friend Lady Masham said about England—the fact is that only half the number of secondary schoolchildren eat school meals nowadays and only three-quarters in the case of the primary school children. I do not know what happens to the other 25 per cent. of primary school children. I think it a terrible reflection on British family life to assume that most mothers do not give their children breakfast—and it is not very difficult to tip cornflakes into a bowl and that is what we are talking about—or fail to feed their children in the evening or give them nothing to eat at weekends or feed them during the school holidays. To base our policy on the assumption that no child is fed at any time except in school would not be conducive to a sensible policy.

Of course, we must look after those who are the poorest—and this we are doing. We have discretionary powers for the local authorities to limit charges in any cases where they believe this to be right, on the basis of experienced local authorities knowing which children are at risk and which need to be helped. I think that we are suggesting in a most extraordinary way that local education authorities (assuming that this Bill is passed) will decide in the summer term to wind up the school meals system. I am sure we are not going to see anything like that. We are going to see that in the difficult economic situation that the Government face, we have an opportunity to make economies in the non-educational part of the budget. We are making provision for the poorest families; and giving a discretion which the local authorities have asked for. I would say to my noble friends who will not support us on this subject: "Remember you are committing the education budget to finding £200 millions in some other sphere; and this would be an irresponsible thing to do at this stage of the proceedings."


My Lords, my noble friend did not mention that we are going to lose £60 million from the EEC if we cut down on the distribution of milk.


My Lords, the noble Baroness is usually straightforward in the way she replies to debates, but she was not really quite straightforward on this occasion; because the debate is not about whether or not there will be charges for meals. That has been settled. It is about whether or not, in addition to the local authorities being required to provide meals at midday for people on supplementary benefit, they should be required to provide it for others as well. That is the difference. This £200 million which she flashed in the air is not really true.


My Lords, I am bound to be in trouble here. Whichever way I go, I shall offend on this occasion either my noble friend Lady Young or the equally noble Lady, my wife. I will take my courage in my hands and say that I side completely with my noble friend Lady Young.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON



My Lords, I hope that whatever your Lordships think about this, you will wish me well in the corning 24 hours. If I turn up for the forestry debate tomorrow with two black eyes, you will know what has happened. I feel that this is putting a duty on the local education authority. I was going to ask my noble friend Lord Mountgarret what would happen if this amendment were carried because it says that the local authorities "shall have a duty to" provide pupils at any school with milk and then this meal. What will happen to this milk which will be on offer and charged for, and what will happen to the meals which will be there, if the pupils decide they cannot afford to pay for them? —or perhaps their parents will not have sent the money. I hasten to say that I do not agree with my noble friend Lady Elliot about milk being good for you. I was brought up on milk—and look at me now! I can say in front of your Lordships' House that I do not think it did me a lot of good. Various friends have accused me of putting on weight in later life by overeating. But I can say that I was very nearly my present size when I went to primary school. That was because of free milk.

Milk cannot be taken on a sale or return basis. The local education authorities are going to have, by statute, to produce milk and meals for all children at school. There is going to be an awful waste and administrative expense. A lot of it is not going to be used. What are we going to do with it? I am not taken in by grants from the EEC. Perhaps I am letting down the NFU as well as my wife on this occasion. I am a member of the NFU, though I do not support this particular milk lobby. There is going to be awful wastage and a lot of food will be thrown away. It is going to be an unnecessary expense. Somebody has to administer it all. If this amendment is pressed to a Division, I shall vote with the Government and against my noble wife.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend Lady Young whether I am to understand that, despite the fact that power is there for local authorities to make charges for meals or milk for pupils who can afford it, none the less it will cost the authorities some £200 million a year? I should like to be clear on that point?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, by leave of the House, my reference was that, if all these amendments taken together were passed, this would be the effect. They are interleaved amendments.


My Lords, I should like to follow on that point. I do not understand the £200 million. The purport of the Bill, as it stands, is to leave discretion to the local education authorities. It should at least be a possibility that all of these authorities would exercise that discretion by continuing to give meals and milk. The Minister obviously is on fairly sure ground when she assumes that not all the education authorities will act in that way. On that basis I would not disagree with her. I do not understand how she is able to make the calculation that the authorities in exercising their discretion will save £200 million.

Several noble Lords



(Viscount Hood): My Lords, is the noble Viscount

pressing his amendment or withdrawing it?


My Lords, I think that in view of what has been said may I please, by leave of the House, make —

Several noble Lords: No. Put the Question!


Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Several noble Lords: No!


The Question then is that this amendment shall be agreed to.

9.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 56) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 88.

Bacon, B. Hatch of Lusby, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Balogh, L. Houghton of Sowcrby, L. Rochester, L.
Barrington, V. Howie of Troon, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Birk, B. Hughes, L. Seear, B.
Blease, L. Hylton, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Bolton, L. Janner, L. Simon, V.
Boston of Faversham, L. Jeger, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kaldor, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Coilison. L. Kirkhill, L. Stone, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Lee of Newton, L. Strabolgi, L.
David. B. McGregor of Durris, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Davics of Leek, L. Maelor, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Underhill, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Galpern, L. Mountgarret, V.[Teller.] Whaddon, L.
Gardiner, L. Northfield, L. White, B.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Peart, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Gosford, E. Phillips, B. Winstanley, L.
Gregson, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Hale, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Hampton, L.
Abinger, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. de Clifford, L. Gainford, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. De La Warr, E. Galloway, E.
Armstrong, L. Denham, L.[Teller.] Gibson-Watt, L.
Balerno, L. Drumalbyn, L. Glasgow, E.
Bellwin, L. Dulverton, L. Glenkinglas, L.
Belstead. L. Eccles, V. Greenway, L.
Bradford, E. Elton, L. Gridley, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Enniskillen, E. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Cathcart, E. Faithfull, B. Harvington, L.
Clitheroe, L. Falkland, V. Henley, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Ferrers, E. Hill of Luton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Fortescue, E. Hives, L.
Holderness, L. Mottistone, L. Strathcarron, L.
Hood, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Newall, L. Sudeiey, L.
James of Rusholme, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Swansea, L.
Kimberley, E. Orkney, E. Swinton, E.
Long, V. Renton, L. Teviot, L.
Lyell, L. Ridley, V. Tranmire, L.
McFadzean, L. Rochdale, V. Trefgarne, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. St. Aldwyn, E. Trenchard, V.
Macleod of Borve, B. St. Just, L. Trumpington, B.
Mancroft, L. Saint Oswald, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Mansfield, E. Sandford, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Margadale, L. Sandys, L.[Teller.] Vernon, L.
Massercene and Fcrrard, V. Selkirk, E. Vickers, B.
Middleton, L. Sempill, Ly. Vivian, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Spens, L. Young, B.
Morris L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.46 p.m.

Lord DAVIES of LEEK moved Amendment No. 57: Page 21, line 11, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 57 formally.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Viscount Hood)

The Question is that Amendment No. 57 be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content": to the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it.




Clear the Bar.

Tellers for the Contents have not been appointed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 50. A Division therefore cannot take place and I declare that the Not-Contents have it.

Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Lord DAVIES of LEEK moved Amendment No. 58: Page 21, line 12, leave out ("milk, meals or other refreshment") and insert ("shall provide a meal in the middle of the day suitable in all respects as the main meal of the day").

9.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 58) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 84.

Bacon, B. Hale, L, Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Balogh, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Birk, B. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Blease, L. Howie of Troon, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bolton, L. Hughes, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Janner, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Collison, L. Jeger, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Kaldor, L. Stone, L.
David, B. Kirkhill, L. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Leek, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Underhill, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.[Teller.]
Galpern, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Northfield, L. Whaddon. L.
Gosford, E. Peart, L. White, B.
Gregson. L. Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Blackburn, Bp. Cottesloe, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Bradford, E. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Armstrong, L. Campbell of Croy, L. de Clifford, L.
Bellwin, L. Cathcart, E. De La Warr, E.
Belstead, L. Cork and Orrery, E. Denham, L.[Teller.]
Drumalbyn, L. Holderness, L. Renton, L.
Dulverton, L. Hood, V. Ridley, V.
Eccles, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. Rochdale, V.
Elton, L. Hylton, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Enniskillen, E. James of Rusholme, L. St. Just, L.
Faithfull, B. Kimberley, E. Sandford, L.
Falkland, V. Long, V. Sandys, L.[Teller
Ferrers, E. Lyell, L. Selkirk, E.
Fortescue, E. McFadzean, L. Spens, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Strathcarron, L.
Gainford, L. Mancroft, L. Strathclyde, L.
Galloway, E. Mansfield, E. Sudeley, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Margadale, L. Swansea, L.
Glasgow, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Swinton, E.
Glenkinglas, L. Middleton, L. Teviot, L.
Gowrie, E. Montgomery of Alamein, V. Tranmire, L.
Greenway, L. Morris, L. Trefgarne, L.
Gridley, L. Mottistone, L. Trenchard, V.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Harvington, L. Moyne, L. Vernon, L.
Henley, L. Newall, L. Vickers, B.
Hill of Luton, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Vivian, L.
Hives, L. Orkney, E. Young. B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 59 to 61 not moved.]

Clause 22 [School Meals: England and Wales]:

9.59 p.m.

Lord DAVIES of LEEK moved Amendment No. 62: Page 21, line 19, after ("supplement") insert ("or rent rebates or rate rebates.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in order to facilitate the proceedings, I think we could discuss together Amendments Nos. 62, 63 and 69. What this amendment does is to extend the possibility of aid to people who are on supplementary benefit or rent or rate rebates. The extension of the aid would be given and would provide the means to further categories. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think this could be an important amendment and I say that because I believe it is the Government's intention to restore the real level of rent rebates to the value which they originally had when they were first introduced.


My Lords, I shall address my remarks to Amendment No. 62 and with the greatest of speed say that Amendment No. 77 is four-square, but I am not going to say anything more after that! Amendment No. 62 seeks to impose on education authorities an obligation to ensure that provision is made free of charge for any pupil whose family is receiving a rent rebate or a rate rebate. Noble Lords will appreciate that this is an obligation which goes beyond even the authority's present duty and of course well beyond the duty imposed by the clause. Under the present law, authorities must provide free meals for two groups of children: the first group consists of those whose parents are receiving supplementary benefit and family income supplement and receipt of those benefits automatically confers entitlement to free school meals. These children are sometimes referred to as the "passport beneficiaries". Clause 25(2) continues to impose a duty in relation to these children.

The second group entitled to free school meals under the existing law consists of those children whose parents qualify under the income scale set out under the milk and meals regulations. This generous scale at present extends entitlement to families with income well above the supplementary benefit or family income supplement level. Under Clause 23, an incomes scale would no longer limit undesirably the discretion which we wish local authorities to have to determine their own charging policy in the light of local circumstances and to remit the charges where they think it appropriate to do so.

The present amendment goes even beyond this and seeks to extend entitlement automatically to those children whose parents receive rate or rent rebates. I make no claim to understand the complicated rules concerning entitlement to benefit of various kinds, and still less can I explain them, but direct comparison between the scale governing entitlement to free school meals and that governing entitlement to rent and rate rebates is impossible because the former is calculated on the basis of net income and the latter on the basis of gross income. So, without knowing in some detail the circumstances of a particular family down to such matters as the cost of travel to work and the superannuation payments of the parents —items which are deducted with many others to arrive at the net income for the purposes of free school meals, it is quite impossible to say whether that family would be entitled to rent rebate and free school meals or to one only and not the other. I could go into the numbers in Scotland but, for the purposes of this argument, I do not think I need to.

The probability is that the amendment would require authorities to provide free meals for a larger number of pupils than they have to provide for under the present income scale, and of course it would impose a duty in relation to very many more pupils than the children covered by Clause 23(2) —that, of course, is the Scottish one —as at present before the House, those whose families are receiving supplementary benefit or family income supplement. So not only does this amendment apparently seek to restore the position, it goes far beyond it. It runs completely counter to the Government's policy of giving authorities greater freedom to achieve the reductions in expenditure which we are requiring them to make. In the circumstances the noble Lord will perhaps see why the Government are not keen to accept this amendment.


My Lords, in view of the Minister's remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 63 and 64 not moved.]

10.7 p.m.

Viscount SIMON moved Amendment No. 65: Page 21, line 30, at end insert ("or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would he if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level".).

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving this amendment perhaps I may for convenience also speak to Amendment No. 80, which deals with the position in Scotland. This amendment was drafted by my noble friend Lord Banks, who has an unrivalled knowledge about the operation of family income supplement and supplementary benefits. The object of the Amendment is to remove, so far as we can, the very serious poverty trap which arises because of the way in which this clause has been drafted. It is an increase in the poverty trap which is caused by the restriction of the right to free school meals and the freedom to charge for school meals at the local authorities' discretion.

When the right to free school meals is limited to those on family income supplement and supplementary benefit, I am given to understand that some 400,000 children who now get free school meals will have to pay. If the charge, to take an example, is 50 pence, this means payment of an extra £5 a week for a family with two children, and this is a considerable increase in the poverty trap at the lowest level, since immediately their income increases above supplementary benefit and family income supplement level the family lose £5 a week as well as their other benefits.

The amendment has been drafted in order to ensure that the remission of charges would apply in all cases where the increased income which lifted the family off the supplementary benefit and family income supplement level would, after deduction of the charges for school meals, leave the income below those limiting levels; in fact, it would bring their income up to the family income supplement or supplementary benefit level. This would enable local authorities to taper off the meals charge by remitting in part or in whole, so that no family coming off supplementary benefit or family income supplement would be made poorer as a result.

It is an extremely complicated position, but I have great confidence in my noble friend Lord Banks, who most unfortunately could not be here today and who would have explained it with much greater skill and expertise than I. I hope something can be done to protect poorer families from this really rather frightening poverty trap should their income —perhaps because they have taken up work after being out of work —rise marginally above the supplementary income benefit level. I beg to move.

The Earl of MANSFIELD>

My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the intention behind the amendment. There is no doubt that the poverty trap, which the amendment is designed to avoid, can present serious problems for the low-paid. As the noble Viscount has said, it can lead to families in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement being worse off if their income increases because, as a result, they could lose the benefits that are linked to supplementary benefit or family income supplement as well as losing the actual benefit or supplement itself. Similarly, others not in receipt of either of those benefits might be better off earning less in order to qualify for them.

Nevertheless, there are some practical objections to attempting to deal with the problem in the way in which the amendment proposes. First, it would involve a local education authority in England in assessing family income according to two different and complex sets of rules —that is to say, those in respect of supplementary benefit and family income supplement, neither of which are familiar to a local education authority because eligibility for these benefits is determined by the Department of Health and Social Security. That is the first point.

However, there are various ways in which a local education authority can alleviate the poverty trap problem. Under subsection (3)(b) a local education authority is required to remit the whole or part of the charge that would otherwise be made if, having regard to the circumstances, the authority considers it appropriate to do so. A number of local education authorities recognise the problems which can be caused by providing free school meals only for pupils whose parents are in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement, and they are proposing to be more generous than this. I would commend their action to other authorities who, by simply complying with the provisions in Clause 22(2) and (3)(a) so far as the provision of free meals is concerned, may not have had adequate regard to the circumstances of pupils as is required by subsection (3)(b).

So, the most common method adopted by authorities is to retain an income scale form of assessment, albeit at a lower level than at present. But that is not the only method. It is consistent with our general approach to this clause —that is to say, of giving a local education authority the widest possible powers and expecting it then to use them responsibly in the light of local needs —that we should not prescribe what a local education authority should do other than to require it to remit charges, in whole or in part, where, having regard to the particular circumstances of a pupil or class of pupils, they consider this appropriate.

I do not think that I need address myself to Amendment No. 80. Clause 23(3) requires, in the same way, authorities to remit in whole or in part any charges for school meals which would otherwise be made, if they consider it appropriate to do so. That, I submit, gives ample scope for authorities to make appropriate arrangements if the situation which noble Lords fear appears likely to transpire, without burdening authorities with what I suggest would be an extremely cumbersome administrative commitment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I should have thought that everything that the Minister has just said is a very good argument for having some sort of national scale. He has outlined the difficulties which the local authorities will face. They are not suited to doing calculations of this type. As regards these matters, it seems to me most important that there should be a national charge and a national scale for remitting charges.


My Lords, the Minister, when talking to subsection (3)(b) and the power to remit, said that a number of authorities took account of the poverty trap and did remit. He then went on to say, "and I commend this to them". I cannot expect him to give an undertaking on behalf of this side of the Border. But, as regards the directions which are sent out in Scotland, will that commendation be carried out in writing rather than just in this statement to the House?


My Lords, before the noble Earl answers that, are any directions to be issued in Scotland or for that matter in England and Wales? —because, if we are to give freedom to the local authorities, we do not then proceed to direct them. I remind the Minister that the position as he outlined it was the position that existed until 1971, when his Government decided that we should have a national scale, for the simple reason that, as I said before, in Scotland 22 different schemes came forward from 35 local authorities, despite the fact that the Government had issued a model scheme. The local authorities paid no attention to it. However, to get the best out of the Bill as it was then, the Tory Government introduced a national scheme. Now we are returning to the unsatisfactory position and flying flags declaring that this is progress. It really is nonsense.


My Lords, perhaps I could respond to my two territorial comrades. Dealing, first, with the concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I do not think that my territorial ministerial status need put me off from conveying to my noble friend who sits next to me on this Bench what would seem to be, if I may say so, a sensible suggestion. I think that a circular will be issued, and in it these matters will be made plain. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, does not look wholly satisfied with that idea, but in the circumstances I think that it is the most practical one.


My Lords, with the leave of the House —


My Lords, order! With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, this is a Report stage and noble Lords can only speak once.


My Lords, but what direction was used? —not a circular.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I do not know whether I am to take it that the speech of the noble Earl covered England and Wales as well as Scotland?


My Lords, yes. With the leave of the House, may I make it plain —if I have to make it plain —that the greater part of my remarks were on the English amendment, which was moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon —Amendment No. 65 —and then I turned for a few sentences to deal with Amendment No. 80, because I hoped that thereby I would save the time of the House. However, in fact, everything that I said applies mutatis mutandis to both countries.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl. I have listened to the reply from the Government. Strangely enough, my noble friend Lord Banks, who has such great expertise in this matter, had anticipated that we might be told that there were great administrative difficulties in giving effect to his suggestion. He has studied the matter and he thinks that these administrative difficulties are not as great as they are made out to be. In a little note he sent me he says: It would seem that all that would be required would be a statement from the Department of Health and Social Security saying that supplementary benefit or family income supplement is of a specified amount and was being paid up to a specified date. The local authority themselves are familiar with obtaining information about the income of someone applying for free school meals because they have to do that in any case, and all they would have to do would be to deduct the first figure from the second figure in relation to the current levels. However, I appreciate that this would involve extra work. I was very happy to hear the noble Earl say that consideration would be given to advising local authorities, by way of a circular, that this is a desirable point with which to deal. On the assumption that he was speaking, as he told us, for England and Wales as well as for Scotland, I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 66 to 68 not moved.]

10.19 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 22, line 3, at end insert — ("(6) The Secretary of State may make regulations extending the categories of pupils to whom subsection (2) above applies.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a very modest amendment, but it is also one that will test the Government's real intentions. As it stands, subsection (2) puts a duty on local authorities to make provision for children where the family is in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement. What we are proposing in this amendment is not that those categories should be increased now, but that the Secretary of State should have the power to make regulations increasing the number of children for whom it shall be a duty for the local authority to make provision of meals.

Earlier in the debate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was trying to frighten us all, particularly her noble friends, with the figure of £200 million. Quite a number of her noble friends were singularly unconvinced about the reality of this figure, which seemed to have been conjured out of the air. But that imaginary line of defence is not open to the Government on this amendment because it imposes no extra financial obligation at present. But it means of course that as the position of the country improves —I presume the noble Baroness shares the view that it will improve: we may have differences about that, but she presumably is of that opinion —it will be possible for more generous provision for school meals to be made.

This kind of provision in an Act of Parliament is very common in many different contexts. As regards decontrolled rents, for example, there was a provision that the Secretary of State could from time to time make orders extending decontrol as the circumstances seemed to warrant it. That is the kind of thing we are proposing here.

It seems to me that if the Government resist this amendment it is a reasonable assumption that they are resolved permanently to dismantle the school meals service. They can accept this amendment without any present financial obligation, undertaking merely an obligation as times improve to bring back the school meals service to what it is now. That is really all this amendment would put on them.

If they resist it, what conclusion are we to come to other than that the Government are not taking the action they are now taking because of an immediate financial emergency, but because they intend to make the dismantling of the school meals service permanent? If they do not intend to make it permanent, if the Government can say, "In these hard times we must reduce the size of the school meals service, but we are anxious, as soon as the country can afford it, to restore it", and if that is what they truly mean, I can see no reason why they should resist this amendment.


My Lords, surely when the prosperity returns to the country, when there is no chance of the noble Lords opposite ever being in power again, we shall get to a state where there are fewer people on supplementary benefit or receiving family income supplement —because the two must go together. The prosperity of the country is entirely centred upon people being in employment and receiving a full and decent wage so that they can pay for their own children's food. Surely, therefore, the entire purpose of this amendment is misconceived because it is based on a theory which assumes that there will be no prosperity, whereas if there is prosperity it is not needed.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Mottistone for that argument, which I find really most useful at this moment. But perhaps I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, that although he is quite right in saying that there is no financial obligation contained in his amendment, we believe that we have made adequate provision and safeguards on school meals for poorer families, both by the provisions saying that those on supplementary benefit or family income supplement can receive free meals and, of course, by the discretionary provisions which are still available for local authorities to provide meals for those children who they feel need meals or who in certain circumstances need help. Those are there.

Secondly, the requirements in the Bill are, of course, minimum requirements. It is open to local authorities to provide free meals for children other than those on supplementary benefit and family income supplement. They are not prevented from doing that by anything in the Bill.

The answer to the last point of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, is that what we are seeking to do on the whole of the school meals service is to make an economy in the non-educational part of the education budget; but we are leaving in the budget, even if local authorities do succeed in saving £200 million, £400 million, which is a very considerable subsidy indeed, which will go to help the poorer children for the discretionary provisions that local authorities may choose to make, and as a subsidy even for other children who will contribute no doubt more than they have in the past but may not in all cases pay a full economic cost.

I think we need not at this stage be drawn down the path suggesting that what we are proposing under the Bill is the dismantling of the school meals service. What we propose is something much more in keeping with the latter half of the 20th century. It is something that the local authorities have asked for, and I think we can accept that they will use their discretion sensibly. We believe that we shall have the type of school meal service much more suited to the rather more sophisticated children in our schools today providing the kind of meals they like, and I think we may find that the take-up increases. I see no reason for having a regulating power for the Secretary of State, which I think will simply appear to the local authorities that we do not trust them once again. I see no reason for supposing that they will not act responsibly, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, will feel that he can withdraw his amendment.

10.27 p.m.


My Lords, may I take it then that there will be no regulation directing local authorities to carry out their duties under subsections (2) and (3)(b)? In other words, there is only going to be maybe a circular, a recommendation, but no direction —no real recommendations as there were in 1953 and 1971, which were the framework of the creation of the service? This is vital because it means too that there will be no report from the local authorities to the Secretary of State be it in England, Wales or Scotland, as to how they are proceeding to carry out this power.

As the result of the refusal to intervene directly in this way by the Secretary of State —and this is a direct question to the Minister of State for Scotland —how many of the staff will he save in his catering advisory service? You might as well get rid of them all, and the same applies in England and Wales, because they have given reports on the dietary benefit of the school meals service and made recommendations against the "sandwich provision". Some of the things the noble Baroness has been saying tonight run counter to all the advice that she has in her own department from reports of the development of the school meals service.


My Lords, may I answer the noble Lord's point? Under Clause 22 what we are giving the local authorities is a discretion, and therefore there is no question of a direction. You cannot invite a local authority to exercise a discretion and give it a direction at the same time. That would be a contradiction in terms, and that is why I said that there will be a circular which will make recommendations to the local authorities. I have no doubt that, as in Scotland on the whole they conduct their affairs in a fair, sensible and responsible manner, they will pay attention to the circular and comport themselves accordingly. As to the staffing results from this, I am afraid that I cannot answer that question tonight. I shall make inquiries and either write to the noble Lord or possibly speak to him before the next stage of the Bill.


My Lords, the Government Front Bench has made great play throughout the whole of the passage of this Bill on the freedom it is giving to local authorities. But there is another Bill which will shortly come before your Lordships' House which is opposed in many respects by the local authority associations, and particularly by the Association of County Councillors, which is Conservative dominated. Is it not the case that many of the so-called freedoms which local government is being given in this Bill, much of which we would dispute, are going to be taken away from them in another Bill to come before your Lordships' House?

Apparently, there is to be a great reduction in the rate support grant and a new measure of the needs and resources of local government; there is to be a restriction on rate rises which local authorities may wish to impose on their ratepayers to maintain a level of services; and one must ask whether these two Bills are not inextricably bound up. Is there not a great deal of hypocrisy contained in this Bill, because local authorities will not at the end of the day have the freedom which Front Bench spokesmen opposite are saying they will have?


My Lords, the remarks of my noble friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa were very much to the point. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, produced the usual argument: "The local authorities asked for it". If you make it quite clear to local authorities first of all that you are hanging them over the head by saying they will have a good deal less money, you will probably extract a request of some kind from them. The highwayman who says to his victim, "Your money or your life", could be fairly said to be giving his victim freedom of choice. That is rather the position in which local authorities have been placed, so I hope we will not have any more of that; it is intellectually beneath the level of the noble Baroness.

I rather preferred the more frank and robust reply of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, to the more elegant dressing up by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The noble Lord made it quite clear that if the country is hard up, we cannot afford a school meals service, except on a very limited scale. if the country is prosperous, we do not need it. It is quite clear, therefore, that he does not want a school meals service. When it comes to the point, he thinks it is more important to give income tax reliefs to people with incomes of over £10,000 a year than to provide school meals for children who may be in need. That is what it is all about.


If the noble Lord will give way —

Several noble Lords: No!


I think it is going rather far —

Several noble Lords: Order!


Where is the Leader of the House?


My Lords, if it is not almost indelicate to mention such a subject in this House at this hour, the noble Lord's attitude comes dangerously near to a declaration of class war. Indeed, it is a remakable thing in this country today that people who would most bitterly repudiate the doctrines of Karl Marx seem most anxious to behave in a way which proves he was right. They quite brutally oppose the advantages of those who are already fortunate to the needs of those who are really in need, and that, as we all know, behind all these amendments and so on, is what we are really talking about. I therefore find the arguments of the noble Lord against the amendment morally repulsive and the arguments of the noble Baroness against it intellectually unsatisfying, and I invite my noble friends to press the amendment.

10.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 69) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 43; Not-Contents, 82.

Avebury, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Seear, B.
Balogh, L. Janner, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Blease, L. Kaldor, L. Simon, V.
Boston of Faversham, L. Kirkhill, L. Spens, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Clcdvvyn of Penrhos, L. Mishcon, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
David, B. Morris of Kenwood, L. Stone, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Northfield, L. Strabolgi, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Peart, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Phillips, B. Underhill, L.
Galpcrn, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L. Wells-Pestell, L.[Teller.]
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.] White, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Winstanley, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Rochester, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Hughes, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Abinger, L. Dulverton, L. Hives, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Eccles, V. Hood, V.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Armstrong, L. Elton, L. James of Rusholme, L.
Atholl, D. Enniskillen, E. Kimberley, E.
Balerno, L. Faithfull, B. Long, V.
Bellwin, L. Falkland, V. Lyell, L.
Belstead, L. Ferrers, E. McFadzean, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Fortescue, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cathcart, E. Galloway, E. Mansfield, E.
Clitheroe, L. Gibson-Watt, L. Margadale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Gisborough, L. Middleton, L.
Crawshaw, L. Glasgow, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Glenkinglas, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
de Clifford, L. Gowrie, E. Morris, L.
De La Warr, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Mottistone, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Harvington, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Henley, L. Moyne, L.
Newall, L. Selkirk, E. Trefgarne, L.
Orkney, E. Sempill, Ly. Trenchard, V.
Renton, L. Strathcarron, L. Trumpington, B.
Ridley, V. Sudeley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Rochdale, V. Swansea, L. Vernon, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Swinton, E. Vickers, B.
St. Just, L. Teviot, L. Vivian, L.
Sandford, L. Tranmire, L. Young, B.
Sandys, L. [Teller.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10.42 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' indulgence, perhaps I might ask the Acting Leader of the House whether he can give any indication as to what we are going to do tonight. As I understand it, there are something like 38 amendments remaining on the Marshalled List.


My Lords, as I understand it, the arrangements were that we were going to finish the Report stage of the Bill this evening, and that is what we anticipate doing.


My Lords, my understanding was that we would finish it, but it was assumed that we would finish at somewhere around about 11 o'clock.


Of course, this is very much a matter for the House, is it not, my Lords? One cannot control exactly how long noble Lords speak, but I think your Lordships will realise that some noble Lords have spoken more than once and we have had odd Divisions called by mistake, all of which has taken up time, and I do not think that that can fall to the blame of the Government.


My Lords, I think we must be reasonable about this. There was only one Division which was not proceeded with. Do not let us exaggerate; let us keep to the truth. This is a very important Bill, both from the Government's point of view and from the Opposition's point of view. We made it abundantly clear at the very beginning that this was a Bill which we would be contesting. If the Government have not allowed sufficient time so that we can do this in a reasonable period, the Opposition can hardly be blamed.


My Lords, I do not think it is a question of how much time the Government have allowed for it. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, knows perfectly well that we have allowed reasonable time. Of course, the business of any Government can be frustrated if noble Lords talk at length. Everyone knows perfectly well that if one talks—

Several noble Lords: Oh!


With the greatest respect, my Lords, I am not suggesting that we have talked at inordinate length. All I am saying is that, if noble Lords do talk at inordinate length, then the business of any Government will be frustrated. What I would suggest to the noble Lord is that we have made reasonable progress, and I am sure that if we can go on for a short while longer that progress will be brought to fruition. But I really do not think it would be reasonable to suggest that we should stop at the moment.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 70:

Page 22, line 3, at end insert— (" (6) Where a local education authority remits charges for milk or meals provided by them to any category of pupils they shall be under a duty to ensure that such a scheme is administered as far as possible so that confidentiality is maintained for such pupils").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I think this is a completely uncontroversial amendment. I am sure that noble Lords opposite must agree that this is a desirable amendment and that it should be passed. As we know, fewer children will be having free meals under the new arrangements. Therefore, in a way they are going to be much more conspicuous. I therefore hope that the Government will see that the local authorities are under a duty to make sure that, so far as possible, the scheme is administered so that confidentiality is maintained.

I have had one letter, part of which I should like to read to your Lordships because I think it shows the difficult situation in which many children are put if they are exposed. I think that the new cafeteria-type meals system, which will probably be introduced in a good many secondary schools as a result of the new arrangement, will probably make it more difficult and the local authorities must be more careful about making sensible arrangements. This is a letter from somebody in Reading. She says: I am a one-parent family with two children. They have up to now had free schools meals at different comprehensive schools. At my son's school they have got around any stigma by my son paying for his dinner and the school returning the money to me by monthly cheque. At my daughter's school they gave out dinner tickets with no payment for both 'free diners' and the girls whose parents paid by cheque at the end of the term. With this system she was able to appear as a cheque payer. Now, with the new system of buying individual items rather than a dinner as a whole, her school is stopping cheque payments at the end of this term and only free-school-dinner girls will receive dinner tickets. Everyone else will pay with cash. The thought of her classmates knowing about it is just too much for my shrinking violet of a daughter. Consequently, I am having to give up free dinners for her. There will be other parents with children in the same situation. I think it is important that the local authorities are put under a duty to make sure that confidentiality is respected.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady David, has read out the very sad case of the child who has been identified as one who received free school meals under the present arrangements. With her, I regret it very much when these incidents happen. It is difficult and embarrassing for the children. It is not a new situation, and she must have been as familiar with it in her time in local government as I was in mine. It has been difficult to find any complete solution to this. I believe that most local authorities try hard to keep confidentiality about the children who receive free school meals now. I think that frequently if there is a difficulty it is perhaps with somebody new and inexperienced who does not realise the problems that can arise when a child is identified in this way. I do not think there is any simple solution to this. I do not believe it can be solved by legislation. It is a matter of good practice. I think it is something of which most people in the education service are well aware. We would not feel it right to legislate, and for that reason I cannot accept this amendment.


Surely, my Lords, if it is a matter of good practice, as the Minister has said—and I accept that—you can require local authorities to adopt good practices. As I read this amendment, that is all that is being asked for: that they should be under a duty to ensure that, so far as possible, confidentiality is maintained. No uniform system of ensuring confidentiality is being imposed on the local authorities from above. They are simply being asked to do as the Minister said they ought to do in any case, which is to observe good practice. I do not see why she is making such heavy weather of it.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, do I understand the Minister to say that the Government are not willing even to give guidance?


My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. I had considered intervening on a previous debate when I saw the words: "the local authority considers it appropriate to do so"; but I did not do so in the interests of getting through the business. If the Government are going to take a hard line and are not going to move even when the Minister says there is reason in this matter, then the Minister ought to be taking another careful look at what is being proposed. The Minister has said that this proposal was sensible. Why not put it in the Bill so as to give guidance to the local authorities to do the decent thing?

Baroness YOUNG

By leave of the House, what I said was that I agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady David—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, feels the same—that anybody who has had any experience of this matter knows that it is very undesirable for children who receive free school meals to be identified in any way. Good practice in schools ensures that this does not take place. It is a different proposition to legislate upon this and make it a duty. It is very difficult to legislate for good practice, and that is why we are not legislating for it. The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked whether we would give any guidance. Clearly, this is one among many matters that we shall consider if we issue a circular, which I believe we shall have to do, and this is the type of issue that we can consider in that circular.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, with that assurance, I will withdraw that amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.]

Clause 23 [School Meals: Scotland]:

10.51 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 73: Page 22, line 5, leave out ("may provide milk, meals or other refreshment") and insert ("shall provide a meal in the middle of the day suitable in all respects as the main meal of the day.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move formally. I have no desire to create a division but I want the amendment negatived purely and simply.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendments Nos. 74 to 79 not moved.]

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 79A: Page 22, line 16, after ("day") insert ("including days when the school does not meet")

The noble Lord said: I should like to know exactly what the Government are going to do about this in Scotland. This has been in the present legislation for a long time. Provision was made for the really poor children—we used to call them necessitous—to get a meal, even when the school was on holiday. The facilities were there and used. Is it the intention of the Government to drop this facility? Have they done it deliberately or is any provision being made that meals will be provided even though the school is on holiday?


My Lords, as the noble Lord will know very well, Section 53 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962, which is the enabling power to provide meals at present, specifically includes a duty in Section 53(2) on education authorities to make such arrangements for such period as they deem necessary for the provision …of milk and midday meals on days when the school does not meet for any pupil if, in the opinion of the authority, that pupil would otherwise be unable to take full advantage of the education provided. This duty has now been subsumed in the general duty on education authorities to make free provision for those pupils whose parents are in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement (subsection (2)) and for those pupils for whom they consider it appropriate (subsection (3)). The new power and duty to provide meals is not restricted to those days on which the school meets. There are, therefore, sufficiently wide powers and safeguards to ensure that such provision could be made if necessary. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord.


My Lords, I am not entirely satisfied, bearing in mind that Section 53 is to be repealed. But the night being what it is, and the stubbornness of the Government not to allow us to debate this at a reasonable time, I have no option but to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 80 to 85 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Nursery education: England and [Vales]:

10.55 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 86: Page 23, line 1, leave out ("have power to").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I wish to speak to this amendment and the next four, as they all go together to make the following sentence: A local education authority shall establish nursery schools or nursery classes, maintain such schools established by them or a former authority and assist any school which is not so established.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, has left because nursery classes were included particularly to satisfy him. He said that he would have supported us in Committee if nursery classes which he thought could be established in primary schools were in the amendment.

There is a great deal of disappointment in the country that the Government are choosing to take away the duty from the authorities. I have had a great many letters from all over the place, and I believe that it is a good thing in hard times to keep some ideals in order to cheer people.

The argument advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, on the last occasion when this matter was discussed—namely, that perhaps if there were nursery schools people might feel obliged to send their children to them and might feel a kind of inferiority complex if they did not do so—was absurd and not up to her usual level, if I may say so. It was too ingenious by half. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is here and can put the same argument that she advanced previously; I shall certainly not attempt to put it for her. Women are very pleased to have part-time jobs and to keep in touch, so that nursery classes fulfil a need that is quite different from that supplied by day nurseries. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, under Amendment No. 86 and the other amendments to which the noble Baroness, Lady David, has spoken, authorities would not only continue to be required to provide education for the under-fives but for the first time would be under a duty to provide nursery schools and nursery classes regardless of resources. At this late hour I shall not detain your Lordships by rehearsing yet again the Government's reasons for deciding that the duty imposed on local education authorities by Section 8(1)(a) of the Education Act 1944 should be replaced by a discretionary power to establish and maintain or assist nursery schools.

What we believe we are doing in the new clause and these new proposals is putting the law as people believed the law to be and not in fact as it was. There is no doubt at all that, although under the 1944 Act there was a duty to provide nursery education, in fact for two reasons—first, because resources have never been available, and, secondly, because parents are not obliged to send children to school until the age of five—this duty has never been fulfilled in the way that other duties would normally be fulfilled under Acts of Parliament. Therefore, we do not believe that the fact that local authorities will have a power and not a duty to provide nursery schools and classes will, in the event, make any difference in the reality of the situation. We are all agreed on the importance of nursery education, and what has prevented us from having more nursery schools and classes is the resources to provide them. But as an additional safeguard not only are we converting the duty into a power but under Clause 12 for the first time we are making the closure of nursery schools subject to the statutory procedures, so that it will not be possible, as it was before the Bill, to close a nursery school without any real safeguards for the parents.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate that the Government do believe in nursery classes, nursery schools and nursery education. Also we believe that the reality of the situation is that as resources allow so nursery education will expand, and the House may like to know that in 1979–80 we have a building programme of £4 .6 million, which has been fully subscribed. We therefore expect to provide for about 6,000 more pupils this year. In 1980–81 we have a £2 million building programme, and so far 45 authorities have made bids totalling more than £6 million. We can assume that the whole of the building programme will be taken up and will provide another 3,000 extra places. I give these figures simply to indicate that the fact that there is a power and not a duty will not prevent the provision of extra nursery schools and classes. I hope, therefore, with these assurances, that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, at this late hour I do not want to say very much. I think there is very little between us and I am sure that the noble Baroness really cares as much about nursery schools as we do on this side of the House. However, it seems the greatest pity that the duty should be removed. Had it not been there, no doubt this would hardly have been the moment to introduce it; but symbolically to remove it at the moment signals to authorities who are not very interested in it that it is not a good thing to do. That is really what we are talking about. It is a narrow point; but leaving it in would make no difference and taking it out indicates to those who are not very keen on it, and have done nothing, that they can go along in their old evil ways. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.


My Lords, I should like to take up one moment of your Lordships' time to draw attention to the "double-speak" of the noble Baroness the Minister when she speaks of the Government having been prevented from doing everything they would have liked in nursery education because of lack of resources, and saying that we are all seized of the necessity to expand nursery education as and when the resources become available.

Just imagine if one were to apply this kind of terminology to defence and say that we are all seized of the necessity for having an Air Force but resources are not available and therefore we have to do without one. It is so obviously ridiculous for anyone to make a statement like that. We must have an Air Force: it has to be there to defend this country—nobody questions the need for it, and so it is treated as being something which is immune from considerations of resources. Whatever the state of play of our economic fortunes, we have to have certain things, and they include an Air Force and they do not include nursery schools.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendments Nos. 87 to 90 not moved.]

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 91: Page 23, line 7, after ("8") insert ("(1)(a)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a purely technical drafting amendment. It was suggested by my noble friend Lord Morris in Committee and, after further consideration, the Government accept it in the spirit in which it was moved on that occasion.

11.4 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 91A: Page 23, line 19, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is taken along with No. 94A. It would reinforce the present situation in Scotland. I may say that even that is unnecessary. There never was any doubt in Scotland as to what the law said. The noble Baroness said that people in England believed that it was a power and not a duty; that they were empowered but did not have a duty. There never was any doubt about it in Scotland. It comes in the first clause of the 1962 Act, and it says quite clearly that It shall be the duty of every education authority to secure"— that there is for their area adequate, efficient provision for school education. Then it defines "school education": In this Act ' school education ' means primary and secondary and includes activities in schools and classes hereafter in this Act called ' nursery schools ' and nursery classes '. But the Secretary of State had powers under subsection (2) to prescribe standards and general requirements. So he had powers within his control, if effectively used, to develop as we could. I am sure that the Minister of State will agree that what I am saying is right. It is irrefutable.

Why are we in this Bill at all? Why is this clause here? This has nothing to do with money. We have a spineless Department and Secretary of State, which have just trailed along at the English heels. I can understand it in respect of transport, because this was a dictation from the Treasury and from the Cabinet—"You have got to save so much money on transport. You have got to save so much money on school meals." But there is nothing of that here. I really cannot understand the Scottish Office.

The Minister of State has already said, when I questioned him on the assisted places, "Don't worry. It is coming in future legislation." Why could this not wait till that piece of legislation, and then we could get a Scottish Bill with those things that are relevant to Scotland, instead of this? Now we have two clauses. Here is a Bill of 38 clauses and seven schedules, and two clauses apply to Scotland. This could have waited, and if it had waited it would never have been enacted, because it is quite unnecessary. Nobody was in any doubt as to what the position was, and nobody was unreasonably pressing. If they did, the Secretary of State already had the power to hold them back. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I will, of course, convey the noble Lord's sentiments and token of admiration to my right honourable friend tomorrow morning at our Ministers' meeting. But the reason for Clause 25, which I think is obvious to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, is that it is intended merely to bring the law into line with the present position. As he said, education authorities have, in practice, extended a discretion in the matter of providing school education in nursery schools and nursery classes.

I do not think, even at this stage, that we have got over to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, that what we suffer from in this country is a lack of resources. What is needed to improve the provision of nursery education is additional resources, and we can consider making these available only when the economic situation of the country improves. This is not something to do with only Scotland or only England; it has to do with the United Kingdom. With respect, if the noble Lord had wanted, as it were, to re-introduce the duty in Section 1 of the 1962 Act, he would surely have moved to delete the whole of Clause 25. So I respectfully suggest that the amendment is misconceived and that the noble Lord misunderstands the position.


My Lords, I do not misunderstand the position but I realise how farcical it is to carry on with this at this time of night. The last time we discussed nursery schools was at a quarter to eight in the morning, after an all-night sitting. But I suppose we had better go on with the farce, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 92 to 94A not moved.]

Clause 27 [School and further education regulations]:

11.9 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 95: Page 24, line 43, after ("educational") insert ("and other").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, even at this late hour, I must in moving this amendment say a word of thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the care and thought, as my noble friend Lady David and I know very well, which she has given to this matter since a comparable amendment was moved in Committee. Very briefly, the issue is this: The schools keep records about pupils. Some of them are educational records dealing with academic matters; others, of a more delicate nature, deal with character, health, family problems and so on. It is agreed that these records ought to be passed on to the relevant people. As the noble Baroness pointed out to us when we discussed this matter after the Committee stage, the tragic case of Maria Colwell illustrates very well the harm that can be done when information of this kind is not passed on from one department to another. That, then, is established. At the same time, it will be generally agreed that this information ought not to be disseminated casually but—I use deliberately the phrase—should be passed to the relevant people. There has got to be communication but at the same time the necessary confidentiality.

Our worry when we first saw the draft of the Bill was: On this important question, why has the Secretary of State got power to make regulations about educational records, which are the less delicate and difficult, but no power to make regulations about the other kinds of records where one would have thought more serious problems might arise? I know that the noble Baroness has been giving thought to this matter, and we shall all want to reach agreement upon its merits. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will be able to give us the benefit of the further consideration she has given to the matter.


My Lords, as I have written to my noble friend Lady Young since the Committee stage, I wonder whether she will be able to say anything to me in reply, particularly about the destruction of records—for instance, when a child finally leaves school?

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, as health was mentioned, I was under the impression that the school health records came under the health authority. I, also, would like to know what happens to the other educational records when a child reaches the age of 16.


My Lords, I do not know what the current state of play is in the Government's thinking with regard to the recommendations of the Data Protection Committee. This could be very relevant since many of the records that have been discussed here could be maintained on computers. Therefore the recommendations of the Data Protection Committee would be relevant. One of the recommendations which might certainly be incorporated in any regulations that would be made in accordance with this amendment is that the parents of a child should have the right to see a print-out of the information and be able to question it if they thought that there was any inaccuracy in it. I can see every necessity for the Government having the power to extend the making of regulations to all these other kinds of records which the noble Lord has mentioned.

11.13 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, this is a very important amendment. I was very glad to have the opportunity of discussing, between the Committee stage of the Bill and Report, with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, the various issues which arise from it, and I hope very much that we might be able to reach agreement upon it. As I explained during the Committee stage, this clause appears in the Bill because there is a clause in the Local Government and Planning Bill, going through another place, which repeals certain general provisions. We are re-enacting them in a new form under this Bill. We are all agreed about the importance of making regulations on educational records, for all the arguments that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, has set out. I do not believe that there is any disagreement in the House about this point.

In the case of a pupil who moves to another school, his new teachers may wish to know something about his educational progress, and Clause 27(1)(d) is intended to replace the provisions of Regulation 8 of the Schools Regulations (1959) which place a statutory duty on local education authorities to make relevant educational information available to any school to which a pupil moves. In addition, the Government hold that there should be a large degree of openness between schools and parents. Indeed, the educational records kept on most pupils will normally consist almost entirely of the information that is anyway made available to parents in termly reports, at parent-teacher evenings and the like. On both counts, the Government envisage that a case may be made for regulations under this clause.

There is also a very wide range of additional information which may be available on pupils relating to non-educational matters. These are the type of matters to which the noble Baroness. Lady Masham of Ilton, has referred, and also the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friend Lord Hylton. They may relate, for example, to medical records, to psychological assessment, to items arising from the school's pastoral role. Some of these records will be confidential, others will not. In a small number of cases, suspicions may arise that a child is being ill-treated at home or is otherwise at risk. Unfortunate cases of this nature serve to underline that it is not always easy to balance the general desirability for openness between schools and parents against the duty of the school to record and make use of certain information in the best interests of the pupil and to ensure in those circumstances that it is treated in confidence.

As it stands, Clause 27(1)(d) would empower the Secretary of State to make regulations on the keeping, disclosure and transfer of educational records about schoolchildren. This power is concerned with facts and judgments about the scholastic development of individual pupils in school, and it is capable of being exercised within reasonable and ascertainable limits. To widen this power to cover other records would, we believe, be to extend the powers of the Secretary of State into a new area: the term "other records", without qualification, could refer to any piece of recorded information about a pupil that is in the school's possession—and which may have originated from sources or agencies outside the school, and have little or even nothing to do with the pupil's educational needs or attainments. It is very difficult to see how regulations could be drafted to distinguish between all the varieties of recorded information and to specifiy how they should be handled, and at the same time allowing schools to maintain reasonable discretion in how they deal with individual cases in the light of local circumstances.

This is a matter that the Government have considered very carefully, particularly in view of the discussions that we had at Committee stage, and we have come to the conclusion that it would not be right to extend the regulations beyond the proposals that we have in the Bill. We believe that it would be particularly unfortunate if regulations on non-educational records were to lead to fears about the disclosure of sensitive or confidential material. This could have the effect of hampering communications, for example, from doctors to schools or between schools and statutory services. It might be to the detriment of a child's welfare, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, has referred to the case of Maria Colwell. In that case and in others there is no doubt that the moral to be drawn from the tragedy is a lack of communication between authorities.

In weighing up all the arguments, it has certainly weighed very heavily on myself when considering this amendment as to whether anything we put into the Bill might make communication between either statutory authorities or non-statutory authorities any more difficult. For that reason, I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, on reflection on this matter will have reached the same conclusions. It is a matter on which I hope very much we shall all be agreed that we should leave the regulations to this area, which is a well-trodden area on educational matters, to what we believe to be good practice; because we believe that if we have to define all this in regulations it could well be that statutory authorities and non-statutory authorities might be less willing to give information to teachers, or teachers to give information to them if it was all going to be recorded and passed on and covered by regulations. I hope that the House will realise that this is really a very important matter for a number of children; not a matter on which it is easy to reach a decision, and I hope the House will feel that we have made the right decision, having weighed up all the arguments on it.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she say whether, short of regulations, she is thinking of issuing any kind of advice or guidance to local authorities about this?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I think this is a matter that we shall want to consider very carefully, and I should like to reflect again over the discussion that we had the other day and the letter that I have received from my noble friend Lord Hylton and indeed the debate this evening. This is an area which, when we come to give advice, we should consider, and certainly I should like to take up this point.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for the consideration given to this matter, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 [Provision of clothing for physical training etc.] :

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 96: Page 26, line 41, after ("years") insert (" (other than a registered pupil at a school) ")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, there was some discussion during Committee stage of the question of who should be liable to pay for PT clothing provided to persons over 18 in those cases where an authority might consider it appropriate to seek to recover the cost of provision in whole or in part. On reflection, the Government consider it would be right that the parent should continue to be liable so long as the recipient of the clothing is a registered pupil at school. In other cases of over 18 year-olds, it would be the recipient himself who would be liable to be asked to pay if the authority considered it appropriate to do so. This amendment meets that case. I beg to move.


My Lords, as the noble Baroness said in regard to an earlier amendment I moved that I resembled a wrecker, would she at least give me the credit for being responsible for one small brick in the unsatisfactory edifice of the Education Bill?—because this is a point that I tried to make in the early hours of the morning. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, who made three attempts, half asleep at the time and very understandably so, failed to understand my point and saw no reason to amend at all. I am deeply grateful for the further consideration given to the matter, and I hope my description as a wrecker will not last until half past eleven tonight.

Clause 31 [Recouptnent between education authorities] :

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 96A: Page 27, line 16, after (" education ") insert (" or further education for pupils aged 16 to 19 years ")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, at Committee stage we moved an amendment to put "further" after "primary or secondary education" in the first subsection of Clause 31, and that was not received very well. So now I am trying something rather gentler and suggesting that provision for primary or secondary education or further education for pupils aged 16 to 19 years would be a suitable amendment, because it would mean that young people of 16 to 19 are being treated in the same way whether they are attending secondary school or a further education establishment. I have as a result to amend subsection (3) by putting after "further education", of those students aged 19 years or over". This is to remove the anomaly which was mentioned in Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I very much hope the Government will feel able to accept this amendment, for two reasons. One is that in these days of unemployment among school-leavers it is extremely important that those youngsters who have left school with nothing to do should be taking classes of further education or adult education of a more general kind. There never was a time when this sort of provision was more important.

The second point is an economic one: that it would be very foolish not to encourage payment across local authority boundaries of fees granted for further education. If this is not done there will not be specialisation in different colleges. Take the London area. It is perfectly possible for people to travel from one local authority area to another, and it is ridiculous that colleges should not specialise. A lot of further education is very costly in equipment, and if one college is providing a good course it is highly undesirable and expensive that other colleges should be doing it. If local authorities are not required to do this, either there will be no course in the other local authority or else they will duplicate each other in an extremely wasteful way. So this is particularly pertinent to the unemployment situation among school-leavers, which is one of the most serious problems in urban areas. It is also an economical measure because it will make much better concentration of the use of resources for further and adult education.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, this is a matter which we debated in Committee. I recognise that there is an anomaly in that there is automatic recoupment for 16 to 19 year-olds who are in school and who choose to go to a school in another authority, and for 16 to 19 year-olds who may be adjacent to a college of further education. But, I said in Committee that, although we recognise that there is an anomaly, we do not believe that this is the right place to deal with it, for two reasons. The first is that the Bill has not altered significantly the position on recoupment for further education, because the Bill does not lay on authorities new obligations with regard to parental preference, as is the case with primary and secondary pupils. It would not be satisfatory in the light of the lack of agreement between local education authorities about the rights and wrongs of automatic recoupment for further education, to which I referred in Committee, to impose an arrangement upon them in respect of some further education students, but not others. At the end of the day, if the amendment were agreed to—although we have anomalies, which I accept, in the Bill—it would create almost as many anomalies as it would solve.

The second reason why we feel that we cannot accept the amendment is that the working party under the chairmanship of my honourable friend Mr. Macfarlane is looking into the whole question of 16 to 19 year-olds and, as I said in Committee, it would be premature on these grounds to legislate upon this matter now. However, that is not to say that I do not recognise the point to which the noble Baronesses have drawn my attention. I believe that this is the wrong place to legislate, and I think that it would not be appropriate to do so unless we had agreement with the local education authorities. for those reasons, I must resist the amendments.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I should like to make a brief comment. I think that it is a great pity that this Bill has been rushed through Parliament. Perhaps it would have been a much better Bill if the Government had waited. They have admitted that we have had to wait for many, many things, including the Warnock Report. This is another amendment over which it seems that the Government will waste money.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I am not in the least convinced by the Minister's argument. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made some excellent points. I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, that the Bill has been rushed through. We could have waited a little and, I should have thought, had a much better Bill. However, at this time of night I shall not press the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 96B not moved.]

Clause 34 [Definition and registration of independent schools]:

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 97: Page 30, line 12, after ("under") insert ("subsection (1) of").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is another technical drafting amendment proposed in Committee by my noble friend Lord Morris, which the Government on further consideration accept. I beg to move.

Schedule 7 [Repeals]:

[Amendment No. 97A not moved.]

11.28 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendments Nos. 98 and 99: Page 48, line 3, column 3, leave out (" entries relating to section 55(2) of and ") and insert (" entry relating to "). Page 48, line 3, column 3, leave out line 13.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these two amendments are purely technical, being consequential on the decision at the Committee stage to delete Clause 23. They remove from the Bill such proposed repeals of the existing law relating to the provision of school transport in England and Wales as were not deleted at the Committee stage. I beg to move.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 100: Page 48, line 20, leave out (" Section 51.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a consequential amendment following the decision of the House during the Committee stage of the Bill to remove Clause 25 (as it then was) from the Bill. It is therefore necessary to delete the reference to Section 51 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 contained in Schedule 7, so that the existing duty to provide school transport will be retained by education authorities. I beg to move.