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Orders of the Day — Education [Money]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 28th January 1944.

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Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The Committee will see that the terms of this Resolution are broadly drawn. The Government's object is to enable us to discuss the many financial issues involved in the Education Bill in the course of its further stages, a course which has appeared to the Government to be desired by a large number of Members in the Committee. For the sake of hon. Members who are present I will just run over some of the heads, so as to explain how they are drawn and to indicate the Clauses of the Bill to which the various paragraphs relate. I need not detain the Committee for very long, since, as the object of the Resolution is to give an opportunity for discussing questions in more detail later, it would surely be a great pity if we were to discuss them in great detail now.

I should make it clear to the Committee that the Government's attitude towards the financial issues involved in a Bill of this magnitude has been expressed in the course of the speeches which were made by myself in introducing the Second Reading of the Bill and by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. The fact that the Government do not ask the Committee at this stage to accept a Resolution drawn in very rigid terms means that the Government desire to afford every opportunity for discussion. But our desire for that full and frank discussion must not be taken as involving any change in Government policy. I think it is necessary to say that because we are very keen to discuss all these matters. But I do not want any wrong interpretation to be put on the fact that we have drawn this Resolution in broad terms.

Coming to the paragraphs I think they speak for themselves. I will simply indicate any limitations they may contain so that there may be no misunderstanding at later stages. There is nothing more odious to a Minister than to think there is any misunderstanding as to limitations in the Committee stage after a Financial Resolution has been passed. Under paragraph (a) there is this slight limitation in that the remuneration is such as the Minister … may with the consent of the Treasury determine. … That is the only limitation there. That is concerned with the staff which the Minister may appoint. I think that is quite understandable.

Then we come to paragraph (b) dealing with the question of … paying grants for local education authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by such authorities in the exercise of their functions relating to education, The Committee will see that it is drawn in very broad terms, and should be read in conjunction with Clause 93 (1, a) of the Bill.

Paragraph (c) relates to Clause 93 (1, b) and is equally widely drawn.

Paragraph (d) is the paragraph about which certain representations were made to the Government and it is so drafted as to permit a discussion of the nature or amount of any financial assistance likely to be involved in repairs and alterations to the premises of aided and special agreement schools. It will also permit a discussion about whether financial assistance can be given towards the provision of new schools of these types. I must remind the Committee that Government policy on the subject of new schools is set out in Clause 15 and Clause 96. I would just remind the Committee that these Clauses provide for a grant to be paid where new premises are required for schools to take the place of accommodation formerly provided by another school or two or more such schools. We envisaged, in originally drafting the Clauses, cases of disturbance arising through town planning, slum clearance and similar interventions. It will be seen by the Committee that paragraph (d) is widely enough drawn to permit freedom of discussion on these various points at a later stage.

Paragraph (e) does not, I think, require any special comment. It speaks for itself. It refers to Clause 93 (1, c) of the Bill.

On paragraph (f) it would be possible for me to give the Committee a dissertation upon the methods of Welsh finance, a matter on which I see at least one expert present, but I think it would be a pity if the Committee were to enlarge the scope of the discussion on this paragraph because it does not relate to grants in general but to a special grant. It is specifically stated that the special annual grant paid to the local Welsh Education Authorities in respect of the schools maintained or assisted by them under Section nine of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, are not to exceed the sum payable under that Section in the year ended 31st March, 1929. It would not therefore be possible in Committee to increase the amount of grant under that particular head. That particular head is one to which I believe certain importance is attached and it would be wise to retain reference to it even though it will not be possible to increase it. But paragraph (f) does not refer to the main education grants.

Paragraph (g) is subject to the same limitations as paragraph (a) and provides for paying to any persons appointed to be members of Independent Schools Tribunals such remuneration and allowances as may, with the consent of the Treasury, be provided for. The paragraph relates to Clause 71 (1) of the Bill.

That, I think, is all I need say at this stage. I trust that we have met the convenience of hon. Members. I attach great importance in the case of a Bill of the magnitude which we shall be considering later to seeing that we should, as far as possible, meet the convenience of hon. Members, even though we cannot always agree with them. I trust, in moving this Resolution, that the Committee will let us have it without undue difficulty.