HL Deb 13 December 1982 vol 437 cc364-5

2.45 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the existing measures necessary to prevent the spread of subversive literature throughout our schools, especially when it is aimed at undermining the authority of school teachers.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the Government would deplore any attempt to undermine the authority of teachers, and we look to schools and local education authorities to take action to deal with any such attempt. We have at present no plans to introduce additional powers in this field, but if my noble friend has specific proposals in mind we should be glad to consider them.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask whether he is aware—I am sure he is—that the media are increasingly reporting the physical violence and obscene abuse that is being inflicted on teachers? Does he further agree that some of this is stirred up among pupils by various items of literature that fall into their hands? Further, is he aware that I have heard reports that literature is being distributed in the Midlands telling pupils to harass their teachers, the excuse being given that education imprisons the mind?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am not surprised that when violence takes place in schools that is the sort of thing the media cotton on to, because there is not an awful lot of newsworthy material in a school that is working peacefully, with the pupils sitting happily doing their lessons and where all is well. I do not mean to be flippant because, of course, we are concerned about any school where violence occurs, especially towards teachers. I do not think there is a particular amount of violence at the moment. Each case must be looked at on its merits and it is up to the local education authority to deal with it.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, is not this Question a figment of the noble Viscount's imagination? Many of us have children and grandchildren and we have never heard of any such thing happening among teachers. Is it not wrong to frighten people in this way?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am not here to defend my noble friend's Question but I am afraid, unfortunately, that it is not a figment of his imagination. If the noble Baroness cares to go to the Library I am sure she will find reports of violence in schools unfortunately occurring from time to time.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, has the noble Earl's attention been drawn to two publications that are highly respectful not only to teachers but also to senior officers of the armed forces and even to Members of your Lordships' House? I refer to the Beano and the Dandy.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrarad

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that on 22nd November it was reported in the press that a group of teachers in Leeds had said that in a single year there were 73 violent physical attacks on them?

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I ask my noble kinsman if he agrees that it is not very helpful to the authority of schools when the teachers go on strike, and that that is a bad example to the children?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, that question was not a plant. I agree, as I do occasionally, with my noble kinswoman.

Baroness David

My Lords, does the Minister agree that we do not want censorship and that, if anyone is anxious about what is coming in, it is up to the head and the governors to decide what is suitable or not?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think that is very much the case. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for pointing that out.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Minister give us some examples of what is called subversive literature that is distributed in schools, so that we may avoid it?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not think it is up to me to produce the literature. That is for the noble Viscount who asked the Question.